I have made it my practice to resist reacting to horrific violence or outrageous political events with subversivepreacher posts, and likewise, any kind of dramatic recognition of such events into the Sunday worship. I have often taken criticism for this, but especially when it comes to liturgy, I will not politicize worship even for causes I deeply support.
As for posts and even sermons, it seems to me the initial news coverage of any unexpected and tragic event is not trustworthy because in the media’s rush to be first and most spectacular in reporting, they usually get a great deal wrong. But more importantly, for me anyway, it bothers me that everything is politicized.
The politicization is as much from leftist groups I am in sympathy with, but I see their politicizing of tragedy to make points and influence the public narrative as equally gross and disgusting as what takes place on the right. I am not naive, I know everything has a political dynamic or shadow to it; I just don’t want subversivepreacher or my sermons to be part of it. I would rather be in the mix of grieving and honoring the basic human dimensions of any such event.
For example, on Sunday night I browsed Facebook because I was tempted to write a post about gun control in the wake of the Orlando carnage, and I wanted to see what others were writing. It was a surreal Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. Facebook that night was a graphic cacophony of banality and poignancy, each overlapping the other in a bizarre shouting match of images and sounds. I could make no sense of the world as it came at me from out of my computer screen:
A video about a woman with a colostomy; a baby donkey in a hammock; some kind of strange sounding smoke and light event in Toronto; crowd video clips from the Country Music Awards; a video about making a deck out of old skateboards; a caterpillar on a back yard parsley plant; something about traffic in Toledo; parent videos and photo collages of their star children sliding home, throwing out on first, dancing on stage in elaborate costumes; grandparents stroking a newborn baby; clergy eating “a great lunch of kofta, pilaf and almond sauce…”; ten cities in Indiana that are “just right”; the ever-present video of “8 Things Happy People Do Differently;” a cat in a clerical collar; all intermingled with a heart-wrenching, mind-boggling display of images from Orlando – the shooter taking a Selfie while looking smug, lines of people waiting to give blood, sorrow drenched photos from the night of the shooting with people hanging onto one another in agony or hysterics, Obama grim with another painful announcement, Trump tweets and pronouncements from pastors and politicians saying things about the shootings that seem too horrible to be true, and more and more and more and more.
There was not a digital half-inch between all those images and it created a Rorschach test splattered with inhumanity even as it evokes beads of color from a less obvious humanity. Perhaps it was a collage of the way the world actually is at any given moment, but such a gods-eye view is not how we see or experience life and it is disorienting.
Now, just a few days later, it is beginning to seem clear the killings in Orlando had more to do with the shooters mental health than his religion or politics. If that is true, it will diminish the credibility of everyone from left to right that has used the moment to further his or her own cause – other than gun control advocates. The next time, and there will always be a next time, those who claim such awfulness for their own purposes will just seem that much more shrill and self-interested.
To those with whom I am in solidarity, both politically and spiritually, please take this moment to understand why you will find no rush to claim meaning for this or any other tragic, twisted act of violence on subversivepreacher.
Posts with theological reflection on such events will eventually appear, as my post on Donald Trump did, but it will almost always lag behind the rapid response seen in commercial media and social networks. Listening, observing, intuiting, and understanding – in short, prayer and contemplation on its way to discernment – is neither a commercial enterprise nor opportunistic moment upon which to raise a flag of allegiance. Those enterprises have their function and purpose, but subversivepreacher is not one of them. Peace.