Sometimes the headlines hit close to home. So it was for me this week. The finish line of the Boston Marathon was six blocks from my mother-in-law’s apartment. A friend ran in the marathon. A former student from Sandia Prep a doc in Boston treating folks hurt in the blasts. Threads that bind. Scenes that haunt.
Then today the defeat of the background checks bill. I worked in Oakland, California. I served as a chaplain in the Highland Hospital emergency room—a level-one trauma center. Gun shots, gang violence, the diseases of poverty. I don’t know how many of the people who came through our doors were victims of gun violence. I do know that in the two years I worked at Highland Hospital over two hundred people died of gunshot wounds. Here in New Mexico we have the eighth highest rate of death due to fire arms violence in the United States. We are not immune from the gun violence that is plaguing our country.
All this we hear against the backdrop of the Easter story. Where is the triumph of life over death? Where is God at work doing a new thing?
God at work in ordinary folks tearing their shirts and making them into tourniquets. God at work in an ER doc from North Carolina helping folks in a tent set up on Boylston Street. God at work in all those folks rushing in to help. God at work in the indomitable spirit of the people in Boston. A young doc from New Mexico just doing his job. Folks pitching in. Not many putting an Easter spin on things. Easter in the midst of life. No need for spin.
But then I hear the news—“Gun Control Bill Defeated in the Senate.” What?
The Senate says no to the parents of Sandy Hook? How can that be? Where is the Easter hope in all of this? I think I saw that hope in the scene in front of the White House today—people like Congresswoman Giffords and parents of people shot at Sandy Hook standing up for their beliefs. I think I heard echoes of the Easter hope in the determination to carry on the fight against gun violence.
I know that not all of us agree on gun control or ways to respond to mass violence or even what to call the violence we encounter in our life. There’s room for difference of opinion. But our Easter faith proclaims that life triumphs over death, that good does not capitulate to evil, that prophets hold to the truth that God is a god of love and justice. Our Easter faith calls us to speak out against injustice, to speak out against those who would deny the bonds of love that bind us to one another.
Fifty years ago Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “We are bound in a single garment of mutuality.” Boston, Washington, the streets of Oakland, the neighborhoods of Albuquerque—all woven together. The poet John Donne once said, “Each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s sorrow is my own.” The events that happened this week happened to us as well as to our brothers and sisters in Boston, Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and Washington, D.C. for we are woven together in a single garment of mutuality.