Saturday, December 14, 2013

Prepare (books and guns)

I'm blogging for Advent, following along with the themes that we're focusing on at Crossroads. I talk more about why I'm doing this in an earlier post. This week's theme is "prepare."

I was a little bit torn about what to write about tonight. I mean, it hasn't been consuming my day or anything. If the analytics on this blog are at all accurate, I could probably write a post called "SEX SEX SEX" and post it on a Saturday evening and it wouldn't get much readership, so it probably doesn't matter much either way.

Anyway. I was going to connect a current and, I think, pretty fun and interesting Facebook trend to the Advent theme for the week. But yesterday another awful shooting happened in yet another school building and I thought maybe I should write about that instead.

But the problem is that I'm not sure I have much to say that hasn't already been said. Others have written very powerfully. And in the past, when things like this have happened, I've written on it. And I'm sort of out of words.

Does it bother you that I said "things like this," like this is a normal thing? Yeah. Bothers me too. Which is sort of what I wrote about when bombs went off in Boston. Which I then talked about in more depth in a sermon I had to preach that week. When the shootings at Sandy Hook happened, I wrote about my association with conversations about mental illness. I preached at Metropolitan back in September and talked about why the Trinity matters in the face of mass shootings. And I suppose I could write a blog about just not having any more words, but goddammit (and I mean that) I've already done that, back when Israel was once again bombing the shit out of Gaza in November 2012.

I am not trying to brag with all of these self-references. I am just trying to say that I am really tired of writing about it, and I think you should be tired of reading about it.

We still need more sensible gun control laws.

We still need more comprehensive treatment and support and less stigma surrounding mental illness.

We still need to question our complicity in systems and structures of violence.

We still need to light candles in the gloom of alienation and isolation.


So then what the heck do I write about, since I committed to this Advent writing thing and I already missed a day this week?

And I thought about what I was going to write about at first, the trendy Facebook thing. I'm talking about the one where you name 10 books that have impacted your life, without thinking about it too much or obsessing over which are the "right" books to name.

And I thought about how I find this exercise fascinating because what we read helps us, in many ways, to fashion our understanding of the world. To prepare us--note clever tie-in with Advent theme!!--for the challenges and the joys and the confusion of life.

At first it seemed sort of petty to write about this, after the shooting news. But maybe not, really.

Because the books we read, the literature we immerse ourselves in, don't just prepare us to deal with silly things, but with real life. And as terrible as it is to think about, mass shootings are part of our real life, a point that was driven home when I spent an hour and a half sheltering in place in a church building with a few students and congregation members because of the report of a gunman across the street at American University.

(As an aside: It was a false alarm, someone spotted an off-duty police officers gun. Here's what I posted on fb after it was all over: "Grateful for everybody's safety (turns out it was an off duty police officer, someone saw his holster, got worried, and reported it), and very grateful for the way that the students I work with at the AU United Methodist-Protestant Community handled all of this and just care for each other in general. It's an honor to get to hang out with you.")

Because sharing with each other who we are and what forms us is one little step that we can take to beat back isolation and alienation. 

Because these shootings seem particularly terrifying when they happen in schools, where kids should be reading books, not worried about guns.

And because books train our imagination, and we need every last bit of that to be able to imagine a better world, in which shootings at school are fiction (and maybe elves are real). 

So that's what I've got, on this last day of writing about "prepare." Tomorrow I'll post my sermon on the theme of "proclaim."

Here's my list. Consider yourself "tagged," now, and write your own:
1) The Gospel of Matthew by ::lots of scholarly debate:: (first time I read a book of the Bible straight through--because Karen Thomas Smith told me to!--and it sank in that faith is a story, not a bunch of isolated verses)
2) The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss (still deeply affects my understanding of war; also helped me get a scholarship for college)
3) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (because high school)
4) Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer (helped me understand not only vocation but also depression)
5) The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon (not only about depression but also meaning and the difference between happiness and joy)
6) The Book of Psalms by ::more scholarly debate ensues:: (because as Athanasius wrote in the 4th century, it holds up a mirror to human experience, and because smack in the middle of our scriptures there is lament and celebration and anger and confusion and life)
7) Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (I got handed this for free at a Christian event and thought it would be shallow propaganda. Boy was I wrong.)
8 ) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (because imagination is a beautiful thing)
9) Deep is the Hunger by Howard Thurman (every word that he put to page was so carefully and mindfully chosen. It's breathtaking.)
10) The entire Nancy Drew series ghostwritten by various authors with the pseudonym Carolyn Keene (Anne Hosey always made me listen to Marion Hosey read us these books, and years later all that goofy make-believe has really paid off)

1 comment:

  1. I read a book today that caused me to pause and just be happy. Not because of what was written, but how it was written. And that such folks are in this world. I am so grateful that writers toil and put their "butts in chairs" (to quote Anne Lamott).
    And then there are guns and shootings and shit. And Palestinians and shit. And our damn UMC and church trials and shit. And much more.
    Where would we be without writers to create new and different realities. And to take us away from our realities and give us space and energy to go on.