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A heavy heart for the children

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My heart is heavy and my soul enraged at the thought of beautiful children shot dead. The sentiments you have all heard these last days about the innocent, defenseless, children killed by a deranged man cause us all to question everything we thought we knew. I agree that it is a situation of horror that cannot be explained to anyone’s satisfaction. My prayers and thoughts are with the families of all who were killed and wounded in this terrible way.

With all that said and with all the emotion still fresh in our minds; as bad as the events in Newtown, Conn., were, I invite you to consider, or at least acknowledge, that far more children than just those 20 died on Dec.14, 2012, some by accident, some by illness but many more by the simple fact that they had nothing to eat. Is it any less heinous to let thousands die daily to malnutrition, in a world with plenty of food, than a gunman that kills in an elementary school? Of course these are questions that cannot be answered and you may even be upset with me for suggesting that they be compared. On the other hand, we do live in a world where innocents die by the thousands every year. A world where regard for life is being compromised at every turn. Our lives are filled with images of death and the taking of lives; in cinema, video games and of course, in real life as we attack our enemies lest they attack us first. Drones are used to “anonymously” deliver death and destruction intended for terrorists but which also kill others by “accident”. All this is justified by various means; “we must defend ourselves from terrorist attack”, “of course there will be some collateral damage”, “deadly video games are ok because they teach skills to young people”, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” “it’s my right to own one or several semi-automatic pistol(s) with lots of extra clips”, “that guy was probably mentally ill”, and many other statements of “rights” or being right, all designed to make us feel better about the place in which we find ourselves. Over these next days and months we will hear arguments on all sides of this issue, and you and I both know that what will be done is, in the end, not much. Life will go on, work will continue, consumerism will still reign supreme and we will proceed until the next tragedy.

My plea for you this day is about something else. There must come a time when all or most of us, in this the greatest nation on earth, get ourselves off the bench and into the game. The game to which I refer is the life of the world and its people as a whole, not just that little portion where we live and work. The pressures of life have driven us all into a corner where we try to maintain only that amount of the world that directly affects our family and us. Volunteering and working beyond ourselves and into the rest of the world is becoming rare and more difficult to envision. Christian churches and faith-based organizations of all types are having difficulty maintaining even the most basic services for those on the margins. God makes it clear to me as a Christian that I am to love and care for people in my midst and beyond. I believe that we must, as a nation, learn to care for our local folks that are in need and to then move on to care for those in the country and of course the world. Unfortunately there is not enough time or money to maintain unbridled consumerism and have the resources left to care for others. We must get beyond the point where we are okay with being 5 percent of the population consuming 25 percent or more of the resources. And I don’t care HOW much we create as justification for the consumption, the figures don’t add up no matter how you massage them. That kind of wastefulness is just one symptom and the tragic killings in Newtown are another symptom of a world that has abandoned the idea of taking care of others. I have no way of knowing whether the shooter could have been interrupted had someone cared enough to ask some questions months or even years ago, mental illness is a serious issue that gets overlooked all the time and one that gets short shrift when it comes to state and local budgets. We assume wrongly that it is beyond our abilities as citizens to help with mental illness, I assure you it is not. We, in the wealthiest of nations, can all learn to use less and share more and that includes sharing more of ourselves in efforts to make real changes that mean something for people who need the help.

Alan Eschenbacher
Alan Eschenbacherhttp://www.allsaintsgather.com
The Rev. Alan B. Eschenbacher serves as pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church.

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