My Sister, a former public school teacher (and overall just a gosh darn good person), had a response to last weeks school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas that really sums up how so many of us feel. After seeing a friend post about the shooting on Facebook she simply replied, “oh come on.” Her response gave voice to the sad reality we are all now living in. When we hear of a school shooting we no longer feel shock, fear, anger, or even dread. Instead, we start to feel annoyed.
It’s sad but so powerfully true that school shootings have ceased being tragedies in our collective conscious. We start to wonder if people can just be decent enough for a few months so that we don’t have to feel awful every time we open a newspaper, turn on social media, or watch TV. Very rarely, if we are being completely honest with ourselves, do we personally feel any sense of the tragic reality that friends, family, and community members must be feeling at a time like this. Like normal people we try to be empathetic and say a prayer for mercy and peace to be on those impacted by the tragedy.
Sometimes, however, an occurrence within the greater overall tragedy will lead us to experience something more. For me this occurred in the Parkland, Florida shooting after hearing the fear and shock it created in my children. With Santa Fe, unfortunately, I was moved to pray for the victims and the community but didn’t feel anything beyond traditional empathy for those involved in the massacre.
This changed after hearing the response of Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Maybe its just simple “Northern Liberal” stereotypes of Texas and Texans but after hearing the Lieutenant Governor, whom I assume is a Christian or at least claims to be (Again, this is part of my northern liberal bias) talk about the tragedy I found myself exceedingly angry. It’s worth reading at length his comments on what happened.
GOV. DAN PATRICK: We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies and, particularly, violent video games, which now outsell movies and music. Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that students are desensitized to violence, may have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of video, violent games.
This is standard “Conservative thinking” and nothing is inherently evil or wrong with these statements. In fact i agree and think the increasing violence of American society is quit disturbing. However, it’s the thinking, behind the statement that brought my blood to a boil. Mr. Patrick speaks as if he is not someone in a position of authority who can impact the situation. This is a complete “passing of the buck” when it comes to moral leadership.
For a moment lets compare the statements of Mr. Patrick with his record in office. I mean its fair to say that since he holds the second most powerful position in the State of Texas that he has some control over policies that lead to the outcomes he decries as being potential causes of Santa Fe’s violence:
“Students are desensitized to Violence”-Mr. Patrick helped push school funding per child to the lowest levels in decades. Texas now spends the second least amount per student in the United States. The low spending levels are blamed on teacher turnover, cuts to after school programs, counseling, etc. All things that will help kids do things OTHER THAN SIT AROUND AND PLAY VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES.
“Devaluing life and the Break up of Families– For an elected official so worried about the “break up of families” and the “devaluing of life” one would wonder why Lt. Governor Patrick would have spear headed efforts to cut Medicaid funding. Medicaid provides care to poor, indigent, disabled, older individuals. Medicaid, as explained by a report released from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, shows that if Medicaid continues, “to be cut nationally, 22 million deaths will occur as a result of insufficient care.” What better way to help stop the so-called Devaluing of life than to gut a program that’s actually responsible for saving life?
I could go on and on (anyone interested do a simple Google search of Lt. Dan Patrick legislative agenda and you will find plenty of more examples) but I think you get the picture. Its not Mr. Patrick’s politics, per se, that in the midst of the tragedy got me so angry. I think what got me so upset, after I came to learn that indeed Mr. Patrick is a self identifying Christian after all, was a video he made for his reelection campaign titled “Stand for Christ” (https://www.danpatrick.org/standforchrist/) In the video Dan highlights his faith in Jesus and adherence to the scriptures as signs for why he should receive Christian votes. This use of Jesus and the scriptures makes his statements after the Santa Fe shooting that much more blood boiling to me.
In scripture (James 2:15) we read the apostle ask us a simple question. He asks “What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, go in peace; stay warm and well fed, but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?” James is basically asking us to “put our money where our mouth is.” If someone is needy, facing a health crises, or experiencing physical danger, well wishes and sympathetic comments won’t help him. Similarly, all the “small government” and “family values” policies are not going to protect our children from gun violence. Jesus is demanding his followers to follow up their faith in God with real concrete action.
I try to be as non-judgmental as possible when it comes to another Christian’s faith. Its getting harder and harder to do that in light of recent events. It pains me to see another Christian, like the Lieutenant Governor, professing Christ but neglecting opportunities that can help usher in God’s grace on this world.
Mr. Patrick is publicly invoking the name of Jesus. He is telling us that we should consider him to be a “man of God.” This is all wonderful but as any “man of God” who has read Mathew 7:23 will know, Jesus is not keen on people that claim to have faith in him but who outwardly, and inwardly, are ravenous wolves. In Mathew 7: 23 Jesus says “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Jesus is declaring here that in the end there will be people whom “outwardly appeared to be the most religious, the most moral, the most “Christian”, but who in reality are morally depraved.
I pray this is not the case for the Lieutenant Governor. I believe that Christianity is the expression of a hope, which passes all understanding. Tonight, after thanking God for protecting my children, family, and loved ones, I will pray for the Lieutenant Governor.