The Bishop’s E-pistle: What Would Jesus Do?

John 15:13: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

I have been heartbroken the past two weeks at the stories of students who bravely attacked gunmen in their schools and saved lives of classmates around them, but lost their own in the process. Riley Howell at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Kendrick Castillo at STEM in Highlands Ranch, Colorado demonstrated courage, self-sacrifice, and love in a way that is an example for all of us to hold dear.

But the circumstances of their loving self-sacrifice bring up so many questions.

I remember as a child in California doing drills that served the double purpose of what to do in an earthquake and what to do in case of nuclear attack. The answer for both was the same: hide under your desk.

We now do active shooter drills in our children’s schools. At PS6 in New York City, where my son was a student prior to our move, the principal would send out an email notifying parents on the days they were doing a drill–which involved locking classrooms, hiding in corners, turning off lights, and being silent for far longer than elementary age students can naturally be–and that our children might need to discuss it when they came home. The principal knew that these drills were traumatizing, but they were necessary to keep our children safe. I didn’t disagree.

But I wonder what effect those drills are having on our children–whether they normalize the idea that school is not a safe place, or even place the idea of violence against teachers or students in the minds of troubled students. I don’t think I was particularly traumatized by our nuclear attack drills–but then, nor did I see the effects of nuclear attacks almost weekly on the television news. It seemed a distant and unlikely threat. School shootings do not feel distant or unlikely to me. There have been 15 of them so far in 2019 in the United States.

I am a new member of Bishops against Gun Violence. I know that people in Arizona have a broad set of beliefs about gun laws, and the place of guns in society. But anyone who follows Jesus is called to be against gun violence. We must find a way to make schools, houses of worship, and public places safe from violence. Learn more on their website.