Americans have no idea what to do about terrorism or gun violence. Following the shooting Sunday in a small church in a small Texas town that killed at last count 26 people, the White House response is reflected in this TIME magazine story:
“Even before Sunday’s shooting at a small Baptist church in Texas, the Trump Administration was moving ahead with efforts to train houses of worship on emergency security procedures, including active shooter situations.
Now, an Administration official says he’ll be working even harder to train religious leaders on how to secure their members and property.”
Houses of worship are supposed to be open, welcoming places. Throughout western history a church has been a safe place, and public mores – not guns - have kept the interior safe. In Christian churches Sanctuary became both the name of the room for worship, and a place of refuge.
Is the answer to church shootings, classes on “stop and frisk” of visitors? Is it the job of deacons to be the first line of defense? How far do we want to take this? How far do we have to take this?
Will churches replace the bells in their steeples with a man with a gun?
Scene from “Saving Private Ryan”
What will stop anyone from driving a truck loaded with explosives through the side of a church or synagogue or mosque while the person in the steeple is watching the front?
This approach is just so much more divisiveness.
We were given the myth as children that America is a melting pot. It is not. The ones who perpetuated that myth saw the final result of the melting to be a country that espoused all of the beliefs of white, European Christians. That makes no sense. If we mixed the genes of everyone in America now, the result would not be a country of people who looked like Kate Blanchett. The result would look more like Esmeralda Spalding or Anita Keyes. We are more like a hearty stew.
What we should be doing is reaching out to each other; not only in expressions of sympathy and through prayers, but also by inviting each other over for cards and whatever won’t offend the other in the way of refreshments. People who travel a lot – unless they are wealthy and stay in enclaves that look like America – learn that we are not that different from each other.
In every neighborhood there is likely to be a person or family that you don’t like, not because they don’t look like you, but because they have values that you don’t like. The same will be true if the neighbors don’t look like you, and you will find that most of these strangers you do like.
Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) in Gran Torino
Everyone needs to have an experience like Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino, where one day he found that the neighborhood had changed and he was surrounded by “other”. Much to Walt’s grudging surprise he saw in these short, yellow, Hmong people things he liked.
Charter schools and gated communities foster divisiveness. Do we really want gated houses of worship? Are we going to have to go through a checkpoint where guards with guns check everyone’s papers to find out whether they are a card carrying member of their particular belief system, and search the car trunk just to go to prayer?
That would be the solution for some fearful people. It’s the wrong solution. A better solution would be to go with someone to their house of worship, particularly one whose means of worship is nothing like your own, or a church like your own whose members don’t look like you. And, then, listen for the things that unife instead of the things that divide.