April 20

My son was born on April 20.

 

 

“The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News couldn’t avoid the Tech killer’s revtech rememberferences to the 1999 Columbine shootings — tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of the Columbine shootings”

 

 

why did the oklahoma city bombing happen? Briana W

I am doing a project for school and I can’t seem to find out why the Oklahoma City bombing happened i know what happened, who did it, when it happened, and where it happened but I don’t know why could someone please enlighten me. Thank you.

baby hitlerThe same day as Adoph Hitler and Queen Elizabeth.

 

 

The day after  Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidians, after Waco.

(We named him David without ever having heard of the Branch Davidians)

columbine_395Columbine

 

 

oklahoma cityOklahoma City and the Morrow Federal Building (19th)

 

 

And now a young man in Minnesota was perched to incise his own name in the bloody history of April 20 with an elaborately planned attack on his school.  Then he realized that April 20 was Easter, and no one would be at school.

Let that sink in for a minute.  Easter interrupted.  Not Easter WAS interrupted.  Easter interrupted. Intervened.  Prevented.  Gave pause.    Halted the planning that would have brought such grief and horror to many….long enough that the young man’s secret plans were discovered and thwarted.

How did this date become such an occasion for bloodletting?  I don’t buy into astrology.

I started saving the headlines of the newspaper for each year of my son’s life.  I quit after Columbine.  They were too awful.

I have an idea.  It might be a foolish and silly idea, but I’m pretty much staking my life’s work on it. It goes like this:

The stories we tell are immensely powerful.  Maybe they are the most powerful things in the world.  Stories are what make April 20 the kind of date it is.  Stories were told about Adolph Hitler and the deeds of the Nazi Socialist Party that engaged the best and worst in human imagination for generations to come.  These stories insinuated themselves into  what is most deeply broken and distorted in the lives of our young men.  (There may be young women too, but so far we haven’t heard nearly as often about them.)  The stories may have begun in another generation’s news reports and propaganda, and continued to be embroidered and gardened and handed on.  The toxic legacy continues to cost the lives of both these horribly distorted young men, their victims and the survivors.

Media and technology have been the accelerant poured at the base of the fire.  Would these stories have been remembered so vividly and passed on without them?   You may quote to me, “Those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it.” but I’m not entirely sure that is the whole truth.  What if these stories were not repeated?  Would someone come up with these horrors all over again?  Are some stories so obscene they should not be given any more power than they already have?  Do some stories deserve the death penalty?  Are there times when memory loses its’ salutary purpose?  Read Mirislav Volf’s The End of Memory.     When memory is the nursery for hatred and vengeance, it is no longer salvific.

Of course, I know better than to think these stories will ever vanish from the face of the earth and the imaginations of our young.  So we must tell stronger stories.  We will never be able to stop them from stockpiling their wounded hatred.  There are not enough laws or controls on guns that those whose imaginations have been inhabited by these stories will ever be stopped.  There is not enough strength or will to do it, if all the strength in the world were applied to it.  And if it were, we wouldn’t be living in a society I think I would care to be part of.

My answer may seem lame and ineffectual, but I subscribed to this crazy truth that makes no sense:  God’s power is made perfect in weakness.  (Not an original thought–check out  2 Corinthians 12:9,  John 19:30,  Mark 15:37-39, Matthew 27:50, Romans 8:26)    My poor lame suggestion is that if these stories will not go away, we have to tell a better story.  We have to tell such stories that our young people will be captivated by them, will want them to be true so  badly that they are willing to make them true inasmuch as it depends upon them.  If we choose only silence, we have stored the horrible stories in a genie bottle until another distorted and broken creature finds it on the beach and unleashes it again.  Then no other story will exist to garner the strength to oppose it.   We have to tell our own stories too, in order to release the power they have to do harm to us or others, and to cultivate their strength to harness the imagination of our young  (and our own too) to nurture good in this world.

What stories would those be, with that kind of power?

Philip Gulley once wrote about birth narratives, and how every child should have a good story about being born even if her parents have to make one up.   Having celebrated both of my children’s birthdays in the last 12 days, I can tell you truthfully–I always tell them the story of the day they were born, every single year.   I tell my oldest, “It was dreary, cold and wet, it was still winter when I went into the hospital for you to be born.  When we came out, the sun was shining, trees were leafing, and the hospital grounds were awash with red tulips and yellow daffodils.”   I tell my youngest, “My doctors didn’t think you were possible, but there I was, pregnant with you six years after giving it up.  My doctor thought you weren’t due until Mid-May, but I knew she was wrong, and here you are.”

I’ll tell her the rest of that story when she is a bit older.

I grew up hearing the story of how my life was saved by a young surgeon who would not accept the advice of his colleagues to give me enough morphine to die in peace.  I heard how dire my circumstances were that my lethal birth defect had never been diagnosed in a living child.  I heard how my family clung to hope during those dark days and nights.  It was a story that fortified me for the days coming in adolescence when I wondered if my life mattered and when depression sucked the life out of me.  It gave me a doorstop to put in the door so that I could not slam it shut.  My family probably never fully realized how that story saved me not once, but twice, and then more than twice, and still.

How do we tell our children that life is stronger than death?  that life is stronger than failure?   that life is stronger than embarassment?  that life is stronger than friends who turn their backs on you, spread lies, and fail you?   that life is stronger than any love lost?  What can we possibly tell them that will hold their attention, grasp their imagination, and gain their trust enough to believe that?

We tell them stories.  Stories in which it’s all true, and some in which it actually happened, even if we do have to invent them, embroider them, and cultivate them.  Stories are just that powerful.  We tell our stories, even to ourselves, to release ourselves from the bondage of shame, sin, death, and the devil.  Yeah, some people could call that confession too.  Except when someone tells us their story of shame, sin, death, guilt, fear and the devil, we owe them one in return.  The story about how love wins.

emmausThe story of Emmaus, when we recognize the resurrected Lord on our road, and in the bread that we share.

The story of how Easter interrupted terror and bloodletting.

The story of how life is stronger than a sealed tomb, an empty tomb, and the locks we placed on our door in fear.

The story of how we can sing,  how we must sing, with Desmond Tutu, “Goodness is stronger than evil, life is stronger than death.  Victory is ours, Victory is ours, through God who loves us.”

That is how April 20th can be redeemed and healed.

Maybe this date should become a national day of service and good works, so that a stronger story can be told over the top of the tragic and bloody ones that litter our history.

Don’t forget to invite the media.

 

 

 

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About Pastor Betsy Williams

I am a mom. And a wife. And a Friend. And a homeowner. And a dog ...uh....owner? Actually make that two dogs. Two kids. One husband. I'm an ELCA Lutheran pastor of a beautiful downtown church. I am the third senior pastor in a century, so my 10-12 years here may feel like an interim to some of the folks here. Recently I have had no spare time. In my spare time in the future, my imagination inhabits a novel I am writing, The Funeral Preacher. My primary blog is a personal reflection on the Revised Common Lectionary...mostly: "Not All Who Wander are Lost." A few years ago I was on a team of writers who produced a little book for Augsburg Fortress in the Washed and Welcome series called "Living the Promises." It's 101 ideas for helping parents and godparents nurture their children in the faith of their baptism. I am developing another blog, more about worship at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Newark, Ohio and including a summary of the past week's preaching. Otherwise, I imagine myself to be a musician, liturgical artist, cook in a five star restaurant where the patrons keep ordering chicken nuggets, but never a bottle washer. I know how to delegate and share.
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