Learning to Ignore Religious Reactions to School Shootings

Photo by RexI'm on the freeway, heading back home from a doctor's appointment, and feeling morose. For the last five minutes, I've been contemplating the Connecticut shootings, just as I have done about a billion other times since last Friday. Right now, I'm thinking: Life is unfathomably cruel. The human experience is an experiment in limitless love and staggering loss. To be blessed by one is to be cursed by the other. It's not fair — it's not anything, really. It just is. And it feels terrible.

These thoughts are not helping my mood.

I take a deep breath. I want to feel better. I need to feel better. I challenge myself to find some silver linings in the tragedy. I think:

Only 20 kids were killed when it easily could have been been more. Because the victims were shot multiple times, they probably didn't suffer much, if at all, before they died. The victim's family members will be able to band together and support each other through the difficult months ahead. Foundations will be established in the children's honor, which will help the living in countless ways. Legislators may finally be motivated to implement real, honest change in this country's gun laws.

They are flimsy consolations, I realize, but they do console me. A little at least. And for the first time since I got in the car, I feel my body lighten, my muscles unclench, my spirits begin to lift.

But the gun-law thought has opened up another neural pathway. Now I start thinking about all the recent articles and Facebook posts I've seen about how school prayer would prevent school shootings. I start to mentally formulate my response to this, which, in very short order involves words like idiotic and garbage, along with a whole lot of profanity.

I check in with my body: It's heavy again, muscles clenched, spirits fallen. Instead of being sad, I am now angry. I think:

If I wrote a blog post about this, what would I say about this push to put God back in schools? How would I respond to people who say that praying would prevent the violence caused by mentally disturbed individuals, and that secularism is to blame for what happened in Connecticut? Could I get through such a post without using the f word? 

I'm still driving, mind you, and am about to turn onto the freeway exit near my home, when the answer occurs to me — as if by divine intervention.

There is no reason to respond at all. 

We, on the "state" side of the church-and-state issue, know instructing children to pray in school is wrong, but school-prayer proponents are never going to agree with us on that. Therefore, i.e., ergo... there is no reason to respond because there is nothing to say.

Don't get me wrong, if my kid's school was contemplating reversing its policy on school prayer, I would absolutely speak to the school board. But it's not. And I would bet that very few schools across the country are. So what's there to talk about? Who cares if people who are wrong say things that are wrong? It happens all the time. Does it matter? Are we so insecure in our own knowledge that we must try to convince the unconvince-able of the truth?

No. No, we're not.

I am off the freeway. I've turned onto my block. I relax again. I think:

School prayer, like so many things, is a nonissue for me. From now on, I'll ignore the articles and Facebook postsI'll tune out radio and  TV commentary. And if anyone tells me to my face that schools should bring back prayer, I will simply say, 'okay.' And I'll probably even smile.

Because my spirits have been lifted again. And I am home.