Barely Even Surprised

I am a giant West Wing fan. I have seen all the episodes many times, and I like to think that many of the characters on the show would be my friends in real life. In one episode, the staff receives a report that 17 school girls died in a fire in Saudi Arabia. When a fire broke out in their school, they were not allowed out into the street because they were not dressed appropriately. Women in the strict Muslim nation couldn’t be seen in public dressed inappropriately, so they were allowed to burn and die instead. At the subsequent press briefing, when asked about this event, CJ  was asked if she was horrified by this event. Her response was that she was barely even surprised. Her response was a bit shocking because it seemed dismissive in the face of this horrific tragedy, but her point was that treating women as less than human was so common in Saudi Arabia, that it had ceased to be horrifying. The horrific was normal.

That is my response in the wake of yet another school shooting, this time outside of Houston, TX. Of course I am broken hearted, and full of righteous anger for the kids and the families of this community; but I am no longer shocked by these events. It has become so frequent in our lives that while making us sick, school shootings are no longer shocking. Isn’t that the most damning indictment of our culture? We have become so used to the formerly unimaginable, that it barely moves the meter on outrage. I went to school when school shootings were not a thing, and while school was often annoying, I never feared for my life when walking through the doors. Now my kids have active shooter drills. My kids see this on the news – ALL. THE. TIME. They have walkouts because politicians cannot decide to put away their talking points and make the kids more important than their positions. Instead of being willing to try anything, we settle for doing nothing.

And nothing changes. Except the body count. That keeps changing.

I am thankful that we are free to have our own opinions  and we can discuss our divergent views. But disagreement that leads to impotence in addressing this problem  reveals an astounding leadership vacuum in our government. People buy the argument that gun regulation is the issue, but it doesn’t get done. People buy the idea that arming teachers will solve the problem, but nothing gets done. I even support the immediate action of putting metal detectors at every entrance to schools, but even something simple like that cannot get done. Maybe we think that doing something that won’t fix the entire problem isn’t worthwhile. Maybe we think that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our rights to protect our kids (though if memory serves, the same people screaming loudly about protecting gun rights were eager to sign their rights away in the name of Homeland Security after 9/11). Maybe we refuse to believe that guns can protect people from guns because its anathema to our presupposition that guns have to be bad (though we seem to have no issue with guns protecting our freedoms when carried by the military). So there is endless debate, nothing gets done, and the message we send to our kids is that they are less important than our Facebook flame wars.

I know I don’t know the answer, but I also know I am willing to try many different things that will protect my kids in school. Let’s try 50 different things and find out what works, instead of screaming about how right we are and how wrong the other people are, and allowing these events to continue. In reality, what is more important than protecting the safe spaces our kids should have? How many kids have to die until we care more about doing instead of arguing? When will those in charge be willing to be wrong for the sake of their lives? When will leaders emerge that will choose to put themselves aside and to act for the those who aren’t old enough to vote their asses out of office? The Apostle Paul said that true love was sacrificing oneself for another, but in our day we cannot even deign to be wrong for the lives of others.

Are you appalled Jim, that these things keep happening? I am barely even surprised because We The People are failing our kids by having to be right. 


When Rachel and I lived in South Florida, we went to the same church for quite a long time. I remember the first time we had communion at this church (it was infrequent), and after we took the bread together, the pastor had us all stand up, raise up the cup and proclaim the risen Lord with a shout of joy. Up till that point in my life, I never realized how somber communion usually was. In a short moment our pastor had demonstrated the joy that is found in the resurrection, and we proclaimed it together by the sharing of the cup. I started thinking, from that time forward, that communion has become more like a funeral than a proclamation of the resurrected Savior.

Why do we do this? I think it has to do with a lack of contextual exegesis of I Corinthians 11:17-34. In this passage, St. Paul taught the Corinthians that they should take the Lord’s Supper in a “worthy manner” (vs 27), and that those who do not “heap judgement upon themselves” (vs 29). Paul goes on to say that many in the Corinthian church were sick because of their failure to take the Lord’s Supper correctly. What is Paul talking about? In the beginning of his instruction, Paul talked about the neglect of eating the Lord’s Supper together. We need to recognize that Paul tells us to proclaim the “Lord’s death until He comes” in unity: some get drunk, some go hungry; the church is DIVIDED. This is the issue Paul is addressing, and his caution (in context) is to not divide the assembly by showing preference to some over others. Remember, the believers in the 1st Century took communion in a much different manner than we do. It wasn’t a short, tacked on event in their “service,” but was more akin to a love feast: the people celebrated by remembering the death of their Savior. (Short read on this here, but scholarly research is available). When the love feast deviated from unity, Paul rebuked the ekklesia.

Often we are somber because we are “examining ourselves” (as Paul commanded) for SIN, not for unity. If we are dividing a church, hindering the fellowship, we should be on guard for judgement and not partake; however if we are in sin we NEED to remember the death of the Lord as Paul commanded. It was His death that provided deliverance, and Paul wanted that proclaimed.

There is one point I need to address about the celebration of the resurrection that I stated we should be doing, and that is found in verse 26 where Paul exhorts us to proclaim His death. Certainly that should be somber, right? Well what else does Paul tell us in that verse “proclaim his death until He comes.” We are to remember and CELEBRATE His death, because that is our deliverance. While we should never forget the suffering of our Savior, we cannot remain at the cross with Him crucified, but proceed to the Tomb where He was raised. Remember the suffering in light of the raising.

Paul doesn’t want us living in the shadow of His death, but in the certainty of His coming. Paul wants us to celebrate the forgiveness of our sin together as a local assembly. I think Paul wants us to have feasts of joy to the glory of God! I really hope we can move away from the idea of Communion as a Commun-eral, and to a place where we celebrate the joy of the risen King; maybe just once in awhile.