A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The problem with platitudes...

Note: this post has very little to do with oratory, education or history. I wrote something about Sandyhook the other day and this is a continuation of my thoughts. This post centers on my wrestling with where God was on December 14th.

I am putting together a post on the use of tone in oratory right now and stumbled upon these two clips. I said in a previous post that I was still wrestling with what happened less than a month ago in Connecticut. While everyone is bellowing at the the gun "lobby" or at the "liberal" media, I've tuned them out.

I have bigger fish to fry.

My beef has been with God.

Psalm 138:7. 2 Thessalonians 3:3. The whole of Psalm 23. Where was the God of protection at that elementary school? Where? Were those poor teachers left to their own devices?

Full disclosure: I have a degree in religion and so I know how to logically battle the "Where was God in this tragedy?" question. This isn't a philosophical battle for me. This is an emotional one and spiritual platitudes aren't the answer. I'm not denying the truth of a platitude, but sometimes an open wound doesn't need a seasoning of platitude sprinkled over it.

The only answer I have found to this, for me, is silence. Really, the silence is between me and other people. God and I are thick in conversation and our conversations aren't usually for public consumption. God is a gracious combatant in that he lets me rail at Him, bully him and, in anger, twist facts and realities to make my point. Once I'm done flailing and ranting and blaming Him for every problem since, well, since creation; I'm reminded that my lens is a limited one and that trusting God comes at a cost. I quoted a poem in the last post and am reminded of another line from that poem. "I fondly (fondly means foolish in Milton's era) ask. But Patience, to prevent that murmur, ..."

Here are the two videos that caused me to write this post. The first is one of the finest examples of how great writing and acting can converge to create a moment both painfully honest and painfully profound. It doesn't hurt that Martin Sheen (whatever you think of him politically) has the gravitas as a man of faith and actor to make this organic and spontaneous. The second is what happens after you rant at God.  I like that they make it clear this isn't a dream and Mrs. Landingham isn't 'God'. She is the voice in his mind after it has unraveled itself. I like that the voice acknowledges the tragedy of the past but, really, looks toward the future.

That look toward the future doesn't ignore the realities of the past. Events have consequences. But it reminds me: A tragedy is more of one when you become stuck in it. Please note I am not talking about the true victims of the shooting. Their world is irretrievably changed as the result and it will take longer than thirty days to work through the events at Sandy Hook. As a person of faith, I'm called to get off my whiny ass, stop the theological navel gazing and keep them in my prayers and my thoughts.

They continue to be in my prayers. I can't even begin to imagine that level of pain. My job is to remember and honor the victims. To remember them when my brain wants to move to the next tyranny of the urgent. To honor their sadness and the memories of those taken or injured by not letting anyone else's motive or political ambition take control of the event.

There will be more time for debate on gun control. I feel like we are dishonoring the victims by pouncing on the politics of the tragedy. I can't control a whole country's narrative, but I can say that I refuse to watch or read news reports about gun control for the next five months. Let the virtiol and blathering be done without me.

The West Wing, Two Cathedrals
The West Wing, Two Cathedrals
The poem below is by Katharina von Schlagell. It mirrors any number of passages in scripture. She wrote it to be a hymn and that hymn is said to be the favorite him of  Eric Liddell, Olympic runner (and then missionary) in the movie Chariots of Fire. There is also a new take on the poem by Ginny Owens.

Be Still My Soul

Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul! thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul! thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul! the waves and winds still know
His voice who rules them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul! the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone.
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul! when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
By Katharina von Schlegell


  1. Dave, I know this is a painful subject for you and I don't want to interfere with your ability to come to peace with it. However, I have to disagree with you about the proper time to discuss gun control.

    I think the thing we as Americans have done that is most disrespectful to the lives lost at Newtown was that we didn't act to prevent their deaths following Aurora or Tucson or Columbine, an event that still lingers in all of our consciences but occurred before those children were even born. It strikes me as disrespectful to the lives that will be lost in the next five months not to talk about it now.

    The age of the victims and fact that the Sandy Hook shooting took place in a school has rightly brought intense attention, but mass shootings are frighteningly common. In the past 30 years, there have been 60 mass shootings in the U.S. with the frequency increasing in recent years. If we wait for a six month period where none has occurred to talk about gun control, I'm afraid we may be waiting forever.

  2. Ellen,
    I've spent the past couple days letting your thoughts roll around my brain. Thank you! I still stand on my point about the politicizing of a tragedy. I am pretty sure that is not what you're suggesting. I agree that an honest discussion needs to be had. I don't think that honest discussion can be had given the shrillness and santimony of the fringe of both sides. Nothing can be gained by a shouting match.
    The thing rolling around my head is this idea that our lack of action makes us somehow responsible for the death of future innocents. My knee jerk reaction is that it is unfair and unrealistic for society to be blamed for the actions of a madman. But then I read Lincoln's Second Inagural and he reminds me that both North and South owed for the sin of slavery and God might hold both sides accountable for their actions over the course of 250 years. That causes me to pause and reflect. How will my action or inaction hold up to the test of time? My brain disagrees with you. My heart, however... Can I get back to you on that?
    I agree that there is a danger that out of sight creates out of mind. There is a balance to lending a voice on the issue without adding to the shrill shouting match of cable TV. I think I have an idea... I will test drive the idea on the next blog...
    Have I told you how much I value your thoughts on this blog and your friendship? I'm blessed.