Peter Berger calls it a signal of transcendence--an experience in this physical reality that hints that surely something more is out there. He names five: order, hope, play, humor and one other that seems to strike a chord today--damnation.
There are certain actions among humans that seem to demand more than mere justice can provide. Crimes that beg for a punishment greater than we can deliver. Crimes that make us long for a greater justice.
I know, that makes for a lousy theology of Hell and it implies that I am somehow less of a disappointment to God than a man who murders little Amish girls, but days like this at least clarify what Berger meant. That he chose girls is unfathomable. That he bound them and executed them with a 12 gauge is difficult even to type. That he is the third school shooting in a week weakens my resolve. That he took his own life and bypassed a trial is hollow and unsettling.
When we were children, we drilled for an atomic war. We would all joke of the lunacy of sitting beneath a desk to be safe right after we had seen video footage of exactly what a blast would do to us. But there was never a war. We feared it, but it never came.
For our children, life is so very different. They drill for lockdowns. Teachers know how to evacuate a room in secrecy. Administrator speak in code to avoid panic. They know what to do when the first gunshot is heard. And they use it. They used it in Colorado last week. They used in Wisconsin. I'm not so sure about Pennsylvania. This community of pacifists didn't have a lockdown drill in place....
It is quite sobering to consider what our students must feel when they walk into a building that seemed so safe when we were young. It affects the way I teach, or at least, it will.
God told Habbakkuk that it is in mercy that He withholds judgment, for if He so moves, He will judge all, not only those whom we would choose. But there are days when Habakkuk's request is hard not to utter. "How long, O Lord...."