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Let’s talk ‘brokenness”

Newtown.

That’s really the only word I need to write isn’t it?  One word and everyone knows exactly what I am referring to; everyone knows the content of this post; everyone echoes the questions; everyone shares in the tears; everyone has a quick but decisive shiver go up the spine as their minds recall the inexplicable horror which has become pseudonymous with that word.

I must admit that part of me has no clue what to write here, or if even I should write this.  After all, if you are like me you have been doing a lot of reading about this over the past few days.  Much of the conversation centers on a few main topics.  There are the political pundits that are heralding a change in gun laws.  After all, if it is easier to buy a semi-automatic machine gun than it is to get a driver’s license, doesn’t that point to a flaw in the system?  But that is countered by those who argue that the real culprit is Big Brother.  It is the political attacks on constitutional freedoms that have created this problem.   It is argued that this tragedy occurred precisely because the government is trying to limit gun ownership. After all, schools are ‘gun-free’ zones, thus there was no responsible, gun-wielding adult at that school then could have put a stop to this madness.  We don’t need less guns, it is cried, we need more guns!  So let’s arm Mr. Tootlebaum and hope that he will turn Rambo on anyone crazy enough to enter his school.

Then there are those who wish to talk about the societal factors implicit in forming these special brand of monsters.  They talk about the graphic violence in videogames and popular television programs.  They count the bullets of popular movies and suggest that James Bond is damaging the moral development of our children.  Oh, and don’t forget heavy metal and rap music.  That must have something to do with it. In the end, it’s just about someone to blame.

As the church, where is our voice?  What is the conversation which we are called to lend ourselves?  Are we called to a certain side of the political regime?  Does Jesus want to see Mr. Tootlebaum with a story in one hand and a shotgun in the other?  Or is the Holy Spirit calling us to encourage our members to give us their game systems and only listen to the likes of Rita McNeil and the Rankin Family.

I believe that we in the church are called to a different conversation.  Let’s not talk about politics or constitutional rights; let’s talk about brokenness.  Let’s talk about what happens when someone feels so horrifyingly alone that they turn to desperate measures to ease their own inner turmoil.  Let’s talk about how so many people in this world are carrying around a pain so deep that it strips them of all humanity.  Let’s talk about people’s need for healing, that deep spiritual cleansing that can’t be found anywhere else.  Because it is healing and not politics that will turn our swords into plowshares, and our spears into pruning hooks;  it is only the Kingdom of God that invites us to eat of the tree of life – where the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelations 22:2).

I don’t know about you, but don’t you think our nations need a little bit of healing?

The church has been given a powerful message, but that message is not about gun laws and ammendment rights.  The message that we have been given is that there can be an end to our feelings of isolation and depressing loneliness;  there can be an end to that soul-sapping emptiness that shrouds people in darkness and pain; there can be an end to those dark shadows of death and those expressions of evil.  The solution is found in the one who does not remove those things but who deeply dwells within.  The end of the shadow of death is found in the one who leads us through it, adding his tears of grief to our own.  The end of spiritual lostness is found in the one who strips away the glories of heaven in order to enter the vulnerability of life and bring us home.  Our ultimate healing is him who heals us with his own stripes and wounds; him who takes our propensity for violence and rage upon himself so that just possibly we can see a better way to live and be.

Perhaps, it is this which is the true force of advent.  Perhaps this is what it means to truly sing:  ” Oh, come, Desire of nations bind/ in one the hearts of humankind/Oh, bid our sad divisions cease/ And be for us the Prince of Peace/   Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.”

Let’s be loud, open, and clear about this conversation.  I believe the world needs it.

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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0 Responses to Let’s talk ‘brokenness”

  1. This is a really tough one Kyle. Thank you for your words and for reminding people about our calling – about how important healing is, about how important it is to stop and think and pray and contemplate, and leave room for the Spirit to move us. Thank you for taking this beyond the nuts and bolts of procedure and policy, and beyond the world of politics. It comes full circle when we get to the spiritual and theological I think, full circle back to the humanity and the need for relationship.

    It is scary, and difficult to build those bridges to overcome loneliness. It makes us vulnerable – which is always uncomfortable. I know I am worried about what to say…. especially of saying the “wrong” thing. Its scary because it is also not a quick fix. It takes time and a lot of effort – both of which I often selfishly feel short on. Which is why for me personally the messages of Advent – because they call me on my bull, and remind of what we as the church are called to do.

    Thanks for this Kyle.

  2. Kyle Norman

    Scott thanks for your encouragement (and for the shout out via twitter!)

    I was reflecting on the fact that my first theology class, of my first year of seminary occured on 9/11.  I remember my prof (who is american) weeping over the news, but then gathering himself and saying that the task of theology is rooted in the grittiness of life – and it is in this place where we are called to hold onto the good news of God in Christ as we attempt to live within a world that goes so terriably wrong.

    That was profoundly moving for me, so I think the task in this time is the same.  To hold on to the incarnation in all that it means for us – not to deny the horrors of this world, but to live amidst them and to work, and pray for the world’s healing.

  3. Dawn Leger

    I don’t see talking about healing and gun control as mutually exclusive. Both are action that we take in the face of tragedy. We care for one another in our loneliness, and we work for an end to violence. Removing guns will not heal brokenness, but it will lower the chances of people dying from violence. Likewise, healing brokenness is a long road, and with guns too available, more people will die on the long journey.

  4. Kyle Norman

    I definately agree that there are social ramifications to the process of healing.  After all, the vision set before us is when swords are beaten into plowshares.  Our healing ultimately is a lived-out healing.  I’m not advocating that everyone just lock themselves in a cave and pray for spiritual wholeness ( . . although come to think of it, part of me thinks that is just what we need to do.)

    However what I see so often is that conversations around tragedies like Newtown circles on public changes, and never the spiritual underpinings.  What is that phrase?  “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.”  Case in point, Mr. Tootlebaum is now going to be armed in Texan towns.  (see http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Teachers+carry+concealed+weapons+tiny+Texas+town+school/7726230/story.html

    I feel the the voice of the church needs to be one the points to the deep spiritual realities in the world.  Combatting the violence and horrors of the world with a ‘more righteous’ or sanctioned violence will not do anything to heal the violence. 

    And actually, I think that removing the guns won’t either.  An interesting theme has developed in Pop Culture land as of late.  Swords! Bow n’ Arrows! Clubs.  Shows like Revolution, Arrow, even to some extent Walking Dead depict horrific violence without guns.

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