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Grief over Connecticut elementary school shootings must call us to prayer — and then to action

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Connecticut shooting, Sandy Hook, funeral
A woman comforts a boy as mourners depart Honan Funeral Home after the funeral for 6-year-old Jack Pinto in Newtown, Connecticut. Pinto was one of the 20 students killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.  Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
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I was going to keep my mouth shut about this for as long as I could. But then today I read this: "I need some kind of spiritual armor that I may not possess for every time I see this composite picture of everyone killed on Friday. Mercy."

Mom and blogger Laurie White made an achingly honest statement, one that most of us can identify with, regardless of our spiritual or religious affiliations should we claim one at all. All of us, if we are human and haven't been living under a rock for the last few days, are shattered by the senseless tragedy that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

 Don't armor up, don't shut down, don't move on. Get sad, get angry, and then get busy. 

And it's a wound that keeps getting torn open every time we see one of those precious faces, every time we hear the names and see the pictures of the ones killed. But something tells us we shouldn't let that wound open and reopen. Something tells us to be strong, move along, shut it out, get on with life.

I'm writing today to tell you not to. Don't armor up, don't shut down, don't move on. Get sad, get angry, and then get busy.

No secret
I'm a Christian. That's no secret. I became a Christian because when as a self-destructive 25-year-old, I was presented with a picture of Christ as one of us. Not unlike that corny song, "What if God Was One of Us?" that we heard playing from every radio and stereo in the late '90s.

I was in pain in my 20s. I'd experienced a good bit of loss, friends who'd passed away tragically and too young, my parent's divorce, addiction. I was in pain and I felt alone in it. I met a group of artists who knew God as someone with them, beside them, someone who entered into their pain and by his presence brought healing.

 The pain of Sandy Hook is no illusion. It's real and it's relentless. And it should be. 

If you're human, you will experience pain; there's no way around it. Many religions see pain as a personal failure, the judgment of an angry God or, simply, as an illusion that through discipline we can overcome.

The pain of Sandy Hook is no illusion. It's real and it's relentless. And it should be.

I'm here to tell you that the spiritual armor we seek is our heartbreak. Compassion and empathy in the face of horror and heartbreak are our armor. Entering into this grief with these precious families is our responsibility.

When we fail to be heartbroken over the slaughter of innocents, we will have lost our humanity. We will have lost the image of God that we bear.

But once we've grieved, and we are grieving, we must then move on to action.

Time to act
Dr. James Shaw says "We must require more of ourselves than to grieve." We hear too many times from politicians and religious leaders, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families." And while their intentions may be good, that statement is a PC way of saying, "And there's nothing we can do about it."

Gun violence is not a natural disaster. Mental illness is not a natural disaster.

 Demanding common sense gun law reform is not political; it's human. 

Both of these issues can and must be addressed. Prayers, yes, we'll take them and so will God. They should be constant and honest.

But if we allow ourselves to enter into this pain, and to truly pray, we will emerge focused to enact change, to act. Bringing the Kingdom of God to earth is not a passive endeavor. Mother Teresa didn't tell the people of India, "My thoughts and prayers are with you." She rolled up her sleeves and got to work again and again, bringing change to her small corner of earth.

That work, that corner, has moved countless millions to compassion and to action. She turned her grief and her heartbreak into action, and we must do the same.

Demanding common sense gun law reform is not political; it's human.

Demanding that the mentally ill be treated comprehensively, affordably and with love is not political,; it's human.

The very essence of our humanity is the image of God we bear. God who came to our home, our earth, who saw our heartbreak, grieved with us, and then got to work.

Million Mom March, anyone?

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