The shooting in Pennsylvania didn't influence my congregation's decision to take a stand against gun violence. It was happening as we talked. No one knew about it. But the possibility of a shooting like the one in Pennsylvania was on people's minds. We have all heard of other shootings in churches, schools, and other places where we would like to think we are safe.
What concerned the people I was among was not just that a shooting might take place in our own congregation, but also that shootings might take place somewhere else. No one even mentioned the possibility that we could protect ourselves by posting guards at the doors. No one talked about any measures we might take to protect ourselves as distinct from protecting everyone else everywhere else. The discussion, which was spirited, never veered from the question of what we should do to make the entire world safer.
How wonderfully different the discussion was from what we have grown accustomed to in our political world, where everything is presented as a choice between us and them. American jobs are extolled over jobs being shipped to China, Mexico, Bangladesh, or India, regardless of which country's people are more needy. American health care resources are being restricted to American citizens and denied to people who live in our country but who have not achieved citizenship, as if non-citizen residents didn't need to be healthy. American security is touted as more important than the security of any other nation. Every city and every state is competing to get companies to hire people within its borders rather than in nearby cities and states. Every locale wants people to shop, dine, and vacation there rather than somewhere else.
I'm not sure why the discussion at my congregation stayed on the level it did, but I am grateful for it. Maybe people are so tired of reading about so many shootings every day that they just want it all to stop. Maybe the teachings of concern for one's fellow humans that are found in my religion and in every other religion I am aware of were actually guiding people's thoughts.
Having just endured an election season where we were constantly told that everyone would be voting their own pocketbooks, it was wonderful to participate in a discussion in which no one argued that self-interest was any different from concern for the general welfare. How delightful to be reminded of the sweetness, when so often we are surrounded by bitters.