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Finding Faith: Reaching out to help before a tragedy

"Everyone who considers themselves a person of any faith, and also those who consider themselves a moral person but not religious, must understand that each of us is intricately woven into the fabric of creation. And when we fail to catch and to support those most struggling among us, we collectively fail creation’s larger family."

Memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas
Adamari Hernandez, 5, from San Antonio, holds flowers to put at a memorial site to remember the victims of the deadliest U.S. school mass shooting in nearly a decade on Monday, May 30, 2022, at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas
Veronica G. Cardenas / Reuters
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Law enforcement officers who responded to the attack on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 people dead, are under intense scrutiny.

The details of the ineffective leadership and communication in the minutes following the shooting, which appeared this week in a 77-page report issued by a Texas House committee investigation, are difficult to read.

But make no mistake, whatever failures took place that day on the ground, we all collectively failed long before May 24 when the 18-year-old suspect shot his grandmother and entered that school.

The suspect shared so much in common with previous men who have committed mass shootings. Young, estranged from family and friends, bullied, angry, with seemingly nowhere to turn for help.

And all of the warning signs were there: A broken home with a mother addicted to drugs. Bullied in school, and struggling academically, but rather than helped, he was “involuntarily withdrawn” from school. Worrisome social media messages, but no response from the platforms when his posts were reported. Requests to those around him for help purchasing weapons. Violence displayed toward women.

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The list of red flags is long, and the common thread is that seemingly no one stepped in to help a struggling young man.

Details about the 18-year-old who killed 21 people, including 19 children, are part of an interim report released Sunday by a Texas House committee investigating the shooting at Robb Elementary School.

This storyline is too common in America. And the consequences of our inattentiveness, our inaction and our lack of community are literally killing us.

The Christian faith is based on each and everyone of us being a part of the Body of Christ, each person a beloved child of God. But this isn’t a matter of pitting one faith against another.

Everyone who considers themselves a person of any faith, and also those who consider themselves a moral person but not religious, must understand that each of us is intricately woven into the fabric of creation. And when we fail to catch and to support those most struggling among us, we collectively fail creation’s larger family.

The cycle of violence is growing more frequent in America. There’s been at least 330 mass shootings in the first seven months of 2022, amounting to an unconscionable number of deaths, injuries, trauma and suffering.

However, we will make little progress until we realize that we are to blame. We can point fingers and pass more restrictive gun laws and increase school security all we want. But until we adopt a more universal view of our neighbor, and figure out how to love them, we’ll keep inviting the violence upon ourselves.

South African Priest Desmond Tutu famously said: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

My fellow neighbors, we need to immediately start trekking upstream to figure out why so many struggling souls are falling in. Our very lives depend upon it.

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Related Topics: FAITH
Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.
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