At length he appeared to the eleven as they were at table: and he upbraided them with their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen him after he was risen again. And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover. And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God. But they going forth preached everywhere, the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.
This post is dedicated to my good friend and confessor, Bishop Greg Godseye.
After the shootings comes the outcry, the scream, then the return to normalcy.
Be it a planned or passively accepted behavior, when there is something that spikes a change in our perception bubble, we react. If the behavior that causes the reaction gives us some benefit of some kind, then our level of reaction, our level of determination to change the behavior, we calm down.
Take for example the prices at the gas pumps. Often I’ve seen a huge increase that creates an outcry, then a reduction. We as consumers have a threshold that the gas companies know about. They know if they slowly increase the threshold, we as consumers are less likely to react. They also know if they throw other factors into the increase, such as carbon taxes, environmentalist concerns–those things that run contrary to the comfort of fossil fuel consumption, society will be less likely to see the profit margins; or worse, less likely to care or feel that they have the power to do anything about it.
I need to define two terms before I continue: society and violence. Violence in this case will be defined as any unjust behavior, potentially involving force and/or intimidation intended to invoke the diminishment, degrading, or oppression of a belief, value, or action contrary to that of the entity invoking or behaving in a forceful or intimidating way. An example of this could be a disgruntled employer behaving in a way that infringes on a worker’s basic human rights; or, a government that engages in covert or overt genocide. Poverty can also be a government’s social welfare system and how it treats individuals with addictions, mental health issues, physical health issues.
The second term, society, refers to the views and beliefs, both overt and covert, of the overall population of any given community.
Gun violence, any violence, continues to exist because the benefit of a society that endorses violence outweighs the detriments. The endorsement does not take into consideration the damages caused by the violence because the removal of the benefit is deemed a greater violence on a greater number of people.
School shootings continue to occur not because of a lack of gun control, and not because there is a lack of mental health and harm reduction. School shootings continue to occur because society embraces the benefits of a culture of violence.
A great example of this is how TikTok regularly and consistently allows 2SLGBTQ+ content creators to be abused through loop holes in their reporting systems. There are three points of violence in TikTok society. The first is the lack of action for TikTok owners (one seat, incidentally, is held by officials in the Chinese Government, a government with consistent human rights violations and abuses) to amend the loop holes around reporting. The second is the ability for individuals to use the loop holes to report and ban content with 2SLGBTQ+ content. But the third form of violence is that of those users who continue to use TikTok because the enjoyment of using the service either does not affect their use directly, the violence occurring does not invoke a sufficient response to act, or the algorithm of the platform keeps their awareness of the issue from being present. I’d argue the last point to be a deliberate action of the platform design, although individual users contribute to how that platform behaves by their choices of what they want to view.
That choice, if it involves not acknowledging a reality that is causing harm to others, is then a choice for violence.
As long as our collective society continues to make choices towards violence, be it rape culture, be it anti-Trans culture within and without the 2SLGBTQ+ communities, be it the culture of violence-capitalism (read a culture which supports the trade of weapons, which supports the right to defend a culture of violence-capitalism under the guise of “the right to bear arms”), a culture which quietly permits a class of untouchables to continue to exist, and justifies that with statements that enforce a dream of wealth in a world where the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the ultra-poor is only getting bigger and bigger; as long as we live in a society that prioritizes the use of energies that destroy the world we are living in with the same potent arguments used by drug addicts and with the same vitriol as a drug addict defending the benefits of their drug, there will be school shootings. And we will continue to be outraged, and continue to burry the dead, and continue to ask ourselves why it still is happening.
Because: it’s easier to continue down that road than it is to go down the road which is narrow, which will hurt, but in the long run will give us life.
Stonewall hurt. But even before Stonewall, there were moments where, as Our Lord did with the disciples, individuals braided up a society for unjust actions. I like to say that the Pride Movement didn’t actually start as a riot because, for me at least, it started at a communion rail in 1944. In some ways I think that may have required even more courage than standing up to police. Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Atlanta, Georgia, should be a pilgrim site for the 2SLGBTQ+ minded Christian.
Imagine the courage to stand at the communion rail in 1944 as a queer person. Take a moment to think about the violence you would be confronted with for doing so. Imagine then how it would feel over the weeks for the number of people standing with you until the ending of Mass to gently increase.
Even then, the majority of individuals condoning the violence of the catechism outweighed those who challenged it. My congregation, the Eucharistic Catholic Church, draws it’s lineage from those individuals who stood at that rail, from bishops like John Kazantkz, like Robert Mary Clement.
As Christians, as queer people, as human beings, we are challenged to end violence in any form every day. We are upbraided by Christ every time we see violence of any kind and do nothing. We are upbraided by Christ when we know we are continuing to behave in ways which endorse violence towards our neighbors, our families, our friends, our planet.
I am a sinner! I too am part of the culture that embraces the comforts of violence. I too find it hard to let go of those things which give me pleasure. But as I get older, as I look at the benefits over the pains to others, I ask myself: is it necessary to log into Facebook? Is it necessary to log into TikTok and give up my algorithm to entities that will use it against me, against my friends, against my community?
Is the vote I cast violence?
Is the party I support violence?
Is my privilege violence?
Is my perception of justice violence?
Is Pride in allowing corporations a spot at the table, violence?
Is withholding communion violence?
These are big questions, and it likely will take generations to unravel them. My thought is now is not the time to wait to begin. Now is the time to realize that, perhaps, it is too late already–in which case, it is even more important for us to decide: will we stand alone at the communion rail even though the congregation stands behind us and asks, “What’s wrong with them? Why are they doing that? Why are they making me feel uncomfortable?”