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A quick look at the list of school shootings in the United States reveals a lot about our nation and culture. People have been killed by guns at schools in our nation since before our nation was a nation. The first documented school shooting was on July 26, 1764, referred to as the "Ecnoch Brown school massacre" during Pontiac's War. Four Delaware (Lenape) Indians entered a schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Penn., and shot and killed the schoolmaster. Nine children also were killed in a melee of weapons. Only two children in the school survived.

From then until 1966, recorded school shootings included parents shooting their children's teacher, rivals shooting one another, spouses going to school and shooting their estranged partners, students accidentally shooting fellow students on the school's rifle range and more. From 1764 until Aug. 1, 1966, shootings at schools ordinarily did not result in death, and when they did, only one or two individuals were killed -- ordinarily by an adult wanting to kill a specific person for a specific reason and possibly dying in the process.

And then, the way in which one could shoot another person changed. Possibly the way that some Americans view others -- and killing -- also changed, resulting in 23 school shooting incidents. Europe records 10 similar instances, and Canada one.

I was shocked when I read the above list of shootings, most of which in the United States are considered "mass shootings." One might also call them acts of domestic terrorism. And although some might argue that college students are not "children," in every case, a young person -- in some cases a very young person -- was a victim of an act of hatred.

My heart breaks for the children who we have lost -- the children who were someone's daughter or son. And it makes me angry. It makes me angry that we, as Americans, haven't done more to protect our children. It makes me angry that these blessings that God has given us are not valued enough for all of us to prioritize them -- and to listen to them.

Matthew 19:13-15 reads: "Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.' And he laid his hands on them and went on his way."

Jesus blessed the children. He touched them. When Christ's disciples thought perhaps the children were a waste of Jesus' valuable time, Jesus prioritized the children. Near Nazareth is Rachel's tomb -- probably not where Rachel was really buried -- a place has been made holy by the prayers of Muslim, Jewish and Christian women who cry with Rachel, "whose children are no more."

In 1983, when northern and southern Presbyterians finally came back together as the PC(USA), a new "Brief Statement of Faith" was written to celebrate their reconciliation and reunion. A line from that statement reads: "In a broken and fearful world, the Spirit gives us the courage to hear the voices of people long silenced."

When I was a little girl, I was told, "Children are to be seen and not heard." I don't think that thought came from Jesus. Children have been silenced for too long.

These past few weeks, after 17 at their school had been killed in a mass shooting, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida marched to their state's capital demanding to be heard. Whether they were heard or not remains to be seen, but their desires were not met.

This is a broken and fearful world. This is a very fearful time, when many -- including those from outside our country -- would have us be even more fearful and mistrusting of one another. Listening to hear the voices of those long silenced does take courage. Listening to the students who are wanting to be safe -- when our own fears dominate what we hear -- means setting aside our preconceived ideas to make room for their voices. It also means empowering students to sit at the table where their voices can be heard in places of power and decision-making.

Jesus did not push the children away as his disciples would have had him do. What Jesus did was bless them. He blessed them with his presence. He blessed them by prioritizing his time to include them. He blessed them by touching them, even as he had touched others and healed illnesses and demons.

What would blessing the children look like today if we had the courage to hear them?

NAN Religion on 03/03/2018

Print Headline: Bless the children

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