Weekly Message from T. J.

To Love Alike

The friend I have had the longest in my life lives in Boulder. One of my best high school friends does, too. They both have children. Blessedly, they live in a part of Boulder that has its own fancy grocery store where they shop. So when I saw the news that a gunman opened fire in a grocery store in another part of town, I wasn’t overly concerned for the safety of their families. But this shooting and the shooting in Atlanta were painful and stark reminders of a pandemic that was with a nation long before the current one.

But the current viral pandemic seems to have blocked from view, or from the news, the horrifying reality that there was a drastic increase in mass shootings in 2020 and a significant increase in overall gun deaths.* I recall during the pandemic ignorantly thinking that the pandemic had decreased the number of mass shootings. It was only recently that I realized that it was the opposite. And I was left wondering how I could have been so ill informed.

I know some of us spend part of our weeks or days wondering how entire groups of people can be “misinformed” or completely “wrong.” In many of those cases, we can say that those people are ignoring objective facts to further their own world view or sense of how they think things should be. Even setting aside mass delusions and conspiracy theories, there are so many ways I am left scratching my head at what some groups will believe. Don’t they know how impossible what they believe is? Why are they so unwilling to take an action that might create real change?

And then I remember how smart I thought I was when I “realized” how many fewer mass shootings there were during the pandemic. I even texted two friends about it without bothering to check the facts. I feel pretty sick about that now. But I let my mind, my mood, and my feelings tell me what I thought to be true based on what I’d observed. I fell into one of the most satisfying traps for a human: the belief that our individual perception is everyone’s reality. Instead of creating curiosity in my mind, it created a conclusion and a form of delusion.

I’m not saying that I am willing now to give a pass to people who hold to dangerous and woefully uninformed convictions. But I do have to admit that I am equipped with the same potential to see things that are not there. And this is why a spiritual inclination that challenges us to hold more than one belief, more than one way, perhaps more than one faith, together in a church, in an online gathering, or even in our own minds, is more than a pleasant way to gather. It actually honors the truth of a complex and contradictory world. It honors the lives of those who cleared the way for this freedom. And it honors us both by trusting that we don’t have to think alike to love alike.

And may it ever be so.

Rev. T. J.

*See https://abcnews.go.com/US/graphics-story-mass-shootings-pandemic/story?id=76628491

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