On Earth Day, thoughts of nonviolence, healing

Originally, I had anticipated writing about Earth Day and the obligation that people of faith have to care for God's creation. After all, if we cannot be the prophetic voice and model an earth-conscious life, how can we possibly honor our God? And yet, the events of this week demand reflection.

Eyes glued to the television, tears streaming down my face, a face that mirrors a nation of faces in mourning, I try to make sense of the senseless. I'm not a news junkie. I cannot do hour after hour of television. And yet in moments like these, all we want is to find answers. Maybe if we had the answer, we could stop the pain, the fear and the helplessness.

And so we sit with unanswered questions until a manhunt comes to an end. We look for people to blame, create hypotheses to explain the whys that haunt us and hope that the explanation that finally comes will be tied up neatly so we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Maybe then we can celebrate Earth Day. It's always getting short-changed for more pressing issues of the day.

I have to admit I don't know the answers. I long for them. But I fear that they may not come easily. I don't know what lies behind the story of two boys who plant bombs that leave three dead and hundreds injured in Boston while a nation's heart breaks. I don't understand it any more than I understand why another boy pumped round after round of ammunition into an elementary school not six months ago.

But I fear that something ties together these unrelated, isolated events. Not in a conspiracy kind of way, but in a way indicative of a nation that needs to admit that it is not safe, that violence is bubbling just beneath the surface, that it is not fully within our control to prevent these human-caused disasters and their devastating repercussions.

We are afraid. That is why 90% of the nation's population wants better gun laws. We know the violence we human beings are capable of committing. We continue to be shocked and frightened each time a tragedy occurs, whether by bombs or guns, because we are reminded that we do not live in a bubble. Violence occurs all over the world, and yet we long to believe we are immune to it. But this week, once again, we are reminded that we are not.

We have to address deeply rooted problems in our society; answers will not come in a 24-hour news cycle. We must face our fears and accept discomfort, because we will not be satisfied until real change occurs. We must urge our leaders to legislate for laws that protect us, and we must invest in a world where children can be kept safe and raised with love and educational support.

These societal mandates are issues of faith. As God mourns with us, our shared tears remind us that we are not alone. A force bigger than ourselves commands us to love, to dig deeper, to find better alternatives and to show compassion in the face of our fears. We do not know all of the answers, but we know that our God calls us and empowers us with a divine hope for a better world.

In the end, perhaps, that is the best way to celebrate Earth Day — to commit ourselves to caring for God's creation and all the children who inhabit this Earth.

THE REV. DR. SARAH HALVERSON is the pastor of Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.

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