The Greater Tragedy

Sunday's Vigil. (Photo by Andrew Robinson)
Sunday’s Vigil. (Photo by Andrew Robinson)

“The greater tragedy is that these deaths are being politicized by those who have an agenda…”

During the past two days, I’ve heard this statement on social media, from writers right, left, and center.

This kind of empty rhetoric gets tossed out at a time like this. And sometimes it gets embraced as a moderate, temperate, and even-handed response to a time of crisis.

But it’s crazy-talk, friends. Really it is.

Think about it. Consider the false-moral equivalency behind this statement. I mean, really dig into what is being suggested here. Can it really be that…

Making the connection between this shooting and intersectional causes of justice…that’s a greater tragedy than the loss of fifty lives?

Expressing anger at the continuing religious and civil discrimination of LGBTQ persons, and the theology which “aids and abets it”…that’s a greater tragedy than the loss of fifty lives?

Calling out inaction an assault weapons ban by Congress (Something that’s been called-out after every mass shooting for the past decade) that’s a greater tragedy than the loss of fifty lives?

Decrying Islamophobic slurs and insults directed at innocent Muslim friends…that’s a greater tragedy than the loss of fifty lives?

No. I’m sorry.
I call bullshit.

None of this is a greater moral tragedy than the loss of fifty  human lives.

In fact, none of it is “tragedy” at all. It’s all a very predictable set of responses, based on the emotion of the moment. Not only is it not tragedy, it becomes just, moral, and right to ask tough questions, precisely at a time like this.

We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can mourn victims, and begin the process of working and advocating for just social change in the world.

There is a wrongheaded belief that only dispassionate discussion, logical insights, and cogent moral reasoning ever quality as effective leadership at a time like this.

Cut off your emotions, they counsel.

Put away your feelings, they say.

But this totally negates the fact that we are emotional creatures at heart. We are ruled by, and driven by, our emotions…in ways most of us do not often realize and acknowledge.

To be clear, politicians, preachers and thought-leaders can manipulate our emotions. That is true. They can intentionally stir up emotional responses. They can play on fears, focus on basest instincts to create enemies, and “demonize and otherize” people.
Yes, that kind of behavior by politicians, preachers, and though-leaders is deeply manipulative.

But when politicians, preachers and thought-leaders acknowledge the actual suffering and pain of actual human beings? When they suggest positive steps and actions that can alleviate suffering, bring about social change, and heal the scourge of hate?

That’s a good thing. It’s not manipulative or controlling. It actually gives people hope. Hope that the world can be better than it is now…hope that we can overcome our homophobia, Islamophobia, and addiction to guns.

In fact, and ironically, one of the key ways to lower people’s anxieties and fears is to come up with concrete steps that would make life better…that would reduce homophobia, Islamophobia, and gun addiction.

Sunday night at the vigil in Oak Lawn, my friend Rev. Neal Cazares-Thomas said that not only was he feeling a sense of loss, but that he also felt a sense of “righteous anger.”

Yes, Yes, Yes!

Righteous anger is not the same as indiscriminate and mis-directed anger. Righteous anger does not inspire fear. It calms the fearful. Righteous anger gives hope to the hopeless and the despairing.

So, I call BS on the proposition, “The greater tragedy is that these deaths are being politicized by people who have an agenda…”

A truly “great tragedy” at a moment like this would be to allow hopelessness and despair to grow unchecked, in the silence and fear of inaction.

So, don’t fear speaking up at a time like this. Speak the truth you feel about our need to increase the safety of the LGBTQ community, reduce Islamophobia, and overcome our addiction to guns. Your views can be healing and hopeful to your friends and neighbors.
Even as we still grieve, the prophet who calls for justice, at such a time as this, will help bring healing to the land too.

Refuse to be silenced.

Express your righteous anger when you feel it, and never let anybody call that a “tragedy.”

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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