A basis for healing in Uvalde

Religious leaders in Texas set a higher tone for a national debate on mass shootings.

Joe Perez in Uvalde, Texas, prays with other members of the Getty Street Church of Christ after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, May 24.

Tuesday’s fatal shooting of at least 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas – the second-worst school shooting in American history – has led to national calls for tougher gun controls and better help for troubled young people. Yet within Uvalde itself, the crucial reaction has come from its religious leaders.

“We need a light in the darkness,” Doug Swimmer, pastor of The Potter’s House Church, told ABC News. Roman Catholic Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller told a congregation that innocent people were taken away but it will be innocent people who will get the community out of this crisis.

These initial responses – which include prayers, vigils, and consolation of victim families – cannot be easily dismissed. For sure, the debate after this shooting will center on issues like school safety, psychological services, and stricter regulations. Yet any solution relies on Americans, either locally or nationally, first finding shared compassion for communities like Uvalde. Such compassion is a common denominator for healing.

“What we have to offer is ourselves,” said David Reed, Catholic bishop of West Texas, in response to the tragedy. “To turn ourselves, our hearts and minds, to those who are suffering in Uvalde – to reach out our hands to lift up and to extend our arms to embrace. ... We have received the power to love and to resist hatred. And we can pray. We must pray. Ignore the cynics, and pray with all your heart. ... And listen to God answering in return. ... Give yourself over to opportunities to join in the Spirit’s work of binding up and healing. Love with all you’ve got, and never, ever surrender to the darkness.”

In the wake of human tragedies, prayer is a practical source of strength and an impetus for moral courage that recognizes humanity’s innate innocence and worth. It can also be a starting point for renewal of the institutions that protect society. James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, argued that “the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God ... declares that the safety and the happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”

That divine law has a place in shaping human laws, and will help the United States find a balance between competing arguments over how to solve mass gun violence. As Mr. Swimmer said, “The one thing that is going to get us through is God’s grace and God’s love.”

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