I had no answer for the question I didn’t see coming.
We had just prayed. We prayed for families in Uvalde who would never be the same. We prayed for healing that would never happen. We prayed about a conversation we should not be having.
But why didn’t God protect them?
Chandler asked. Her fledging words hummed across the dinner table. My heart throbbed in my throat. Dew misted my eyelids as I wrapped her in an airtight hug, imagining it was a portable force field.
Why did he do it?
I told Caleb I didn’t know but the man was evil. He wanted to hurt people. Sometimes bad people do bad things, even to little kids (like them). I was beginning to think this chat was a bad idea.
Why did you tell us?
Chloe was upset. Worst-case scenarios are her specialty and today’s dinner topic was a cruel charcuterie of pain. She admitted she didn’t want to know. And neither did we.
Then it happened. Foggy dots became squiggly lines in their minds as they realized they were already in training for a world where worst-case scenarios happen all the time.
Those quiet drills at school where they hide in the classroom, sitting still until a police officer unlocks the door.
Those covered windows and locked doors with magnetic controls.
Those police patrols with big guys in body armor.
Those prayers before school becoming pleas to a heaven too far away.
None of this was new. All along my kids have been prepared for the unthinkable becoming thinkable. I deleted Instagram, turned off my news alerts and retreated outside, whiskey in hand.
My first drill came last fall. Scattered reports rained in.
There’s a shooting. Another shooting at another school. In Texas this time.
Sounds like it happened somewhere in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Near me.
It’s in Mansfield! I have family living in Mansfield.
Mama sends a group text. It happened at a school called Timberview.
Relief. My sister is at a different school.
She’s at Mansfield High, right? Wrong.
She’s at Mansfield High School at Timberview.
The bullseye of the media cycle zoomed right into my family tree. Unanswered texts drove me to Twitter where I drowned in a cocktail of chaotic live streams, prayer emojis, SWAT team scenes and interviews with parents preparing to shatter. Tears became a timely blindfold as I shut down the computer. Unsaid prayers withered away.
No one died that day. But this was too close and too real. Is that how a drill is supposed to feel?
Statistically, my children aren’t likely to experience a school shooting. But in 2020, for the first time in modern history, firearms became the leading cause of death for children in America. Gun culture has reached adolescence and we’re all paying the price. It’s not a gun crisis, it’s a moral catastrophe.
Now I know. I know what every single politician, gun manufacturer, lobbyist and enthusiast thinks. Children are disposable.
Since Homo sapiens started hunting & gathering on hind legs, learning to make flames, vowels and tents, we have sacrificed the weakest among us. They are called helpless for a reason.
For centuries, we were no different than other animal kingdom citizens who sacrifice one offspring to increase the other’s chance of survival. Parents were not entirely indifferent, just realistic about the looming risks of poverty, disease and war. Humanity’s timeline is cluttered with cultures where kids were either assets or liabilities. It wasn’t until the 1600s that the noble concept of childhood as a unique developmental stage became popular. Previously, children were treated as mini-adults, with lifespans measured in productivity. Now, we see them as more than a source of social or economic output. We see them as souls worthy of protection and compassion.
Some of us do.
The devils walking among us take many forms. They don’t always pull triggers, but they make it easy and profitable. Perhaps their crudest weapon is us. The silent. Like spent shell casings, quiet, inactive good people have become ammunition for the bad.
When they start wars for other people’s children to fight. We say nothing.
When we watch other countries dig graves and drop bombs. We feel nothing.
When killers go more viral than victims. We do nothing.
We’ve never cared about kids. Actually, that’s incorrect. Too imprecise.
We’ve never cared about other people’s kids.
Other people’s children are disposable. And to someone else, my kids are too. How does disposability happen?
First, we abbreviate their identity. They are immigrants, aliens, Jews, poor, Black, girls, uneducated. Cosmic miracles become census categories. By replacing their personhood with otherness, nameless masses become unfortunate victims of arbitrary incidents.
Second, we solemnly evoke the gospel of helpless faith. I heard a Christian radio personality say there’s nothing to do but to cry out to Jesus, as if we’ve done anything in the first place. We are more King Saul than David, rich with armor, infantry and pageantry but too noble to pick up a slingshot. Too precious to confront the real problem. Too God-fearing to slay the Goliath of gun violence marching back & forth across our territory. We are cowards.
The third step is the real trick. We protect our children. Children like ours, not yours. We build bubbles inside of bubbles. Bigger walls. More bullets. If we can’t beat the giant outside, we can insulate ourselves from his effects. These rules are whispered between sealed lips and closed minds. As long as our kids are fine. Our kids are safe. Our kids are OK.
We are not OK. The body of someone else’s child has always captured the bayonets and bullets for others in high places. The king’s kids are indispensable. But the weak, the poor and the others among us are born of blood only to be returned to it by hands we refuse to bind, tools we refuse to ban and laws we refuse to block.
Instead of answers, we give despair offerings. Our children have become collateral for a broken industry in a morally bankrupt country. In guns we trust.
Yesterday I hugged my children and we prayed on the last day of school. I waved as they walked into the building with all the other expendable children. I didn’t have to pretend they were safe.
The next time Chandler asks, why didn’t God protect them? I will know she really means will God protect me, like you said he would.
I hope so my dear. And maybe hope is the one thing that isn’t disposable.
Please join me in praying for and supporting the families of Uvalde, Texas. Click here for a verified list of ways to help those directly impacted: Here’s how to help Uvalde shooting victims, survivors and their families