“Regarding the shooting that happen right in our back yard, at the Navy Yard,” the team that put the adopted Safe and Responsible Use of Firearms resolution before the 2013 Synod Assembly urges “our congregations to pray publicly and privately for the victims’ families, for the Navy Yard employees, and for our society which is in desperate need of ways to reduce hate and violence.”
The Rev. Thomas Knoll, a member of that team and a pastor of First Trinity Lutheran Church in D.C., wrote in the request sent Sept. 18, 2013, “Here at First Trinity we are singing the Navy Hymn ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’ as another way to pray, honor and give tribute.” Pr. Knoll shares the following article written for the congregation’s forthcoming newsletter.
The Problem of Evil, continued….
Our Sunday sermons for the next several weeks will focus on the problem of evil. After the events of September 16, 2013 at the Washington Navy Yard we again see evil up close and personal. Evil is everywhere, hidden and right here in broad daylight. It does not just show up on a beautiful fall morning in September.
In all of the statements and news coverage that day I was struck by comments made by Dr. Janis Orlowski, who is the medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center where many of the victims were taken. Dr. Orlowski has seen hundreds of gun shots victims in her work at the Hospital Center. Dr. Orlowski calmly kept the nation’s capital and the country updated on the surviving victims of the shooting. In response to a question about what she thought about all this she spoke from the heart. She said that there is “something evil in our society” with its level of gun violence. “There’s something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate,” She went on to say, “I may see this every day… there is something wrong here when we have these multiple shootings, these multiple injuries, there’s something wrong. I’d like you to put my trauma center out of business. I really would. I would like to not be an expert on gunshots.” As she concluded, she said, “It’s a great city. It’s a great country, and we have to work together to get rid of this… Because we just cannot have, you know, one more shooting with, you know, so many people killed.” She ended her remarks by saying, “It’s a challenge to all of us. This is not America. This is not Washington, D.C. This is not good. So we’ve got to work to get rid of this.”
I agree with Dr. Orlowski. We’ve got to work to get rid of this. Now I realize that we cannot get rid of evil totally. Evil will always surround us, but we can work make our society less violent. We can work to get appropriate treatment for those who are challenged with the stresses and pressures of life in such a way that they become a danger to themselves and/or to others around them. We can work to rid our society of media products that encourage and support killing of any kind. We can work to get more of the military assault weapons off the street.
Since evil is so pervasive we cannot do this alone, no matter how smart some of us might be or how secure we think we are. We must call upon our God for help. We must recommit ourselves to prayer, and commit ourselves to serious dialogue with one another. Asking questions like, what makes some of us so angry, what makes some of us feel so hopeless, what makes some of us care so little about life? As we listen to the answers to these and similar questions, I believe that answers will be found. And as we implement these answers with actions we will find solutions.
It was ironic that Dr. Orlowski much earlier that morning, before the shooting tragedy even happened, announced that she was resigning her job and taking a position at a national health policy and innovation organization. I would hope that she continues to speak out on these matters because she is certainly one person who has seen violence on a daily basis fighting against very difficult odds to heal wounds and make things right again.
May God help us all to work to make things right.
The Rev. Tom Knoll
First Trinity Lutheran Church
309 E Street NW Washington, D.C. 20001