The Cult of Martyrs and Schools in the 21st Century

Christians all over the world, in all of our history, have revered martyrs. People of faith, they gave their lives in defense of their faith, or for a greater cause. In John’s Gospel (John 15:12) Jesus tells his disciples that “[n]o one has greater love than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Once again, we woke up today to learn about another school shooting, and again in Colorado. I won’t bore you with the details but we’ve learned a great deal since the 1995 shootings at Columbine High School. Virtually every school (from kindergarten to 12th grade) now does active shooter drills and virtually all students, teachers, and other school staff think about what they would do when confronted by an active shooter.

Kendrick Castillo, an 18 year old student (along with several other students) faced that reality and ran toward the shooter. Kendrick was shot and killed. By all accounts he and the others stopped the shooter and prevented more carnage.

Last week, when murder visited the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Riley Howell also took a bullet to protect others.

Kendrick and Riley gave their lives to save their classmates and we should honor their courage and pray for those whose lives they saved.

But we should also express anger that they needed to do what they did. Columbine High School, Sandy Hook, and countess other schools should be sanctuaries, places of safety. Chabad of Poway and other places of worship should be sanctuaries. We shouldn’t have to teach our children how to respond to active shooters and we shouldn’t have to hire armed security to make our places of prayer and fellowship safe.

If you think I need to be lectured on the 2nd Amendment please don’t waste your breath or my time. Our neighbors and our children shouldn’t be thought of as acceptable collateral damage and your desire to shoot assault weapons shouldn’t be an acceptable alternative when Viagra no longer works.

I pray for Kendrick Castillo and Riley Howell and their families. But I also pray for a place where they could have grown up, married, and raised families who would have benefited from their bravery and integrity.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 127: My Biggest Fear

I’ve written volumes on how I’m concerned that President Trump is causing real and lasting danger to our nation. Today I read an article on CNN that spells out my biggest fear: what happens if he is defeated in 2020 and refuses to leave the White House?

In a previous post I spoke of his belief that he won the popular vote and he was the victim of voter fraud. Nobody with any knowledge of the election believes it, but he’s been able to convince many of his supporters that he’s right.

So what happens if he loses the 2020 election and makes the same claim of voter fraud? What if he refuses to leave the White House and calls his supporters to come to Washington DC and set up a perimeter around the White House?

The mark of a true democracy turns not on the inauguration of its first president, but its second. It’s worth noting that our first president, George Washington (1732-1799) served two terms and declined to run for a third term. He passed the mantle of the presidency to John Adams (1736-1826).

President Adams served only one term, being defeated in 1800 by his vice president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). President Adams, though sorely disappointed, handed the keys to President Jefferson.

In the 219 years since that handoff we’ve seen it replayed countless times. In my lifetime I’ve observed Gerald Ford (1913- 2006) handing the keys to Jimmy Carter (b.1924), Jimmy Carter handing the keys to Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), and finally George H.W. Bush (1924-2018) welcoming Bill Clinton.

It’s never easy to pass these keys to someone who the voters chose over you, but all these men respected the will of the people and they acted with grace and a respect for the office.

I fear that the current occupant of the oval office will not act with either grace or respect. I fear we will find ourselves in a crisis that we used to believe belonged only to lesser nations. I fear that our current president will care nothing for our history, our democracy, and our tradition of peaceful transfer of power. I fear he will declare himself “president for life” that will lead us into chaos.

I pray I’m wrong.