Storms of the Soul

As the rain continues to fall and the wind picks up, I'm reading the newspaper and watching the news. One of the alphabet soup channels continues to telecast a special report about the shooting that killed 31 people at Virginia Tech earlier today. And the rain continues to fall.

A friend of mine in seminary used to love to go running in the rain. The minute that the rain started to fall, she would rush into her sneakers and head to the park. I've been thinking about this friend today and her desire to want to be in the midst of the storm. Truth be told, she had enough common sense not to run when there was threat of lightening or hurricane-force winds. She is ambitious -- though not insane. I'm thinking about another friend of mine today. Another friend from seminary who has always inspired me with her willingness to be in the center of a storm. She goes to the heart of the matter. She goes where the need is greatest. Partly because her call requires it but mostly because it's just the kind of person she is.

I'm reading that the President of Sudan has accepted aid that he has previously rejected. I'm wondering about all of those people that will put on their running shoes and dash into this storm. I'm wondering about the friends and families filled with grief in and around the Virginia Tech campus. I'm wondering about the storm in the soul of this person who felt there was no alternative but to take a loaded gun into this academic institution.

This storm reminds me of another article that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The one that tells the story of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, California struggling with whether or not to welcome a former sex offender into their congregation. When I first read the article, it broke my heart. It breaks my heart every time we close our doors. It hurts every time we draw thicker and thicker lines about who is in and out. In religious communities that follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, I don't understand why we aren't running into the storm. I know that it's scary. I would have encouraged my seminary friend not to go out into the hurricane force winds. Stay inside. Stay inside where it is warm and safe, I would tell her. But, in churches that are following the tradition of Jesus Christ who broke down boundaries, we shouldn't be staying in the safe, warm places. We shouldn't be so concerned about being dry. We should be running into the rain. We should be heading straight for the center of the storm. Who cares if there is lightning? This is where we are called. Right?

Aren't we called to go into Darfur? Shouldn't we be called to talk about the reality of the atrocities that are happening in our world? Shouldn't we be running into the storm looking where else our sneakers might lead? Or instead, are we becoming distant from these storms? Is the rain falling over there but not getting us wet? Shouldn't we be splashed by the waters that are drowning our sisters and brothers? Even when the storms seem far away, shouldn't we be getting wet too? Or will we just make those lines darker and thicker? Shall we create dams and levees that manage the water levels that we can handle?

It just doesn't seem quite right to me. Maybe I'm too radical. I don't know. But, then, what do we do about the Hispanic community that emigrates (legally or otherwise) into this country to find that religion is no longer important? The New York Times reports that these new residents are not going to church. They pray when they need to pray. But, they are not finding a spiritual home in an organized church. Maybe because we are not welcoming them. Maybe because we are too concerned about those dams and lines. We are not reaching out. We are not running into the storm with them. We are letting them drown.