Caleb Schrock-Hurst is a sophomore at Hesston (Kan.) College, majoring in English and minoring in Music and History. He grew up in Harrisonburg, Va., attending Park View Mennonite Church. He is planning on returning to Harrisonburg next year to attend Eastern Mennonite University and reconnect with his friends and family in the area.
This month we were hit in the gut.
No one ever thought that a shooting like this could happen here, not in agricultural Harvey County. No one ever expected it.
But it happened, and we will be dealing with the fallout for a long time to come.
Though I have been overwhelmed with sorrow and pain, I have also been overwhelmed with joy at a community that forgives and moves forward. We have comforted each other and the grieving in a way that I am tempted to think only Mennonites can.
It’s safe to say none of us want this to happen again. How we prevent violence, though, is something that we can, and do, create a lot of violence over. The past few days my Facebook feed has seen posts about how a concealed carry permit would have stopped the shooting faster, sandwiched between posts about how the U.S. needs to ban all guns immediately. Though I certainly have my own opinion (and would love to share it, just not right now), the larger issue is our inability to be civil to one another in a time of grief.
We must first acknowledge our collective grief and then come together to discuss and solve problems. We must be able to examine facts and then act on what the data says. As a community, this means we must sometimes sacrifice and make choices that benefit our whole community (and country), not one group or another. I am willing to make sacrifices so we don’t ever have to spend another hour-and-a-half sitting on a bathroom floor clutching our phones and watching the body count rise.
So what can we do?
We can continue providing loving communities where everyone is welcome. I truly believe that Cedric Ford [the shooter] has been forgiven and am astounded by the grace he has been shown. This is irresistible grace. This is what Jesus would have wanted.
Every time we create community we are preventing violence. We are bringing Christ’s kingdom to earth.
I am reminded of what Shane Claiborne says in the book, Jesus for President, which, by the way, he is giving away for free to any Christian who supports Donald Trump. Spread the word.
Shane is discussing our call as Christians, saying, “In an age of violence and terror, it’s important not just to live well but to die well. We are not called simply to live like Christ, but we are called to die like Christ. And he died loving. The heroes of our faith are not war heroes, but martyrs. Martyr means ‘witness,’ and the ripples that their deaths made are part of what spread the gospel of grace. They are not people who died killing, but people who died loving.”
I believe that our reactions to the deaths this week have made the lost witnesses. Heroes. Their deaths can spread the gospel of grace.
And so far, they have.
We, as a Hesston community, are singing that song of love and grace that Jesus has called us to sing. Our community is witnessing to the power of forgiveness and Jesus’ love. Let us continue shining our light. Our squabbles can come later. For now, let us love, forgive and remember.