Born on September 11, 2001, Christina Taylor Green died January 8, 2011, gunned down in a Tucson supermarket parking lot. Christina had just been elected to her school student council and was interested in politics, her family said. She wanted to meet her Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, and learn more about politics.
She did. She learned what no child should ever learn. She learned that politics in America, or rather, public life in America, has become a place fraught with violence.
Back in the campaign season, the violence was just words, clever phrases from media-savvy public speakers who said things like "don't retreat--reload!" We watched such public figures promote campaigns taking aim, with images of the cross hairs of a gun sight, at other public figures, one of whom was Gabrielle Giffords.
But now it's not just words. Words, as the good sheriff of Pima County Arizona told us, matter. "Vitriol has consequences," Sheriff Dupnik said.
Vitriol has consequence, and so does its opposite. The opposite of vitriol is love.
So, for the sake of Christina, and for other little girls and boys who might yet be interested enough in politics to wish to become public servants like Gabby Giffords or slain Judge John Roll, it's time to meet the vitriol with love.
Really. Love. It's time for us to get busy and start practicing love. And I don't mean sweet sentiment. I mean the hard work of love.
As a preacher, I could talk about the hard work of love by quoting a bible verse about loving the other as our self. I would also quote another preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. who said "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." I believe that.
But the best way I know how to describe that love is as a mother. What we need in the public square right now, in our places of worship and places of learning, in our Tweets, blogs and Facebook posts and in our supermarket parking lots, is a kind of love that looks something like a mother's love.
The kind of love I'm talking about is tender, and it's fierce:
It means paying attention, knowing what time it is and what the weather's like out there.
It means naming danger when it threatens, and meeting it with savvy and with courage.
It means teaching the difference between right and wrong.
It means being responsible for our words and our actions, and calling on others--like those public figures with their crosshairs--to take responsibility for their actions.
It means showing up, being present, caring, not expecting somebody else to handle it.
It means compassion, knowing that we are all in this together.
And of course it means getting your heart broken, which opens you to hold the pain as well as the beauty of being fully human.
So with our hearts broken open right now, I hope we can meet the challenge of these violent times with the power of love, fierce, tender love. We owe it to Christina.