Have you heard that expression before? The unthinkable…what would you do if the unthinkable happened…I’ve heard the expression and I’ve always considered it absurd. If something is ‘unthinkable’ would we even be able to identify it, should it happen? And wouldn’t we react differently with each ‘unthinkable’ happening? Makes me kind of dizzy…consider the unthinkable – how can I possibly consider the unthinkable? It’s 2015. What could happen that we cannot think of or that we haven’t thought of?
After the dust settled from this peculiar conversation I’d tortured myself with, it occurred to me that, in retrospect, I am able to identify the unthinkable.
You see, in 1927, in Bath Township, Michigan, on the afternoon of May 18, 45 people left their homes that morning not knowing they wouldn’t return. It would have been unthinkable to them. Of the 45, 38 were children at the Bath Elementary School, where their janitor, Andrew Kehoe, had planted hundreds of pounds of dynamite. Mr. Kehoe was on the school board, served as the town clerk and was a local farmer. He was angry over property taxes being used to fund the school. He was facing the possibility of losing his farm. So, of course, he used dynamite and blew the school up. With people inside. He killed his wife and burned down his farm. And blew up his truck. He was inside. Five other people either in or near his truck were killed also. One of them, Kehoe’s target, was the school superintendent. So, you see, if one of these children had been yours, a tragedy of this magnitude would have been unthinkable. Especially in 1927.
Now, 88 years later, we’ve seen far worse. Mass shootings and bombings. Both domestic and foreign terrorism. It still seems to shock and surprise us when it happens. Why? Is it still unthinkable? Not if you have children in school or a spouse at work. Not if you attend a place of worship. Not if you’re a tourist. Not if you shop, or eat, or enjoy a movie. Not if you’re black. Not if you live in the United States in 2015.
My spouse drives a good bit and it’s not unusual for him to have a firearm with him. No worries. He’s licensed to carry. He’s even a licensed instructor. So, a few weeks ago we were on our way to church, when I surprised myself by asking him if he would consider concealing the handgun inside during church services. He surprised me by saying that he had been considering it. He parked the car. We put on our name tags. I picked up my prayer book. He locked the firearm away in its safe and we walked into church together.
I had told him years earlier that it would be unthinkable for him to carry a pistol into the house of God. How naive. It doesn’t seem so unthinkable anymore, now that I’m trying to decide which unthinkable would be the least painful to live with.
Oh, God, make haste to save us.