It happened again.

On Tuesday, a young man from Ohio walked into the Electrical Engineering building on the campus of my alma mater, Purdue University, went to a classroom, and shot the student teaching assistant at point blank range, killing him. He then left the building, and surrendered to police.

Now Andrew Boldt, who happens to be from near where I now live, and happens to share a first name with my firstborn child, a young man who was a promising scholar, an Eagle Scout, a Latin contest champion (language, not ballroom dancing), a son, a friend, a teacher, and a child of God, is dead.

And another young man has destroyed not only that life, and that family, but also his own life and the lives of everyone who loves him.

It happened again.

Is anyone but me becoming almost numb to these reports of senseless gun violence in public places?

When I saw the story first on Facebook, posted by another alumnus of the university, I was stunned. Purdue may be a world-class university, but it is in the middle of nowhere. The town is named West Lafayette, but we all called it “West Lay-flat.” It’s not even the main town, but lies across the Wabash River from the bigger town of Lafayette. The school is partially surrounded by corn fields, which makes sense because it is an agricultural college, in addition to engineering, veterinary science, pharmacy, business, restaurant/hotel/institutional management, and the tiny little corner of the school I attended: liberal arts. The joke when I attended was that the liberal arts students went there hoping to meet and marry an engineering student.

I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor; it just worked out that way for us.

I paid close attention to the story yesterday, because it dredges up so many memories for me of places I know, buildings I’ve been in, a sleepy, bucolic campus in the middle of nowhere with which I became very familiar, a very surprising setting for such violence. Other stories of other shootings recently haven’t brought up as vivid a picture in my mind; I understand this is human nature.

But I’m becoming a little…convicted…of my own lack of (or lack of expression of) outrage when this happens in places that aren’t as familiar to me.

And I believe my own numbness to the outrage I should feel may be a product of sheer frequency, and that makes it feel so much worse. I don’t know what the answers are. I don’t know what people of faith can do. I don’t know what congregations can do. I don’t know what politicians and law enforcement can do.

I only know that there are too many of these stories.

There are too many candlelight vigils.

There are too many grieving parents and children.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”

That’s all I know to do.






4 thoughts on “The Political is Pastoral: When Bad News is No News

  1. Julie, I am so sorry. It gets closer all the time. When I taught in South Dallas, most of the kids I taught knew someone who had been killed by illicit guns. When enough of us know some one, or have come close it may open enough eyes. I lost a friend in high school to a hunting accident. I have had a parishioner murdered and had to testify at the trial that put her husband away for the rest of his life without parole. We do not have the privilege of being naive.

    Here in TX, gun ownership is such a closely guarded ‘right’ that it is part air we breathe. My 14 year old great-nephew was given an AK-22 this Christmas by his uncle. It isn’t a hunting gun. It isn’t a target weapon. It isn’t designed for protection. It is designed to ‘be fun’, for whatever that means. The boy lives in suburbia, not in the country where he can plunk at beer cans. He is a good kid with no apparent emotional problems, but what he is learning is that shooting guns is ‘fun.’

    I used to teach hunter safety for the NRA, but I can no longer condone gun ownership other than for hunting or competitive sport. With the bullied culture we live in, we make it too easy for anyone in a rage to obtain weapons that destroy. And with the legal system unable to administer justice, it is likely that we will in the future be a culture in which revenge will dominate our whole society. It is a chilling thought. So thank you for posting this. I hope you can join efforts for gun control as have I.


  2. My favorite two years of college were at Purdue where I was–also in the liberal arts–an MA student and Teaching Assistant (I taught composition to the engineering and nursing and hospitality students). I felt very much the same way about this that you describe. My first notice was from a friend who is still there, and then I started seeing notes from other alums. It was closer to home than the others have been, and I claimed my community and changed my FB profile pic to the Purdue P and wore a Purdue shirt to work on Wednesday. This hit me, but we are tired and inured and that’s frightening. Thank you for the post. Boiler up!



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