I’m going to start by saying that my heart is heavy with yet one more school shooting, this one at a high school in Oregon. It should not be this way. There are way too many of these happening. I was shocked to hear on the NBC Nightly news that there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. That’s astonishing. I would have guessed half that. Simply shocking.
It’s way too many. No one disagrees with that.
But I’m tired of reading Facebook posts about how upset folks are about this. “Lord, have mercy.” “When will this stop?” “Jesus weeps over this.” “This is beyond tragic.” “When will this end?”, blah, blah, blah.
I don’t disagree with the sentiment.
But it’s too easy. It’s too comfortable. To say something that gives the impression that I care allows me to keep it all at arm’s length.
Just what good do you think it does to post pious platitudes on Facebook? Or do you just feel better doing that?
I don’t really care how much you care. I want to know what you’re doing about it.
In my experience, we are doing precious little in terms of action. (My apologies to those of you who are actually doing something.)
Here are a few suggestions.
- Get informed. And you might begin by reading James Atwood’s America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose. Atwood is a Presbyterian pastor who has lived what he believes. He has done his research. His work is compelling.
- Break your silence. Talk about it. You don’t have to be strident. You can simply be conversational. Ask people what they think. Be respectful. Look for opportunities to share a contrary view respectfully.
- If you are clergy, make some opportunities for people to hear about the issue from a personal standpoint. Schedule an adult forum where the speaker is a victim of gun violence. Foster a discussion with open-ended questions so that there is a safe place for divergent opinions. I believe there is power in the simple act of conversation.
- Don’t let people tell you that the second amendment is all about the right of personal ownership of guns. I know that’s the mantra. As with the scriptures, the Bill of Rights is a document that gets interpreted. I’m puzzled as to why we have allowed the reactionary voices to define what the second amendment means. It’s been a long time since we have had anything resembling the citizen militias of the late 18th century. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s been since the late 18th century.
- I’m not a big fan of preaching about controversial topics from the pulpit. Seems too much like a power thing to me. I get to say what I think and no one else gets a voice. But I am a huge proponent of preaching the values of God’s kingdom and letting people make their decisions. So, preach it, pastors! How God is a God of life and not death. How vengeance belongs to God. How the eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth ethic has been supplanted. How we are called to care for our neighbor, not fear them.
- Defy those who would make safety and security the ultimate good. It’s a god that we have been all to ready to worship, even at the expense of our own freedoms and our calling to love our neighbor. Security is not the ultimate good. The whole notion of safety and security and the right to defend ourselves has become a god in American culture and no one is allowed to question it. Question it.
And please, don’t waste your time writing to your congressional representatives. It does no good. For what reason do you think that your voice unaccompanied by any campaign contribution will make a hair’s breadth of a difference in opposition to the millions contributed by the gun lobby?
Honestly, I don’t know what will make a difference. I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will not be the proliferation of platitudes.
By contrast here are things that I know to be true. That solutions begins by naming the problems, not be feeling bad about them. That powerful things can happen if people have the courage to talk about them. That when people join together in common cause, amazing things can happen. It’s time for us to give up on pious sentiment and lock arms and actually make this evil go away.