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.
I appreciate and agree with your call to back up our sentiments with action. It is pointless if we do not, because nothing will change. I don’t condemn the sharing of information on Facebook. For someone like me, with a family who tends to be pretty conservative, Fox-watching folk who carry concealed weapons, it is a way for me to share information they would not get otherwise. I share my personal thoughts about Jesus weeping because I believe it, but also because they will respond to a faithful discussion more than a political one. I saw one of my cousins respond to me Jesus weeping post today and I am pleased–we are starting a dialog where none existed before.
I would disagree with your statement about talking to our elected representatives. I think that is still essential. We need to make our voices and numbers heard. The only reason big money in politics is heard is because that money is used to influence voters and consolidate power. We can bypass big money only by mobilizing big numbers of voters to speak out, reminding them where the power resides. My elected reps have told me they appreciate being able to present a stack of faxes and letters to their colleagues, affirming there are a lot of people looking for commonsense compromise and legislation. In addition to the other things we must do, let’s not forego this direct method of influencing our elected leaders.
Thanks, Laura. Honestly, thanks for your heartfelt and candid reply. And I’m glad that your post on FB fostered good conversation. I’m truly grateful for that. Call me cynical, but I think that far too often the easy comments betray the extent of the commitment folks are willing to make for change.
And we will disagree about the elected representatives. Of course that’s what they well tell you! They are programmed to tell you that. Yes, mobilize big numbers of people. Yes, that will get their attention. Writing a letter or leaving a voicemail message. Not so much. They don’t have to pay attention to all of that. It’s the big money that gets their attention. After all, that’s how they get reelected, and that’s the name of the game. Read, if you will, The Party Is Over, by an ex chief of staff for a Republican congressman. Affirms what has been my own experience over the past dozen or so years. I’m not going to waste my breath or my time anymore. It is not a direct method and it does not influence our elected leaders.