Here we are again, reeling from horrific violence inflicted on innocent people from one to 77 years old while they worshiped in church. It comes just weeks after the tragedy in Las Vegas. Five years ago, on the same weekend that I met members of the search committee from St. Simon’s, the massacre of children Sandy Hook shook our nation and the world. Since then, according to one article dated October 3, 2017—so it did not include Sutherland Springs—the U.S. has seen 1,516 acts of gun violence involving four or more people and claiming 1,715 innocent lives, wounding 6,000 others. The endless grief and suffering for families, friends and every human being is an impact that cannot be counted.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Here in American, we are truly insane. When we learned that deaths and injuries could be lessened by car seats and seat belts, we created laws to address that. When other countries had massacres, they enacted laws to address the issue. Something must change. We must change. In fact, most Americans are in favor of some form of gun control. While there are clearly differences in some areas, there is also compelling consensus among most Americans, as this excellent article illuminates. This isn’t about party politics. This is about valuing human lives.
I am not anti-gun. I grew up around hunting and am not a bad shot. But I can find no reason why automatic and semi-automatic weapons—and devices that make guns such—have any business being available to citizens. Their sole purpose is to mow down as many human lives as possible. What is wrong with us? And we make obtaining guns easy for people who already have mental and emotional challenges. Why? And why should individuals be allowed to stockpile an arsenal of weapons? As a nation, we have put guns above human beings, over and over again. It was Albert Einstein who reminded us that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.
Clearly the issues causing the traumas are complex and involve far more than gun control, as the Bishops United Against Gun Violence affirmed in their recent statement:
Even as we hold our lawmakers accountable, though, we must acknowledge that a comprehensive solution to gun violence, whether it comes in the form of mass shootings, street violence, domestic violence or suicide, will not simply be a matter of changing laws, but of changing lives. Our country is feasting on anger that fuels rage, alienation and loneliness. From the White House to the halls of Congress to our own towns and perhaps at our own tables, we nurse grudges and resentments rather than cultivating the respect, concern and affection that each of us owes to the other. The leaders who should be speaking to us of reconciliation and the justice that must precede it too often instead stoke flames of division and mistrust. We must, as a nation, embrace prayerful resistance before our worse impulses consume us.
What are we faithful Christians to do? We follow Jesus who challenges us to love our enemy, to lay down our life for another and to live lives of peace. I am committed to prayer: knowing that praying involves becoming open to how I might be part of the change I seek and that with God nothing is impossible. And I commit to doing all in my power to strive for justice, reconciliation and healing through my actions, my words and my vote.
It is difficult to have hope, but we are people of hope who believe that a violent execution leads to new life for all. Along with our forefather Joseph, from the Book of Genesis, I affirm “what you intend for harm, God intended for good.” I cannot yet see the good from all these tragedies, but I refuse to let fear or despair win.
Hope to see you Sunday!