Tag Archives: gun violence

March for Our Lives: Enough is coming. Thoughts and prayers are welcome.

We were marching around Stroudsburg with a surprising number of people who wanted to be in solidarity with the March for Our Lives movement last Saturday. (We can even be glimpsed and heard in the video!). We were chanting:

  • Thoughts and prayers are not enough!

When we got to the corner of Main and the I-80 onramp, a lady in a big black SUV rolled down her window and shouted

  • Jesus is the answer!

The crowd shouted louder.

  • Thoughts and prayers are not enough!

She had a big voice and kept on shouting,

  • Jesus is the answer!

The crowd shouted even louder and then the light changed.

Well, she was right, I guess, depending on the question. If we ask Senator Toomey if he is going to desert the NRA and advocate common-sense gun reform — AT LEAST the ban on assault weapons of all kinds, I doubt that I just want him to answer “Jesus.” If the lady who told us about being caught in a shooting and experiencing the loss of her dear friend and her husband, who died protecting her, asked me what I wanted to do about the flood of weapons that directly caused her emotional and physical disability, I doubt I would say, “Jesus is the answer.” Jesus is the answer, but we are the questioners and answerers who are his hands and feet in the world. He can get specific.

I think the crowd was right, too, depending on what they meant by “enough.” Thoughts and prayers can sound like an insult, if they are meant to be “enough” of a response. The young man from Parkland directly asked Senator Rubio at the CNN Town Hall if he would stop accepting NRA money and the senator would not answer the question. The teens at the DC rally continually pointed out that he and the rest of the government have mostly offered “thoughts and prayers” for the thirty-eight days since the Parkland assault. Tiny fixes that seem like something in relation to nothing have been enacted, but nothing that would save children from dying or save the lady at our rally from having an assault weapon turn her leg, as she said, into ground beef. But if thoughts and prayers are useless, what is enough? Would you like an inquisition about everything? Guns, sex, drugs, consumption of fossil fuels, etc. with you in charge of it? Are you so mad you are not going to stop until you get the power of which you have been so far deprived? Sending thoughts is still kind, unless it is a substitute for action. Prayer is crucial, unless it is just a mask for venality. Don’t throw the heart out with the heartless.

Our march was a bit too strung out to effectively shout the slogans together:

  • What do we want? Gun reform!
  • Protect children, not guns!
  • Hey, hey NRA, how many people died today? (About 96 we were told).
  • No more AR-15s! (outside the gun store shown in the video).

The crowd favorite was

  • Enough is enough!

But my favorite was simple:

  • Vote them out!

It will apparently be uncool not to vote on a lot of campuses this fall.

I prefer democracy to other forms of government, I think. Someday the country may try it. But no form of government will succeed at bringing the world to right unless Jesus holds the answers to its questions. And no one, no matter how passionate or articulate, will do much for democracy unless they think well and they have kind thoughts for others, and unless they pray well and rely on the prayers of others.

As Miley Cyrus sang in DC (wearing clothes this time), the kids all singing along:

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The anthem says, “Enough is not enough for most of us humans. There is always going to be another mountain and I am going to climb them!” Even when we say “enough is enough” I’m not sure we know what we are talking about. What do we really know about what is “enough?” And what do we really mean when we say things like “It’s the climb?” Yes, it is about the climb when we know we have value with every step we take — unprocessed, unfinished and unknowing as we are. But Miley is totally wrong (as she often is – back off people, she is 25) when she says it is not about what is waiting on the other side.

I am not enough; this moment is not enough; we are connected to eternity past and present and we know there is another side. Enough is coming. Jesus is the answer. Thoughts and prayers are welcome, since it is an uphill battle. Every step we take has value because Jesus is walking with us and making love possible.

Even when someone is shouting at you from an SUV and even when a crowd is making you look like a jerk, even when someone sings a misleading song and all the kids know it, and even when someone doesn’t seem to care how hard you try to share your love in your song — enough is coming. Jesus is the answer — and often quite specifically. When Jesus moves through our Jerusalems this week, he will face the same turmoil we usually face. If he dies from an AR-15 provided by Senator Toomey, it won’t be pretty, but the resurrection will be spectacular. Let’s turn our faces into that.

He had a shrine to death in his backyard

Pundits are working overtime on the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, and I certainly do not intend to become another one. But as a leader in the church, I think it is important to help people think through what is going on in the world.

Forced into privacy?

So often, these days, the church has a “private” sphere of existence to match the privatized faith of its members. Christians in the United States do not generally practice the conviction of Anabaptists and consciously stay separate from the godless ways of the world. They are more likely to be driven into privacy by the unacceptable nature of their “views” and the supposed irrelevance of their faith. That pressure is reinforced by legal and public-school teaching that faith is just a personal choice or preference and has no objective value.

I told the congregation last night that they may be increasingly called upon to have objective value in a society that is increasingly frayed at the edges. When the society is committed to domination by violence — as the U.S. has been for over a decade in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, when the policy of the government is to flood the country with guns in the name of “freedom” and “rights,” when the political discourse is about winning and not about the common good, where the police are increasingly militarized death dealers, expect the forces of evil to be more bold.

Will Loughner’s death worship wake up the powers?

I hope Jared Loughner’s attack results in some common sense governance. If the government bans hand guns and stops the revolving door treatment for mental patients that will be great. I am not anticipating the U.S. government to abandon deeply entrenched convictions, however.

As for the church, I hope the attack wakes us out of our general acquiescence to the spirit of the age, drives us out of our preoccupation with arguing about human rights and nonessentials, and convicts us to speak the truth in love to a fearful and endangered people. We followers of Jesus have a lot to say and demonstrate in relation to this attack to a population subject to death.

Loughner's shrine to deathApparently, alongside his other problems, Jared Loughner was religious. He had a shrine to death in his backyard, according to the Daily News. Police investigators had seen the symbols before. Parts of the media and Arizona Republicans are rushing to label Loughner in scientific terms as “unstable” and dampen down his ability to make a rational choice. That is likely to prove true. But along with being influenced by his psychological issues and the political maelstrom our leaders have created, he was apparently influenced by evil quite directly.

Lead us not into temptation

One of the main benefits I derive from being a Christian is that when I pray, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” I can expect a reply. Loughner was apparently praying the opposite. He had already given over to temptation and was assigned to deliver evil.

We won’t be able to overcome evil with evil, as is the general policy of the government and domination system. We won’t be able to overcome evil with scientific explanation – especially when the government won’t contribute enough to mental healthcare to respond to the explanations. We will have to overcome evil with good, or it will not be overcome.

That’s where we come in as followers of Jesus. The system dominates us and explains us away, too – and who knows when the millions of guns may be turned on us! But we have the response of God to our cries, seen in Jesus and resident in His Spirit, to help us receive good and to offer good. I hope this incident helps wake us up to how necessary we are.

Just owning our value as God’s co-workers makes a difference. Acting creatively to speak the truth in love in troubling times makes even more of a difference. Whether we have a cogent commentary to offer about current events or not, we can certainly tell our story about Jesus and the reality he has revealed to us. He said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

A Fast with Shalom House

We had a great blessing-of-a-feast last night – turkey, all the accoutrements, Gwen’s famous (or should be) dessert punch, amazing friends and comrades. Now for the fast.

The people of Shalom House have called for a fast today. Our friends over in their West Philly outpost are proactive peacemakers who just seem to get more devoted, creative and assertive all the time! They bless me. At our feast last night, as we toasted 2009 in various ways, someone got us to raise our glasses to the great triumph of shutting down Colissimo’s Gun Shop. Mimi even went to jail over that! In an age where, somehow, the “right to bear arms” has been interpreted as the right to flood the street with weapons designed for personal “shoot outs” and spraying the neighbors with semi-automatics, thank God for young women who don’t take “no” for an answer.

I invite anyone reading this to fast, in some way, with the people of Shalom House and their partners. Don’t eat a Christmas cookie for a couple of hours or send them a check for $50,000 – whatever works for you. And PRAY! This is what they are doing: “In this season of advent, of expectation, we at Shalom House are feeling the expectation of new community members.  We are feeling the burden of the longing for Peacemaking efforts to be multiplied among us.” They want to do more and get more house members to do it with them! Thank you, Lord!

As part of their suggestions for what to do as we all pray with them today, they offer a quote from a great peacemaker we should never forget, Oscar Romero: “I do not tire of telling everyone, especially young people who long for their people’s liberation, that I admire their social and political sensitivity, but it saddens me when they waste it by going on ways that are false. Let us, too, all take notice that the great leader of our liberation is the Lord’s Anointed One, who comes to announce good news to the poor, to give freedom to the captives, to give news of the missing, to give joy to so many homes in mourning, so that society may be renewed as in the sabbatical years of Israel.” Someone still longs for jubilee! Someone is not so worn down, defeated, overwhelmed by evil, discouraged by hope-that-ends-up-in-increased-troops-to-Afghanistan, that they can’t still apply themselves to the cause of redemption! Thank you Lord! That is also a feast, and a great motivation to fast and pray.