Last week, while a bunch of our church kids were gathered and playing and laughing and dancing, a couple miles north there was a drive-by shooting. A gunman (or gunmans) shot into a car, hitting all four people inside: two adults in their 20s, and two babies. Babies. A 9-month-old and an 18-month-old are still in the hospital in critical condition. A couple of days later, up the road a bit in Chicago, a 7-year-old and a 13-year-old were shot on their elementary school playground, at their end of the year picnic. They were just two of 23 people shot in that city over the weekend. In another city, a warehouse worker who “felt disrespected” shot up his workplace and then himself. A man angry about politics shot at a baseball field of politicians, shot a sitting Member of Congress. In Seattle, two officers shot a pregnant woman, in her home, in front of her children, and killed her. And Sunday, while we were in worship, in our own city, five people were shot, including a 15-year-old, in a confusing, terrifying, mess of a scene. While we were in worship.
I used to laugh at people when they said, “just give it to God, honey.”
“Whatever it is that’s troubling you, just give it to God.”
I don’t even know what that means. Like, should I write my struggles, worries, and fears, down on a piece of paper and tie them to some leftover SpongeBob birthday balloon and let it float up into the sky or into a couple of local powerlines or something?
I believe prayer can be a powerful way to communicate with God, can be a wonderful tool for discernment, and can be a centering force in my life. But I am not going to just pray my bills and my medical needs and my kid’s college plans and my government’s policies over to God and then go watch tv.
So you’ll have to pardon me while I miss these politicians offering their “thoughts and prayers” at violent gun attack after violent gun attack and then continuing with business as usual. Especially when they are the ones in a position to do something about all our prayers, worries, and fears.
Look, I know our churches disagree on many things these days. There’s plenty to divide us- how do you interpret scripture, which confession do you use in worship, where does your faith have you stand on which social issues, what brand coffee should we be serving during coffee hour? But can’t we all agree that 1,297 children killed annually by guns is 1,297 too many? Can’t we as people of faith, agree that we shouldn’t make children pay for our obsession with violence and weaponry? Can’t we agree that infants shouldn’t get shot while riding through town in the back of a car?
So I wonder…
What might happen if people of faith organized and spoke out against gun violence?* What might happen if we made our elected officials take us seriously in our demands for common sense gun legislation? What would happen if all our churches started letter writing campaigns after worship? Or if we held our bible study and book club gatherings at our Senators’ offices? What if we invited speakers and organizers to come to our fellowship hours to train us on the data, the possible solutions, and strategies for policy change? What might God inspire in and through us if we were to stop thinking and praying, and if we started acting on this. As people who believe all God’s children are precious and valuable. As people who believe humanity was created in the image of God. As people called to love serve one another. Don’t we owe it to one another to work on this? To pray hard and deep and strong about it, and then to get up off our knees and see how God might use us to get those prayers answered?
I’m spending today reading up on the Brady Campaign and the Moms Demand Action websites. My denomination puts out materials on gun violence, an issue we’ve been working on since the 1960s, so I will look into that, too. What are you doing about gun violence today? Who is working on this and doing it well? What has inspired your church into action? What actions have worked in your context? Where have you seen success? And what shall we, together, do next?
*I know many congregations and pastors already do. And have for years and years and decades and decades. I’m not meaning to minimize this work. If you’re congregation is involved in advocating for gun legislation changes, please leave the rest of us a comment so we can learn from your experiences and join you in this work. Some of us have some catching up to do…
The Rev. Erin Counihan serves as pastor at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in St. Louis, MO and really, hardly ever remembers to blog things anymore at all, at http://www.somewhatreverend.wordpress.com. She’s a contributor to that rad RevGals book.
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