In the United States, we’ve had yet another mass shooting in a church. This one was in a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX, not far from San Antonio. It appears that 7% of the entire town was killed today in church. About the same percentage was injured. Christe eleison.
My first thoughts, prayers, and energy go to the members and staff of that congregation and the community. The pastor’s 14 year old daughter Annabelle is the first fatality whose name has been released. Kyrie eleison.
Politicians who receive money from the National Rifle Association are the first to tell us not to politicize a tragedy. I’d like to be able to give the victims of this mass shooting time to mourn, but the sad truth is, we don’t have that kind of time. Because there will be more people killed tomorrow. And the day after that. And the one after that. Christe eleison.
In the United States, in 2017, so far over 13,000 people have died from gun violence. 27,000 additional people have been injured. You can track them here. People die by gun violence at concerts, movie theaters, churches, schools, in their neighborhoods, and when toddlers get ahold of guns laying around and kill people unintentionally (at least 43 people have been shot by children under the age of 4 in 2017 in the US.). Kyrie eleison.
We can’t even catch our breath between tragedy, let alone discern when is the right time to speak about meaningful strategies to reduce gun violence.
American politicians are quick to offer thoughts and prayers. They refuse to use their legislative power to respond to the cries of citizens dying at church.
In the US, we seem ever willing to talk about ways to be safer, as long as we don’t hint at limiting access to guns. After a shooter killed 58 people (and injured 500 more) from a hotel window in Las Vegas, “safety experts” were suggesting we should require all guests to go through metal detectors to enter every hotel in the land. Here’s another thought–why not ask why a person needs to own 47 guns with ammunition aplenty in the first place.
Now that we’ve had another shooting in a church, I’m sure the safety experts will start offering even more classes to keep churches “safe” from the angry white men that keep killing us.
Arming Sunday School Teachers and ushers won’t save us. Hiring police officers won’t save us.
As long as we have 4% of the world’s population, and 50% of civilian owned guns, we are at risk.
Do I want to keep the congregation I serve safe from harm? Yes.
I don’t even have enough money in the budget to hire a praise band. I’m not going to spend money we don’t have on metal detectors or armed guards at the door.
We did hang these signs on the doors of our church last year. (I adapted the language from a Lutheran church. Feel free to adapt for your context).
(The text reads “This Presbyterian church is a house of prayer for all people. You are welcome here. In this place we worship Jesus Christ, God disarmed. Mercy and love await. Please enter with heart and hand disarmed.”)
We realize a sign can’t fix this. We still decided it was worth making the claim about the God we serve.
The truth is, there is nothing we could do to save our people from the scourge of mass shootings and gun violence in the US until congress stands up to the NRA and works for some kind of compromise to address this. And congress won’t do it until we demand it of them.
Rather than spend church energy and money installing metal detectors and arming the organist, let’s just admit we are a dangerous society. Let’s admit we love guns more than we love the lives of innocents. Let’s clearly say there is nothing we can do to respond to the risks until we acknowledge the 2nd Amendment is not more sacred and important than the lives of people dying by gun violence.
We are swimming in a sea of guns and there is no lifeguard on duty. Kyrie eleison.
Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood and the Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
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