The Pastoral is Political: More Than Thoughts and Prayers.
Is your heart sore? Is your carpal tunnel kicking in from writing to people trying to instigate action? Are you tired of having the same conversations—the ones resulting in no change? Are you losing sleep trying to figure out what else you can do and/or how to do it better? For me the answer to all of these is “Yes.”
Looking back at the Pastoral is Political, I find that much has already been said about gun violence. Entries go back at least to 2012, which was the time of the shootings involving Sandy Hook and Gabby Giffords, both of whom began foundations against gun violence.
The support for various gun reform measures is strong (see https://pollingreport.com/guns.htm). The PCUSA just added a pastor whose mission is gun violence to the Presbyterian Peace Program arm of its Mission Agency (see https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/first-known-minister-of-gun-violence-prevention-installed-july-7/) Yet nothing seems to change.
I keep hoping we could have a virtual protest on 9/9, when the Senate returns to work, storming them with selfies of us with shirts, posters, etc., reading “Do something”—the cry that arose spontaneously when the Governor of Ohio came to offer support following the shooting in Dayton. He changed his mind about his previous position supporting unlimited gun access and proposed some common sense gun laws to the legislature.
In thinking about this potential virtual protest, I’ve spent time brainstorming T-shirt designs—even got as far as asking a commercial artist friend to weigh in on the meaning of logos and pictures. Settled for “Do something” with the O’s made into the red circle with a line through it, indicating “no,” over two gravestones reading “Dayton” and “El Paso”, the most recent shootings at the time. Added the tag line: “Pass common sense gun laws,” in case it’s not clear what is meant. I talked to a T-shirt place about them making it into a print-ready logo. I priced the first batch of shirts and found a place where they could even be available by website after that first batch sells out. I even thought a church or other organization could just buy a set of five sizes and pass them around to take the selfies. But I don’t have a ready market.
I contacted the gun control groups to see if they would publicize it; they said “Great idea” but didn’t take it up beyond that. I posted it on Facebook for those groups and on my page and wherever else I could think of. I wrote letters to the editor of papers in some areas where shootings occurred. I prayed. I wrote my legislators, and got the same response as always from them. I wrote some news show people hoping they might get on board. I even asked those news people if they had any clout with the no-longer-presidential candidates to have them take this up now that they might have a little time on their hands.
But I am getting very little “bounce.” No viral outbreak. No artist friends–admittedly I only have a few–took up making an actual design. No gun control group adopted my idea–I suppose they have a much longer and larger agenda they are pursuing. No one in my own denomination seems to go beyond studies and statements–hey, it’s a Presbyterian tradition! No answer from the gun pastor–I suppose she’s swamped.
And, of course, all this indicates what you’ve already guessed–I am not a big political operative. Heck, I haven’t even asked my tiny, new, mostly elderly congregation to get behind such action–session was off all summer and doesn’t even meet again until 9/15.
But for me, being pastoral and political means having this personal commitment. My heart, my carpal tunnel, my conversations, my sleeplessness are all committed. They just don’t know what to do with that commitment.
How about you? How are you doing? Do you have an answer to the question “What are you doing?” Please discuss.