Gun violence is all too commonplace
Published 10:40 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022
It is almost time for summer vacation, but I’m not feeling carefree. The other day I sent my son off to school wondering if I’d done enough as his parent to keep him safe. We weren’t raised with guns. My father didn’t have any guns in the house after his years of combat service in Korea back in the 50s. It seemed to him that if you wanted to fire assault weapons, Uncle Sam had a place for you to serve.
Gun violence has become all too commonplace, so much so we’ve begun to believe it is the norm. What’s to write about that hasn’t been written after Newtown, Orland, Parkland, Pittsburgh, Sutherland Springs, Buffalo, Uvalde, or Tulsa? Churches, synagogues, schools, and grocery stores are all in the crosshairs of the evil-hearted, the racist, the bigot, the mentally ill.
As a theologian, I approach societal problems from a spiritual point of view. In my tradition, the starting place is with the Bible. While modern weaponry isn’t mentioned in the Bible, there are plenty of weapons used against the people of God and used by the people of God against others.
One of the most famous accounts is that of young David, the shepherd boy who faces off with a giant man, Goliath. David doesn’t even take with him a sword. He fells the Philistine warrior with one shot to the head, a rock from his sling. We all need to be defended from time to time. Thank God for those who do it. Other times we are called to lay down our weapons. May God give us the grace to do it.
Once when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, a crowd come to arrest him. A well-meaning disciple, Peter, draws his sword to defend the Lord and ends up slicing off the ear of a bystander. Jesus orders Peter to put down his sword and proceeds to heal the wounded man.
While grieving the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, I searched the scriptures as many of you’ve done. I usually begin with the Psalms of lament. They’ve been getting a lot of use lately, but as I was thumbing through the pages, I was struck by the verses about swords. I began replacing the word “sword” with “gun.” Here’s how a few of those verses could read:
“I put no trust in my ‘gun’, my ‘gun’ does not bring me victory…” Psalm 44:6
“They will beat their ‘guns’ into plowshares and their ‘assault rifles’ into pruning hooks.” Isaiah 2:4
“Put your ‘gun’ back in its place,’ Jesus said. ‘For all who draw the ‘gun’ die by the ‘gun.’ Matthew 26:52
I have a colleague who pastors a church in Charleston, the city of the Mother Emanuel AME shooting, which happened during a Wednesday evening Bible study when a welcomed guest opened fire killing nine, including the pastor. My friend’s congregation held a prayer vigil the other night, this time for the children of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.
While listening to a reading of Psalm 13, my friend heard the following verses, “How long, O Lord?… How long must I bear the pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart?” My friend said he sat there and thought to himself, what if God is asking us these same questions right now?
We as a nation are tired of the moments of silence. I wonder, like my friend, if God is asking us, “why?” Maybe we should begin to listen for what to do.
I’ve sent up some of my own thoughts and prayers. I also wrote Senator Thom Tillis. I must admit, it’s quite cathartic. I received the following response:
“Like you, I agree that we must do everything we can in Congress to ensure the safety of Americans and to help prevent gun violence….it is critical that Congress take a close look at reasonable measures that will help our communities anticipate and avoid mass shootings in the future. I am willing to consider any proposal that will help stop gun violence while also protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.” (email May 27, 2022 1:07 p.m.)
I hope so. Let’s hold him to it. Let’s hold each other to it.