Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
I quoted those words in an introduction more than four years ago as I garnered a collection of essays and prayers and put together an action guide for Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence (Morehouse, 2015). At the time, people were still reeling from the horrific events of December 14, 2012. Since then, the violence has not ceased. A week ago, it occurred again, this time in a high school in Florida. Friends and colleagues have been sharing resources yet again, and the blogosphere has been filled with thoughtful posts filled with anger, condemnation, and calls for action.
I have been silent, feeling helpless and frozen. I can pray. I can donate funds to those who fight the gun lobby. I am thankful that my senators and representatives on both the state and national level are constant advocates for gun control. I’m trained as an educator. Both of my children are teachers in public schools. My home has always been a gun-free zone. I expect our schools (and churches) to be so also. Guns don’t protect people. People do. Continue reading Rachel is Still Weeping→
In response to recent events in the United States, educators, parents, and clergy are again seeking resources for talking with children and engaging adults in meaningful action. In searching through past posts here, I realized that just six months ago I posted Are Prayers Enough? with the image created by Roger Hutchison from Reclaiming the Gospel of Peacefollowing the mass shootings in San Bernardino. Within that post I listed numerous resources that churches and individuals could use to move the conversation forward – from prayer to action – regarding gun violence.
But not much has changed. It would seem to have even gotten worse. The hostile rhetoric from some like Donald Trump only amps things up, instilling fear and hatred toward “the other” – anyone who doesn’t look like us, speak like us, worship like us, or live like us. Who is the “us”? Sounds bites from social media featuring reactionary statements and speculative comments about individuals we do not know only fuel the fire. Continue reading Violence, Racism, and Hostile Rhetoric→
I’ve prayed. I’ve preached. I’ve written (and called) to my state and national representatives. I’ve signed petitions. I’ve shared articles on social media (and have gotten flak from some as well as thumbs up from others). I’ve changed my profile picture. I’ve given workshops. I’ve even compiled a book of terrific essays with my suggested process of how individuals and groups can act for change (Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence). I’ve tried to engage others in conversation – not about rights, but about safety. I’ve really tried to act – what more can I do?
I don’t own a gun. I don’t hunt. I never have. I never will. When my children were growing up we were a “Gun Toy Free Zone.” I got flak for that, too, from other parents. The closest I’ve come to using a weapon is shooting an arrow at a target. Yes, I have used my hands and my voice as a weapon. And I’m not proud of that.
Many, including me, are saying “enough.” And many are saying “pray” – as in my prayers are for ….. (fill in the blank). Are the two connected? In this season of Advent, we await the coming of Emmanuel – God with us. But for many, Advent is the season to shop, filling our carts with more stuff – when we have enough while others in our cities and world don’t have enough. What does it mean to prepare a room in our heart for the love that is to come? It is hard when our news feed (no matter how or where we get it) is filled with vitriol, death, blood, fear, and the loss of innocence. Lives lost. Hope snuffed out. For some a promise and future that no longer will be. Continue reading Are Prayers Enough?→
On Saturday, September 26, 2015 hundreds of people gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky. Sponsored by the Sowers of Justice Network, a coalition of churches and individuals working for social justice through nonviolent action, this day (and organization) is a model that many of our communities can learn from.
The purpose of the conference was to invite nonviolence as a way of life, to and with those most affected by gun violence, and to mobilize citizens of the community to action. The provided the information about the scale and scope of gun violence so individuals and organizations can better identify actions steps that any and all of us can take for the future. They connect networks to improve relationships, resolve, and readiness to ACT.
Last week I attended the annual Christian Formation Conference held at Kanuga, a conference center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina outside Hendersonville (near Asheville). The conference theme was Hope in the Midst of Crisis: From Tragedy to Healing through Forgiveness. Plenary sessions and workshops largely focused on how we address the issues of hope, reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing in a world that is often beset by tragedy on a national as well as personal level. From the events of 9/11 (World Trade Center) to 12/14 (Sandy Hook) to our cities today, stories were shared and processes for healing were shared.
I was invited to give a workshop based on a book that I compiled and edited, Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace: Challenging the Epidemic of Gun Violence (Morehouse, 2015) based on a conference of the same name held in Oklahoma City in April 2014. In preparing my workshop I hoped to broaden the conversation to discuss how many forms of violence (such as gun violence, inter-partner/domestic violence, bullying, and video-game addiction) are issues that need to be addressed and acted upon as imperative to our baptismal promises of “respecting the dignity of all human beings” and “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to turn the other cheek as well as speak out against injustice in our world.
While I was caught up short the two days before my presentation over lunch with some Christian educators who shared their opinions with me (as gun owners with licenses to carry concealed weapons), I knew I had to tell the truth (from my perspective) and focus the conversation on why and how we should be having such conversations in our churches. It is why I put the book together. And my angst following this lunch conversation showed me how much our church needs to engage in this conversation. It is not about being opposed to hunting, target shooting, and banning of all guns. It is about creating a world in which we can create safe places and promote the gospel of peace. Continue reading Discussing Violence in Church→