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 don’t know about you, but this summer has been hard. If you listen to any news reports – whether it is in print, radio, television, or social media it has been hard. One would have had to been on a news fast, removed from all contact with the outside world to be oblivious to all that has been going on. Hatred, bitterness, anxiety, and violence seem to be permeating our society, here in the U.S. and in the world. Rockets launched into neighborhoods and school yards in Gaza and Israel; Christians in fear of their lives in Iraq; tear gas on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri; and children held like prisoners on our borders.
I have been silent for the past week here. I have not been sure what to write. But I have been compiling resources and sharing them on Building Faith the blog I curate that posts a new article everyday on topics related to Christian formation.
Today’s news release from the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations felt like the right one to share here. Spread the word. As the Dean of Washington National Cathedral stated in his sermon this past Sunday, (my sound byte of it) “The cross lobby can be more powerful than any gun lobby.”
One of the more striking contrasts on the Christian calendar is the commemoration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, three days after the celebration of Christmas. In remembering the young children slaughtered by King Herod in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth, the Church jolts us from Christmas joy into a contemplation of the ways in which violence and human brokenness, in spite of Christmas, still enslave the human race. Today, just as two thousand years ago, the most jolting violence of all is that committed against innocent children.
This year, that jolt came earlier, and much more tangibly, than it normally does. The murder of 26 innocent victims, many of them children, in a schoolhouse in Connecticut in the waning days of Advent ripped through the joy of Christmas for millions. As our hearts and minds struggle to comprehend the tragedy of young lives cut short, Holy Innocents Day this year offers an opportunity for grace, hope, and inspiration for the days ahead. It offers an opportunity “to awaken us” as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her message immediate after the shootings, “to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day” and challenge us “to work toward a different future.”
What might the creation of a different future look like? Here are two suggestions:
First, we must realize that the brokenness that created the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School is much more deeply inscribed in our culture than we often realize. There is no simple solution; no single law that, if passed, will ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. Our culture simultaneously glorifies, and trivializes, violence while stigmatizing mental illness and discouraging diagnosis and treatment. Our culture too-often allows millions of children to grow up in situations of risk and allows firearms to be available widely. Changing the cycle of violence will involve substantial creativity and commitment in our communities, the deployment of all the assets of our congregations, and a commitment to examining our own behaviors. Can you commit to being a part of this? Can your congregation commit?
Second, we must hold our nation’s leaders accountable for creating public policies that address this cycle of violence. The Episcopal Church has, for many years, called for policies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals (and to make certain assault weapons impossible to own), as well as to promote better availability of mental-health care and other measures designed to address the causes and effects of violence in our communities. Most have not become law because of a culture in Washington that has allowed these policies to become politicized or driven by partisan rhetoric. In these difficult days after the Sandy Hook shooting, there are some encouraging signs that this gridlock in Washington is abating. We’ve seen this before in the wake of tragedy, however. Ultimate change will require building an immense advocacy network, creating a comprehensive strategy to address the problem from many angles, and bringing together people of many different viewpoints. The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is working to create such a comprehensive advocacy strategy, as well as a nationwide network of advocates. Can you commit to being part of this effort? Can your congregation commit?