|Why must we march through life accepting hellish conditions? (photo July, 2015)|
That's why yesterday, a day when everyone was focused on the revolting news arising from Oregon, we didn't even hear about other mass murders that were unfolding. In Florida, a man shot his wife, her boyfriend, and a Good Samaritan trying to intervene and help, before committing suicide. The boyfriend is hanging on to his life but the others have died. This did not make the headlines, probably because unlike Oregon, it's become too common and two of the victims knew the assailant.
That's right. It's not worthy of news, of our attention, because it happens too often. These poor souls don't get the opportunity for our grieving and for our prayers because their deaths were pedestrian. Just average gun deaths.
A painful malaise has gripped us in the face of all this gun violence. I was wondering what snapped in me yesterday though. I immediately posted a comment "No no no... Prayers for the families of Oregon" (Facebook). But it wasn't enough. I felt that the passive acceptance was no longer tenable.
And I was actually confused by my reaction. I wasn't just sad. I was angry. Angry at the system, yes, but also our acceptance of Sheol, of hellish conditions on earth, of living in a burning rubbish pit. I didn't understand why I felt differently, and not happily doing my prayers.
I noticed a comment online from a former employee who wrote "Forget peace and comfort in Oregon. I am praying for angry, world-changing grief. #UCCShooting" . That was it. That's what I was feeling. I was tired of praying for after the fact consolation of grieving and the dead. Not that I wouldn't, but that I felt it insufficient. I wanted more.
So I wrote online "Praying for resilience and world-changing grief so that prayers for victims and families will no longer be necessary. Praying for a quiet love that is more powerful than the clanging cymbal. Praying that our eyes and ears grown desensitized to these daily horrors can guide our hands and feet and hearts to still the red-tinged waters of the land." (Facebook)
And I felt empowered by this. I think we all can feel empowered. Remember when personal computers were becoming common place but were a mystery to most people? And Apple computer, during the 1984 Superbowl, unveiled an ad that said that the unveiling of the Macintosh computer will show why 1984 (the year) will not be like 1984 (the book). Catch the ad on YouTube. It was memorable because it promised hope that we did not have to accept the doubleplus goodspeak being fed to us.
I felt like we needed to throw our hammers at the military industrial complex that perpetuates this circle of horror. I saw my culpability as unacceptable any more. And I wondered if others felt the same way, though I didn't want that to stop me from doing something about it.
And I saw more posts from others. More comments of resolve. And by evening, there was a statement by the USA President Obama. And a statement by Rector Ed Bacon of All Saints Church in Pasadena. The feeling of exasperation was palpable last night. (Ed Bacon's statement)
Do I expect things to change? Will the National Rifle Association once again be able to convince us that we need to sit down, pray, grieve respectfully, and look at this as a mental health problem not a gun problem, well after the fact. And then watch as the NRA finances politicians who defund health care at the local through national level. Or as they finance politicians who defund health care and benefits to military veterans, people who actually know how to use these weapons, but are now left sick, untreated, frustrated, scared, angry, and armed. Or as they throw out arguments that it's pointless to ban weapons because bans don't work, but then finance politicians who support bans on drugs, abortions, minority voting access, or marriage equality.
I don't personally support gun bans, just like I don't support these other bans. I think that personal responsibility must be taken. We need licensing, certification, and regular training requirements, across the board from the local level on up. The gun industry must be made accountable for the development of dangerous products, just like the auto and other industries. And even though the relationship is not causal in any way, we have to address the popular scapegoat. If it's mental that's being blamed, we need real mental health financing with information that influences the licensing of gun ownership. We don't license the blind to drive; we shouldn't license unfit gun owners. Australia reformed their gun laws in 1996 in the wake of their worst mass murder incident. They haven't had a repeat in the two decades since.
We need accountability not complicity from law enforcement. Umpqua Community College's local Sheriff John Hanlin had once sent a letter to President Obama stating that he would never comply with gun ordinances from the national level. Is that treason or another Kim Davis situation where the government official needs to be removed from office for not upholding the laws? Either way, he's still sheriff, and in my opinion has some blood on his hands.
As do we all. When we sit idly by, spectators in the bloodbath of this Colosseum arena, we abet the continuation of this travesty. That's why my prayer today is different.
Feeling gratitude that many are no longer willing to stand in prayer and then stand aside, that instead of standing in a circle of passivity and defensiveness, we stand together marching forward. My prayers for grief AND action yesterday have been echoed by many.
I today pray for forgiveness for not doing enough to create a safe place for all made in Her image, for allowing an idolatrous love to flourish unchallenged, for living in a house of fear rather than the house of love we want to call home.
Please stand with me and with others who want to part the red-tinged waters that threaten to drown us. Let's confront the irrational biases against any form of sensible reform. Let's hold hands and say that rather than waiting for someone to feed us, we should learn to fish and feed ourselves. We don't have to sit idly by, praying, accepting the temptation of easy resignation. We can walk through the valley of peace together.