Las Vegas and a Confession
Where do we go from here?
Yesterday we woke up to the worst shooting in America, since the last one.
Like many of you, upon hearing the news, I was frightened, heartbroken, angry and once again feeling uncertain about how to move forward. When something like this happens we ask ourselves, how can this be?
Yet if we are being honest with ourselves, we aren’t all that surprised. Why should we be? We have a national script to deal with situations just like this. Politicians trot out their practiced words of prayer and sorrow then use the situation to advance their own agendas. Public outcry swells and then is forgotten. The initial anger becomes complacency and what should never be becomes normalized. Since Sandy Hook (2012), there have been over 1500 mass shootings, so let’s drop the act. There is nothing surprising here.
Because we have the world we created.
Every time we decry gun violence and then celebrate it on the big screen. Every time we excuse aggression, saying boys will be boys. Every time we allow the NRA to decide what matters more, a piece of metal that makes people feel powerful or people who in the pull of a trigger become powerless. Every time we let our lawmakers off the hook for choosing reelection over our children. Every time the church is too timid to address the prejudice, dehumanization and othering of God’s people. Every time we dismiss rhetoric of hate as a necessary evil and violence as just part of who we are. Every time we desire not to be too political, too upsetting, too controversial to say what must be said. Every time we allow our narrative to be the only one, refusing to hear the stories and truths of others.
Every time we trade in the life-giving substance of justice and real relationship for the mediocrity of tolerance . . . we create a world where guns are easier to purchase than Hamilton tickets, where our children are killed in the midst of dancing, where hate, violence and complacency has so seeped into the dis-eased veins of our nation that we can’t even fathom how to begin treating our illness.
And yet, in spite of all that, I write to you today because I believe that God has dreamed for us something better -- greater. And to find that dream, I must stand here today to confess. I confess that I have done too little. I confess that I have been silent. I confess that I have been too afraid to share the light, the truth, the beauty of God’s love for fear of judgment. I confess I have valued being right over being in relationship. I confess, in the pursuit of my own comfort, I have forgotten God’s call to proclaim freedom, justice, light, and peace - to place the needs of my sisters and brothers in need above my own. I confess.
We need to confess. Because that is where it begins. Where it truly begins, with a willingness to be honest and vulnerable about our failings. Honest about the world we have shaped. Honest about us. Not our neighbor - not the most extreme among us. But instead to confess the hardness of our hearts.
And God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness and set us back on a pathway of light (1 John 1:9). A light that burns so brightly - that it can set fire to what is - and through God’s love and our hands - create something new. A world only God can imagine but we can enact.
by Pastor Danielle
Ways to Respond
(From the Community Justice Reform Coalition & Living Lutheran)
1. Get educated. The facts are the facts, and federal gun policy is not the end of the line for how to change policies and make communities safer.
For decades, Community Justice Reform Coalition Co-Founder Pastor Mike and other organizers have supported targeted peacemaking approaches to reduce violence. http://communityjusticerc.org/home
People like DeVone Boggan, are using local county approaches to work on wrap around services in places like Stockton, CA. https://www.drkfoundation.org/organization/advance-peace/
Rev. Ben McBride is revolutionizing how to build trust between communities and law enforcement with the Trust Through Reform Project. www.trustthroughreform.com/
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has archived and current information on what laws are being discussed and voted on by politicians. www.smartgunlaws.org
Read the Living Lutheran publication of resources for responding to violence which includes both our social statement on peace and our social message on community violence. https://www.livinglutheran.org/2017/10/resources-violence/
2. Contact policymakers. Tip O'Neill famously said "All Politics are Local", and this rings true for how to fight for gun violence prevention. Yes, call your Member of Congress, but also contact groups like American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention (http://www.aslgvp.org/) or the State Innovative Exchange (https://stateinnovation.org) for how and what your state and local legislators can do to help. Your county and city officials control multi-million dollar budgets that can be allocated to fighting violence, not just locking people up.
3. Challenge and support the media. Unfortunately, there is gun violence happening every day that rarely gets covered in a solutions-oriented manner by local or national news. Gun deaths disproportionally effect people of color, and black Americans more than any other race. We have to challenge the media to let those who are from marginalized communities tell their own stories, and push back on the falsehoods about violence that come from online and offline sources. We must call out systemic racism, hate, and terrorism, and we must think of gun violence as an entirely intersectional issue. Follow organizations like Color of Change (https://www.colorofchange.org/) and outlets like The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com, two news sources telling the hard stories and real truths of what is happening in our communities.