When Prayer Isn’t Enough

Gunman Devin Patrick Kelley, murdered 26 people and wounded 20 more inside a small Texas church on Sunday.  He was armed with an assault rifle and 15 loaded magazines in the deadliest shooting in Texas history.

This tragedy comes on the heels of the Las Vegas mass shooting which resulted in 58 dead and 546 wounded.  Both shootings were the result of alienated, angry white men with easy access to assault weapons.

After both shootings the President and many elected leaders called for a time of silence and prayer.  Prayer  for the victims and those left behind.

As a pastor and as a citizen I say that prayer is not enough.

It angers me that elected officials, who are selectively pious, use ‘moments of silence and prayer’ as a calculated means of diverting our attention from what needs to be done.   In their mind prayer is an end unto itself.  The NRA and their minions both religious and political, use prayer as a means to maintain the status quo.

They think prayer will offer a sufficient release from the pain and confusion we feel.  They view prayer simply as a release valve.

But they don’t understand prayer. Prayer when entered into with sincerity has  a way of opening up the mind, heart and imagination.  Prayer can convict us when we are on the wrong path and lead us in a new direction.

People of faith call this conversion.  To turn from one direction towards another.

My prayers are with those who lost their lives and lost loved ones in that little church in Texas.  But my prayer is also for our nation, that we will repent from our idolatry of guns.

The NRA and their elected collaborators hope that prayer will divert us.  My hope is that prayer will propel us to get involved and say ‘no more’.  No more children and families ripped apart by easy access to weapons.

Prayer is not and end unto itself.  Prayer can empower us to put in place reasonable limits on access to weapons (universal background checks, outlawing of bump stocks and semi-assault and assault weapons, limits on types of ammunition designed to inflict the greatest damage).

In today’s New York Times there is a compelling article entitled: ‘What Explains U.S Mass Shootings’  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html?_r=0  The article points out that the United States rate of gun violence is unique and rooted in our unfettered access to weapons.

It seems we love our guns more than life itself.

The article goes on to say:

Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.

Yes, let us pray.  Let us confess and turn from our worship of weapons.  Let us pray for the strength to continue the good fight of bringing about sane, reasonable limits on weapons.  For the sake of the children now and the future, let us pray and let us act.

 

Stuff Happens: Ten Dead and Seven Wounded in Oregon

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked to respond to the massacre of ten and wounding of seven students at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. Specifically he was asked whether stricter gun laws were needed. He said: “Look stuff happens, there’s always a crisis and the impulse is to do something (more government control) and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

In recent years a lot of murderous ‘stuff’ has been happening. According to the web site Mass Shooting Tracker which tracks events in the USA where 4 or more people are shot in an event, there have been 994 mass shooting events in 1004 days.

Most of us thought that the murder of 24 children and staff in Newtown, CT in 2012 would be the tipping point for tightening up on our lax gun control laws. But we’ve learned that the NRA is a powerful barrier to gun restrictions and to date has controlled the political debate. The NRA offers an extreme interpretation to the 2nd Amendment where there are essentially no limits on access to weapons and the harm they can inflict.

To understand the effectiveness of the NRA we need only follow the money. The NRA has received 39 million dollars in recent years from the 12 billion dollar a year firearms industry. The NRA as a primary lobby for the gun industry spends millions of dollars to support and defeat members of congress. Thus far the NRA has effectively controlled the debate in Congress and has muted resistance within the Democratic party and is seemingly in complete control of the Republican narrative, hence Jeb Bush’s lame response to yet another mass shooting, ‘stuff happens’.

NRA president Wayne Lapierres response to the mass shooting is to arm more people. Donald Trump leading in the Republican polls calls for arming every teacher. It’s enough to hang one’s head in despair for common sense.

vigil in Roseberg

Yet, throughout history there has come a tipping point when enough people have awakened to the need for change. This was true with the great justice movements in US history: Abolition, women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay rights. Underlying these great historic events were years of effort and seeming failure until that time arose when enough people came together to usher in change.

I believe that in time reasonable gun controls will become the law of the land. In time enough of us will no longer accept the fear mongering of the NRA and the gun industry. In time we will no longer accept the resistance or inaction on the part of our elected officials.

Enough ‘stuff’ has happened. Enough lives full of promise have been extinguished. It’s long past time for a change. Will you add your voice and efforts and tip the scale? Will you say no to fear and yes to reasonable laws? Laws that allow us to send our kids to school and walk our streets with a greater sense of safety? We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for, the answer rests with us.