Hope is Rising

With each school mass shooting my prayer is always the same: ‘May this be the tipping point that awakens us’.  Thurston High School, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and so many others.  But with each shooting the NRA doubles down.  Politicians who rely on the NRA for funding and political endorsement resist reasonable gun control.

But Parkland feels different.  Student leaders have risen from the trauma of seeing seventeen classmates murdered and fifteen wounded.  This time they say ‘thoughts and prayers’ won’t cut it.  What they are demanding is new gun control legislation (universal background checks, outlawing assault weapons and high capacity magazines).

They won’t back down.  They won’t go away.

I think of a prophecy in the Bible ‘ a child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11: 6-9).   Perhaps the words of the Prophet have come to fulfillment yet again.  I hope  and pray  so.

Below is a powerful poem by Alison Luterman.  This poem speaks to the hope that these young leaders have stirred within me and my generation.

A new generation is stepping forward to lead.  To put a spotlight on the greed and hypocrisy of the gun merchants and their political lackeys.

It is time for my generation to follow. To encourage.  To support the change that is coming.  That must come.

No more Sandy Hooks. No more Parklands.


A new breed of activists is emerging.  Hope is rising.   Do you see them?  Will you add your voice to theirs?

 

The New Breed– for Emma Gonzalez and the other student activists

I see her on TV, screaming into a microphone.
Her head is shaved and she is beautiful
and seventeen, and her high school was just shot up,
she’s had to walk by friends lying in their own blood,
her teacher bleeding out,
and she’s my daughter, the one I never had,
and she’s your daughter and everyone’s daughter
and she’s her own woman, in the fullness of her young fire,
calling bullshit on politicians who take money from the gun-makers.
Tears rain down her face but she doesn’t stop shouting
she doesn’t apologize she keeps calling them out,
all of them all of us
who didn’t do enough to stop this thing.
And you can see the gray faces of those who have always held power
contort, utterly baffled
to face this new breed of young woman,
not silky, not compliant,
not caring if they call her a ten or a troll.
And she cries but she doesn’t stop
yelling truth into the microphone,
though her voice is raw and shaking
and the Florida sun is molten brass.
I’m three thousand miles away, thinking how
Neruda said The blood of the children
ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.
Only now she is, they are
raising a fuss, shouting down the walls of Jericho,
and it’s not that we road-weary elders
have been given the all-clear exactly,
but our shoulders do let down a little,
we breathe from a deeper place,
we say to each other,
Well, it looks like the baton
may be passing
to these next runners and they are
fleet as thought,
fiery as stars,
and we take another breath
and say to each other, The baton
has been passed, and we set off then
running hard behind them.

–Alison Luterman

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.

 

The Dictionary of Sorrow

Here’s a new word I learned today from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrow: kuebiko

n. Kuebiko: a state of exhaustion inspired by acts of senseless violence, which force you to revise your image of what can happen in this world—mending the fences of your expectations, weeding out all unwelcome and invasive truths, cultivating the perennial good that’s buried under the surface, and propping yourself up like an old scarecrow, who’s bursting at the seams but powerless to do anything but stand there and watch.

Kuebiko an obscure word for a nation incapable of finding a sensible resolution to the epidemic of mass shootings that take our loved ones and wound our collective soul.  This morning we awoke to news of yet another mass shooting in Las Vegas. Currently the count is 58 dead and over 500 wounded. To date the largest mass shooting in our nations tragic history.

As with most mass shootings the perpetrator is a ‘lone wolf’ white male who expresses his rage and aggression through an act of mass violence.  Connect this anger to easy access to high-powered weaponry and we have the recipe for mass shootings.

That ours is the only developed country with a litany of mass shootings should shake us to our core.  That it doesn’t is profoundly sad.

We are an idolatrous nation.  We sacrifice our neighbors and our peace of mind, upon the altar of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and on a rigid interpretation of the 2nd amendment.  We refuse to compromise for the common good.

Kuebiko.

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.

Tipping Point on Gun Control?

This weekend was emotionally draining for our nation as we grieved with the community of Newtown, CT.  We grieved for the mass shooting of 20 children and 7 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.   For those of us in Oregon our emotions were already raw from a shooting at a crowded mall a few days prior.  Each shooting was eerily similar.  Both murders were conducted by an estranged young man, armed with body armor and military type assault weapons and magazines of bullets. 

On Sunday morning we gathered as did people of faith around the country, to find hope in our faith and comfort in the company of one another.  We prayed for those who had lost loved one’s both in Oregon and Connecticut and for all who live in fear of further violence.  

In reflecting upon all this I wonder if we as a nation have reached a tipping point related to how we seek a balance between the right to bear arms guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment and the right for our people to live in safety.  Up to this point the NRA has driven our debate suggesting that any limitation on weapons is an assault on the 2nd amendment itself.  I believe that this is a false choice. In the aftermath of the mass murders at Sandy Hook this  reasoning has crumbled.  I think reasonable people are looking for a balance between individual rights and the well-being of the wider community. 

Yesterday Senator Manchin of West Virginia, a pro NRA member, called for a “sensible nationwide dialogue on gun control , where everything, should be on the table”.  Said the senator, “I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle.”  

On Sunday night  President Obama, spoke at an interfaith service in Newtown.  He said:  “We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

We wait to see what specific steps President Obama will introduce.  Senator Diane Feinstein has indicated that she will introduce legislation on a national level to ban assault weapons, similar to the ban that was in effect up till 2004.

Here in Oregon, two bills will be presented to the legislature at their winter session.   One bill will limit the sale of ‘oversized ammunition magazines’ such as used in the Oregon and Newtown shootings.  The other bill will ban the sale of assault weapons in Oregon.   For those who want to learn more go the web site of ‘Ceasefire Oregon’.

Up to this point, the strategy for proponents of unlimited access to firearms is to wait until the emotional upheaval from a mass shooting subsides.  This strategy was successful after Thurston, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech etc.

Will they succeed again? Or, have we as a nation reached a tipping point?  The answer rests with each one of us.  Are we ready to say ‘enough’?