These last few weeks we have seen the aftermath of the latest round of mass shootings (4 or more people killed or injured), all acts committed with assault style weapons. Most committed by 18–22-year-old men with legally purchased weapons. Many committed as an act of suicide. A sad commentary on the state of our country. Did you know that in May alone there were 64 mass shooting events in the US? There were 79 deaths and 307 people injured in these 64 events.
For the entirety of 2022 there have been 233 mass shootings. This resulted in 261 deaths and 1008 people injured. 12 of these mass shootings were considered mass murders with four or more deaths each. That equals more than two shootings a month for 2022. (https://www.gunviolencearchive.org)
We have a problem with guns in the US. Even more, we have a problem with the fusion of White Christian Nationalism and guns. This is something I find both disturbing and perplexing. I don't know how anyone can read the scriptures and get to a set of beliefs that support gun ownership, let alone the fetishization of assault weapons! When Jesus said "turn the other cheek," (Mt. 5:39 and Lk. 6:29) I think he meant it. When Isaiah said of the last days, "they will hammer their swords into plows... their spears into pruning hooks," (Is. 2:4) I don't think he meant we should wait until we have assault weapons readily available to "live the way the Lord has taught us to." (Is. 2:5) I just don't get it.
And yet, we are living in a world where unstable people come into schools, churches, movie theatres, grocery stores, hospitals and use guns instead of their words to try to solve their problems. We live in a society where fear and blame have an outsized impact on how we are with and for one another. It is what drives us to lock our doors, install a panic button on the pulpit, and have the parking lot patrolled at night. I am not saying this is an inappropriate response. I am saying that it is a sad commentary on our world that these things are necessary.
I keep wondering how we remain open to the call of the Gospel, the Good News, that commands us to "love our neighbor as ourselves" when we live in fear of our neighbors? I wonder how we can become a world of reconciliation when the forces of violence, blame and reactivity drive so much of our daily lives. I wonder for you and for me, how our faith can make the world a better place.
Here are a few of the things that I do to counteract the forces that would have us live in fear.
Smile at strangers. I make a practice of making eye contact and smiling at people as much as I can. See the Spirit of God in everyone you encounter. Let them see it in you!
Turn off the news. I find that consuming less information doesn't stop me from knowing what is happening in the world, it just gives me more space to remember that nothing can separate me from love of God no matter how much terror the news has to offer.
Shake and sigh. Move your body. Feel the air on your skin. These simple embodiment practices help me remember that I am alive, that I am ok, and that I can trust the Creation to hold me in this moment.
Jesus, in the midst of his challenging life, went away often to pray. He took the time to remember himself and his God, to fill his cup, so he could keep moving toward Jerusalem regardless of the fear and anxiety that he, no doubt, felt. He kept calling people away from their desire to blame and shut down and kept engaging anyone who would listen. He did this to bring the message of peace and love, of forgiveness and healing into a beautiful but broken world. I don't think the Promised Land is a place so much as a state of mind. It is a way of being in a world that sells fear in assault weapons and anxiety on the nightly news.
The antidote? To link arms in Love and keep walking toward the Promised Land where the words of Isaiah and Matthew/Luke will become reality. Will you put on your smile and walk with me?
With Peace and Passion, Pastor Robin