by Rev. Teresa Hord Owens
Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11
Once again, our nation is grieving senseless violence, senseless death: the killing of 17 students at a Florida high school, by a former student armed with an assault rifle and multiple magazines. We are once again horrified, angered, saddened and overcome with grief and loss. As a Christian minister, I know that the psalms can be powerful means of lament, of giving voice to our deepest, innermost human pain as we seek to find God’s comfort and peace in these moments. We pray, as we should; we comfort those who mourn, as we should. However, we must act.
We are weary of these scenes, these horrifying, traumatic moments that have now some estimate have affected nearly 150,000 children in school settings since Columbine. Add to that the daily trauma that children in some neighborhoods endure daily as friends and loved ones are shot in front of their eyes; the sobering confession of children whose greatest fear is that they will not live to walk home from school.
At the 2015 General Assembly in Columbus, OH, Disciples passed a resolution to speak to gun violence for the first time in nearly 25 years. Cultural understandings of the role of guns in society and how one interprets the 2nd amendment have generated vigorous and often vitriolic debate. Constitutional rights carry with them great responsibility, and carries with it accountability. This resolution called on Disciples to model and teach “grace-filled, love-based action and non-violent conflict resolution”, to promote emergency response plans. Above all, the resolution calls for “dialogue, cooperation, advocacy and action that moves toward a reduction of gun violence and promotes anti-racist, pro-reconciling education in our communities and nations…”.
In moments like these, we continue to pray with families who are impacted, but we must arise from our knees ready to engage public officials at all levels of our government to ensure that gun violence and its accompanying trauma no longer have place in our society. One life lost is too many and we must recommit to reasonable regulation to hold ourselves mutually accountable. As Christians, we call for action that affirms the precious value of all human life, and affirms Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are weary; yet we must work together to hold our society to a higher standard of accountability. It’s way past time to come together to eliminate this violence. May the God of love and peace be with us.