Sunday afternoon. I preached in the morning and following lunch with family and friends was sitting on the back patio, making my way to the coveted Sunday afternoon preacher’s nap. The news alert came on my phone. Not Again. Another shooting, this time at the Landing in Jacksonville. I’ve been to the Landing. People I know live In Jacksonville. Not Again.
I’m not even sure why I am writing about another mass shooting, seeing how they have become so commonplace. If the others have not spurred us to do something about the epidemic of gun violence in this country, I have doubts that this one or the next one will either. This version of Congress and this Administration certainly aren’t going to do anything. It pains me to write that because I do my best to center my ministry around hope and possibility. I’m also wrestling with my own complicity in our lack of action. Am I resigned that this is simply the way it will always be? The words of Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry seem to point towards a similar resignation, we have faced an all too common occurrence, one that will require us to continue the hard work of ensuring public safety.” Reading between the lines, he is saying that we can expect mass shootings to continue.
Anytime I write or speak about gun violence, I offer this disclaimer; guns have never been a part of my life. I did not grow up with them. I’ve never been hunting or shooting for sport. I’ve never tried to purchase or even thought about purchasing a gun. I’ve never lived anywhere where I felt like I needed a gun for my own safety. I have friends and colleagues who are gun owners and friends and colleagues who are not gun owners. I can only speak from my own experience while at the same time recognizing that others’ experience is different. I am a person of faith who believes that God calls us to a life of non-violence.
We have an epidemic of gun violence in our country. The problems that have led us here are many, including a stigma and lack of services and funding of services for those with mental health needs. However, it is sad that many only want to talk about mental health when they need it to justify not changing any of our guns laws. Mental health issues deserve far more attention (and funding) than simply being the scapegoat for our addiction to gun violence.
God was the first to weep yesterday, because God understands the precious nature of a life. God also weeps because we don’t grasp the sacredness of all life. We love violence, division, anger, and our guns (just to name a few) more than we love human life. People continue to pay a steep price with their lives. We need to start believing that life is more sacred than protecting gun rights at all cost. Are changing gun laws the entire answer? No, they are not. Are they part of the answer? Certainly. The cost is too great not to fully examine everything about our culture, including our gun laws. We keep needlessly and selfishly paying the price with life by not even having the conversation.
It’s time. It’s past time. Life is too sacred for us to wait any longer. The cost is too great.