This afternoon, I wore my orange stole to the State House. With the sun beating down, hot enough almost to melt our armour into something more peaceful and pleasant, we gathered as the people ready to #dosomething about gun violence.
As a person of faith, a Christian, and an Episcopal priest I have hope in and a commitment to pray and work to build that place of peace in which swords are beaten into ploughshares, the lion lies down with the lamb, the child plays in safety, and “‘they shall not hurt nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.”
As a person, parent, and citizen of the United States, I hear that it is hard to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness under the threat of gun violence. I believe that’s what the young people who started the #WearOrange movement in memory of their friend, Hadiya Pendleton, might have been trying to tell us.
We know that the roots of gun violence are spread wide. We have seen its entanglement with White supremacist terrorism and racism. We know its relationship with despair and suicide. I know that people keep guns for a number of reasons; I have also observed that they have been marketed to us as a source of security and safety, but the gun is a false friend. It has aided and abetted suicide, homicide, accident, injury, and deep grief.
Isaiah’s vision of a place in which the child plays in safety and nothing will harm her has been before us for two and a half thousand years or more. I am not naive enough to imagine that we will solve the issue of gun violence overnight. But the call upon us to #dosomething to build that place of peace in which the child plays in safety has not lost its voice.
My call as a person of faith, and as a priest, begins with repentance: the desire and commitment to #dosomething differently; the promise to put my faith in something stronger and more secure than lead and steel.
My call as a citizen of heaven, earth, and the United States is similar: to reinvest in the common good, in the life, liberty, health, or happiness of our community and country. That’s where our legislators be of service.
Expanding background checks makes us accountable to one another for the spread and distribution of deadly weapons. Red flag laws would be, I believe, an Act of compassion. We might even find, as we re-examine our relationship with guns, that we do not need them as much, or as many, or to hold them as close as we have thought.
Towards the end of his ministry, when Jesus was arrested by armed guards, he replied that he could, if he wished, call down firepower from heaven; but he declined to enter an arms race. When one of his supporters cut off an assailant’s ear, Jesus not only declared, “Enough!”, but healed the injury as only Jesus could.
#DoSomething, therefore: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it…
He shall judge between the nations,and decide between the peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks… (Isaiah 2:1,4)
And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled …?” (Matthew 26:52-54)