It’s not nothing

This weekend, as we were setting up, or taking down, or hammering out the details for Saturday’s gun buyback and vigil to end gun violence at church, somewhere in Washington a group of senators announced a bipartisan breakthrough on gun regulation legislative proposals.

Forgive me for not pinning down the exact timing. There was a lot going on.

But that’s just it. A new agreement, after decades of petulant refusal to budge on firearms regulation – decades in which mass shootings have become a cultural phenomenon, and gun violence has become the leading cause of death for children and teens in America – this bipartisan (my auto-text suggests) “effort” is something. But in its details, many bemoan, it is not a lot.

And again, this is the rub. On Saturday, scores of volunteers and interested parties joined together to lament, repent, and recommit to ending gun violence, and as a sign and symbol of our commitment we took in guns from anyone who was willing to drive through our parking lot, and we rewarded them with a modest gas-and-grocery gift card, about a score of people with their stories and their secrets and their unwanted, sometimes scary, guns.

We took in north of forty firearms, of various types and heritage. An officer ran the numbers: none were stolen (we set the officer away from the guests so that anonymity would be preserved: if he flagged something, he would not know from which car it came). In a way, this confirmed the argument of some who said, “No criminal is going to give up their gun for a measly gift card!”

Of course not. But gun violence is not only the criminal activity, the atrocities we see on the news. It is the deaths from suicide, the childish “accidents”, the trauma that has a nation so on edge that it seems as though any loud bang could be the death of us. If doing nothing in the face of this new reality is not an option, then doing something is worth the effort.

The people who came to us on Saturday were (almost unanimously) grateful for the opportunity to turn their guns into something life-giving; to remove danger from their homes; to make an act of change, which in the Christian tradition we might call repentance.

The turn, the decision, is only a beginning, however. That’s one reason that we held the Vigil in the afternoon, to cement our commitment, in solidarity with a broader community, to make sure that we remained aware of the movement of the Spirit that has been known to hover, to rest, but never to relinquish the work of breathing life into the people of God and the creation.

What we did is not enough, but it was, I believe, inspired. What happened in DC this weekend is certainly not enough, nor is it yet even a done deal, but if it is a beginning, it is something. I remember learning about inertia in high school physics: a body at rest is inclined to continue to do nothing. A body that begins to move has the chance to collect momentum.

If we thought, on Saturday, that we were done, that we had done our part, it would be more than we imagined we could, and it would not be very much. But within an hour of our beginning, I had people asking me, telling me, advising me about “next time”, and next steps. There was movement, and there may even be momentum.

The danger exists in the celebration of any small progress of the corruption of complacency. The racism that killed in Buffalo, the undomesticated violence that triggered a massacre in Uvalde, the despair that steals lives daily continue to cry out for our attention, and to be disarmed.

But there is danger, too, in writing off the whispers of the Spirit, the slight breeze on the edge of hearing that, with a following wind, may become a perfect storm.

May her currents lift our wings.

[Jesus said] ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. ‘(Matthew 17:20)

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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