Here We Are Again!
Our daughter dropped off our grandson for his last day in elementary school yesterday morning. And then she cried.
She said, “I can’t stop thinking of the parents who won’t get to do that in Texas. This is not ok. It’s time for change.”
Another mass shooting.
Another community facing incomprehensible pain as they bury their school children and teachers. (At the same time, the NRA will hyping the same old, weary arguments a few hundred miles away.)
Another President leading the nation in mourning and decrying the deadly uniqueness of our national addiction to guns and violence. (Has this become the definition of “American exceptionalism”?)
Another round of pontificating politicians offering plastic piety about “thoughts and prayers” with no intention of the thinking and praying making any real difference in the way we live and the way our children keep dying.
It’s not OK! It’s time for change!
Is God Fed Up With Our Prayers?
I turned again to Isaiah 58. It’s not easy reading!
God mocks people who seek God as if they were “a nation that acted righteously.” God accuses them of saying they want to be close to God, but “you do whatever you want…oppress all your workers… quarrel and brawl…hit each other violently.” In classic Hebrew style, God sounds like a Yiddish grandmother saying, “Oy vey! You call this a fast?Enough with the thoughts and prayers, already!” (58:5)
God blows off their phony piety and their smarmy self-righteousness by calling them to direct actions that demonstrate their faithfulness to God’s way of doing things.
Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?
With God’s command comes God’s promise:
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
and you will be healed quickly...
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
if you open your heart to the hungry,
and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
your light will shine in the darkness,
and your gloom will be like the noon...
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Livable Streets.
You can hear the same thing in Amos 5:21-24. I’m sure that God has shared our tears, felt our pain, and heard our prayers after each of the over 202 mass shootings in this nation so far this year. Every one breaks the heart of God.
But I can’t help but think that God is fed up with all of our “moments of silence,” our half-staffed flags, and our empty rhetoric about mental illness and school safety. God is sick and tired of politicians who campaign as evangelical Christians, but have sold their souls to the gun lobby. I hear God shouting that it’s time for righteous anger and redemptive action.
And there is plenty that we could do!
- We could reduce the incessant flood of violence that passes for entertainment in movies, on TV and video games. Why not fast from all this stuff?
- We could work to rebuild trust in healthy relationships, strong families, public instutions, and visionary faith communities.
- We could increase funding for our public schools (instead of diverting it to private ones) to support teachers who are called to teach our children, not to die for them.
- We could reject the narrow political ideology that has been crafted around a deadly distortion of the Second Amendment. (Whatever happened to “a well regulated Militia”?)
- We could stop the unregulated sale of weapons at “gun shows.” (In Florida it’s as easy to buy a weapon as it is to buy a car.)
- We could decide that no one really needs to own the weapons of war which have been the gun of choice for the mass shootings. (The Texas shooter purchased two on his 18th birthday before he was old enough to buy alcohol.)
- We could institute the nation-wide background checks which 90% of our citizens support.
- We could “fast” from voting for politicians who receive funding from the NRA and who will not support reasonable gun safety laws. (Have you called or emailed your representatives today?)
- We could increase support for social service agencies in our communities.
Perhaps then — if and when we actually do something — our “light will shine in the darkness, and [our] gloom will be like the noon.” Perhaps then we can “rebuild…the foundations of generations past.” Perhaps then — and only then — we will deserve to be called “Mender of Broken Walls, Restorer of Livable Streets.”
Even if God isn’t fed up with our “thoughts and prayers,” I know that I am!
May God’s peace comfort the afflicted and may God’s Spirit afflict the comfortable. And may we, in God’s name, find the courage to change!
Grace and peace,