gun violence

On Choices and Orlando

By Rev. Sandhya Jha

When I was in eighth grade, I saw a bumper sticker on a car (in Akron, Ohio) that said, “Honk if you support civil rights, religious liberty, gay rights, disability rights, women’s equality…” I turned to my mother and said, “I would honk for the rest of them, but gay rights?” My mother is really smart and so said nothing, knowing I would have to do the math in my head about who deserved rights and who didn’t. Because she had raised me to know that everyone deserves rights and deserves self-determination.

Some folks still talk about homosexuality being a choice. You know what I got to choose every day of my cis-gender heterosexual life? I got to choose whether to acknowledge the basic human dignity of the LGBTQ community as a whole. I got to choose whether to stand with LGBTQ individuals or whether to be silent and therefore participate in violence done to LGBTQ people and the LGBTQ community. Because when I throw the LGBTQ community under the bus (through my words OR through my silence), I’m also doing harm to every individual within the community.

That’s what choice looks like.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe this tragedy is about access to horrifically dangerous weapons. I believe it is about “toxic masculinity.” While I think it has very little to do with Islam or even ISIS, I believe it is about the values cultivated in relationship to craving a role in militarized organizations. Since the instance of gun violence closest to me is connected to two people’s struggle over their sexual identities in relationship to one another, I have no problem believing this might be about the murderer’s internalized hatred unleashing itself on others. And it is about lack of exposure to consistent teaching that God loves all of God’s children and that God never wants to see unmitigated, unrestrained violence against God’s children. For millennia we have failed to teach consistently and strongly that above all things God abhors violence.

But the massacre at Pulse is also about over 100 anti-gay bills in 22 states this year, creating a growing culture of acceptance of contempt for LGBTQ life. And it’s about pastors and politicians preaching hate that creates a culture of bullying and suicide. (More here and here .) And it’s about the ways race and gender identity have been pitted against each other as if there’s only enough tolerance for one, and we might have to choose us versus them…and if you’re both a racial/religious minority and LGBTQ, then there is no room for you. Millions of people helped set the stage for this tragedy. And that’s where my choices matter.

I’m not Orlando. And in all the ways I haven’t fought to reject efforts to legislate against the basic human dignity of LGBTQ people in the past year and for decades, in all the ways I’ve not fought hard enough for LGBTQ inclusion in the church, in all the ways I’ve not created space for people to know that they are not bad people for struggling with their sexual or gender identity, I’m the people who let Orlando happen.

Nothing Left to Say

By Rev. Mindi

I really don’t know what else to say, because I said it here in my post “Living By The Sword” and here in my post “How Long Must We Sing This Song?” and here in my post “Racism From Within” and here in my post “Don’t Give Up on the Work for Justice.”

But you know what, I’m tired.

When Sandy Hook happened, while I waited for news that my nephews and niece in Newtown were okay, though they had friends who were killed, I scrambled to find enough candles, twenty-eight of them in all. I remember when Virginia Tech happened buying a large bag of tea candles for the Sunday morning service, and invited everyone in the church to come up and light a candle for a victim of gun violence.

But I’ve run out of candles.

After most of the shootings, I have posted a prayer on my blog that can be used by churches when they don’t know what to say.

But I’ve run out of prayers, and run out of words.

Because it’s only a matter of time before someone comes in and shoots up the school my son goes to. It’s only a matter of time before someone comes in and shoots up the nightclub my gay friends or transgender family find refuge in. It’s only a matter of time before someone hates someone in my church and comes and shoots them.

Because in America we love guns more than God. We have made guns into God. We have broken the commandment and made an idol believing that a gun can save us and that only good guys with guns can help. When we look at the scarred, crucified Christ who said “those who live by the sword die by the sword,” how can we call ourselves faithful?

I’ve run out of patience. But what else can I say here that will make any damn bit of difference? The words of Jesus aren’t enough. The sacredness of life is not enough. The smiles of innocent children are not enough. The love between two people is not enough.

I’ve given up trying to make sense of it all.

America didn’t change when Sandy Hook happened, and we thought for sure we would. America will not change, until all of us look in the mirror and point the gun at ourselves. Only when we are able to do that, and see that we are killing ourselves, killing the very image of God, maybe we would change, when we realize that which we idolize is killing us.

But even then, I do not know.

This passage from Luke 14 has stuck with me:

“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

What if our cross that we carry are dead children, dead lovers, dead church members? What if we were never, ever, able to get their faces out of our heads and we had to live with their memory, day after day after day? What if that became our cross to bear?

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Have we weighed the cost of our silence, of our candles, of our tears, of our graves? Have we weighed the cost when we look in the mirror? America has not weighed the cost. America has not been willing to sit down and consider, or send the delegation. America is not willing to give up its idolship of guns.

But we must. We must look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we are okay with pointing a gun to ourselves, because the longer we do nothing, and we keep just writing blog posts like this one, we are killing ourselves.

Things we can do:

--Become Open/Welcoming and Affirming of LGBTQ persons. Talk about our openness, welcome and affirmation.

--Work towards legislation that would eliminate the kinds of weapons being used in these violent acts.

--Stop spending money at any store that sells these kinds of weapons.

--Talk about this at church. From the pulpit. And in Bible Study and Sunday School. Talk about what Jesus says and that his words actually mean something to us.

--Value our children more than we value guns.