My heart almost stopped beating when news of the Newtown shootings began trickling in. The nation has, understandably, been riveted and horrified. But the question at the forefront of my mind has been: After such sorrow, after such unfathomable suffering, is it possible to be joyful again? How?
I held that question in stillness and prayer, and a song from my boyhood came to me. The song goes like this:
This joy that I have,
the world didn't give it to me.
This joy that I have,
the world didn't give it to me;
the world didn't give it--
and the world can't take it away.
We are called upon now to be healers -- wounded healers who know how to grieve and mourn, but also know how to take effective prayerful, persistent, political action. We must take action!
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011 there were 15,953 murders in the United States of which 11,101 were caused by firearms. Today, 30 Americans will die because of firearms, because we have not found the political will and organization to put a stop to our idolatrous worship of the gun.
We have a responsibility to work for better gun safety measures, including mandatory background checks, a ban on high capacity clips, and semi automatic weapons.
What are weapons that are made for soldiers to carry in the battlefields doing in the hands of private citizens, anyway? We must bring an end to the various loopholes that allow for easy purchase and a thriving black market.
Marian Wright Edelman, the leader of the Children's Defense Fund, asked: How young do the victims have to be, and how many children need to die, before we stop the proliferation of guns in our nation and the killing of innocents?
Over 11,000 children and teens have been killed by gun violence since 1979, when such statistics were first collected. This number is larger than the number of all the Americans killed in any of the 20th Century's largest wars. Edelman asks, and I ask: Where is the anti war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home?
It is scandalous that this country will go through one of these horrendous experiences of human carnage because we have not done what we need to do to control guns. We let them get into the hands of those who would use them to do such appalling harm -- and then we forget about it all until the next carnage.
That has to come to a stop.
Maybe one of the things that can do to find joy now, in the coming days, and on Monday when we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, is undergo a visitation in the places where we suffer so that we can be transformed. So that we can become deep instruments of joy and healing -- and taking care of our children. We must open ourselves up to transformation and action.
I am heartened by this note I received from a parishioner, a doctoral student of the New Testament:
Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I engaged in numerous discussions about the need to address the issue of gun control with both Christians and non Christians.
The more I voiced my support for increased gun control, if not their outright ban, the more I was condemned by almost every Christian who participated in the discussions. Often this condemnation relied on some form of defense that appealed to Scripture and how terrible the world is and how Christians should just pray more.
These conversations brought me to tears on the night of December 15th as I felt a sense of deep despair at the state of the church to get an issue so horribly wrong. As I sat in church the following day and listened to your sermon, tears again filled my eyes.
They were tears for the people who died and their families, but they were also tears because in your sermon and in the community of All Saints, God was showing me that his love is not lost in this world. If possible, please continue to lend your voice to this discussion and let us a community know how we can support you.
Thank you for those words my friend, and this is what you can do -- what you can all do: You can be transformed by this unimaginable suffering into becoming people of action and conviction.
To return to joy, to build a safe world for our children, to heal, we must take a stand against guns. To be people of courage, integrity, heart and grace, we must see it through this time.