This week my heart has been heavy as we find ourselves, yet again, offering our thoughts and prayers to families whose loved ones went shopping at Wal-Mart and never came home, whose children and brothers and sisters went to enjoy a night out in downtown Dayton, Ohio and will never come back to them. I am dismayed by the rise of hatred and violence in our nation that our current political establishment seems to condone and perpetuate. I am sick and tired of offering my thoughts and prayers on days like today. I am sick and tired of looking young people in the eyes and promising them that God really is a God of love, despite the evil that seems to surround us. I am sick and tired of attending senseless funerals, of lighting candles in front of schools and churches and synagogues and now Wal-Marts.
We are a people called to bear witness to God’s love in the world, and that means that we must be willing to speak out against injustice and inhumanity when we see it. We are a people of prayer, who know that prayer is a powerful force, but if we fail to put our faith into action, our prayers are meaningless at the least, and we are complicit in the perpetuation of such violence in the extreme. In the last seven years, 458 people have died in the United States in incidents of mass shootings. Last year alone, 39,773 people died in the United States as the result of gun violence. This past weekend, in the city of Chicago alone 7 people were killed and another 52 people injured in acts of gun violence. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that it is time that we make our voices heard, that we take our anger to the ballot box, and that we speak God’s justice loud and clear. God is love, and does not condone violence of any sort. Any person who calls themselves Christian, and is willing to be complicit in such violence, is lying about their identity, because followers of the way of Jesus Christ cannot stand idly by as grandmothers are being shot in the checkout lane, parents are murdered using their own bodies to shield their children, and our young people are massacred enjoying a night out or while taking a math test.
Again, I don’t know what the answer to all this hatred and violence is, but I do know that we can all call and write our state and federal legislative representatives and let them know that we expect them to do their job to protect all of us from gun violence.
Fr. Jeremy is an Episcopal Priest and a Franciscan Friar. He is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida with a Bachelor's in History, and Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia with a Master of Divinity. He currently serves as Rector of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in Flossmoor, IL and is a Friar in the Community of Francis & Clare.