Three Ways to Overcome Gun Violence in the United States a Biblical response that reaches beyond prayers & platitudes

The enemy roars at the sound of bullets leaving the guns of our children. He celebrates the division that follows. He cheers the disunity in the universal Church. He scoffs at right wing, gun-toting leadership and mocks left-side liberals stomping their feet to try to get their way. He laughs at us as we hold our ground – our side – yet, try to figure out how to make the earth stop shaking beneath our feet. He sees his own success as we tell our children how to be safe at school, as we live our lives trembling in fear or in anger at each other.

All the while, we whisper prayers that float into the sky as if our God is a genie, moving on our wishes when instead, He calls us to action. Still parents woke up this morning to the empty beds of their kids. Children, teens, young adults have learned that to attend school is to no longer be secure. Safety, a basic psychological need that forms the foundation of cognitive existence, has been ripped away. While at the same time, we stare into the stars a-gasp, wondering how mental illness has become an un-effectually-treated epidemic. We hear pastors and leaders in the Church regarding mental illness as spiritual starvation, shrugging off its validity; and, we close our ears to the noise of experts and hurting sons and daughters who have cried out for mental health reform, to the point that the only thing we hear is gunfire and children screaming.

act justly
–&–
love mercy
–&–
walk humbly with your God

Believers, moral people, every human: Pay close attention to the words. These three things speak of personal responsibility, and they are not mutually exclusive. The word Micah uses in the scripture is harsh; it’s transliterated to “demand.” God demands.  The inclusivity of their sentence structure means we can’t even try to “act justly” without “loving mercy.” It is impossible to “walk humbly” with God and harbor hate or refuse justice. They are the only legs on a three-legged table; remove one, and we fall. To “act justly” should be to rephrase that which is elementary morality: the sum duty to each human to be true and just to one another, to oppress none, to act in equity. Yet, we read social media posts shouting from every direction and both sides wield the legs of the three-legged morality table like weapons attempting to prove our position is the “right” one. We fail to see that our table has fallen, and so have we.

  • One article in the Washington Post attempts to negotiate how death numbers at school shootings are counted; in summary, it presents a position that is to say school shootings in America isn’t as big of a problem as we’re making it out to be.
  • A popular Facebook post cited the white privilege that happens in mass shooting suspect detainment (which is real), but the article calls the shooter, “a demon” and has comments that say, “Hell no! Fry his autistic ass.”
  • There are actors like Joy Behar and articles that tell us we’re crazy for praying and that listening for an answer is certifiably insane; and, there are thousands of tweets and hashtags like #PrayforParkland #ParklandStrong with hundreds of thousands of tweets and comments from fed-up people who are tired of platitudes and pools of blood.

act justly
–&–
love mercy
–&–
walk humbly with your God

The actual insanity is not our prayers, but “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

1. Mass shooting
2. Thoughts and prayers
3. Social media debates
4. Everyone forgets
5. Congress does nothing
6. Everything goes quiet
1. Mass shooting
2. Thoughts and prayers
3. Social media debates…

You get the point.

NY Times columnist, Charles Blow put it this way:

How this is going to go:
America: Outrage, sadness
NRA: Complete silence
NRA supporter in DC: Thoughts and prayers
WH: Statement of grief, praise 1st responders
Media: Lamentations, coverage of funerals, candlelight vigils
Adds up to: Nothing change

We’re in a rinse and repeat cycle that includes child sacrifice as payment for maintaining the status quo of the washing(ton) machine. If that statement caught you off guard, good; the result we’re experiencing is exactly what happens when we mistake silence for spirituality, when we stay quiet and mind our own business, when we look the other way, when we refuse to “act justly.”

Three years ago, Dan Hodges, a British Journalist, wrote this post on Twitter as he reflected on the Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 students dead at an elementary school in Connecticut. He said, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

act justly
–&–
love mercy
–&–
walk humbly with your God.

Act justly, acknowledge that we have a gun violence epidemic.

The United States has 270 million guns and had 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. There are over 33,000 gun-related deaths annually in the US. (NY Times)

Act justly, stop the cycle.

Advocating for gun safety through legislation, background checks, barring gun purchases for those under treatment for mental illness or those who are on the Federal no-fly or watch list. 93% of Americans agree on this, even though some try to convince us that we don’t on the basis of fear, propaganda, and rhetoric by using language like “gun control,” “violation of rights,” by calling anyone who doesn’t carte blanche oppose gun legislation an enemy of freedom.

Act justly, speak up right where you are.

We’ve conditioned ourselves not interfere, to mind our own business. We say, “It’s just a phase,” “It’s not our place to judge,” and we keep moving eyes wide shut. Whereas, it is the sum of our duty as human beings to act justly: to care for one another, to be aware, to inspire courage. Be the one who seeks intervention. Be the one who follows up to conclusion. Be bold in speaking up. 

Love Mercy, abandon camps.

There’s a pro-gun camp, a no-gun camp, a camp that uses mental illness as a scapegoat, a camp says that blames the lack of gun control, a camp that sends “thoughts and prayers,” the shooter-got -special-treatment-because-he’s-white camp, and a camp that says, “All that Jesus stuff is crazy.” Mercy means loving one of another right where we are. Stop the hurtful Facebook posts. It’s not that your camp’s position is not valid, just be kind. Justice cannot exist without mercy. Cease and desist on the “fry the bastard” rhetoric. That’s not where my Jesus stands. He stands on the side mercy.

Love Mercy, advocate for mental health care reform.

It’s not one way or the other. We don’t have to pick gun laws or mental health care “made him do it.” A free nation should be able to protect the lives of its people in both ways through policy, legislation, and funding.

Love Mercy, mourn.

Lament. Weep for our kids. Jesus wept. He did so both as our example and because He felt the pain of His people who had experienced loss. Mourning is heavy and it is necessary. Pray in intercession for justice and mercy. Mourning in its sincerest burden should move us to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.

Love Mercy, consider what pro-life means.

Pro-life should not just be an evangelical position for babies in utero. I heard a guy say today, “May be if we renamed schools to ‘womb,’ Christians would stand up for gun safety.” It broke me, friends. Pro-life means pro-all-life: pro-Muslim life, pro-refugee life, pro-mass shooter life, pro-senior lives, pro-quality of life. Please, pray. Please stand for what you know is right. All people deserve the right to live and to be safe.

Walk humbly and away from platform and position.

I know we think of gun rights as individualism may be even as unalienable, but in prayer and with a broken and mourning heart – there is no national or constitutional right, no amendment that I would not reconsider if it were associated with 33,000 deaths per year. No political position, no maintenance of the status quo, nothing is worth this. In humility, I back away from any platform and position, and submit humbly before God. “Search me, O God and know my heart.” (Psalm 139:23)

Walk humbly with your God.

Nothing good happens apart from Him. “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3 NIV) God is not interested in moving us from one broken political continuum to the next. He’s interested in our agreement and in our lives. It’s in knowing Him that our hearts are unified. It’s in prayer and studying His Word that can even begin to understand His love for us. He sent His Son, not as a political leader with a platform or a warrior leading a military. His clothes were not drenched in His enemies blood, but His own. Jesus was unwilling to kill, but instead willing to die for the people He loved; He is the Victor over violence.

act justly
–&–
love mercy
–&–
walk humbly with your God.

While the enemy shakes the very ground on which we stand, our God is unshakeable. He is both sovereign and personal. His sovereignty does not mean suffering ceases to exist. Instead, we are called to pro-actively suffer with those that hurt. It’s our willingness to suffer that both reveals injustice. ‘It’s in our willingness to lose our careers, reputations, our churches, and even our lives’ for God’s kingdom of justice and mercy’ that separates Jesus followers from the rest. (McKenna)

As Micah moved in 6:8 from the natural human duty of justice to inward revealing of heart-level intentions, and finally to the Source of all things good, so must we collectively and individually. It is about prayer; but it’s not about platitudes. It’s about a suffering that calls us to action, a duty, a personal responsibility to: act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God – that’s His requirement, that’s how we truly love Him and those around us. That’s how we get things to change.

 

________________

Please, pray with me:

Father, hear our prayers. We mourn. We weep. The pain and the burden is too great to bear, so we lay it at Your feet. Comforter, console Your hurting sons and daughters in Florida, draw them close to You. Father, forgive our impotence and silence. Help us break the cycle. Search our hearts and inspire in us a new boldness to advocate, to intervene, to speak up, to follow through in our homes, in our schools, in our neighborhoods. Open our eyes to warning signs and inspire our hearts to action. Search us and reveal anything that keeps us from walking humbly with You, that keeps us from acting justly or from loving mercy. Make us upright again. Heal our nation. Impress into the hearts of our nation’s leadership the need for legislation, the need for change. Give them the clarity to know what that needs to look like. Reshape the normal. Redefine the standard. We’ve allowed it to become that which is not tolerable and our children are dying because of it. Break our hearts again no matter how hard they might be. Pry them open by any means necessary. Continue to stir us, Father. Don’t let this pain, this outrage, this stirring in us die until we do something. Show us what to do. Revive Your Church. Draw us to Your heart and unify us there. In Jesus’ Holy and Powerful Name, Amen.

Dawn Sutherland

misfit-writer-speaker & social-justice-wannabe. I wander, but I'm not lost. I love Jesus not religion. My heart's cry is for every person to feel an empowered sense that they belong, and that we get to face the world wild and equipped with the love and hope of Jesus. I live in Suffolk, Virginia with my amazing husband, Louis and have four awesome kids: Katie, Ronnie, Selah, and Sami. I am also a passionate fitness instructor at the Suffolk YMCA. Subscribe to the blog, and stay tuned in for the book YOU BELONG to be published soon, which will talk about our desire as women to "fit in" and how we can harness that to change the world!