In cities across the country, we continue to erect makeshift memorials for civilians who have been gunned down by the deadly vitriol of hatred and white supremacy.
As of May 25, 2022, there had been 213 mass shootings in the United States this year. Each tragic event reinvigorates the heated debate about gun control and violence in our culture. The motives behind the shootings vary, but Buffalo, New York is reeling from the most recent racially motivated massacre, and we have yet to learn the full story behind the horrific shooting that killed 19 children and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas. As lawmakers and pundits rush to frame the issue in familiar partisan language, what is the church supposed to say? What is the church called to do?
It is important for congregational leaders to invite people to grieve. People need permission to grieve, because expressing grief may be difficult to do in this moment when so many of us are running on an empty emotional and spiritual tank. Two years of multiple pandemics, hyper-partisan politics at every level, inflation, social isolation, the war between Russia and Ukraine: In our corporate prayers and sermons, we can invite people to feel the pain of it all and keep their hearts open, so that indifference does not supplant compassionate action.
For those who feel hopeless, remind them that Scripture has a long tradition of faith-filled lament. Throughout the psalms of lament, you hear the voices of people who did not shy away from crying out to God about what they thought was unjust and evil in the world. “Arouse yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever,” says the writer of Psalm 44:23.
The church must also be willing to take action. This week’s resources call us to hold political leaders accountable for enacting policies that will bring about lasting change in our nation. As we help people heal from the trauma, we must also find the will and the courage to be part of the solution. Something has to change.
Resources to help Christian leaders respond to recent mass shootings
Q&A with Lisa L. Thompson
By Alaina Kleinbeck
Q&A with Sharon Risher
Before you go…
Even though we and the members of our congregations hold diverse views on guns, gun violence and gun control, I think we can all agree the world would be a better place if mass shootings — like the most recent ones in Buffalo and Uvalde — were unlikely to happen. Given the work that still needs to happen for meaningful change to occur, I offer this prayer as a blessing and a call to action so that we “do not get weary in well doing”:
God of life, we grieve over the women, men, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters killed in yet another mass shooting. In your grace, be profoundly present with their families and with the survivors who now suffer in body and mind. We confess that we are tired and sometimes angry. We are angry about the lives that are cut short and the family ties that are broken. We are angry because so many elected leaders debate but do not take action. We want to make these murders stop, yet we feel powerless to do so. Awaken in us the resolve to find a way even when it looks like there is no way. Move us to act and to advocate. Move us to speak out and to demand change. We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity