Once again, sadly, righteously angry, from Feb 14, 2018, this time remembering families and victims at Santa Fe High School.
Ash Wednesday evening and what we now know is that 17 young people have been murdered by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Many more are injured and possibly more will succumb. Politicians who robotically spout their “prayers and thoughts” are with victims hide behind prayer and religion while their hands take money from the NRA. Bloody hands! Bloody politics. Stop praying to end gun violence, Congresspersons. We didn’t send you to Washington to pray nor to instruct we who pray in our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples about prayer. We sent you to legislate and protect your citizens. Stop praying to end gun violence and start legislating sensible gun control laws! We who take religion seriously deny you the use of piety to hide your inept and callous disregard of our children and young people, our fellow citizens.
This past October, I preached a sermon entitled, “We Need To Talk About Gun Violence.” If you search inside this site for “guns,” you will see over a dozen entries devoted to this topic. After years and years of massacres the only conclusion we can rationally make is, our culture is depraved. The level of depravity is stupefying and it permeates every level of our culture. In this season of Lent, let us ponder this reality, seek God’s redemption in our own lives and let us work side by side with those who want to end this scourge of gun violence in our country.
I’m going to speak in theological categories about one Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA who today said, ““They don’t care about our schoolchildren, they want to make all of us less free.” There may be no more depraved person on the political stage at this moment than this so called chief executive. Let me dial us into the word “depraved.”
The great Reformed theologian, John Calvin, talks a lot about depravity in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Good liberals do not like to talk about such a term–it signifies something beyond the reach of reason and self-help, self-led enlightenment. You get an idea of this dilemma watching a series like The Sopranos where a mobster sees a psychotherapist but the therapist cannot penetrate to the problem of Anthony Soprano’s life. He’s not just depressed. He is wicked. And it is that latter term that you won’t find in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. And the terms wicked and depraved are not part of the NRA’s or President’s vocabulary for solving the gun problem. You see, oddly enough, these men share the liberal predicament and assumptions about the trustworthiness of human beings: they believe you can hand out guns like candy to people because people can be trusted with guns and not just guns, but hideous weapons of war. Wrong. And they are wrong because of the depravity of human beings. Here is something Calvin says about that: ”Such is humanity’s depravity, that a person stifles and corrupts [this] knowledge, partly by ignorance, partly by wicked design; and hence does not by means of it either glorify God as one ought, or attain to happiness…” This depravity leads to the misuse and wicked designs of events like Parkland.
Wayne LaPierre is a depraved spokesperson for a depraved organization that speaks in Orwellian lies about freedom and rights. They do so and insult parents, teachers, students and fellow citizens who are sickened by the carnage they have unleashed on our society. We must confront this wicked and depraved organization that is on the par of companies that purchased and profited off of slave ships. We must because what Wayne LaPierre’s depravity blinds him to is, our children deserve to walk into school FREE OF FEAR of being executed. Sensible gun control right now. Ban assault weapons. And by all means stop giving your money to the NRA and stop taking money from the NRA. They have the blood of children on their hands.
First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Another mass shooting in America. The time to talk is now. The time for action to remove assault rifles off of our streets is now. Men, women, children in a church–slaughtered by an alienated male (and let us not feign offense, most of these assaults are carried out by males. We need to talk about anger management with boys, starting in elementary school). Enough of the NRA lies and misleading, ideological nonsense. Guns really do kill people and assault weapons make a lone gunman an army of one. Christians, stop giving your money to the NRA and ask your congressperson to stop taking it. It is blood money.
Las Vegas now has its name listed amongst the other cities of massacres carried out by lone gunmen who, with but one weapon and a lot of ammunition, destroy a multitude of lives. I have written so often in blogs about this that I can see no point in repeating what I have said on those other occasions. Our society is very sick. We should be alarmed. We should be rational and logical about how we limit access to these hideous weapons. But we aren’t and we won’t. And at the center of that hollow problematic is a wicked disposition desperately in need of a remedy and redemption. Let me state that last sentence more clearly: the problem is deeply spiritual. The remedies are simply mechanical and legislative but there must be a will, an intention to do what must be done to safeguard our society.
As you cross the threshold to enter the world, do so with blessing on your lips. When you cross the threshold and re-enter your home, do with thanksgiving and gratitude in your heart. In the various decisions you make in a day—from how you greet someone to how you carry out your work—consider doing no harm and expanding the circle of friendship and kindness. Join a community of the Spirit so your and my life might be hallowed, not rendered hollow.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
We remember the perished and wounded in Las Vegas.
Gun violence in America is a scourge. Had an invader killed as many of our citizens, we would be demanding a declaration of war from our Congress. Instead, we hear the NRA talk about the “right to carry and conceal” and our Congress cowardly shirk before the Gun sellers. Had a virus or plague killed as many, we would demand the CDC and other government agencies coordinate a multi-pronged effort to arrest the virus and find a vaccination. Instead, we are subjected to lies and half-truths about the Second Amendment.
It is not patriotic to stand by as fellow citizens are murdered and wounded.
It is immoral, even if it be legal, to sell assault weapons.
Jesus told Peter to put up his sword. Christians, stop supporting the blood soaked NRA. Start asking your congresspersons to pass sensible laws that register and control what can be sold. Gun shop owners, stop selling assault weapons. Put away your guns. We are reaping the whirlwind.
Exactly how much mayhem does one need to witness before concluding that something is terribly wrong? Daily headlines of extrajudicial killings of African-American citizens, war, mass migrations of persons fleeing from war, terrorist attacks in the name of God and the rude slander of persons by leading presidential contenders are enough to convince us that something is off balance. Right? But the fact is, Americans polarize into extremes and some, on the left, want to naively believe in the last superstition, progress (as Christopher Lasch wrote in his book, The True and Only Heaven). Or those on the right hunker down, double down and promote more violence as the solution to violence. It is a self-defeating proposition but logic is not a strong suit of the NRApocalyptic view of the world.
Enter the biblical narrative of Advent, which is to say, the coming of the Christ in our midst. This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. How much we need to hear this account again! The world is plunged into darkness. It is more than evident to anyone willing to put down their ideological playbook that human beings are sinners in need of a Redeemer. Don’t like the word “sin?” Try this: human beings are deeply alienated and in need of reconciliation. However we state the obvious, we would do well to begin our journey to a sanctuary of peace such is offered by our church. Not to the mall, clawing our way through crowds and the push-and-shove of consumer frenzy. Not to a party. But to the sanctuary of the Holy One who would speak to us again of peace and justice and a Redeemer.
See that field of shepherds? It is night. And it is night in more ways than one, for they are poor and live in the midst of a brutal Roman occupation. Set in the night sky is a star. That is a luminous symbol of Christ’s presence in our world as the dim tides of history and the inhumane plots of wicked persons blot out the light. The Gospel of John captures that scene in another way, saying, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)
This is the First Sunday of Advent. Let us take a step toward light, toward love and peace. ~See you Sunday.