Happy Monday, Friends!
There are certain moments in our lives that become burned in our memories. We remember where we were, what we were doing, and what we were thinking when we found out about some event or situation. On the afternoon of April 20, 1999, I was in my grandmother’s car riding home from school; I was in the fifth grade. That day in Littleton, CO, two students had gone to Columbine High School and perpetrated an act of violence which became synonymous with domestic terrorism, the debate over gun control, school safety, and the psychological pressures high school students routinely suffered. My generation became the “Columbine generation.” Our parents taught us never to sarcastically say “I want to kill you” and our schools taught us the signs to watch out for in our friends that might signal depression, suicidal ideation, or worse.
Last Tuesday, 22 people were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, including 19 students between the ages of seven and 10, two teachers, and the shooter himself. An additional 18 people, including the shooter’s own grandmother, were injured. In 1999, I was surprised and scared by Columbine; last week I was mad. Mad that another terrorist took a gun to a school and shot people. Mad that another terrorist killed children. Mad that this was the 27th school shooting in the United States in 2022 and the 212th mass shooting in 2022 (the 213th was the next day in Pennsylvania). Mad that the response from politicians was nothing but platitudes, off-handed thoughts, and empty prayers.
As people of faith our default reaction to tragic news which we cannot affect ourselves is to offer “thoughts and prayers.” Unfortunately, “thoughts and prayers” have become the throwaway response by politicians and others who want to seem empathetic but have no intention or desire to take the necessary steps to change the reality. It is easy to put everyone’s “thoughts and prayers” into a bin of worthless words. I believe in the power of prayer and in the ability of our prayers to create change in the world, but there is a difference between words and prayers. A prayer is an intention with action. Prayers become meaningful when they are put into practice. Praying that gun violence ends is an intention; praying that gun violence ends and joining a group working towards reducing gun violence is an action.
Another quote we hear at times like these* is from Isaiah 2:4: “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks” (NRSV). The image of converting a sword, spear, gun, or other deadly weapon into an instrument of agriculture and peace is compelling. In 2014, in a profound witness against gun violence, Middle Collegiate Church literally turned a gun into a farm tool during their service (you can watch the video below). Yes, we should beat our swords into ploughshares, but quoting Isaiah is far from action. We must actually beat the sword into a ploughshare. We must, minimally, tighten our gun control laws. We must, if we really want things to change, collect and meltdown every gun, sword, bomb, and cannon until such items are only memories.
What are your prayers? How have you put those prayers into action? How can you better act on your prayers?
Let us pray: God, creator of peace and justice, beat our stubborn hearts until they no long bend towards violence, destruction, and death. Grant us the grace to be witnesses against violence in our schools and our communities. We ask this in the name of your Son who died due to violence. Amen.
Blessings, friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
*I’m also mad that “times like these” have become so normal that we know what’s going to happen and what’s going to be said before it happens.