As we continue to mourn and yell and weep in the aftermath of yet another school terrorist shooting, we are divided over what to do. For some, banning guns is the answer. For others, banning assault-style weapons would at least minimize the mayhem. For still others, expressing thoughts and prayers is as much as they feel able to do. I want to consider the third response today; please bear with me. To be clear: I have no issue with thoughts and prayers. I write a thought 5 days a week and pray at least 5 times a day. I express my condolences regularly when people lose loved ones or go through tragedies, and we have an ever-expanding prayer list at Calvary that we lift up to God every Sunday. I pray for many things, but these last 10 years I seem to be praying about our national obsession with guns and “freedom” and children dying way more than I ever did before. My thoughts and prayers seem to be constant, with little change happening because of them.
There are some who are now getting angry at those who only offer thoughts and prayers when, it seems to many of us, they could do so much more. I am with them in their anger, in spite of my personal commitment to thinking and praying. Why? It is a simple Christian principle laid out in the Letter of James (an amazing book of the Christian Scriptures). In chapter 1, we read, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” Chapter 2 goes directly to the point; “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.“
We have elected people to create laws that protect us, yet too many of those lawmakers are beholden to gun manufacturers and Assault-style weapon addicts. Many of these elected officials claim to be Christians; yet they watch as innocent people die at the hands of home-grown terrorists. They say, “My thoughts and prayers are with you” yet refuse to create common sense laws that would minimize the death and destruction. The number one cause of death for children in America is being shot to death. Shot. To. Death. Saying “thoughts and prayers” and doing nothing to solve the problem is hypocrisy, pure and simple. I don’t want to take people’s guns away, nor do I want to own a gun. I do want to clamp down on Rambo wanna-be’s who seem to be making up for some inadequacy by carrying around weapons that look like they belong on the battlefield. I do want red flag laws in every state, not just those run by Democrats. I do want testing and training and universal background checks and proof of sanity for those who purchase guns. I don’t want more dead children and teachers and custodians and police.
To rewrite James: what good is it to offer thoughts and prayers when you might be able to keep our children alive? So thoughts and prayers by themselves, if they have no actions, are dead. Like those 3 9-year-olds in Nashville – and those 20 children in Newtown – and the 12 in Columbine – and….
Prayer – We are weary of praying to You and expecting this insanity to stop, God of children and adults and all of creation. We are weary of people who can change things not doing their jobs. Give us the courage to make them change – to turn our thoughts and prayers into action. And don’t forgive us if we don’t do something – we deserve our fate if we sit by idly. Amen.