Stay Woke …

My response to the Las Vegas shootings and how people of faith must respond to the issue of gun violence in our country.

Posted in Activism, Ending Gun Violence, God Before Guns, gun safety, gun violence, open carry guns, Pastoral Ministry, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A pulpit response to Charlottesville …

If I’d had more time between Sunday morning and the horror of Saturday in Charlottesville, I would have said some hints differently.  Here is my effort, raw and unedited.  You can see my pain on my face.  I’m wearing my aching heart on my face.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.  

Posted in Activism, Charlottesville, Christian, Ending Gun Violence, God Before Guns, Grief, gun violence, LGBTQ, Loss of Child, open carry guns, Racism, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tears and lamenting. Laughter and celebration. All while wearing orange …

18838916_824455191041370_3653423704376654261_nEarly in the week when we were nervously checking the weather for God Before Guns’ 4th annual Walk & Rally, there was a 100% chance of rain for the duration of the event.  By Friday, there was not a cloud in the sky.  Friday, June 2, 2017.  National Gun Violence Awareness Day.  And the color of that day is Orange.  

Why Orange?  We wear Orange in honor and memory of 15 year old Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed on January 29, 2013 in Chicago — an unintended victim of gang-related gunfire.  This happened just two weeks after she had the honor of performing with her school marching band at President Barack Obama’s 2nd inauguration.  AFter her death, Hadiyah’s friends decided to wear Orange to commemorate her life.  Gun violence prevention advocates continue what they started.

 

Why Orange?  Hunters wear Orange to keep themselves safe in the woods.  To call attention to themselves to say I’m not the target.

Why Orange?  Because Orange demands to be seen.

18813199_10212980255962614_3627342373720250415_nGun violence is a huge issue in our country.  In the City of Cleveland where we live.  We walk across the bridge every year so we will be seen.  And on a Friday afternoon, we attracted the attention of hundreds of drivers heading home from the workweek.  With our signs held high for all to see, drivers honked in approval and agreement.   Anyone who stopped off after work for happy hour at bars and restaurants near the Rally18767373_824455394374683_7813527557637127062_n could hear the names read of the 32 young men, women, and children who died in our county this year at the wrong end of a gun.  They could hear the passion of longtime peace activist Khalid Samad who was at every single one of these funerals.  They could hear the distinctive, poetic, and authentically powerful voices of Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word.

If18893001_10212980255522603_379640938611489635_n these hundreds of drivers and bystanders didn’t already know that gun violence is an issue, they do now.  They saw us.  In Orange.  We were difficult to ignore.  That is the point.

If you couldn’t make it this year.  If you didn’t know about us yet.  No worries.  We’ll be back next year.  But we won’t be idle until then.  Gun violence kills more than 90 people every day in our country.  There is a life and death 18835939_824455314374691_8158205082212503911_nurgency to this work.  This is an every day of the year activism.   You’ll recognize us because we’ll be the ones wearing Orange.  We invite you to join us.  We’ll even make sure you have a Orange shirt.  All you have to do is ask.  Follow our posts and calendar on Facebook, and join us for our next event.

Yes, there could be tears.  Yes, you’ll be faced 18835883_824455351041354_266995122419934135_nwith an awareness when you might rather have your head in the sand.  But you will be in the company of some very courageous people who choose to stand up and speak out, even when they are grieving the violent loss of someone dear.  That will inspire you.  You’ll be surrounded by ordinary people like us who have come to believe that we must be seen and heard in order for God’s will for justice and peace to be realized.  That will challenge you.

Imagine that world.  Then, respond.  For your children and grandchildren.   For the children who are more at risk than your own.

18880167_824455224374700_1911859853440431659_oThat’s where the celebration comes in.  When we see each other.  When we realize that we are in this together.  That we can and must do this.  Together and with God’s help.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.  

Posted in Activism, Black Lives Matter, Children, Ending Gun Violence, gun safety, gun violence, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When Mother’s Day is difficult for you ….

It is for me.   I managed to avoid preaching on Mother’s Day for several years until this year. This link will take you to the video of what I had to say.   Maybe the day would be better served if we made it about children of mothers and listened to Small Voices.

Pastor.  Parent.  Activist.

Posted in Activism, Children, Ending Gun Violence, God Before Guns, Grandparents, Grief, gun violence, LGBTQ, Loss of Child, Mothers Day, Pastoral Ministry, Racism, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to those places.

How to be people of faith who trust in and live as peacemakers in a violent world is difficult at best. I pray daily for the strength and focus I need to continue doing this work.   I’ve shared with you this week just a portion of the work that Christian mainline denominations are doing.  It’s not just Christians who are concerned activists against violence.  For more, click on this link.

From the Islamic Society of America:

The Quaran (5:23) says that the killing of one innocent person is tantamount to killing the whole human race.  This is exactly what we experience when scenes of massacres in Newtown, Boston, Aurora, and other cities in America are shown on television.  The deadening numbness that these horrific scenes have on all of us – individually and collectively – represents what this verse of the Quaran tells us.

From the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism

The Talmud teaches us that “he who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe and he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).  The carelessness with which human life is taken by guns stands in direct violation of these affirmations of our tradition.

Buddhist Perspective from Thubten Chodron, Sravasti Abbey

In accordance with avoiding all wrong, the first precept the Buddha set forth is not to harm other physically, especially to take their lives.  Harming others physically is neither an appropriate nor a satisfactory way of dealing with conflict or threat.  Clearly guns are made to do this, so their proliferation makes it easier to transgress this precept when someone’s mind is overwhelmed by fear, anger, or misery (in the case of suicide).  Harming others also harms ourselves, since we are all interrelated.  Compassion can be a powerful force to resolve conflict and prevent violence.  Compassion is not wimpy or sentimental.  A mind with compassion is strong and can deal with difficult situations effectively because it isn’t clouded with fear and anger.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read what has been on my heart and mind during Advent Peace Week.  I close our time together with this prayer:

O Lord,

               Open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;

               Open my ears that I may hear their cries;

               Open my heart so that they need not be without succor:

Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong.

Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.

Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,

And use me to bring them to those places.

And so open my eyes and my ears

That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.  Amen.

Alan Paton, Life Prayers: Affirmations to Celebrate

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Today’s prayer of non-violence

An early influence for us in the work we do was Rev. James Atwood, a retired Presbyterian pastor.  Rev. Atwood, an avid hunter and gun owner, devoted thirty-six years as a Presbyterian pastor to fighting against the easy access to firearms, after a gun ended the life of one of his dear friends.  His book, America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, was important to us when we first began this work.  Rev. Atwood says that preventing gun violence is a spiritual mandate from God, as ..

  • Each of us is created in the image of God.
  • Each of us is a child of God
  • Each of us is a brother or sister in God’s family.
  • Each of us is a neighbor whom we are commanded to love as we love ourselves.
  • The New Testament declares that our very bodies are “the temples of the Living God.”
  • We cannot love our neighbor, brother/sister, without caring deeply about that which hurts of kills them.

Prayer:  Gracious and merciful God.  We pray for the wisdom, compassion, and mercy to live our lives in the love and example of Jesus to:

Strive for peace within ourselves and to be peacemakers in our daily life;

Accept suffering in the struggle for justice rather than acting it.

Refuse to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;

Persevere in nonviolence of tongue and heart;

Live conscientiously and simply so that we do not deprive others of the means to live.

We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Adopted from Pax Christi, USA, “Renewal of the Vow of Nonviolence”

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Turning swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks …

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.  (Micah 4:3)

Today’s words come from Dr. Walter Brueggeman (From The collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann 2011) who says this about the Prophet Micah’s words:

“The image is of people willingly dismantling their weapons, not only dismantling but transforming them into useful tools of agricultural productivity.  The abandonment of weapons is not forced, but is done willingly.  And if done willingly, the poem surely suggests that in times to come there will be enough of trust, effective communication, and solidarity that old enemies can be a new community together.

Thus the key mark of God’s future is disarmament, the transformation of the economy from a war footing to an economy of food production.  Such disarmament means, every time, the capacity to yield one’s fear and aggressiveness and ambition and anxiety to a larger assurance, a guarantee that we need not position ourselves for hostility because our hostility is contained in the larger intention of God for peace, justice, and well-being.”

For today, think on the next words from the Prophet Micah.  They are not as familiar, but they describe a world for which we must pray:

they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid… (Micah 4:4)

 

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