How long, O LORD? will you forget me for ever? *
how long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,
and grief in my heart, day after day? *
how long shall my enemy triumph over me?
Look upon me and answer me, O LORD my God; *
give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," *
and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
How long indeed? I write again today in the aftermath of another senseless shooting - 9 college students dead plus the shooter. Roseburg, Oregon this time - a small town not unlike where I live. There have been 74 mass shootings at schools since December 14, 2012 when Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT killing 20 children and 6 adults. Mass shootings have become so routine, I am beginning to forget all the places - Aurora CO, Isla Vista CA, Santee CA, Blacksburg VA, Fort Hood TX, Carson City NV, Seal Beach CA, Charleston SC ... and the list goes on.
We have turned into a country which is worshiping a new Baal - guns, the NRA and the 2nd Amendment. And not the 2nd Amendment as originally intended by our Founding Fathers, but a radical distortion of the original intent which has made it easy for guns to get into the hands of violent and/or mentally fragile people. This is idolatry and part of what Presiding Bishop elect Michael Curry calls the "Unholy Trinity" - poverty, racism and guns.
Our Bible study group at Grace Church is working through the Book of Revelation. Why? Because the regulars in our Bible study group said they found Revelation to be the most frightening book in the Bible. We are reading this together and learning that far from frightening, Revelation is a book of great promise and hope. It is also an indictment against the empires of this world. In John of Patmos' case, this was Rome (which he disguises by calling it Babylon). Revelation says that the powers of this world which corrupt and destroy God's people and creation are doomed and the reign of the Lamb of God has the last word. Our allegiance as Christians, therefore, is not to any power of this world, but to Christ alone.
I am a Christian first. My allegiance to country falls behind that. At times, my faith supports what the government by the people does. At other times, I stand in opposition to the United States of America. I believe my faith calls me to respect the dignity of every human being - part of that is respecting the right of others to live in peace without fear of gun violence destroying their lives. The unfettered and poorly regulated access to guns must stop.
I know I will offend the NRA apologists and those who support the more recent distortions of the 2nd Amendment with my words. If my words offend you, I ask why you are not offended by dead bodies bleeding on a church floor, a theater floor, or a classroom floor? How many children are you willing to stand by and see slaughtered to protect unfettered access to firearms? How many police officers do you want to see shot because they are outgunned on our own streets by inconsistent gun regulations?
Christians cannot bow down to worship this Baal anymore and silence is complicity. As a priest, I deal with the aftermath of violence - I and my fellow clergy are tired of picking up the fragments of what's left when the bullets stop flying. If our prayers do not lead us to action, they are empty and vain. Reasonable, consistent gun regulations including background checks and the ability to remove firearms from those who have proven by their actions to be mentally unstable or violent is no threat to responsible gun ownership. We don't need more prayers and sympathy - we need legislation and we need it now.