There is little else to talk about today that has more importance than gun violence and mass murders in the U.S.A. Perhaps by the time this reaches you, there may be a new news cycle and this topic will be beyond our memory or passion. Currently, however, there is nothing else to talk about. I write this as your friend, your neighbor, a veteran, and a priest. In all of these personas, nothing is more compelling than this issue – gun violence in America, at least for now.
Please don’t put this column down or flip the page. Please stay and read and be with me in this conversation that is so important to our very souls as individuals, a community, and indeed the nation. What we do at St. Anna’s is to try to break cycles of violence when we engage with children to give them purpose and hope. It works, and so we ask, as always, for your support for Anna’s Place NOLA. It is important to our community, it values lives, and, in the end, such programs reduce community violence. More importantly, it creates good citizens. Think about that for a moment.
I want to shift and now discuss something called the “Dickey Amendment.” Stop snickering! The NRA lobbied for this amendment as a rider on the omnibus spending bill applicable to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. First inserted into the funding bill in 1996, it essentially gutted any real research on gun violence in America. It has remained a part of the funding bill every year. Many commentators have described the Amendment as a “ban” on gun violence research by the CDC. Following the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Jay Dickey, former Representative (R-Ark.) and author of the Amendment, publicly reversed his position on gun violence research and said that he should not have become the NRA’S point person to suppress valid and valuable work on gun violence.
So, what can we do? Go to this site: http://giffords.me/neworleans It is an invitation to join with Giffords.org for a Rally with Mayor Cantrell for Gun Violence Research. It is scheduled for Saturday, August 17, at 11 a.m. at the Ogden Library (925 Camp St.), will help to lobby Congress for gun violence research. Here is just a bit of what they have to say:
If we’re serious about making our country safer, we need to better understand the causes of gun violence. Funding federal research would vastly increase what is known about gun violence and support lifesaving policy reform. The House allocated $50 million to study gun violence — the first dedicated funding in 20 years. We can’t let this vital funding be gutted by Senators who care more about the gun lobby than public safety.
We can proceed to use mass murders and our own city violence as springboards for political debate. We can continue to argue about the Second Amendment in heated exchanges. We can point to Democrats or the GOP and say that it is all their fault…
We can intelligently study what several doctors at Tulane Medical School this past Sunday called “a public health crisis.” We can demand funding from our legislators for such studies. Locally, we can spend some money, yes your money, and help some of these kids who are potential victims or perpetrators of urban violence learn alternative ways of living that fulfill the potential promise of all humans through programs like Anna’s Arts.
If you think that human life has value, this is important. If you believe that we are all called to “respect the dignity of every human being”, this is important. If you believe that hatred and violence in thought, word, and deed is unacceptable, then this is important. We need to be engaged.
At this point you may ask, “Why is a pastor going on about politics?” Beyond the obvious call to care for people, one might have heard that “politics don’t belong in the pulpit.” That said, last Sunday the Gospel of Luke recounted a parable told by Jesus to his disciples and a very large crowd that was also listening.
The parable has been called “The Parable of the Foolish Farmer.” In it, the Farmer has a bumper crop. He’s on easy street. He says “I will save all that I have”, and adds that he “shall eat, drink, and be merry, for his abundance will do well for my soul.”
At that very moment God comes to him for his soul, asking him “Who now will benefit from your wealth? Not you.”
The point is that the farmer only thought of himself. Jesus told this parable as an illustration to not be seduced by wealth as a way to avoid political pressure. Yes, that was why he told the story. The disciples would be pressed by the political and social elites, and hoarding wealth as a buffer would ultimately do them no good.
When the Christian Right forsakes all of its Jesus principles in order to enjoy a great economy, and when we look the other way because we like the way the stock market is going, we betray the true Jesus. To continue to support a man like Trump in light of this is unthinkable for authentic Jesus followers.
Circling back to “politics don’t belong in the pulpit”, as noted, this bit of Gospel was about politics. I would even suggest that the crucifixion itself was a political act. Therefore, politics in the broad sense rightly belongs in the pulpit because the real source of teaching is steeped in politics and those politics, those admonishments, remain as radical today as they were in the year 33 C.E.
So, consider joining the movement to press Congress for intentional and intelligent study on the ramifications and sources of gun violence in America. We can support programs that seek to obviate racism, violence, and urban poverty like Anna’s Place NOLA. As stated, action is the praxis point of prayer. This from a pastor, priest, veteran, father, grandfather, and friend–pray, meditate, do good. Remember the greatest commandment, “Love your God. Love your neighbor.”