The adult Sunday School Class -- "Christian in a Complex World" -- spent the past year discussing contemporary social issues. Two of the hoped-for outcomes of this class were 1) a greater awareness of the complexity, enormity, and persistency of the troubling issues around us, and 2) to build trusting relationships with each other so that we could wrestle with the implications of the gospel toward these issues. I may have underestimated how much I would benefit from being a part of this circle of learners...if feeling a new weight of sorrow and dismay about the world we live in can be called a benefit.
We recently explored the topic of "Gun Violence." And then a new rash of mass shootings erupted in our nation -- in Buffalo, NY, on May 14th, and in Uvalde, TX, yesterday. In response, I feel all kinds of emotions: sadness, anger, desperation, and more. I wish I felt shock. But sadly, as the PCUSA points out, this is no new problem: "We are, as a county, armed and dangerous -- to ourselves." (Gun Violence, Gospel Values, p.4). With two mass shootings in as many weeks, it seems difficult to deny this statement. So, we grieve again. We grieve with the families, we grieve for the communities, we grieve for our whole society which is afflicted with the ripple-effect of violence and fear and tragic loss.
We grieve, and then what? The PCUSA asserts, "Ours must not be a grief that immobilizes us or is expressed only in sympathy to victims. Ours must be, instead, a godly grief that calls us to transformation." (GVGV, p. 6; 2 Cor. 7:9-10). As people who believe that God offers us a promise of a "new heaven and new earth where weeping and cries of distress are not heard" (Isaiah 65:17-20), we are called to take steps toward building a community with peace and safety for all. This is God's vision, and it should be our vision too.
I recognize, as you do, that solving the problem of gun violence will be difficult. People will diagnose the problem differently and competing solutions will be offered. As I said, the issue is complex. But the call to do something, to care deeply, and to seek a real change, seems convincing. As a starting point, you may choose to read the PCUSA point paper on this topic. I hope you will find some helpful perspective or call to action which will help you be a disciple of Jesus.
For me, I am trying to embrace the feelings of sorrow and dismay about the world we live in as a benefit. These feelings point to problems that should not be ignored. They prompt me to align myself with those who suffer, to think carefully about what is going on around me, and to look for, pray for, and work for a better community for us all.