As I prayed this afternoon for the victims of today’s mass shooting in a community college in Oregon and their families, I felt God asking me, “What are you going to do about it?”
To be sure we are called to join these beloved families in their grief. We are praying for them now and we will pray for them when we gather for worship Sunday. We will pray for them beyond next week.
There is more, however. We are also called to what the Bible calls “righteous indignation” — the kind of anger that leads to long-term action resulting in real change. As President Obama said this afternoon, “Each time we see one of these mass shootings, thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America, next week or a couple of months from now.”
No doubt the shooter had a mental illness but, as our President said, America is not the only nation that has people with mental illness. “We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months … the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common sense gun safety laws even in the face of repeated mass killings.”
What am I going to do about this? I am going to do everything possible to make All Saints Church and its friends a “faith in action community” where we address not just ‘why’ these tragedies occur, but ‘how.’ Strict gun policies can and will reduce such tragedies – along with the daily prevalence of gun violence in our communities across the nation. We cannot be numb and paralyzed. We must tirelessly work to have federal gun laws to reduce gun deaths and eliminate mass shootings while we boldly proclaim that real religion cares about the world — and that means bold, long-haul, non-partisan political action. And so we will both pray and politick for nonviolence and sensible gun laws throughout our land.
Lord have mercy upon us.
Ed Bacon is the rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena.
For more on our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, visit our website.