“Sutherland Springs” – yet another name in a list that has grown too long, this time with more children and families, breaking our hearts once again.
In the Post on Monday, security expert and former infantry officer Ed Hinman gave tips for preparing yourself for a mass shooting, reminding us that this could happen anywhere. Focusing on improving your chances for survival, Hinman reminded us to have an action plan when we enter any public space: identify an escape route, consider a barricade, incapacitate an attacker, move out of the “kill zone.”
Not once does he question why these attacks are happening. In fact, his article assumes we should be preparing for them all the time, that they are inevitable.
Here at Western, we question these attacks, and we ask how God wants us to prepare for them. In the words of a good friend of our church, Jim Atwood, “We got here because Americans believe violence is effective… We trust that our guns will keep us safe.” We have forgotten as a culture that violence begets violence, and as Christians, that we trust in the one called the Prince of Peace.
God calls us to prepare differently. For our building operations, particularly on Sundays and during church events, the Session has approved having a part-time person in our building, one of whose responsibilities will be for building security. But this is not our ultimate preparation.
God calls us to prepare for a different world, according to God’s vision, the kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” God calls us to work for a world without shootings. Our action plan looks different: outlaw bump stocks (the mechanism that makes semi-automatics function like machine guns); limit the influence of gun manufacturers; consider one action in your own life that engages non-violence over violence; be part of a group like “Heeding God’s Call.” As our hearts go out to those who grieve in Texas and Nevada, may we receive strength for our commitment to God’s vision is strengthened.
Jim Atwood reminds me that our attitude towards guns is theological, not just political. It has everything to do with our relationships to God and to our neighbors. Sutherland Springs involves our faith, not just because the gunman chose a church, but because God’s heart is broken, God’s will on earth is at risk, every time a life is lost.
This Sunday at Western is our commitment Sunday, when you consider your own investment in our church’s ministry. However you invest, know that it’s part of how we prepare, not for mass shootings, but for a world without them.
Grace and peace,