It’s a little community college in Umpqua, Oregon. Chances are better than not that none of us had ever heard of it before this past week. Today pretty much ALL of us know. Another broken individual with a gun. Nine murdered, nine injured, and the shooter committed suicide.
It didn’t take long for the various ideological camps to swing into attack mode. The so-called “liberal” bunch calling for stricter gun control and the so-called “conservatives” calling for constitutional restraint with the 2nd amendment and the “right” to bear arms.
I heard the press conference of President Obama who seemed justifiably frustrated when he said, “This is the 15th time I’ve had to stand before you during my Presidency to respond to a mass killing. When will it stop?”
I wish I had a good answer for that. It seems as if these kinds of very public shootings—and their subsequent media frenzies that follow—will only serve to encourage the next broken person to do something similar.
We seem incapable of having a reasoned conversation about guns in this country. The statistics have been poured over time and time again to no avail.
It was with great disappointment when I read in the Tennessean this morning that our Lt. Governor, Ron Ramsey, was quoted as saying—in response to the Umpqua shooting—“I think serious Christians should consider getting handgun permits”. Ramsey said this in response to the report that the shooter allegedly asked victims whether or not they were Christians. It has been reported that he killed the ones who said “yes” and only maimed the ones who said “no”. Not sure if that story is true or not. However, I would like to say to Mr. Ramsey that I have grave doubts Jesus would EVER suggest that any of His followers should arm themselves as a response to a perceived threat from a broken person.
Which then leads me to ask—if we can’t have a conversation about the guns—if we might be ready to have, in Ramsey’s word, a “serious” conversation about the society we have created that seems to be breeding these broken ones in ever-increasing numbers. The disenfranchised, the hopeless, the dispossessed—all those who aren’t living the American Dream, but rather the American Nightmare. All those who used to belong to a thriving middle class in this country who have now been shoved into a lower, socio-economic reality who are now frustrated, angry and—worst of all—feel no hope and, therefore, also feel they have nothing to lose.
This is a time for grieving and for prayer—not for “posturing”. Remember this week the nine who wanted only to get their education and create a good life. Remember the wounded ones whose healing of mind may take longer than the healing of body. Remember the shooter—and remember his family that must live with the actions of their son, brother, cousin.
Pray for these things—THAT’S what serious Christians do.
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.