Dear Friends and Colleagues in the Iowa Conference,
On Wednesday night our nation again encountered the intersection of violence and hate – a young man visited Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, and after sitting with the small congregation in Bible study for an hour, opened fire and killed 9 of those present.
This tragedy raises AGAIN important and intersecting questions about the trajectory of American society. It raises questions about our collective inability and/or unwillingness to address simmering racial inequality. It also raises questions about the health of a society where violence is such a pervasive part of our collective experience. Whether everyone in our churches will agree or not, these are FAITH questions – questions which must be addressed in Bible study and preaching.
Praise be…..there ARE places where the racial questions are more and more being addressed. This is good and must continue. I hope our churches – YOUR church – is a place where this difficult and uncomfortable conversation is happening. Assuredly this is a conversation in which God has an interest.
And then there is the question of the place of violence in the American experience and psyche. This violence runs the gamut from domestic abuse to video games….from sports to road rage…..from capital punishment to our nations increasing wont for military action far and wide (to say nothing of the near reverence with which the military is held). And of course it raises questions about the nearly sacred role of guns in American life.
I think it is safe to say that at no point in my lifetime has the gun lobby been more powerful and ascendant than it is today. We have become so inured to the novel idea that the gun should have a visible place in ordinary life that we hardly even blink when extremist legislators constantly and persistently push existing boundaries on the place of weapons in everyday life. Have you read about the latest in this aggressive push to make guns as commonplace as mobile phones? If you haven’t, then read about Texas’ new law about guns on the campuses of state universities.
I’m tired of being silent about this….because I’m pretty sure God’s heart is breaking at American foolishness in these regards.
I don’t know the specific policy answers to all these questions. I’m assuredly not advocating that deer hunters lose their rifles. But we’ve gone overboard and unless folk like you and me begin to question the morality (to say nothing of the sanity) of our collective presumptions….nothing will change. And God knows (and many of you do too) that things must change.
So please find places to talk about smarter ways for this society (of which you and I are a part) to handle race and violence and weapons. And please, look to God as you do so.
Thank you and God bless you.
UCC in Iowa