“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then,they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” - Pastor Martin Niemoller
The other evening I was watching a national nightly news program at home and the top five stories involved the shooting of guns and the slaughtering of innocents - students, seniors, armed forces members, religious groups and political figures. Further, some of those horrific reports were complicated by the alleged mental health issue of the shooter. Separately either one of these controversial topics could fill volumes in the public library, could absorb days at a conference and hours on a newscast. They would be hotly and rigorously debated and discussed. But combining them together… wow! That conversation seems akin to stepping onto the third rail of the subway train.
Nevertheless, we must! So - when and where and how do we as citizens of this great republic begin to have honest, open, difficult and fact based conversations about what appears to be a growing trend within North America about guns? This is not something we should relegate to politicians to handle. Let us not forget that politicians represent us and our needs. If we wholeheartedly enter this seemingly “sacred” and “fragile” space, remain until we reach agreed upon outcomes, we will get the job done. Perhaps not overnight. But complete the task, we can. And no, I’m not being a “Pollyanna”. No superhero will deliver us from this fate. I am being pragmatic: as the time has come for us to act, here and now.
So, can we initiate our discussion under the header of gun control and dare to debate separately the second amendment, semi-automatic weapons, gun registry, local law enforcement capacity and illegal gun purchases to name just a few? How about we debate violence in the media and how it permeates American culture in music, movies, video games, magazines, advertisements, and how media violence desensitizes us?
Perhaps we begin the conversation with mental illness? Unfortunately, mental illness still carries a stigma in our society. Some people associate feelings of shame, blame, guilt, and fear to this disease despite it’s being a genetic condition in most cases. That being the circumstance, why is it that some of us don’t process it in the same way as we do cancer, hypertension, sickle cell, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease or other treatable illnesses?
Regardless of which topic we start off with, the bottom line is that we arrange to have it. I have no doubt that there are schools, religious buildings, libraries, civic buildings, homes where these grass roots efforts can begin. It’s my, your, our responsibility to get a handle on this problem. Otherwise, what happens to be five reports on the evening news tonight may become fifteen reports or fifty reports in the not too distant future. Our destiny is ours to co-create. So at a minimum, let’s do it for the children who will yet inherit this great country. They are depending on us.
The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.