“Lamps Shining in a Dark Place”

We must all be struggling numbly to wrap our minds around the successive killings and the torrent of hateful racism from the White House in the last week. Instead of spending a spacious August at farmer’s markets and swimming pools, we read terrible accounts of a two-month old who lost both parents, trying to shield him from gunfire at Walmart, a six-year old who should’ve been starting first grade, killed at Gilroy, a murderer’s deranged, on-line rant that mirrored the president’s incendiary language about immigrants.

But in a letter from 2 Peter on Tuesday, we’re encouraged to attend to the bright lamps. Where are they? First, the crowds who greeted Representative Ilhan Omar, the Somali-born Democrat from Minnesota and target of the Bigot-in-Chief, on July 19 at the Minneapolis airport chanting, “Welcome Home.”

Second, the clergy at the Washington National Cathedral who denounced “the escalation of racialized rhetoric from the president.” (washingtonpost.com/…/have-we-no-decency-local-church-leaders-respond-trumps-criticism-baltimore) Bishop Mariann Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., protesting outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office Aug. 6 also rejected “a sense of false helplessness” and said, “We will look back on these days and wonder how it was that we could have been so collectively aligned to such a needless proliferation of weapons meant to take human life.”

Third, a statement from the Religious of the Sacred Heart that actually recommends specific gun control measures (rare in the abundance of vague abstractions spewing forth):

  • a total ban on assault weapons, which passed in 1994—but which Congress failed to renew in 2004—that definitely saved lives
  • measures that control the sale and use of firearms, such as universal background checks for all gun purchases
  • limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines
  • a federal law to criminalize gun trafficking

Let’ add to that age restrictions, and up the ante: Any legislator who votes against such common-sense measures, violating the express will of the majority of people they were elected to represent, should be required to clean up the carnage after the next killing.

Seems clear that the wanton destruction of life is an issue which all religious traditions, indeed all people lucky enough to be alive, should condemn—and immediately change the laws. Why can New Zealand ban assault weapons within a week of a shooting in Christchurch, and the US still procrastinates after endless carnage? (Little has changed since Columbine, over 20 years ago.) Hasn’t the NRA, which seems to be collapsing internally, and represents a small minority, dominated the will of the American people long enough? Where is the collective outrage?

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