As we continue to suffer a seemingly ceaseless wave of violence and mass murder from across the country, our presbytery stands in solidarity with the grieving people of Uvalde, Texas and the approximately dozen more communities traumatized by the mass murders that were permitted to occur this last weekend alone, ranging from Philadelphia, PA, Chester, VA, Macon, GA, Hempstead, NY, Summerton, SC, Saginaw, MI, Grand Rapids, MI, Socorro, TX, Mesa, AR, and Chattanooga, TN. We add our voices to passionate calls for prayer and an immediate end to violence such as those of Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery, Los Ranchos Presbytery, Mission Presbytery, Western New York Presbytery, and others across the country to whom we are bound together in partnership.
We as a community of faith are called to respond in ways that offer authentic compassion, communal hope, and cultural transformation. We need not feel powerless to that end. Part of manifesting hope is speaking truth to power and offering a vision of a world that achieves beloved community “on earth as it is in heaven.” Like Jesus’ parable to help the bleeding victim on the Jericho Road, even as we pray, we must resist over-spiritualizing our duty to love our neighbors in ways that disconnect ourselves from the realities of our embodied selves, our responsibility to each other, and the politics that shape our communities (politics here meaning: “matters of the people”, as opposed to “partisanship” which advocates for particular elected officials).
• With our hearts, we can empathize with the fears of teachers, parents, and children in anguish of horrors that simply did not exist before this century, are notably and disproportionately of our country, and entirely of our making.
•With our mouths and ears, we can have brave conversations about what we value most in our lives, and how that shapes our responsibility to each other. We can speak truth to how we are personally affected, and listen for the values upholding our positions, so that we can find ways to live, survive, and thrive in beloved community together.
• With our minds, we can cast off the either-or thinking and false binaries that convince us there aren’t available creative solutions to gun violence take can make us safer, particularly where there are signs of widespread consensus: universal background checks, eliminating prohibitions on researching gun violence, understanding that responsible limitations on civilian access to weapons of death already exist (grenades, tanks, fully-automatic weapons), and responsible licensing for anything that any one person may use to effectively and unilaterally destroy a community. We can be more imaginative with our solutions.
• With our bodies, we can commit to march where we need to, sit with whom we must, write what we can, and breathe the breaths that center our focus. We can repent, turn around completely, a 180 degree turn from the path we have chosen.
All of this can be our prayer, not just a prayer of words, and not just a prayer by ourselves. May we pray now with everything we have and with all that we are.
We may think that a culture of violence is so deeply entrenched that it cannot change. So too, we once thought, was the “divine right” of earthly kings. May we come together as a community to identify, and resist, the powers and principalities that benefit from the current status quo of death and live into realities of hope that we have not yet imagined.
In prayer, solidarity, and hope with all those seeking change—may we count ourselves among them.
United in Christ’s service,
Rev. Ryan Landino
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy