Spirited Reflection: Gun violence – where will we stand as a community of faith?
Yet another violent massacre has happened in a school, this time in Florida.
Every week, every month, every year this happens, and on a gut level, it feels like it is happening on a more regular basis. Over the past few years, mass shootings have occurred in theaters, churches, shopping centers, airports, but above all in schools.
Again and again, students have mourned the loss of companions who did not have the same luck to survive and were hit by a bullet that ended their lives.
Again and again, students and teachers have been left with the smell of death and post-traumatic survivors guilt between the corridors.
Again and again, the news and leaders pull out the same broken record of “thoughts and prayers” with substantive action barely taken.
Yet again, a place designed for self-improvement and learning has been transformed into a cemetery and a place of broken dreams.
Thus the horror, the pain, the tears, the prayers and the desires, were the protagonists in these days. How do we as believers in the way keep from following into the same cycle of shock and outrage that gradually passes into acceptance and later to normality? Although it seems that we are getting used to these episodes of violence, this last shooting had a special component.
The shooting took place on Valentine’s Day; when beloved friends share special moments of affection and candies. However, for these students, the cry of young survivors was a dramatic goodbye to 17 members of their community.
The surviving students have begun to make a serious commitment and amidst the grief, have begun to raise their voice for change. The survivors of this shooting are now leading the campaign for gun control, making a clear request to be regulated once and for all.
“We’re here to make sure this never happens again,” is the refrain that 18-year old Emma Gonzalez carries as she works to change society.
Will these young people be the leaders of a movement that will lead us to have the necessary discussions to find answers and lead to policy improvements and renewed cultural reflection?
What I am currently seeing, reminds me in a small way to the stories I heard in my Sunday School classes. There we were taught about the story of David and Goliath, where it seemed impossible that a young sheepherder could even dare to challenge a military giant. However, with cunning, persistence, courage, and God’s help he rose up to face and defeat the giant Goliath.
Similar to the Biblical story, the voices of the youngest have shown the most courage these days in denouncing the horror of a broken society and system of violence . While it is necessary to accompany these heinous actions with prayers and good thoughts for the students who lost their friends in the massacre, this is not enough.
Personally this tragic shooting has been painful. I listened to the students’ statements in sheer horror and anguish and I know that as a Christian who advocates for peace and social justice, it is also my duty to raise my voice to denounce a culture of death; and to begin to radically follow Jesus’ message of non-violence and fullness of life.
As the text of James 2:17 says “The same is true with faith. Without actions, faith is useless. By itself, it’s as good as dead.”
Where will we stand as a community of faith?
Yenny Delgado is the World Student Christian Federation Regional Executive for North America and director for Global Advocacy and Solidarity.
She is psychologist, theologist, activist, writer, educator and a member of the Bethesda Presbyterian Church, USA.