The Common Good

Leaving Fantasy Island: A Call for the Church to Respond to Gun Violence

In the 1980s television show, “Fantasy Island,” the island watchman heralded the arrival of individuals attempting to escape their reality with a call of “the plane … the plane … the plane!”

In the weeks since the Sandy Hook tragedy, I’ve spent much of my time in Washington, D.C., preaching about our moral mandate to reduce gun violence, especially in our urban neighborhoods. However, in my time in the capital, I have come to feel as though there are many arriving in Washington on the proverbial plane, escaping the realities of their hometowns, for the Fantasy Island in the beltway. 

In the Book of Proverbs, we read, “Buy the truth — don't sell it for love or money; buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight (Proverbs 23:23, The Message).”

Sadly in Washington, truth seems to be for sale; wisdom seems to be radically individualized; education seems to be mocked; and insight seems to be unable to breach the partisan walls in our nation’s capital.

Not long ago, I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled: “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?” It was a most morally repugnant display of selling of the truth.

In a hearing that attempted to focus on preventing gun violence in general, and closing loopholes in the flawed background check system in specific, senators and witnesses stoked fear of insurrection, violence, and vulnerability. They scoffed at research that problematized their assumptions. They appealed to profiteering executives for advice.  And they minimized the victims and survivors of gun violence sitting in the hearing.

I left the hearing feeling like I was on Fantasy Island – like I was living through a bad dream, full of absurdity, contradictions, and bizarre assertions.

I am convinced that to shatter these fantasies and illusions the church must faithfully and prophetically respond, shining God’s glory and truth through our witness.

The prophet Isaiah declared:

"Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God's bright glory has risen for you. The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, all people sunk in deep darkness, but God rises on you, his sunrise glory breaks over you. Nations will come to your light, kings to your sunburst brightness. Look up! Look around! Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you: Your sons coming from great distances, your daughters carried by their nannies. When you see them coming you'll smile - big smiles! Your heart will swell and, yes, burst! All those people returning by sea for the reunion, a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations! (Isaiah 60:1-6, The Message)

We need for the Church to wake up, to put our face in the sunlight, to get out of bed, to bring the glory of God to the nations.

The amazing opportunity before the church will be deeply manifested in our lived example to leave this Fantasy Island of division, deception, denial and destruction.

The Apostle Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15, NASB).”

How can we not look at the 15,000 gun-related suicides per year and not weep with the families left behind? How can we look at the 10,000 gun-related murders per year and not weep? How can we look at the 5,000 gun-related accidental deaths per year and not weep?

The plane, the plane, the plane! Can you hear the call? I can, and I’m taking a one-way ticket toward the Truth, and away from Fantasy Island.

So church, let us wake up. Let us step into the sunlight. Let us cut through the deception, and let us leave this fantasy.

Join us by calling Congress or hosting a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath on March 9-10. Learn more by visiting www.lifelinestohealing.org for information about how you can join the faith movement to heal the soul of our nation from gun violence.

Pastor Michael McBride is Lead Organizer of the Lifelines to Healing Campaign at PICO National Network.

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