Michael Brown. Sandy Hook. Trayvon Martin. Aurora. Columbine.
Within the last decade, the narrative of children and teenagers being killed by gun violence has become an all-too-familiar narrative in the American public sphere. In a recent report compiled by The Brady Campaign, statistics revealed that in 2011 alone, 19,403 children were shot and 2,703 children and teenagers lost their lives to guns.
That’s seven of America’s youth under the age of 20 killed every day.
In the book of Matthew, the disciples ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus calls a child to join the group.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” he answers.
If as Christians, children represent God’s creation in its most pure and innocent form, why is it that as Americans, we continue to let children die preventable deaths from gun violence? Gun control policies are a difficult discourse for the American public. Yet one thing we can all agree on is that children should not be killed.
Of the 2,703 children killed in 2011, 61 percent were homicides, 32 percent were suicides and 5 percent were unintentional shooting. These statistics propel gun-related deaths to the number two leading cause of death for youth in America.
I grew up in the state of Colorado. It’s known for cowboys, mountains, skiing, smoking pot, the Broncos, but also — mass school shootings. Since the recent shooting at Seattle Pacific University my connection to mass murder and school shootings has become all too familiar.
My younger brother is a freshman at Seattle Pacific University where a 26-year-old with a shotgun recently killed one and injured three others in the latest school shooting. My brother is finishing up his first year of school as a music major before moving to Santa Cruz in the summer to work as Christian summer camp counselor. While untouched by the damage to the shooter, another young man on the same dorm floor as him, Paul Lee, was not so fortunate. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead (three other wounded victims survived). Though the body count was considerably less than recent events at Santa Barbara, its timing mirrors the increasing normality with which such shootings are now taking place. Sadly, a tragedy such as this merely becomes fodder for political bickering and ideological advancement.
My brother and I grew up with guns in the town of Bailey, Colo. Bailey is a strange mixture of rednecks, conservative Christians, new age folks, commuters, hippies, outdoor enthusiasts, and undeniably proud gun owners. My dad was a hunter and kept a rifle beneath his bed, which was made out of Aspen trees he chopped, stripped, and stained himself. Every October he would take a week off work and go into the mountains with some friends to go hunt.
Worshippers in Aurora, Colo., rocked by the July 20 mass shooting flocked to church Sunday, seeking solace within their faith communities.
"People are saying that if there's a day to go to church, this is it," said Allie McNider, associate pastor at Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church, about a mile from the movie theater where police say James Holmes opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58 more. "They're looking for a sense of something bigger than themselves."
Meanwhile, in Rancho Penasquitos, Calif., a San Diego suburb and the hometown of alleged shooter James Holmes, Pastor Greg Hoffmann prayed with his congregation at Penasquitos Lutheran Church, where the Holmes family are members.
Hoffman spoke of the pain and shock the church community was feeling. He preached on the verse from Mark in which Jesus tells his disciples to "come with me to a quiet place."
It's a sad day in Colorado. Our collective hearts hurt.
I didn't want to blog today. Blogging in response to everything that happens in the news can come across as knee-jerk, reactionary, self-serving, and exploitive. We're called to "pray without ceasing" — not to blog without ceasing. Sometimes reverent silence is what is needed.
The staff at Sojourners contacted me and invited me to write something in response to what just happened. So, I'm not writing a blog. I'm providing a Public Service Announcement.