From Alex’s Study
Dear Second Church Family - May 2013
When I was serving in my first congregation - a county seat town in upstate South Carolina – one of the “saints” of the church, and a widow, made a deep impression on me. This woman dressed with class. She carried herself with a quiet, grace-filled faithfulness. She was in worship every Sunday and a leader in the women’s ministry. She offered her gracious spirit as a hostess around the church.
This woman also lived alone in a small house in the country, down a dirt driveway from the paved road. Many of us worried about that. But she confirmed that she was not afraid, that she loved her quiet life away from town. Whenever anyone pressed her about living alone, she would tell a certain story, usually with a twinkle in her eye, about when someone came prowling near her house one night. On that evening, she simply raised up the window and fired a shot into the air from the pistol she kept inside. “I don’t ever have any trouble out where I live.”
A gracious, kind woman with a pistol beside her bed would not be my best idea about safety and life for our society. But that is not the real problem either. Nor is the problem the Second Amendment, which states - A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No, it seems the problem arises when a) the quick and easy accessibility of guns gets combined with b) anger and/or mental illness and c) when our culture celebrates such violence in movies and video games. The end result within our culture is increasing gun deaths which bring shame and heartache across the country.
We are better than this. God calls us to be better than this.
Most of you know something of my experience in my second pastorate in Blacksburg, when a deranged student killed 32 people, wounded 23, and then killed himself on the campus of VT. That day changed my life and ministry in many ways.
Gun violence for me is not a theoretical issue.
Sadly, there have been many other mass shootings – on other campuses, in movie houses and public places, and in an elementary school. Moreover, in various places around our nation, numbers of individuals greater than the number killed at VT die every day because of gun violence.
So as our culture seems increasingly stressed about guns and gun violence, this seems to be something that needs our faithful attention.
What does it mean to follow Jesus in a world of increasing gun violence?
How can we talk about this issue in ways that are productive, in ways that move beyond the divisive rhetoric on this subject?
How do we balance the rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution with the rights to have “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and also work for God’s purposes?
Does the Bible and our faith tradition have a word for us?
Does the church have an important role in our city and our society, especially as our nation struggles with this issue?
On four Thursday evenings in May (May 2, 9, 16, 23) at 7:00pm, my colleague and friend at Centenary United Methodist Church will join me as we lead a class: TWO PASTORS and FAITHFUL CONVERSATIONS on GUN VIOLENCE. See the details in this Newsletter and come and share in this discussion. Our goal is to listen and learn and discern how God might be calling us and using us in these days. Blessings to you.