I was a sophomore in high school when two teenage boys killed 13 students at Columbine High School. I still remember the collective shock that something like that could have happened. It seemed to expose something ugly and deeply disturbing about us as a people, and yet even so I remember that much of our attempts to understand focused on the two young men themselves and what possibly could have been their motive.

In the time since, there have been fourteen mass shootings at schools in our country, totaling 169 victims. These can no longer be mistaken for isolated events, with our focus directed at the assailant. This is our problem.

The largest happened in December of 2012 when a young man killed 20 children and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. I remember thinking then that surely this will be what moves us as a people, and especially our politicians, to address this problem/sickness/scourge in some meaningful way.

When nothing happened—not gun safety measures or even anything concerning “mental health,” which is lifted up by some (in my mind wrongly) as an alternative root issue—I began to wonder what could possibly move us to action? If not 20 dead kindergartners, then what?

I did not have children then. So this week is when Audrey and I joined the ranks of parents who feel this special vulnerability and this rage so acutely.

And yet, I was also reminded this week that there are many entry points to being touched by our nation’s idolatry of violence.

In our staff meeting this week during our prayer time, I asked, as I always do, who we must be mindful of as we gather and what prayers or concerns we would offer to the group. Tierra Johnson, our wonderful custodian, shared that she was carrying a great weight this week. She said she didn’t know if we had felt it in the same way, but at least in the Black community in Macon, it seems every day they learn of another young man or woman lost to gun violence. Bradley Lott, our facilities manager, shook his head. Just a few weeks ago he lost one of his friends to a drive-by shooting.

Perhaps you are like me and have noted the increase in violent crime in our community and so many communities across the country over the past two years during the pandemic. But I will confess I have not felt close to it, or especially threatened by it. At least not in the same way as the shooting in Uvalde.

Different concerns, in a sense. And yet, I believe, springing from the same fount.

So what do we do?

Wednesday night we made space to offer prayers of lament for the victims in Uvalde, as well as Buffalo and so many other shootings around the country of late, and our community here in Macon. We lifted prayers for us as a nation, of confession for our failure to address these systemic issues. We lifted prayers of hope that now would be the time for change.

I also invited further conversation about these things. There is good work being done here in Macon with violence prevention. I hope we will seek to be a part of it.

These are moral issues. They are matters of faith, and so we must move ourselves to see the ways they have to do with us.

And, as always, while talking is an important part of the process, action is the true currency. Faith without works is dead, the letter of James tells us, a truth that feels especially close at the moment.

Dead as a young man on Log Cabin Drive.

Dead as a child in Uvalde at her school desk.

God give us the strength and the courage to truly be people of new life.


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