In our welcome area is a sign that reads “March for Our Lives,” the rallying cry of the students from Parkland High School after the mass shooting at their school. Before that, a sign lay in the corner of the welcome area with a large stuffed bear. Its words, “Silent No More,” a response to the shooting of children and teachers at Sandy Hook. These signs were placed by Claudia Ellquist, and I can hear her pleas for us to contact our legislators and demand action. But here we find ourselves once again. Eleven days ago, we saw the news with horrific accounts about a shooting, racially motivated, at the Topps grocery store in Buffalo. Two days ago, horrific news from Uvalde. And these are but two among many.
I learned about the events in Uvalde from a text sent by my sister-in-law. She wrote “I have no words.” And that is how I feel as well. I have no words for still there are many feelings. Sorrow. Sadness. Anger. Heartbreak. Frustration. Hurt. As I think about the parents, families, and friends of the victims. As I think about a community never to be the same. As I think about lawmakers void of courage to acknowledge the truth that we in this nation have a problem and that they have the power to address issues contributing to it.
Thus, I was grateful when opening my email Tuesday evening to see a message from John Indermark with words he had written in response to the shooting in Uvalde and to join in our General Minister and President’s weekly prayer yesterday. I share them here with you. Rev. Hord Owens prayer can be found at this link. John’s words are below. I also encourage you to contact our members of Congress, whose information you find here.
Slaughters of the Innocents
John Indermark May 24, 2022
The second chapter of Matthew contains a story routinely left out of the Christmas narrative. Shortly after Magi arrive, and then leave, a mass murderer enters the scene. Intent on clinging to office, King Herod ordered the slaughter of innocent children.
I have heard reasons for this story’s banishment from the season’ readings. No other record exists of this massacre, so scholars say we cannot establish its factual truth. In services with sanctuaries still decked for Christmas, we also don’t want Herod raining on our parade. And so, typically, we leave it for another day, a day that tends never to come. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those children…
I wrote very similar words to these in December of 2012, when the Innocents of Sandy Hook went slaughtered. To be sure, other mass shootings had occurred in prior years: Virginia Tech, Columbine. But in Sandy Hook, these were children. First-graders. Innocents. Murdered by – oh, I don’t know. A deranged young man. A culture infatuated with guns. An industry that had the gall to announce shortly afterward that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. You know, increase sales.
I had truly – and naively – hoped that the Slaughter of Innocents in Sandy Hook might be the turning point. Again, these were children assaulted with an assault weapon. But the key word there is naively. I may not know if Herod’s story is factual, but by God it is true. Clinging to power, abetted here by the political ammo of campaign contributions, brought to a screeching halt any hope of change after Sandy Hook. As it has ever since.
And after slaughters in El Paso and Parkland and Buffalo and elsewhere, innocent people going about their daily lives gunned down because, by gum, we have a right to any weapon of our choice: now we are back to the Slaughter of Innocent Children. In Uvalde. In a state where the governor campaigned not to be number 2 in the country for gun ownership but number 1. Congratulations – I guess you got your wish. Of course, as your lieutenant predictably tweeted, our thoughts and prayers are requested.
Unless and until pious words for gun victims become righteous actions to prevent gun violence, the Slaughter of Innocents will continue unabated. How did Hosea 8:7 put it?
They who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.
The news of mass shooting in groceries stores, churches and schools are difficult to process for adults. But you don’t have to have those conversation with your children alone. Ministry Across Generations, a ministry of Disciples Home Missions, has created resources to talk to children about trauma and tough situations.