Stop hiding behind your thoughts and prayers and demand an end to gun violence

I don’t write about my religion. I don’t talk about my spiritual beliefs very much. My hope is that people can see and feel in my words and actions the love that I credit to my personal faith in God. (P.S. I know that I fail at this sometimes. No need to point this out, thanks.)

But here’s the thing. I, like so many people around the world, have been praying, and thinking, and sending positive vibes to victims and families and leaders all over the world for years. San Bernardino, Savannah, and Colorado Springs are only the latest tragedies to be broadcast. (There are hundreds more that we never really hear about.)

It’s clear that prayer isn’t enough. Prayer is only a first step. And we should be beyond that first step now. But we aren't.

I think my God and the other spirits are probably sitting in their respective realms saying, “Guys, I’ve been telling you for decades that this is in your hands. You have to help me out here.”

You see, it’s been a while since the Christian God has appeared in person to take matters into his own hands. As far as I can tell, that’s what He gave us free will to do. He wants us to choose to do good, and to use our brains and god-given talents to make change in this world.

The God of the Bible is prone to anger and destruction. And while Jesus was a more peaceful incarnation of his father, even he got pissed when people trotted out religion for their own advancement. I think it’s ok if we have a little righteous anger right now.

And I am angry. I’m angry at people with a stage and an audience to do something who use that power to simply say they are praying. I want them to show me what their faith compels them to do. I want to see them do something. Enough pretty words. (And for some, I’ve really had enough of the really, truly ugly words.)

So instead of dressing ourselves up in grief and standing in a public place to say prayers, we should be quietly asking God, “What can I do?”

And then, and here’s the important part, do it.

For police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, social workers, and counselors, what they can do in the face of tragedy is clear. I pray for their strength, and that they conduct their work in a mindful and ethical way. (And when they don't, I will demand that they be accountable for that.) There are also things that they can do to prevent gun violence, but they need the tools and resources to do them. They need legislators to help them with that.

For our leaders, doing something seems to be such a difficult thing, but it shouldn’t be. It’s their job.

But maybe for most citizens knowing how they can take action is less clear. Maybe it means making a donation, maybe it means volunteering, maybe it means protesting, maybe it means holding someone’s hand.

At the very least, it means letting your elected official know that we expect them to do something. And when it comes to elections, it means taking advantage of the blessing of living in a democracy and voting. Vote, damn it! That is the actual least that we can do.

Here's a link to an easy, step-by-step way to demand that your elected official take action to end gun violence. And it doesn't mean stripping anyone of any rights that they have. It means implementing common sense controls to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Consider this article by Nicholas Kristof and in particular this quote that he points to by Ronald Reagan:

For similar reasons, Ronald Reagan, hailed by Republicans in every other context, favored gun regulations, including mandatory waiting periods for purchases.

“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns,”Reagan wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 1991 backing gun restrictions. “This level of violence must be stopped.”

He added that if tighter gun regulations “were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

Pray for victims and families, of course. Pray for peace, certainly. Pray for our leaders.

But also be the hands and feet and voice that help make change. Do something proactive to stop gun violence. Demand that people who sit in power take action.

Thank you for reading and for listening to my thoughts today, and I hope you'll write to your legislator. Life is tough, and this is one situation that won't be helped with any amount of chocolate. I'll be back to writing about my perspectives and observations about being a Southerner in Chicago next time. I hope you'll continue to read!

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