Category Archives: gun violence

Freedom (see red link below)

It has been an odd few days in time for this pilgrim.
One day this week I was reading a speech given by Congressman Joe Kennedy at “The Summit,” the annual gathering called by Sojourners magazine of faith and justice leaders in our country.  It was a magnificent speech reminding the faith community that it is our lifes’ vocations to pursue justice for all, especially the marginalized and forgotten, the poor and hungry, the persecuted and lost.  In the midst of this, he offered a quote from Augustine of Hippo, the great 4th Century theologian who contributes greatly to the identity of Western Christianity, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”  These words ring true, but for the life of me I could not find validation that they are actually words of Augustine (I chase more rabbits trying to find primary sources of important quotes).  In my searching, I came across another quote attributed to Augustine but equally untraceable, “Hope has two beautiful daughters and their names are Anger and Courage.  Anger at the way things are and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”  I very much appreciate both of these quotes and will continue to seek their origins.  Still, I will attribute them to Augustine, with qualification, as many have, and will use them to challenge us to the baptismal living to which we are called and the life vocations Congressman Kennedy suggests.
I also remembered this week we are remembering the 100th anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Europe to aid the allies in the Great War.  I am reminded of the reality of this war (WW1) every time I walk through the blue hall at St. Paul’s and see the memorial plaque on the wall with the names of 99 parishioners who served, including four who died and six women, in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe.  The inscription on the plaque reads, “For His name’s sake they went forward that peace and happiness, truth and justice might be established among all nations.”   The peculiarities of wars’ causes, the casus belli, perplex me.  And, though the aforementioned Augustine provided a solution to a war approved by Christianity–that is “just war” ( jus bellum justum ), I remained unconvinced as a person of faith and moral agency that I will ever understand war as other than tragic and reflective of our unwillingness to seek fully God’s vision of the Kingdom. Consequently, for me, war is forever a sign of our obdurate hearts and implacable moral blindness.  However, I do not imagine the soldier bears the burden of these stains on human history.  Rather, in almost every instance, it is that small cabal of powerful and privileged, considering only minimally the human consequences of war, who bear the responsibility, instead seeking more privilege and power to feed their insatiable appetites for both.  Thus, I lament the human pains and sorrows inflicted by war as well as its insult to the human spirit.  It is here I embrace Hope’s two daughters and pledge to never disavow my obligation to stand for the common person, the common soldier, our common humanity, and resist war in every instance.
I was disheartened this week by an advertisement published by the NRA.  There is no explanation for their intent or purpose in this ad other than to incite violence and hate toward Americans who dare to disagree with them.  The venom with which this ad creates a ubiquitous “enemy” to those who are the NRA is frightening and contrary to everything America represents since Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, an American patriot, suggested e pluribus unum ( out of many, one) be the motto on the seal for the Colonial Congress in 1776.  The advertisement ends with an ominous warning, “The only way we stop this (referring to fake news, protest, and civil disobedience), the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.”  The ad is being denounced by progressives and conservatives alike as a thinly veiled call to arms and violence.  I was once an active member of the NRA.  I valued its lessons on gun safety, hunting, and wildlife conservation.  No longer.  It is now a vicious and destructive organization that serves no socially redeeming purpose in modern civilization.  While we, the faithful, are called to seek justice, mercy, redemption, reconciliation, and peace, this group is calling its members to prepare for violence and war.
Finally,  last night I attended a rally for the fight for a living wage in Kansas City.  Many parts of the rally were moving, but the highlight was a song sung by a small group of singers.  The song, Freedom,” (click to music) was so filled with hopefulness and joy!  My video can only convey a small part of how beautiful this moment was for me.  August 8, you will have your chance to express your opinion about a living wage in Kansas City.  I hope you consider your vote prayerfully.
So, the journey of the week was a roller-coaster, filled with joys and sorrows.  Still, God was with me all along the way; for that, I am always thankful.


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Filed under American history, episcopal, Episcopal priest, freedom, gun violence, Justice, patriotism, US History

Wind my clock

angel in despair

It is bleak mourning,

gloomy despair.

Is it real or a terrible, awful nightmare?

Is it the valley of the shadow death

into which we thoughtlessly stumble, guns drawn;

killing innocence,

killing black, killing blue,

killing me, killing you?

Alton, dead.

Philando, dead.

Patrick, dead.

Brent, dead.

Michael K, dead.

Michael S, dead.

Lorne, dead

. . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . .

Racism?  Yes.

Prejudice?  Yes.

Privilege?  Yes.

Injustice?  Yes.

Anger?  Yes.

Mistrust?  Yes.

Revenge?  Yes.

. . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . . dead . . .

I am hopeless,

worn with sorrow,

aching with sin, the mark is missed.

This wicked racist culture–

Are we white enough, Mr. Duke?

This pernicious gun culture–

Are we safe enough, Mr. LaPierre?

Numb my soul, break my heart.

Stick me with a needle,

see if I feel,

see if I bleed.

It is a deadly, deadly web we weave.


In March of 1973, E. B. White wrote to a Mr. Nadeau, who sought White’s opinion on what he saw as a bleak future for the human race.

30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)


John 12.46:  I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.


I will wind my clock . . .

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Filed under episcopal, gun violence, Justice, police violence, racism, sorrow, terrorism

Day 33, Lent2016

Day 33–Today I  write more personally.

I received a call from my middle daughter about an hour ago.  She works for a retail establishment on the Kansas side of the KCMetro.  This morning one of her co-workers came to work with a gun.  My daughter, terrified, complained and was told there was nothing that can be done as Kansas is, after all, the wild west and any knucklehead can carry a gun just about anywhere s/he wants.  Not satisfied, she made a call to the police, anonymously she thought.  The local constabulary required her name for their report.  They too told her there was nothing that could be done.  They then called her work place and reported that she called and reported the presence of the gun.  At this point, even more terrified, my daughter left work and swore never to go back.  I don’t know how this will work out but I expect my daughter will end up unemployed over this. Chalk up another “victory” for gun idolatry.

So here we are.

The gun culture wins.

I really don’t know what the point is anymore.

Lectionary for Friday

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Day 27, Lent2016

Day 27–Again, we at St. Paul’s face another red vestment weekend, honoring those martyred by gun violence in our country.  Every Sunday in Lent has been red save one.  Is there no end to this chaos, this tragedy, this violence, this abuse?  Sadly, I think not.  Wednesday a young woman, eight months pregnant was shot and killed, violently and without mercy.  This young woman’s mother reported they had been wondering what they would call this young child to be, what name would be attached to the possibilities of its life.  The baby unborn, died nameless.  Each person martyred by our gun culture, in our local tragedy and in Pittsburgh as well as the other 57 persons who died by gun violence in our country since Tuesday, had stories yet to tell, lives yet to live.

Sometimes I despair.  Sometimes I wonder where God is in this craziness.  Sometimes my faith seems insufficient to the task of serving God’s higher calling to humanity.  Sometimes I wonder if we deserve the beloved community of grace and mercy and love.

Years ago, I discovered a Scottish poet named David Whyte.  Whenever I find myself tripping headlong into the abyss of hopelessness, I remember this simple poem of faith.  I offer it to you if you too find yourself overwhelmed by the bleakness of this moment.

(read by David Whyte)


I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

  — David Whyte
from Where Many Rivers Meet
©2007 Many Rivers Press

Daily Lectionary:

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Day11, Lent2016

Lent 11—Kalamazoo . . . yet another occasion of gun violence, another Sunday of red redvestmentsvestments at St. Paul’s honoring more martyrs to the violence of our gun culture.  There is no end for this.

This is not a Second Amendment matter even though I believe there is ample historical evidence to understand the Second Amendment to be narrowly intended for the maintenance of an armed standing (and official) militia.  Gun ownership in our country is too long-standing a part of the American experience to imagine any dramatic change.  I certainly don’t want anyone taking my rifles or shotguns away from me.  Still, I believe there is a public interest and public good associated with rules and regulations regarding purchasing and registering guns, including restrictions on gun ownership for proper cause.  No, my concern is not with the Second Amendment.

What I find troubling is the “gun solution” mentality that seems to be permeating and infecting the American citizenry.  Guns more and more appear to be the go to solution for an ever-expanding array of problems people experience.  Personally, I find the urgency with which gun advocates push “open-carry” legislation to be the symbol of this “gun solution” mentality and of our return to a destabilizing and deadly gun culture.  Open-carry does not, in my opinion, represent an advancement of our civilization; rather, it seems a reversal, a decline to a more violent and dystopic state.  There is simply no evidence to suggest the growing presence of guns on the streets, in the malls, and all around makes us safer or more able to repel real violence.

Are guns really a source of safety or they simply an illusion of safety, bringing only more death, pain, suffering, and harm to our communities?

I offer prayers for these most recent martyrs to our idolization of guns.

kalamazoo group shot

The people killed in the Kalamazoo massacre (clockwise from top left): Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Barbara Hawthorne, Rich Smith, Tyler Smith, Dorothy Brown.

Lectionary reading:

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