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February 23rd, 2018 by Stephen Bauman

Sometimes events dictate what must be considered in a weekly message like this. If I had no word about the school shooting in Florida and its aftermath, you would surely notice. A problem involves all the media you’ve likely absorbed about it. So, while I feel I must name it here, I’m aware you’re already “tragedy saturated.” Nevertheless, I want to go on record with a clear point of view.

I happened to tune into Morning Joe on MSNBC yesterday just as the hosts began a deeply stirring interview with Fred Guttenberg who lost his 14-year-old daughter, Jaimie, in the Parkland high school massacre. I was profoundly impressed and moved by his clarity and composure as he shared and interpreted his tragic loss and his searingly clear-eyed vision for what must happen now. Here’s a link to the 20-minute, ad-free conversation. When you have a chance, give it a look to the end.

I’m with him.

Which is to say, I am with him in his grief and anguish, and in his bold insistence that while there are a number of small remedies that can be implemented, the scale of slaughter was only made possible by the use of a military-style semi-automatic weapon. We must address this directly.

And I am with the articulate high schoolers who have risen up as agents of change, confronting their elders for their bewildering impotence at addressing this national scourge. They’re shaming us, and it’s righteous. We’ve developed a learned helplessness in the face of these tragedies. We’ve come to believe there’s nothing to be done – well, except for the cynically irrational proposition to arm more people. We know better than this.

We’ve stumbled and bumbled our way into a period of tragic communal breakdown where weaponizing our homes, schools, churches, etc. has become the awful remedy for our disquiet and fear. Public trust has collapsed. Cranky tribalism is all the rage. Fear feeds on fear – it grows by consuming its own entrails. I feel it licking at my ankles.

Here’s the maddening thing at this moment: in principle the church has never seemed more relevant to addressing current conditions, while having been culturally disempowered. Along with most everything else, spirituality is becoming privatized; social cohesion historically fostered by local church communities is dissipating in a time of general disinterest in every sort of institution. We’re becoming little automatons armed to the teeth.

That’s why the rebellious high schoolers seem such a breath of fresh air and a harbinger of hope for a changing cultural environment. They shouldn’t have to stand alone. There’s opportunity here for forging a new collective energy for the sake of the common good.

There is nothing in the life and teachings of Jesus that suggests guns are the answer to our communal disease – nothing. It’s more accurate to say they are evidence of the problem. Let’s be clear-eyed about this. As well as bold and courageous. In days ahead, we’ll look for tangible ways we can join our hearts and minds to the cause of ending gun violence.

In the meantime, harness your own spiritual strength during our season of Lent. Join us each Sunday, make good use of what we offer at Christ Church. We’re here for you, for the sake of the world…

Stephen Bauman

Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bauman is the Senior Minister at Christ Church.