Forgive me for being so frank, but the question that comes to my mind—one that I think we all need to stop and truly ponder on more seriously is: What if it had been our church? I raise this not to incite fear and panic, but to draw our hearts and minds, our real thoughts and prayers, more intimately to the matter as a whole. Lord, I pray this never happens in our congregation. I can’t even imagine how we would move beyond such a heart-breaking tragedy. Yet, I say that knowing the problem is neither going away nor lessening by any of the passive measures we’re taking as a nation. No church is immune from such an atrocity, and none of us is bulletproof. No matter your personal beliefs about what happens/comes after death; we all eventually die. The questions are honest and there’s no quick or easy answers. Asking them won’t protect us, but perhaps they might just cause us to rethink our current approach to the pervasive problem at hand. What if it had been our church? Would our response be the same as it’s been every other time this nonsense happens? If it had been our community, our front doors, our sanctuary, our worship, our families and friends, our parents and our children, our very bodies—would we react the same old way, or seek a different outcome? The “thoughts and prayers” we post each time—would hearing them soothe our pain, would they erase the tragedy, would they resurrect our loved ones? Would we continue to avoid the tough conversations about taking some kind of legislative steps towards increased safety, or would the intimacy of the incident—the familiar face of our fragility—finally cause us to consider reevaluating some of our limitless freedom for the sake of ours and others’ lives? Would we have the faith to cry out not only to Jesus but against those who continue to stand by silently and offer no visible change toward viable justice and peace? Would our hope turn up empty, or would it stand unmoved in a God greater than both death and the Second Amendment? What if it had been our church?
This is not some petty attempt to start a political debate which talks around the matter and ends in the same place it began with labeling one another liberals and conservatives. It’s not a call to confiscate every household’s weapons. Nor is it to theologize the very real Hell so many are experiencing right now. It’s a broken heart lamenting and a deep-seeded hopefulness eager to push others to ponder the matter somewhere between surface level and six feet under. I’m not suggesting that we pat down everyone who comes into church on Sunday mornings. By no means am I suggesting that you arm yourselves with concealed weapons for worship. Don’t stay home. To isolate ourselves or barricade our daily doings with triggers and ammo will not fix the problem. I don’t have the answers to this ongoing situation. I’m not sure any of us does. These words of mine shared—completely vulnerable to whomever may read them—are a prayer spoken aloud. I pray—knowing that not even this in itself is a solution to our growing saddened statistic. I pray in hopes that God is compassionately listening to the hurts of all God’s children right now. I pray in hopes that Christ will one day transform each and every one of these deaths into life anew. I pray in hopes that the Spirit is breaking through our blatant ignorance, arrogance, and apathy—right here, right now—opening our eyes and ears to look at all of this with a freshness grounded in God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. I pray we might finally take this seriously enough to change how we live with and respond to one another. I pray we may be forgiven for our cowardly resignation in the face of all this growing violence. I pray—though not optimistic—that this will be the last time this happens. I pray all this in Jesus’s name. Amen.