Here is the draft of a sermon I am working on for this Sunday for St. Paul’s UCC, Dallastown, PA. The Lections are Psalm 8 and Exodus 20:1-20. The sermon will begin a new nine-month focus on peace in my congregation’s worship life.
I have been so heartbroken over the past few weeks over the news of shooting after shooting. People shot with guns. Death after death. Devastated families. Communities brazen with fear and anger. Reports of funeral after funeral. Embalming fluid and blood. The media selectively reports the details, partially in fear of copycat crimes, partially in fear of being accused of exploiting the facts out of some liberal agenda. I have friends and family who are responsible gun owners, and know a few people who even work in the firearms industry. I also know folks whose lives have been destroyed by gun violence. I have ministered to men in prison whose mistakes and aggressions, usually with a firearm, led them to the situations they now find themselves. I have known too many people who have taken their own lives with a firearm. My own great uncle, John Rodkey, was a nationally known marksman during his life and ran a small gun shop in his retirement. For a short time in Chicago I became friendly with a police officer who introduced me into target shooting, even while I lived in a neighborhood where I would wake up to gun shots fired in the night.
I’m not here to give you my own history with guns but I preface my sermon with these details to say that I’m trying to work out the question of our spiritual sickness of gun violence for myself—and for me it’s not out of some political agenda. I know and have experienced the faces and the stories, the real people, on every side of this issue.
Which is also why I am so sickened by our inability to even talk about the issues surrounding gun violence in our country. One cannot so much as pray a public lament about this problem that we have in our culture without it being politicized. Rational and level-headed discussion are strictly forbidden. We know the lines, and many of them are patently or at least partially false. That access to more guns makes us safer as a nation. That changing laws will change the culture. That mental illness is the root cause of gun violence. That banning guns will make us less violent. That guns don’t kill people. That stricter gun control is an act of aggression by an already oppressive government who wants to enslave us with their guns. That study after study performed by the medical profession, and academics and clergy are part of some big agenda. That a desire to restrict gun access is a slippery slope that will soon lead to the banning of baseball bats, forks, and knives. The debate gets personal, and creates a cultural division between those who are gun owners and those who are not, with the assumption one side wants to take something away from the other.
The debate tinges with sexism, elitism, classism, and racism. Continue reading “Sermon: “The Second Amendment vs. The Second Commandment””