Dear Friends in Christ,
Over the years I have learned that it takes a good bit to truly anger me. I get frustrated and irritated at times but anger is not something I experience very often. That being said, I have been angered and confused by the shooting in south Florida this past week in which seventeen youths and adults died at the hands of a nineteen-year-old boy.
What is to be said about this senseless act? In the aftermath of the past several mass shootings, a lot has been said, like: “this should never have happened” or “no child should ever feel threatened at school” or “let’s have a moment of silence for the victims and families.” These phrases, and others like them, have almost become cliché because we have become so numb to mass violence. It’s like going to a funeral and saying, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Now we look at the television and say, “How sad.”
I heard someone say the other day that we need real leaders in Washington. Here’s what I know about leadership: a real leader can see a broken system and acknowledge it and lead others towards a collective change. A leader draws upon the skills of the community to bring about the greater good. A leader has the courage to stand with and for the helpless and disenfranchised. A leader is vulnerable and hopeful, not vengeful or condescending.
I wish we could look to Washington for leadership on this issue. Too many of our elected officials operate out of fear and scarcity. They have lost their ability to think and act without touting the party line. Just listen to their babble. They use the same phrases over and over when speaking. Tell them what to say and they follow.
We need leaders in Washington who will address issues involving assault weapons, large magazines, and smart guns. We need leaders who will allow the CDC to research gun safety like they did with automobiles. We need to provide better education for parents and more mental health advocacy. The President has acknowledged this but he has also cut access to the very experts who can help. There is so much more that could be done if our leaders had the courage to lead.
When the senseless act of violence at Sandy Hook happened I thought Congress would begin to have this conversation. When Congressman Scalise was shot, I thought that surely Congress would begin this conversation. When the Las Vegas massacre took place I was hopeful that this conversation would finally begin. I was wrong. We need leaders with courage and vulnerability, willing to risk for the greater good.
My friends, how many more killings will we need to witness before we say enough? How many more children will we need to sacrifice so that we can protect our rights to have an assault weapon?
It is Lent and God has called us to repent and amend our ways. May we have the courage to do so.
The Rt. Rev’d Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Bishop of Louisiana