One of the things I appreciate about the Presbyterian church is our form of government. It’s representative – the congregation elects elders to make decisions about the ministry and mission of the church, and the congregation as a whole is empowered to make only a few types of decisions. We trust our elected leaders to lead.
The form of the U.S. government is based upon the Presbyterian’s; we elect officials to lead us. We don’t elect them so that they will vote the way we want them to vote. We elect them because we think (we hope) that they are wise and that they will make the best decisions they can for our whole nation. It’s representative; not every American citizen gets a say in every thing.
But lately, I’ve been worried that our elected officials are way more worried about currying favor that will lead to re-election than they are about governing wisely or justly. The latest vote of the Senate regarding gun control laws makes the point. Why on earth would a senator not vote to restrict access to guns by someone on the terrorist watch list, if not because a) they won’t get funding from a lobby, or b) they won’t get re-elected?
We are nearing the third anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and I will not get through this week without tears. I don’t know how that community is doing it, except by sheer grace and will and determination to redeem those deaths somehow, by truthful living, by calling out the powers. Last night I wrote my congressman and senators and the President. I know those emails will only be read by an aide, that my words won’t matter or make a difference, but I felt as though I was doing something.
So I’m going to read the names. I am going to read the names of the victims in San Bernardino, and Colorado Springs, and Roseburg, and Charleston, and Sandy Hook. That’s the least I can do – remember those people who went about their everyday lives, who left the house or the dorm room one morning, who never returned. I will read their names, and then I might write my congressman and senators and the president again.
I grew up in a family of hunters. It’s what my people did, my dad and brothers and uncles and grandfather. We always had guns in the house, rifles and shotguns. They were always locked up, and they were never loaded in the house. That’s what common sense people do – keep their guns, which are for recreation, locked up.
When I was sixteen, my family was held up at gunpoint in our home. I’ll skip to the end: no one was physically hurt. But for a few hours we were numb with terror. At one point, the intruder was standing behind me and cocked the gun and I thought that was it. Writing that, thirty five years later, still quickens my heart. We were held captive by a man with a gun, but at any point did it occur to any of us to go get one of our guns? No. In the moment, it doesn’t work that way.
As I said, no one was physically hurt, but it was an ordeal to recover from, and anxiety has been my long-time companion ever since. I cannot imagine the courage it will take the employees of the Inland Regional Center to go back to work, or women using the services of Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, or students and staff at Umpqua Community College, or the congregation at Mother Emanuel. By they do go back and they will go back, the survivors, the grief-laden. They will have courage to do that.
I only wish our elected officials showed that same kind of courage.