A friend of mine walked in my office the other day and handed me a rock. She said she had had it for some time and wanted to share it with me. It has found a place on my small pondering table in my office along with a Tibetan singing bowl, small prayer mat from a Muslim friend, a weeping Buddha, a book of selected scriptures, communion chalice, prayer beads, and a stole from Guatemala. It is a simple rock, with a simple message. Engraved in the rock is the word, “Listen.” I placed it on the table in the midst of so many expressions of faith to remind me to listen, to listen to a variety of voices, to listen for the Spirit, to listen to the world, and to listen to my heart.
This morning I am listening and it is difficult. This morning I am listening to a cry as I read of another senseless, violent act against innocents with a firearm borne out of racism, bigotry, and unbridled hatred. Listening to the cry rips my heart apart, brings tears to my eyes, and a welling anger within.
I was raised by a father who loved to hunt, he and I spent hours together participating in various forms. I have, years ago, lost that desire to go hunting though I still own two guns, one is mine, and one was my fathers. I have fond memories of our time together walking fields, crawling up on ponds, or sitting in a blind.
But that was hunting, and even though I no long participate in that activity the memories are good ones. I do not understand our country’s love affair with firearms, with tools of violence. I do not understand the desire to stockpile, buying more and more guns and ammunition. The idea that putting more guns on the street will make us safer, in my mind is simply ludicrous.
I have written about this before on my blog, and I hesitated to do it again as I didn’t want to sound like a broken record, but, Lord have mercy how long does this have to go on? How many innocent lives do we have to lose before our addiction to violence, hatred, and weapons kills someone in our own family? When will we finally listen to the cries of our mothers and fathers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, our friends and families, how many children have to die before we admit we and our warped fascination with weapons designed to kill is the problem? When will we listen?
There is rampant violence across our nation, rampant hatred, bigotry, and racism that continues to raise its ugly and evil head, and the continued passing of laws that allow for the purchase of guns without background checks, registration, and training is irresponsible, ignorant, and killing our friends and families, our children! Gun control is not the enemy! Guns in the hands of those who long for violent resolution are the enemy and we need sensible gun laws NOW! When will we finally say, ENOUGH?! When will we finally admit we have a problem? We are indeed….reaping what we are sow.
We live in a culture and society that is ever polarized. We live in a culture and society that would rather sensationalize and demonize with sound bites than really sit and listen. Hatred, racism, bigotry, vitriol language and action are served up on a daily basis. We have lost the art of listening and understanding. We have lost the art of compassion and humility. We have lost the art of responding and engaging respectfully.
It seems we would rather secure the right to own a gun than feed the hungry children in our schools and neighborhoods. We would rather secure the right to cry religious discrimination than find common ground with those of differing faith tradition. We would rather deny the right to adequate health care and coverage than make sure the most vulnerable in our society are cared for. We would rather make sure we can burn our fuels than find ways to care for our planet. We are losing our souls to greed, hatred, violence, bigotry, and racism. We have sold our souls to the highest bidders of lobbyists, politicians, and corporate money.
This morning I find myself stunned once again at our lack of compassion and common sense. We have become our own worst enemy. Bowing at the altar of the gun lobbies, and until we stand and admit we have a problem not just with humankind, but with guns, there will be more such incidents like this most recent tragedy in Charleston. So I write and I sit with my rock, my faith in a God who is weeping once again, the Spirit within who calls me to listen, …listen… and cry out, “How long O Lord, how long?” Not much longer I pray. May the One who holds us all be most profoundly present in Charleston this day and in the coming days as well as with all those who suffer at the hands of senseless violence. May it be soon… May it be soon!