Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ,
The reports today of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, are horrific and shockingly familiar. That we must stop and focus on them in order for the magnitude of their unacceptability to get through our defenses demonstrates how inured we have become to gun violence. Our immediate reaction may be heartache and compassion for victims, families, and communities, but in short time, and in spite of the courageous voices of students calling us to accountability, the conversation fades into the background noise of our political and social diversions. Although we hear repeated claims that everything possible will be done to make our schools and streets safe from gun violence, there is little, if anything, to show that we mean it.
As Christians, our first response of course is prayer: prayer for those killed; for their friends, families, teachers, and colleagues; for their communities; and for the perpetrator of this horrendous act. Prayer leads us to rely on God for comfort and hope, and challenges us to open ourselves both to God’s vision of a responsible and safe society and the courage to act boldly to achieve it. Followers of Jesus cannot accept today’s shootings simply as part of a new reality. It is our calling and responsibility always to work without ceasing toward the new reality of resurrected life and bring to life on earth that which we believe replicates the kingdom of heaven.
It is impossible to imagine that there is gun violence in the risen life, and we should accept no less in our expectations and aspirations for earthly life. To that end, we must stand up, speak up, and, together with our legislators, build on earth that which is enjoyed by saints and angels above. There is no question that accomplishing this is hard work. But that is what God expects of us, and we must accept that, no matter what solutions we try, they will cost us perhaps even rights, practices, and privileges we have previously enjoyed. Whatever that price may be, it will never approach the value of the lives of God’s beloved lost today.
The children of Columbine, Chardon, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Santa Fe, and countless other neighborhoods ought not have to die in order for us to see the light. Each of their deaths, however, shines a bright light on our failed responsibility to them and our ongoing responsibility to all of God’s children. Indeed, wherever we live, they are our neighbors. And loving our neighbors as ourselves requires of us to change the way we live that they may live. Their right to life doubtless exceeds any personal rights that we may cherish.
As we come to the end of this Ascensiontide, may we remember that in raising Jesus from the dead, God raises us to a life worthy of the divine sacrifice. We are each capable of living such a sacrificial life, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.
I am confident that your prayers abound for the people of Santa Fe and for the future Jesus begs us to create with one another and God.
With very blessing of the Spirit of Holiness,
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio