I picked up a handgun for the first time on Tuesday night. I asked my spouse, who carries a licensed one for work, if he would help me begin this work to understand what I don’t know about the NRA and guns, as well as the fascination, functionalism, and fanaticism behind them.
The gun felt both lighter and heavier than I had expected. After receiving instruction in how to be completely 110% safe with it, I imitated my husband’s posture of holding it out at arm’s length toward the wall in our bedroom. Holding it in that ready-to-fire position immediately brought up in my mind-and-body memory a million millisecond moments of different movies and television programs I’ve watched in the last 50 years—along with the rush of adrenalin we all feel from each of those filmed encounters. It almost felt like I was channeling every movie protagonist I’ve ever seen lift a gun like that.
In other words, I felt immediately filled with power and control–and if I were pointing it at my own body or another’s, I imagine I might feel a great deal of control over the stuff of life that often feels overwhelmingly OUT of control.
I did not expect this. I now understand the level of gun addiction in our country (especially in this time of heightened anxiety because of climate, politics, shortages, war, and pandemic) so much better, and I haven’t even fired it at the gun range yet.
In my work Wednesday at Lansing Central United Methodist Church, I placed 22 lights on the altar and prayed for the healing of so many. The 22 from Uvalde are just the most recent tip of the iceberg. I symbolically placed myself on the altar by turning off my cellphone and laying it down next to the bread and plastic grapes. Emptying self to become an instrument more capable of conveying and living God’s kind of peace.
Sitting back down on the chapel pew, I decided I needed to reach out to God as my Teacher. I need to change my mind about this being a gun problem and go for the prophetic vision of opportunity instead (as “pollyanna” as that sounds typing these words). In each of the four gospels we hear John the Baptist telling us that before we will be able to actively participate in the Kin-dom of God at hand, we must change our minds. Be willing to accept that we’re not seeing Reality but only our small-self realities. “Repent” is the word the Bible uses for that kind of change.
Using the book Images of God: Encountering the Divine Presence Through Visionary Prayer by Marci Alborghetti, I found three new ways of praying—two of which brought the much-needed perspective I was seeking, and that I can continue to use each day in becoming gun-woke.
For example, using the book’s guided meditation of Luke 6: 47-48 (building the foundations for living non-violently like a person building a house on rock), I let the foundational teachings of Jesus drift into my consciousness as I closed my eyes. The prayer of Jesus from John 17:21 came to me: “That They May Be One, Father, as you and I are one.”
Bingo. Yes. My whole body began to vibrate with the resonance of that prayer. I must learn to see gun enthusiasts as much a part of the solution to this gun situation as my own love of power and control in life. The work of “one-ing” is essential to seeing opportunity here.
Shannon Watts, mother of five, started a Facebook page the day after the Sandy Hook mass killing ten years ago. https://www.everytown.org/ now has over 8 million members with chapters all across the country. Through her “one-ing” work she has helped more and more people—especially women—find a way to use their voices to create the world we are invited to see in fresh ways, in Kin-dom ways.
This first weekend in June there are “Wear Orange” gatherings to promote awareness of the facts (so that Gun-and-God Reality can be more fully understood with all its complexity), ways to become part of the Gun Sense Action Network, and Be SMART trainings—to help even non-gun owners become more informed about how to keep safer the 4.6 million American children who live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked.
I knew from the news that there are 110 people who die from gun violence every day in this country, but I didn’t know that every year, nearly 700 children, 17 and under, die by suicide with a gun. This group of mothers demanding action helps me to see the vision of the Great Silent Grandmother Gathering (mentioned in last week’s post) taking root inside of me.
Later, I walked around the State Capitol grounds once again noticing how visitors loved taking pictures with Austin Blair, the statue of the Civil War Governor of Michigan. I imagined another statue standing beside his: _______ ________, first Peace Premier from the state of Michigan. What I would give to be able to read THAT part of our state’s history a few years from now!