God is a Bullet

Reflections on Shuffle-Play

The first years I was a pastor, during the worship service my mind was usually racing to whatever was coming next in the service. If I was finishing the opening litany, I was thinking about what hymn was coming up. If the offering was winding down, I checked to make sure I had my book open to the right page in case I forgot the words of institution. These are things that a pastor thinks about as they lead the congregation through the dance of worship each week.

But somewhere along the way, I think it was in 2007, I began to have another thought regularly occur during worship. It was in December of 2007 that there was a shooting at a church in the northern part of the city where we were living, Colorado Springs. Two people died and three people were injured on a sunny Sunday as they left church. It was around that time I began to think about what I would do if while I was leading worship, someone started shooting.

Back then, as a mom with two children under the age of two, I knew exactly what I would do – dash into the sacristy and out the door on the other side, and then into the nursery where I would barricade myself inside with the children and call for help. The other pastors could worry about everyone in the sanctuary, I would be protecting all the infants and toddlers like the fierce mama bear I was.

Tonight at supper, after 26 people were killed in a small town church in Texas, I sat with my now 10 and 11 year-old boys at supper and we made a plan for if a shooting were to ever occur in our church or in any public place we were. It’s something I don’t want to think about or talk about, but this is apparently the world we live in now – a world where any public place can become a killing field. A place where school children can be killed and no gun legislation changes. A place where people get killed while praying in their church and Mr. Trump, and so many others, pretend that ease of access to guns that can mow down 26 people in two minutes has nothing to do with it. A man I know says that the only way that the gun laws will ever significantly change is if there is a mass shooting at an NRA convention. It seems to me he is probably right since absolutely nothing has changed after all this death.

This week in our confirmation class we are studying the Ten Commandments. I was thinking about the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” Martin Luther’s explanation of that commandment in the Small Catechism reads, “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.”

There is nothing about purchasing or owning an automatic firearm that is helpful to our neighbor. Absolutely nothing. I can see the logic of having a rifle or pistol around if one feels they need it for protection, the desire to hunt, or if there is a wounded animal that needs to be put out of its’ misery, but automatic firearms are designed to shoot fast, to cause as much devastation as possible in a very short amount of time. I’m sure they were created for war, so then why do we allow them to exist outside of war zones? There is no good reason for anyone to have a gun like that in day to day life.

Mr. Trump and others like him who defend the obscene gun excess and access in this country have no business claiming they care the slightest bit about Christian values – not when 26 people can die in their place of worship within the space of minutes. I don’t want to hear about “oh there are other ways people can be killed, they don’t need guns to do it” – we need to open our eyes and see what is actually happening all around us. People are dying by guns at an alarming, blinding speed. Other countries have taken steps to avert this kind of crisis. Why don’t we?

I can’t imagine any scenario in which the Jesus I know from the New Testament would approve of the ownership of such death machines. He was the one who said to forgive endlessly and to let go of revenge. “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-41)

Twenty-six people were alive yesterday morning. They got up to go to church, to pray, to sing, to focus on worthwhile, beautiful matters of the Spirit. I keep picturing each church I have served, the beloved faces out in the pews, the generations gathered together, and my heart breaks over and over when I picture a gunman coming into that holy space.

But I don’t lose hope. I don’t lose hope because even though it is so desperately awful, and wrong, and dear God I pray that the gun laws begin to change soon, I don’t lose hope because I know that guns can’t take away the most important things. Even if I am killed while leading worship someday, even if I lost the people I loved the most, it’s only flesh and blood that is lost. My hope has never been found in this life anyway. My trust has never been in what this life has to offer. My hope and my trust is in Jesus. I don’t write this to be sanctimonious, I write it because it is true. I have seen how everything of this life ultimately slips away. Money can only buy so much. Looks fade. Good health can be lost. Everything of this life and world is fleeting, it is vapor, a breath. Don’t get me wrong – I love this world and every breath I get to take in it – but I know someday it will be gone. Someday, I won’t have any more mornings to wake up, no more pancakes to make, no more errands to run, no more movies to see, no more smiles to see or give – one day all that will be done and that is okay. It’s okay because I’ve always known that there is more than this life. My hope is built on nothing less.

Even so, I think it is desperately sad that my government is making it so that the only comfort I can find today is knowing that even if I die in a shooting tomorrow I trust and hope in Jesus’ promise of a life beyond this one. Why can’t we at least try to make it a safer nation for ourselves and the generations to come rather than throwing up our hands and pretending we are helpless?

It’s so hard to know what to do in these times.

How to offer something helpful to this world when

‘Thoughts and prayers’

Have begun (a long time ago now)

to sound vacant

Empty.

Hollow.

I feel so angry

Don’t bring this violence in the church

I don’t want it brought anywhere!

(but selfishly, especially the church!)

I don’t want to look up with suspicion at the stranger sitting in the pews

I want to welcome everyone in at every hour

I want to extend the hospitality with no boundaries

No suspicion

No isolation

No locks

No fear

I want children to be able to sit in church the way I did

Counting the ceiling tiles

(Granted, a little bored sometimes)

Not a care in the world

Wondering what is for lunch

Not wondering how quickly help can come

When the blood is flowing down the aisles.

I feel so deeply angry at leaders who abuse their power

Abuse us

Abuse the reputation of our country

Abuse our future

I feel rage at others who can explain it all away

Pouring drivel into tweets and posts absolving our ease of access to guns

Absolving our glorification of violence

Absolving our comfort with selling our souls

Absolution

but never contrition

Blah

Blah

Blah

On and on it goes

Tell it to the mother who lost her child

Tell it to the child who lost her mother

Tell it to the family who lost 8 members in two minutes

The congregation who lost 26 people during morning worship

Don’t tell it to me.

I’m too busy looking for some good I can yet do

In this broken, busted, shot-up world

We call ‘Murica.

 

 

God is a Bullet

By Concrete Blonde

 

There’s a green plaid jacket on the back of the chair
It’s like a moment frozen forever there
Mom and Dad had a lot of big plans for their little man
So proud
Mama’s gone crazy ’cause her baby’s cut down
By some teenage car chase, war out of bounds
It was the wrong place, wrong time, wrong end of a gun
Sad

(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
From the hip, ya’ll
(Shoot)
Gone forever in a trigger slip
Well, it could have been
It could have been your brother
(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
Shoot to kill, yeah
Blame each other, well, blame yourself
You know, God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone

They’re gonna call me sir, they’ll all stop picking on me
Well, I’m a high school grad, I’m over five-foot-three
I’ll get a badge and a gun and I’ll join the P.D.
They’ll see
He didn’t have to use the gun they put in his hand
But when the guy came at him, well, he panicked and ran
And it’s a thirty long years ‘fore they’ll give him another chance
And it’s sad, sad, yes, sad

(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
From the hip, ya’ll
(Shoot)
It’s all gone in a trigger slip
Well, it could have been
It could have been your mother
(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
Shoot to kill, ya’ll
Blame each other, blame yourself
You know, God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone

(Shoot)
Shoot straight
(Shoot)
From the hip, ya’ll
(Shoot)
Gone forever in a trigger slip
Well, it could have been
It could have been your mother
(Shoot)
John Lennon
(Shoot)
Dr. King, yeah
Harvey Milk, and all for goddamn nothing
God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone

God is a bullet
Have mercy on us everyone.

 

 

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s