Working Our Faith

After the recent horrific mass shooting in a Parkland, FL high school, the Greater Newburyport Clergy Association issued the statement below. As a member of this ecumenical group, I stand with my colleagues as we invite our congregations to continue praying and take action towards creating a society free of senseless gun violence. Unity’s 5th Principle teaches us that it is not enough to know spiritual principles, we must also live them. This is not a thought unique to Unity. In James 2:17 we find that “...faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” The hard truth is that as members of this society, we are all responsible for its current state and we are all responsible for its shift. So let us walk in and from faith, and take action to bring about the change we wish to see. 
 
[NOTE: In attempting to create a statement that reflects the theological views of various spiritual communities, the language may not always reflect Unity’s metaphysical approach. As you read please interpret ‘God’ as both All That Is and our inherent Divinity. Also read ‘repent’ as turning from a belief in error thinking (we are less than Divine) to a belief in God (and our inherent Divinity)]
 
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To the people of the communities in which we serve:
 
Once again, we have been witness in our nation to yet another mass-shooting, this time in a Florida High School.  Like all of you, we have given much thought and prayer about these maddening and repeated episodes of senseless violence.  While we certainly think about these events and dutifully pray for the victims, their families and community; the standard response of offering our “thoughts and prayers” doesn’t cut it anymore.  Not if we stop there.  Not if using our God-given gift of intellect doesn’t spur us to some thoughtful, concrete actions that might prevent these senseless acts of violence.  Not if, in dialogue with our God in prayer, we simply resign ourselves to more of the same, that nothing can be done.  We do not believe that, with God’s help and engaging the best and brightest among us, that we are impotent before this manifestation of evil. 
 
To effectively confront this, the first thing we need to admit is that there are no quick or easy answers.  There is no one, fast, feel-good solution that will suddenly bring these outbursts of violence to an immediate end.  We say this because we do not believe that we are dealing with one, particular evil that must be confronted, but rather a concert of evils — some obvious, some quite subtle — that are all working together to produce the carnage we rightly abhor.  Among others, these include: Too easy access to high-powered, rapid-fire weapons with large capacity magazines, Poor or limited access to mental health services that have been inadequately funded along with a profound misunderstanding and mischaracterization of those with mental illness, A lack of coordinated background screening between various agencies for those who seek firearms, A general breakdown for the respect and dignity of human life in our culture, An embedded persistence of racism, hatred and mistrust among us, A general breakdown or reduction in the importance of the family as a central unit for care and nurturing, a distorted vision of masculinity as it is found in our society, A glorification and normalization of gun violence in the entertainment and gaming media and A decrease in the care and attention people give to making room for God in their daily lives.  Working together, these have produced an “evil symphony” of violence in our nation.
 
The path forward to first a reduction, then an eventual elimination of mass-shootings in our country is to take the long view and work at confronting, changing and improving each of these individual pieces at opportune moments, without losing the bigger picture.  We must be the bearers of hope that with God, all things are possible.  As citizens, we can effectively support, piece by piece, the needed change of heart, laws and policies that will over time make these painful incidents part of our history, not our present.
 
We have done enough weeping.  It is time to repent for our inaction, seek God’s blessing through our prayer and get to work to make our nation’s schools, shopping malls, concert venues, nightclubs, stores, places of work and wherever people gather safe for all. 
 
So, we ask, how can you see yourself engaging one of the issues listed above?  In respectful conversation with each other, what hasn’t been said that still needs to be brought to light?  What one thing will you do?
 
 Signed -- Members of the Greater Newburyport Clergy Association