Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why We Won't Create an Active Shooter Protocol

I never thought I'd be looking forward to preaching on the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (or Virgins, depending on your translation). There's a lot that's unappealing in it, including that half the women are shut out of the banquet because they left to get oil. The parable is one in a succession of stories pointing to the impending end of the way things are.

Of course, what ushers in the end is the coming of the Reign of God. That is the thing the hearers of the parable are called to await: urgently, expectantly, hopefully. What would you do if you thought God's Reign might come crashing in at any moment?

In the wake of another church shooting, I am certain of only one thing: we are preparing for the Reign of God. Anything else is a distraction from our calling.

Quite bluntly, that means we are not called to prepare for someone bursting in with a gun. Be prepared for fire, sure, and flood--the things over which we have no control. Be prepared with a plan to keep kids safe in your churches. Be prepared for everything except that which is heartbreakingly preventable.

You see, that's always the truth about gun violence: it is preventable. It was preventable on Sunday in Texas. It was preventable at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina. It was preventable in Newtown, Connecticut and Blacksburg, Virginia. It was preventable in 1993 in Grayson, Kentucky, when the deaths there hit very close to home for me.

Preparing for the violence instead of working against the violence is wrong. That is a response of fear, and fear alone. It is a recoil inward to the worst parts of ourselves. If we make that choice, we sacrifice our resurrection hope at the altar of security.

Most terrifying of all, creating any version of an active shooter protocol is accepting this is the new normal. It follows that if this is the new normal, then we must adapt. In doing so, we surrender any claim to the Kingdom of God we have.

I realize at this moment church councils are wondering if they should figure out how to answer, "What if?" I realize at this moment other church councils are congratulating themselves for already having armed guards on campus or policies already in place. With words I rarely choose: that is sin--full of sin, from beginning to end.

You who seek the Reign of God, reject this version of normal. Reject any possibility that we adapt to this. Reject the fear that cries out gun ownership is necessary.

Follow the call of the Kingdom, instead. Demand justice. Demand justice from lawmakers. Demand that it be harder to obtain a gun than be licensed to drive a car. Demand that domestic violence be treated with the gravity it deserves. Demand that white men be held accountable for their actions.

This is your call.

By all means, run. Run fast and hard. Run headlong into the Reign of God. Run with perseverance this race. Keep watch faithfully at every single moment for what God is doing. Let the Spirit be your guide. Let fear crumple with the shadow of death. For the sake of this call, though, don't update your policy manuals.

Instead, be ready for the Kingdom of God. The gates might be flung open at any moment.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this post.

    A local church is hosting an active shooter training. I want to know: where is this church when unarmed black men are shot by police? Where is this church when relationships suffer from abuse and domestic violence? Where is this church when people with mental illness are scapegoated and stigmatized? Where is this church when someone with a history of assault has no barriers to buying a gun?

    Instead, this church suddenly springs into motion to advertise an active shooter training. When this advertisement came through my denominational district office, a leader at the church I serve immediately asked: “WWJD?”

    I’m relieved that he asked this basic question.

    Because we know what Jesus would do.

    When his disciples produced two swords to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus would be “counted among the outlaws,” Jesus firmly rebuked them: “ENOUGH OF THAT!”

    And when they tried to use violence to protect him, this happened:

    “When those around him recognized what was about to happen, they said, "Lord, should we fight with our swords?" One of them struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. Jesus responded, "STOP! NO MORE OF THIS!" He touched the slave’s ear and healed him.” (Luke‬ ‭22 CEB‬‬)

    When we turn away from Jesus and towards fear, we have so much at stake. Those who save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for Jesus’ sake will find it.

    WWJD indeed.