Deans' Note May 29, 2022
The murder of 19 students and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas this week is one expression of the culture of death and violence in our nation. A mass shooting is defined as one in which four or more persons are killed. By that definition there have been 213 mass shootings so far this year. There have been 27 shootings at schools resulting in injury or death so far in 2022.
This isn't just an issue of lone wolf gunmen or troubled teens who go off the rails. This is a systemic issue .While gun control is something for which we should advocate, focusing only on that issue is treating the symptom not the disease. We may think that this is a social political issue alone, but St. Paul reminds us of the cosmic and spiritual nature of the struggle:
"We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word." (Ephesians 6:12-17)
St. Paul encourages us not to jump in for the quick fix and the fleeting protest that will make us feel good in the moment, or at least will make us feel like we did something. Much more effective, is to prepare ourselves and use the spiritual armor we have been given, first and foremost grounding ourselves in prayer. St. Paul continues in the very next verse: "Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers."
Our society tries to assuage its guilt by the trite offering of "thoughts and prayers" -- a meaningless meme that so often allows us to do nothing and stop thinking about it. We need to reclaim the power of prayer individually and communally. Prayer connects us to one another and to the Holy Spirit forging a powerful spiritual network to combat the forces of evil. Actual prayer and solidarity with our siblings in faith will give us the imagination and courage for effective action in the long haul. We have the truth of the Gospel of love and light. We have the vision of God's justice, we have faith in the one who is Prince of peace, we have the wisdom of God's word. Let's reclaim the practice of prayer to stand against the forces of death and violence and having done everything possible to still stand.