Bishop’s Pen: Gun Violence
Guest Column by Bishop Gretchen Rehberg
I sit here today wondering what words I can possibly offer, yet again, to the tragedy of children, killed by another youth using guns, at an elementary school. I find in my own heart anger, fear and despair. I find in my own heart the desire to simply write off those who I believe turn a blind eye to the problem, or who dismiss it with pious words and no action. And, I find that the feelings in my own heart are similar feelings that lead others to violence.
So, I must look inward, to see the capacity for sin within, and repent myself. This recognition cannot, however, stop me from speaking out as a Bishop of the Church against the violence that I believe infects the soul of our nation. We are too quick to turn to methods of violence to solve the problems that we face, as individuals and as a nation. We are too quick to trust in weapons and force of arms to get what we desire. The followers of Jesus are called to a different way, we are called to walk the way of the cross, the way of love, the way of Jesus.
Jesus said challenging words to us many times. Perhaps the words I find the most challenging are these: “Love our enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). As I read these words what I know to be true for myself is that I must be willing to listen and learn from those who have different understandings on the issues of gun violence than I do.
I no longer believe that I can simply present logical arguments and change other people’s mind on this, for I do not believe that the positions come from well-reasoned logic. Instead, I believe that they come from places of feelings, of hopes and fears. We will not be able to offer a witness to the world of the Jesus way of life, a way of love, if we engage in the same demonizing of those who thinking differently that is so common in our country. We will not find a way to solving the violence that infects our nation by using violence, even if “only” the violence of words. We must find ways to bridge the divide, not further it.
As followers of Jesus we are called to love, love in words and love in deeds. Love cannot be only for some people, just those who we like, or those who think or vote like we do. Love must be for all, as challenging as that is. Our faith looks at Jesus on the cross and sees the violence we are capable of, and looks at the wounds of the resurrected Christ and finds forgiveness and healing. This healing is what we need. We need it for ourselves. We need it for our nation.
If you are too angry now to love, pray for your own self that you may know peace. If you are too frightened now to love, pray for your own self that you may come to know hope. If you are too resigned that nothing will ever change, pray for our own self that you many be moved to act.
Let our prayers lead us to act in love, that we may help heal this hurting country.
May God bless us that we may bless others by our witness, our words, our actions of love.
The Right Reverend Gretchen M. Rehberg, Ph.D., D.Min. was ordained and consecrated March 18, 2017 as ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane.