Post Author: Julie Hoplamazian
Yesterday, students across America walked out for seventeen minutes, in memory of the seventeen victims of the Parkland shooting, and to advocate for gun reform to stem the tide of school shootings.
If that title sounds cranky, it’s because it is. I am. I’m fed up.
I’m fed up with mass shootings, and I’m fed up with the political inaction that inevitably follows them. I’m fed up with the idolatry of guns in my country, the United States of America. I’m fed up with the false equivalence between any reasonable discussion of gun regulation and banning all guns. To quote my beloved deceased dad, “There is too much stupidity in this world.”
But what I’m really cranky about is how my religion has been ambushed, stolen, and pillaged, then twisted and used for political gain.
As an Episcopal priest, it’s my job think deeply, prayerfully, and biblically about how we live our faith, and teach and preach this on a regular basis. On the Sunday after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which was the first Sunday in Lent – a season of penitence – many churches across the country read the conclusion of the story of Noah and the flood: the part where God beholds the mass destruction God has caused, has utter regret, and vows to never again bring this kind of massacre upon humankind. God seals the deal with a new law, or covenant, and symbolizes this new policy with the rainbow, the sign of God’s promise to never again allow this sort of death and destruction rain down on creation.
Too many politicians who claim to be Christian – who claim the faith I have committed my life to – react to massacres in the complete opposite way from the way that God does. The godly response when one beholds mass destruction is to cry out in anguish, regret that it ever was allowed to happen, and vow, by way of a new law, to never let it happen again.
On February 14, Ash Wednesday, the day the church remembers our mortality as a way to begin the penitential season of Lent, parents with ashes smeared on their foreheads mourned the deaths of their slaughtered children in the (then) latest, but most certainly not the last, mass shooting in our country. I waited as the inevitable response followed: the heated social media posts about gun control versus the Second Amendment, the impassioned cries from parents and loved ones of the massacred victims begging to our politicians to finally do something, and, worst of all, the “thoughts and prayers” that politicians hand out like candy when tragedies like this occur.
Thoughts and prayers? Save it. It’s just insulting.
Barely a week after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Florida state legislature, under scrutiny and watchful eye of the nation in the aftermath of the shooting, failed to pass any sensible measure of gun legislation. An overwhelming majority did, however, pass a measure to require all Florida public schools to display, in a prominent place, the motto “In God We Trust.” And more recently, they have continued to refuse any gun control legislation, but overwhelmingly voted to add more guns into the school system by arming untrained teachers.
These politicians are not “Christian.” They are godless. Now, let me be clear: I’m not here to tell you how to solve gun violence. I’m not a politician, and I’m not an expert in public policy. I am a priest, though, and I take my faith pretty darn seriously. It is an insult to the Christian faith for a “Christian” politician to claim trust in God, yet behold the carnage from a mass shooting and refuse to enact any legislation that would help prevent it from recurring. The Bible says that you will be known by the fruits you bear, and no fruit has been more bitter or rotten than the policies, rhetoric, and legislation, rooted in an utter disregard for human life, promoted by so-called “Christian” politicians. If a politician does not respond to a tragic massacre as God does – with utter remorse and regret, and a vow by way of a new law to never let this kind of destruction happen again – that person is not a Christian. That person is godless.
So, “Christian” politicians: get your hands off the Christian faith. Its reputation among sensible, faithful, good Americans lies in ruins because of you. If you behold the next massacre and take your cue from the God you claim to trust, then here is your charge: cry out in anguish, and promise a new law to never let this happen again, then let’s talk. Until then, keep your empty thoughts and prayers, and your godless legislation, to yourselves.
Julie Hoplamazian is an Episcopal priest serving in Brooklyn, New York. She is a former schoolteacher, and she thinks that teachers are heroes. She prays for the day that these heroes no longer have to become martyrs.
Image by: Harley Pebley
Used with permission