Beloved Church-in-the-Garden Family and Friends,
First, let me thank all of you who took the time to comment on last month’s Garden Time. I count it a high honor and humbling experience that anyone would look on my words and feel compelled to respond one way or another. Thank you for your feedback.
As most of us are still trying to deal with the events of last month and their ramifications as a country, new disheartening and devastating events have unfolded. Like many of you, I find myself again outraged, angered, frustrated, and spiritually angered by this prolonged lack of urgency on the part of our government in aiding our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. It is unthinkable to me that our leaders in the federal government have dragged their feet to this extent. What is even more shameful is the preening for the photo-op, followed by shallow and foolish rhetoric glibly and indulgently praising one’s self, all the while shooting towels (like it’s a free throw contest) to those assembled, while the rest of the island is suffering. If our cares, concerns, resources, sensibilities, and services are not shown and produced for those Americans in dire need and desperation, then for what does this country stand? As Christ followers, we must adopt a preferential option for the poor, the outcasts, the downtrodden, the second class, and the vulnerable just like Jesus did. We must do this as much as we like to aspire to congregate with and be impressed by the wealthy and influential.
Again, the now all too familiar atrocity of mass shootings in this country has enveloped the collective consciousness of our society. In the last three years, this country has undergone mass shootings (domestic terror acts) one deadlier than the last. Again, our country and society finds itself bankrupt in appropriate words to express or comprehend these killings. While everyone finds this act of domestic terrorism appalling, our society’s inability to move from shock to concrete gun control reform leaves me bewildered and forlorn.
Undoubtedly, you have already heard the pundits and commentators who say now is not the time to have this debate. You have heard the pushback from others saying now is always the time to speak about the issues of this magnitude. I stand firmly in the chorus of those who believe it is always the time to speak about what is right.
Many of our government leaders, lobbyists, and others have come out with their obligatory “thoughts and prayers” statements and how in the times of tragedy and grief, the country should come together in unity. While I don’t disagree with these statements, the more incidents that we have with gun violence, the more these kinds of statements lose their potency and viability. Are we really praying for the victims? Are our thoughts really going forth? Prayer works when we pray with our hands and our feet. Prayer is most effective, when we become the hands and feet of God.
I am acutely aware that many believe the second amendment as sacrosanct. I understand the arguments for the right to bear arms (presumably guns). Yet, the fallacious and reduction ad absurdum arguments that are used to justify inaction and the upholding of the gun laws’ status quo in the face of great tragedy are an affront to human dignity and Christian ideals.
The truth of the matter is that America’s past and present is based on violence and bloodshed. Thus, we have a nation where the conversation of gun ownership and usage is overshadowed by a long history of nuanced views of power, economics, and violence. If we are unwilling to look critically at our long and bloodied history, then true reform for the good of humankind and a more perfect union will ultimately stall. My hope, prayer, and call to action is to not just sound the alarm but be ready to engage with anyone who wants to help eradicate gun violence in this country and the world.
The beginning of this month has also shown the spotlight of hypocrisy in our culture. In the midst of the shooting and the devastating toll of human suffering in Puerto Rico, we have witnessed the hypocrisy of Tim Murphy and his avowed Pro-Life stance and the great hypocrisy of the Hollywood establishment in its capitulation to Harvey Weinstein’s “casting couch.” The irony of both situations is that powerful men have imposed and tried to impose their will on women. It is disgraceful that these men in high places of power have continuously been operating in this manner and those around them have protected and sought to discredit those who have come forward. The church can and should be on the front line of affirming and providing safe space for women who have been victimized by men in positions of power. Too many times the church has been negligent and or complicit in these abuses. Our silence in these matters has fostered a distrust of the church. The church should be an advocate for women’s rights and their self-determination. I sincerely hope that those who are concerned with women’s rights, and those who are seeking solace, a receptive ear, safe space, and the desire to change the way we have framed this conversation, would consider coming to Church-in-the-Garden and helping us build better outreach and spaces for this. The Church-in-the-Garden and I want to learn how we can help be better advocates for women and women’s rights. Please contact me in confidence at Pastor@churchinthegarden.org.
I invite all who are able to come to Church-in-the-Garden and fellowship with us. Come experience our worship, our praise, our hospitality and our love. The Garden is open to all! We welcome you to our church!
Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.