But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. From the Inauguration Speech of the 45th President of the U.S.A. 1-20-17
I have never personally witnessed what I would call “carnage.” I have never fought in a war, been in a multi-car accident, stood on the grounds of a school shooting, or observed a natural disaster first hand. My life has been remarkably sheltered. But what I have witnessed first hand is this:
- The testimony of my friend Mindy Corporan about April 13, 2014 when a white supremacist shot and killed her 14 year old son and her father in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, KS. Note: the shooter killed three human beings that day. Killing Jews was his goal. He killed three Christians which I share only to note the absurdity of this day. How did this Neo-Nazi get a gun? How does a person so thoroughly hate people who happen to worship God in a different tradition? Gun accessibility has produced unspeakable carnage.
- The testimony of my friend Valarie Kaur, a Sikh activist, who talks about the family friend who was shot on September 15, 2001 just days after the attacks on America by a person who mistook a patriotic Sikh business owner for a terrorist because of his turban and beard. He was shot in cold blood at his small business in Mesa, AZ. Why did this person think he could take the law into his own hands? How did this shooter get to adulthood without a working knowledge of what people of other faiths believe and look like? Hate crimes have produced unspeakable carnage.
- The testimony of my friend John Dale, war veteran and founder of Reboot Combat Recovery has changed my life. John’s family’s life was turned upside down by the trauma of war and its effects upon some of our strongest and best people. Why don’t we support our veterans and their families with all they need to recover from their unseen battle scars? Why do our leaders – especially those with zero military experience – so brazenly threaten war? DJT on December 22, 2016 on Twitter said that “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” None of us has yet witnessed the carnage that a 21st Century nuclear war could bring.
This is the carnage I have observed. And I’m not even talking about the carnage resulting from crimes against unarmed black men, crimes against police officers and gang violence in this city I now call home.
This is a carnage I know. My prayer is that our new president will explore up close and personal this carnage rather than depend on cliches.
In the meantime, we who call ourselves The Church are called to address any and all who suffer these days. I, for one, am grateful and – yes – proud to be part of a denomination who:
- Continues to serve those hurt by Hurricane Katrina long after most relief organizations have long left. Thank you Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
- Has been in Syria over 125 years offering medical services and education and now – ministry to refugees. Thank you again Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
- Strives to make a positive impact in the cities where our General Assembly will meet in the next ten years in order to address poverty, violence, and other needs. Thank you Hands and Feet.
This is not the time to stare at whatever carnage you see or imagine. This is the time to step up and serve in the name of all that is good and holy. We were created for this.
Image of Sandy Hook Elementary School after the 2012 carnage resulting from a mentally ill shooter who should never have had access to guns.