By Rosalind Hughes
The Gun Violence Prevention Action Group of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship has launched a portfolio of recommendations for ways to address, repent of, reduce gun violence throughout the season following Pentecost, which begins this year on Sunday, May 28.
The national observance of Gun Violence Awareness month and #WearOrange commemorations at the beginning of June come just as we in the church are remembering the coming of the Holy Spirit in a powerful way.
The #WearOrange movement had its origins in the stolen breath of a teenager, Hadiya Pendleton, shot to death on a playground in Chicago in 2013. Her friends wore orange in her memory; the colour that hunters wear to say, “See me. Don’t shoot me.” The first national Wear Orange day was June 2, 2015, which was Pendleton’s 18th birthday,
Since then, the season of #WearOrange has extended over the first weekend in June, and throughout June as Gun Violence Awareness month. We can hardly fail to be aware of the increase in gun violence that surrounds us and takes our breath away. Since Pendleton died, firearms injuries have become the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the U.S.
It doesn’t have to be this way. On Pentecost, the spirit of the living God blew through the divisions of language, nation, and even locked doors to crack open hearts and minds to the knowledge of the love of God, the mercy of God, which is life (Acts 2).
Thousands of people heard the call to repentance and a new way of living. Even now, in this country, polling by Fox News suggests that millions of Americans are ready to try something new, a way of life that does not promote guns as the way to thriving but which recognizes that we need to come together to promote peace, security, and to save lives. Too many have already been lost.
In launching a new web page addressing gun violence, EPF is not trying to paper over the cracks — the racism, the phobias, the fear and loathing that threaten our life together.
I am not suggesting that wearing orange, running a buyback, planting a seed, writing a letter, saying a prayer will change the trajectory of our world on a dime. But as long as we have breath, we have to do something. The Spirit can do more with that breath than we can ask or imagine.
More needs to be done. We look to our churches to raise up the image of God in every human person, recognizing that every one is sacred and deserving of abundant life. We look to our elected representatives to help us form a community that reflects good will and the values of a compassionate collection of individuals. We look to the Holy Spirit to lead us to the kind of Pentecost movement that will change lives for the better.
Sometimes, it seems as though the bad news of gun violence never takes a pause, as though it is all that we see; as though bad will has blotted out our ability to see humanity in one another, let alone the divine image.
As long as we have breath, there is something we can do about that.
The Rev. Rosalind C. Hughes is the author of “Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence” (Upper Room Books), a gun violence prevention advocate in the Diocese of Ohio, and a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and its Gun Violence Prevention Action Group.