Posted by: smstrouse | June 20, 2015

Battling the Giant of Gun Violence

422396990_640In the wake of the horror in South Carolina, the image that keeps coming to mind is that of Goliath. Tomorrow we’ll read the story from our ancient sacred text about the heavily armed and armored giant as he taunted the terrified and hopeless Israelites. Today I have no trouble seeing Goliath in the guise of intractable systemic racism and a cultural obsession with guns.

We tend to read the story of David and Goliath as a nice children’s story. Who doesn’t love the little shepherd boy’s chutzpah? First because he volunteers to fight the giant, and then as he eschews any of the armor and weaponry he would surely need if he was going t6795322470_7275a68f59_bo survive, let alone win, the battle.

A slingshot and five smooth stones. And – it took only one stone to do the job. Hooray for David!

But what if this is more than a sweet Sunday school flannelgram (do they even make those anymore?)? What if this is a battle cry to us as we rant and rave about the roots of this latest nightmare?

I am grief-stricken at the nine deaths in Charleston. I am horrified at the manifesto of the shooter. In no way do I mean to take away from the suffering over this latest tribulation. But I am also aware that it is (as one blogger put it) “but a leaf from a poisoned tree.” It’s mixing metaphors a bit, I know, but we’ve got to take an ax to the tree – go up against the giant.

But how? That’s the question. I do feel small; I do feel powerless. How can we not slip back into complacency and fulfill Jon Stewart’s prediction on his Daily Show monologue the day after the murders, that “we still won’t do jack shit.”

How can we be David in the face of Goliath? It’s going to take a lot of real thinking, serious discussion and intentional action. But here’s my best answer for now:

1. Name the giants.
There’s a lot of chat in the blogosphere, speculation about the shooter, his family, his church, etc. But let’s naracismme the real giants here. The NRA. Gun culture. Racism. Symbols like the Confederate flag.
When we name the real enemies, we can be more focused on defeating them.

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2. Be fearless in facing them.
We can’t give in to fear, despair or apathy. One person can make a difference. Individuals joined together in a case can change the world. There are plenty of organizations working for justice; get involved.

3. Use the right weapon.
One smooth stone brought down Goliath. Sure, it’s a legend. But there’s truth behind it. David knew what worked on a wild animal. He didn’t need the “big guns” to bring down the beast. What are our best resources in fighting the giants?

4. Hit ’em where it hurts.
In their  wallets. At the voting booth. In the court of public opinion. Wherever they’re most vulnerable. We’re not stupid; we can figure this out. But we’ve got to stay focused on the giants, look them right between the eyes – and take aim.

We’re grieving today – rightly so. But as people of faith, we have a legacy of courage to uphold.  May we remember David and the five smooth stones – and take aim for justice.

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