From the Book of Psalms:
Go away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God.
— Psalm 119:115 (NRSV)
O that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
— Psalm 81:13 (NRSV)
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
— Psalm 82:3-4 (NRSV)
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Morning & Evening Psalms – May 28, 2014)
Two years ago I wrote a meditation on First Timothy on this blog about our need to pray for our political leadership, especially those with whom we disagree; yesterday, I repeated that same reflection. Really, our need is to pray for everyone, including those we really don’t want to pray for: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44) I believe that, I really do.
Since the first publication of that reflection in May, 2012, there have been nine mass shootings in this country, including the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and this week’s killings near UC Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, California:
“Seven people are dead, including a suspect, and seven people are wounded following a series of shootings in Isla Vista. The identities of those who were killed are not being released until next of kin notifications are made. Of the seven people in the hospital, all are being treated for gunshot wounds or traumatic injuries and at least one of the victims has undergone surgery.” — Santa Barbara, California, Sheriff’s Office press release, May 24, 2014
After the UCSB deaths, this father spoke out:
“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: not one more.” — Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Martinez, one of the Isla Vista decedents
And these gun-rights advocates responded:
“No idea how my son will die, but I know it won’t be cowering like a bitch at UC Santa Barbara. Any son of mine would have been shooting back.” — Todd Kincannon, North Carolina Tea Party activist, known for thoughtless tweets like this one
“[Y]our dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” — Samuel Wurzelbacher a/k/a “Joe the Plumber,” brought to national attention during the 2012 presidential campaign
And I wrote this on Facebook (after reading Wurzelbacher’s open letter):
“Between this (and that Kincannon person characterizing the Isla Vista victims as ‘cowering bitches’) we see the moral depravity, the ethical bankruptcy, and the just-plain vileness of those who have elevated the misconstrual of the Second Amendment’s provision of a right to bear arms above all other rights and laws.”
And The Onion published this biting satire:
“ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. ‘This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,’ said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. ‘It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.’ At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless.’”
I really, really believe in the power of prayer. I really, really believe that we are to pray for those who do wrong. I really, really believe we should pray for those we don’t want to pray for. I really, really believe that we are to pray for our leaders, even when we disagree with them and even when they are failing to lead, failing to protect the people, failing to take action that is needed.
But today I’m finding really, really hard to do that. So I’ll let today’s psalms do it for me.
Let the psalms do it.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.