by Rev. Diane Weible
Yesterday I watched the morning news and saw the number of students who walked out of their classrooms to protest the state of gun violence in our country. They protested Congress’ lack of movement on enacting gun laws that would protect them from the kind of tragedy we saw in Parkland, Florida, exactly one month ago, and from other similar tragedies that have become all too familiar in our times.
I cried. When I was in High School, my biggest concern was whether I would pass my Calculus test or what I was going to wear to the next school dance. While I recognize my own privilege in that statement because I know that even in the 1980s, not everyone had the same experience of safety that I did, I also know that today’s young people are facing something that is almost incomprehensible. What is wrong with us and with our institutions and with our government that thousands of students across the country feel the only way they can be heard is to walk out of their classrooms as a statement about their fear and lack of security?
I am moved by what our youth are doing. I am also sad that they must be doing it at all. I’m struck by the statement that this is making, not just about no longer being willing to tolerate a lack of gun control but also about what I believe it says to us about a bigger issue. Why should anyone in this country live in fear? We are afraid of being abused, attacked, and hurt. I wonder what it would look like if we all walked out and said no more. No more violence. No more easy access to guns. No more abuse at the hands of people who are supposed to protect us. No more attacks because we don’t look or sound or act the way someone things we should look or sound or act.
It seems so obvious that we all have a right to be protected from violence. And, yet, people are afraid. Our youth are afraid. People of color are afraid. Women are afraid. LGBTQI people are afraid.
God wants better for us. We want better for each other. What would it look like for all of us to commit to following in the footsteps of our youth and walk out? Walk out of what, you might ask? Complacency. Life as we know it today. The willingness to protect our own privilege. The fear of messing up when we hit those growing edges or our own ignorance. Our good news is that God gives us the power to recognize where there is suffering, do something about it, and practice repentance – reconciliation – and grace as we learn how to turn this world around together.
What would it look like if we join hands with our neighbor and agree that we will fight for one another; we will fight for the right for each person to live a life of wholeness and safety; we will fight for everyone’s right to living an authentic life the way God created them. We will not stop until all people feel safe to walk anywhere they want to walk without fear. Perhaps it will be easier walking away from the powers that keep us stuck in privilege, fear, complacency, or ignorance if we know we are walking towards God’s love and hope together. That is when we will know we have partnered with God – when walking out – and walking towards that Kindom together finally feels irresistible.