You’ve probably seen on my Instagram images of Trinity Episcopal Church. Really nice place. Good people there. Trinity are located in Old Town Manassas, headed up by Stuart Schadt and Vinnie Lainson. Apart from sharing the occasional photo, I tend to be tight-lipped about my church, my faith, and my walk with Christ. I have a lot of reasons why. If you are ever curious about it, and you have some time, I can tell you all about it; but my faith is a personal journey…
…and with the recent events in Orlando, I feel like that journey is being tested.
The trend of “thoughts and prayers” in light of tragedy, once upon a time, was a beautiful thing. I can remember regarding it as a beautiful way of solidarity online. However, when the same people condemning marriage equality and gay rights now extend “thoughts and prayers.” the sincerity was gone. No, as a Christian, I shouldn’t be passing judgment, but it was hard to take a high road when one politician who tweeted “Jesus wept.” on the upholding of marriage equality suddenly is offering “thoughts and prayers” the day after Orlando.
I am done with “thoughts and prayers.” I want action. I want change. And with so many religious leaders offering “thoughts and prayers” I had to wonder if there was anything more beyond that.
Then I got an email from Trinity Episcopal today:
We are grieved by the horror of the attack on the LGBT and Latino community gathered at the Pulse night club in the early hours of Sunday morning. As people of Faith we pray, but unless we also act, our prayers and bell ringing are completely self-serving and exactly the type of empty rituals that Jesus condemned.
Praying – Tomorrow our labyrinth will be open in the Parish Hall 10a – 3p. At 12noon we will hold celebrate the Holy Eucharist and will read the names of each victim. The bell will toll 49 times at 12noon. We will post the video on Trinity’s facebook page shortly thereafter.
Acting – People of faith act to make things better.
1. You can make a contribution to aid those who were killed or wounded. Click here: http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/14/technology/gofundme-orlando-pulse-shooting/index.html
2. Stuart chose to write his congressmen. You can find yours here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
This is what Stuart wrote:
“Dear Member of Congress,
I want you to act. Please tell me why you will not.
Step 1. ‘No Fly No Buy.’ If you are on the no fly list, you can not buy a gun. Do not tell me this guy was not currently on a no fly list, I don’t care.
Step 2. ‘No background check, no buy.’ Mandatory back ground checks at all gun shows. Do not tell me this guy bought his gun legally with a background check. I don’t care.
I don’t see why we can’t agree to some simple steps to make our nation safer.”
3. Finally, in light of the hateful things some Christians are saying about and to the LGBT community, please share that Trinity Church is not hateful, that we welcome everyone! As your priests, we are not that way and we pray you are not that way. Tell the world that true Christians believe hate is incompatible with knowing Jesus Christ. We encourage you to tell your LGBT family members, friends, co-workers and acquaintances you love Jesus and you love them.
God loves everyone – no exceptions!
Let that last line sink in. (Now you can see why I wrote these two into Dawn’s Early Light.)
And spend some time on that other line from Trinity: “People of faith act to make things better.” There is a time and a place for “thoughts and prayers” and then there is taking action. We will mourn for those we have lost, and then we will take action, our church’s words in our ears. If we really want to make a difference this time, then we have to take steps to make our voices heard or make a difference in a survivor’s life. Any action taken is more effective than no action, but “thoughts and prayers” isn’t enough. Not anymore.
And hey, if you ever are in town and you want to hear some of these words for yourself, consider yourself invited. Vinnie and Stuart would love to meet you. I know this because they don’t just preach. They lead. They act. And they love.
UPDATE — 15 June, 8:04 p.m.
Tonight, I wrote my representative. Here is that letter:
Based on the subject header, you can deduce why I’m writing to you. I will probably offer to you the same thing others in your district have voiced or are currently voicing in the wake of another mass shooting here in the United States. I want to first share with you the amendment in question, as ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, then-Secretary of State, adopted on December 15, 1791:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
This is the amendment that the NRA continue to regard as unwavering, unfaltering. However, from the same man who approved the Second Amendment, came this:
“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.“
Thomas Jefferson said this in 1816. “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.” When our Second Amendment was adopted, the most lethal handgun or rifle was the Girardoni air rifle. Austrian in make, it was the first repeating rifle to see military service, and was able to shoot a maximum number of 20-30 shots from a gravity-fed magazine. This was made possible by a detachable air reservoir. However, it took nearly 1,500 strokes of a hand pump to fill those reservoirs, and on account of the rifle’s delicate make, a small break in the reservoir could make it inoperable.
This was the most dangerous rifle of the time. Now, we have Omar Mateen’s legally purchased Sig Sauer MCX .223-caliber rifle, designed for America’s Special Forces. The Sig Sauer MCX rifle takes an AR-15 style magazine and ammunition, and can shoot, according to witness and video accounts from Orlando, between 20-30 shots within nine seconds.
“Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”
It is time for change. It was time for change on July 20, 2012. It was time on December 14, 2012. It was time on June 17, 2015. Virginia Tech. San Bernadino. How many more lives must be lost before change happens?
It seems that Thomas Jefferson, the man who finalized the very amendment you are defending, would have agreed that “as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”
Regardless of where you sit on this matter, take the time and write to your representatives.