Our Hearts Break Again and We Must Act to Prevent Gun Violence

I was enjoying a beautiful October afternoon as I was walking up the long, gravely hill at Bull Run Regional Park toward the Northern Virginia Pride Festival, yesterday. From where I was walking, I could see rainbow flags, booths handing out candy and kids running around playing. I could smell delicious food from the food trucks that had gathered for the occasion. And then I heard something that contrasted the children’s laughter and the music on the main stage: gunshots in the distance.

I froze.

They kept ringing out. This time, I could tell they were far away.

That’s when I looked over my shoulder and saw that Bull Run had a shooting range next door to the event area. I breathed a sigh of relief because my mind had immediately gone to the possibility of a mass shooting at an event like a Pride festival. I wondered if anyone else heard the gunshots in the distance too and what it might feel like to be a group of people gathered for celebration and joy, to be reminded of pain and trauma that struck the LGBTQ community less than a year and a half ago at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

And then this morning, I woke up to the news from Las Vegas. Another mass shooting. There is no sigh of relief today.

In fact, there hasn’t been a sigh of relief in a long time, really.  A lot of us are walking around with chests heavy, tears welling up in our eyes and a constant awareness of the need to scout out locations whether it be movie theaters, Pride festivals or even our places of worship.

The tragedy in Las Vegas is horrific. Horrific.

We can say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people. And they are. They have to be.

And had our thoughts and prayers lingered from the previous mass shooting and turned to action, there might have been sensible gun control legislation passed. Had this country taken seriously the need to care for the victims of previous shootings, there might have been sensible gun control instead of continued idolatry of the second amendment and the National Rifle Association.

We must keep working and advocating. Organizations like Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and Sandy Hook Promise are working to prevent gun violence. Call your Senators and Representatives.

The sadness will be here today and in the coming days. It’s grief. Grief for the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas where people have died and been injured once again. And grief for the fact that we find ourselves here again. And when that haze of grief lifts, we must, as people of faith advocate for the safety of all of God’s beloved.

We are peacemakers in this world and we must pursue peace with justice.

-Leah Grundset Davis

A Life Defending Religious Liberty

If you get a chance, take 15 minutes and watch this mini-documentary on the life and legacy of our friend Brent Walker, who will retire as Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty at the end of the month. Brent has been a tireless advocate for true religious freedom -- the freedom of all to worship as belief and conscious dictates, and not as government or a majority religion would dictate.

On a more personal note, when I briefly joined the BJC as an intern in 2007, Brent welcomed me with an energetic kindness that I've rarely encountered. He so clearly loved his job, that he infected the whole office. His ready smile, though genuine, can be misleading, though -- he has this way of getting you to agree with him before you even realize that's what you're doing.

As Buzz Thomas says at the end of the video, "the BJC's best days are still ahead of it." But we will all miss Brent's leadership and enthusiasm.

- Ben

https://vimeo.com/194092926

Sanctuary

As the president-elect gets closer to becoming the President, more and more churches are signing up to become "sanctuaries" to undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary churches risk fines and members risk imprisonment to house immigrants in danger of immediate deportation. As Donald Trump has promised to deport ALL undocumented immigrants, no matter the cost to families or the communities they are a part of, more and more churches are signing on to the philosophy.

Read more from Baptist News Global.