June 23, 2016 under Faith Based Work
In the wake of the mass murders in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Florida, we at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), are experiencing similar sets of questions that millions of other Americans must be wrestling with: “What can we say that will make this time any different from the seemingly endless train of similar tragedies?”, “What are we to do now?”, “What are we to do now?” It does not seem enough to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were massacred and with those who struggle to recover. It does not seem enough to say that we are praying for the souls of those who were killed, and dare we say for the soul of the one who took their lives so wantonly. It does not seem enough to say we are angry and we cannot and will not take it anymore. We are overwhelmed by the magnitude of this and similar stories of lives taken by guns in our midst. We are all but numb from the numbers and rendered all but speechless by how familiar this all feels.
The murder of 49 members of the LGBTQ community is a result of hateful thinking that was born in part in a culture that is deeply anti-persons of color, anti-immigrant, and anti-queer. Despite the strides we have been led to believe we have made as a country, we are still mired in a swamp of sick and twisted human loathing. And the fact that this tragic act has given some license to give in, again, to their festering Islamophobia is disheartening. Our souls are sickened by our inability to move much beyond our blindness to the beauty of the totality of our human family.
At the same time we are aware of other feelings and other realities that add weight to our sadness. We cannot help but feel that across this nation whole groups of people are seen as marginalized statistics that don’t have names and faces, that don’t make the nightly news much less evoke a national outcry. We weep for these brothers and sisters as well. We rage against the systems of racism and classism that make them all but invisible and most certainly expendable in the eyes of too many. And we continue to say “how long will this continue?”
However, FPWA and the FPWA family of member agencies and community partners is, in part, a family of faith and one that believes in the power of the human spirit to transform our collective lives for the better. We know that we have to add both our hearts and our hands to the task of healing our broken society. We know that for those members of our family who are persons of faith, prayer is an essential first step. We also know that for all of us raising our voices and speaking out against the unspeakable is a mandatory initial step as well. Remembering those who died and calling them by name helps make them more than stone statistics. Mourning aloud and coming together to share our personal and collective grief helps keep us human and not simple receptacles of rapid fire familiar stories of tragic loss. We know that holding on to the fact that each and every death is a real person helps to keep us human as well, alive inside to the possibility that the grief we feel for these people will help direct what we do.
Our individual and collective actions must be the second step, and the next and next in the long march toward a just and secure society for all our of this nations residents. In addition to what we say, we each must do something to help break this deadly cycle of gratuitous violence and killing. The form of our actions may be distinct and personal, but our resolve to act must be uniform and irreversible. Whether it be working on behalf of legislated gun control, supporting stronger mental health interventions, providing intensified and targeted service programming, personally witnessing to the value of every human being, voting in such a way as to assure that the holders of public office hold the highest of human values, or any of a number of other actions on our part, we may no longer simply bemoan the plight of our flawed human family.
Just as FPWA continues to work to give a voice to the voiceless and pushes for just and fair policies for all persons, we now call upon all of us to determine what we can do to help make sure that no one, regardless of their race, age, gender or personal orientation has to live in fear of their life due to senseless violence in any form. Right action is a matter of right will. Now, today, the unavoidable question is “what will you do?”
As you consider how you will act to help right the ship of human hope, I invite you to think on the words of Abraham Lincoln which he offered as part of his second Inaugural Address…
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for (all) who shall have borne the battle, and …to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
Rev. Joel A. Gibson
Director of Faith Based Initiatives