- Rev. Charles Perry
Tell Them I Love Them
“I’m so scared kaitlin,” 17-year-old Hannah Carbocci texted her older sister from her place crouched inside her Holocaust history class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “Tell them [our parents] I love them so much.”
“I know hannah,” Kaitlin, 19, responded. “You’re gonna be fine.”
“I’m so scared,” Hannah texted again.
Facing death, aware that at least one of her classmates had already been shot, and listening to the sound of gunfire down the hall, Hannah reached out for her older sister. Reading their text exchange yesterday, I wept openly. I wept because we have created a world in which children go to school each day not knowing if this will be the day someone opens fire in their history class. We have created a world in which parents can never be certain if their morning, “I love you!” before school is also a “goodbye.” We have created a world in which churchgoers and partygoers alike must look over their shoulders, unsure if the pursuit of normal life will prove fatal. We have created a world at which we worship at the twin altars of guns and money, and we offer up our precious children as sacrifices to these gods.
Of course, many of the people who actually worship at the altars of guns and money would have you believe that they are devoutly religious, but by observing what they actually do, we see exactly what owns them. Jesus taught, “‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” This news cycle, that fruit is 17 dead bodies and many more injured, from a school in Florida. Can you see past the “sheep’s clothing” of exhortations for “thoughts and prayers”, to the ravenous wolves counseling, “It’s too soon to be talking about it”, knowing that the next horrific event is only days away, and it will always be “too soon to talk”, much less DO anything about it.
It is never too soon after a tragedy to talk about how to keep the next tragedy from happening. It is never too soon to talk about how money, in the form of political donations, has purchased the votes and the souls of politicians so that meaningful gun reform is never passed. And while the wolves push back against any meaningful reform, the power of their gods grows.
And in this case, that money is provided by the god of guns, in the form of offerings from its worshippers to their church, the NRA. These misguided souls, poisoned by fear, have twisted the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a national suicide pact. Terrified of someone “violating their freedom”, they arm themselves to the teeth with more and more powerful guns; guns that are not for sport or for hunting, but have only one purpose: the speedy and profligate killing of human beings. With every mass killing, there is another run on the gun stores, as the gun worshippers snap up more idols to their god, and the ammunition that gives it power. And in so doing, they feed more money into the twisted process that has held common sense, morality, and the will of the people in abeyance as the tide of our children’s blood grows higher.
We often hear that there’s no real way to stop these horrific mass shootings from happening – but the United States is the only developed country in which these shootings happen. Every other developed country has cultivated meaningful and enforceable gun control, and so mass shootings simply don’t happen.
We worship both guns and money out of fear. Fear of someone violating our perceived freedoms (whether real or imagined); fear of not being the strongest, fear of the future, fear of the present, fear of change. Fear is a powerful force, and one that too often controls both political and social discourse, as well as our own personal behavior.
But fear is the opposite of love.
Let me say this again: fear is the opposite of love.
The God we turn to, along with our family all over the world both religious and humanist, is a God of love. Love is the only thing that can overcome fear. By setting aside our fear of “violated freedom”, we will once again have the freedom to send our children to school without fear, to attend church without fear, to dance without fear. It is up to us, the regular everyday people to stand up, raise our voices, exercise our franchise in the voting booth, and insist upon a country whose morality is founded upon the God of love, not the gods of guns and money, because “thoughts and prayers” have proved empty rhetoric, devoid of both power and meaning.
Hannah Carbocci survived the shooting in Florida. But 17 of her schoolmates did not. Let this school shooting be the last; let us make it our business to be certain that no other children in our country are huddled in their classrooms terrified of the automatic gunfire just down the hallway. Let our love drive us to real action, to giving our money and time and support to organizations and causes which can end this pandemic claiming the lives of our children, once and for all.
As she faced the very real possibility of death, Hannah’s greatest desire was to reach out and tell her family how much she loved them.
In the end, that is all that will matter to each of us: what we loved, who we loved, and how well we loved them.