I had intended to write a post this evening that didn’t mention violence and war. The shootings in Maine, a state where I lived and worked for over thirty years, and where I have family and dear friends, have again heightened my thoughts and heart back to the impact of gun violence and war. There’s not a whole lot more to say about the grief and trauma and sudden deadliness of gun shots and bombs, mostly on innocent people, except for the deep regret that our culture, and far too much of our world, has devolved to such a pervasive and dangerous state of affairs.
I am committed to holding on as much as possible to society’s potential redemptive capacity. We know we can be resilient when tragedy occurs, and I am always impressed with those who diligently try to name and address the underlying causes of war and gun violence, as well as attend to its immediate tragedy. But I also worry that the American culture especially is so wrapped into violence as a way of life that we are not able to envision a realistic capacity to explore, denounce, and implement necessary policy and behaviors that would seriously counter our violence epidemic. The reality, of course, is that we individually are not able to address the huge issues of war abolition and gun violence, although we can join and support war abolitionist organizations like FCNL and World Without War. And we can personally address gun control by supporting organizations that lobby against gun sales and promote more restrictive laws regarding gun possession. (See footnote below.)
But the most difficult challenge of addressing violence is actually the need focus on the immediate roots of societal violence by acknowledging how much we all supporting or tolerating violence in our daily lives. When I become aware of how much violence there is in the news, the meanness and lies of some politicians and social media, in TV and film, and in the diversions of our sports and competitive activities, even for our children, it is sadly apparent how violence easily has become simply a way of life. How many of us, for example, are all too aware of the violence and physical harm associated with professional football, yet we are sufficiently attracted to the vicarious thrill of hard hits and the competitive and dominance ethic it promotes. So we continue to join in the communal bonds our sport teams provide even though we realize violence is often a main draw.
Okay, we’re only human. We are genetically wired to protect, violently if necessary. However, there is an equal force of nonviolence that also plays such a central part of our daily lives. Dealing with medical crises these days I am often deeply moved by the kindness not only of the medical staff but the people who answer the phones, the receptionists, those who transport us to medical appointments, and, of course, our community and family support systems that call us and bring us food. When we also become especially aware of how much we appreciate and depend on the compassion and kindness that surround us it confuses me that we also seem to create and tolerate such pervasive levels of violence. And we do have a choice. The ancient biblical scripture says it well: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life, so that you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19
The reality of life is that in our personal lives, and in any social system, there is the presence of conflict that can lead to violence, and then there are also the exemplary acts of care and kindness that sustain us, or to put it more starkly, allow us to choose between life and death. Although we may not find adequate ways to personally address gun violence and war, we each do have the ability to choose personal lives of nonviolence and kindness, both for our own health and well-being, but ultimately as examples to others, especially our children, of an alternative way of life. Dare we try to more diligently hold on to a commitment to nonviolence even in the face of pervasive violence that surrounds us.
Nonprofit Organizations Making Progress Towards Gun Control
In response to the recent gun violence here is a brief list of nonprofits working to solve this problem as a resource for people who want to contribute in a meaningful way.
Everytown for Gun Safety
Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. They focus on reform in four main areas: background checks, domestic violence, preventable deaths, and gun trafficking.
Donate to Everytown for Gun Safety
The Brady Campaign
The Brady Campaign strives to “create a safer America for all of us that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries.” They are aiming to cut the number of U.S. gun deaths in half by 2025 by focusing on background checks, stopping ‘Bad Apple’ gun dealers, and voicing the dangers of keeping guns in the home. The organization’s name honors former White House Press Secretary Jim Brady, who was shot and seriously injured during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Donate to The Brady Campaign
Newtown Action Alliance
Following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents of Newtown, Connecticut founded the Newtown Action Alliance. They are “dedicated to reversing the escalating gun violence epidemic in this nation through the introduction of smarter, safer gun laws and broader cultural change.”
Donate to Newtown Action Alliance
Gun Control Giving Fund
We have also created a Giving Fund for donors to easily contribute to several top organizations in this space. With a giving fund, you can make one donation to help multiple organizations all working on a vital single issue. We vet each nonprofit included in the fund and then evenly split your donation among the fund’s organizations.
Donate to the Gun Control Giving Fund