Wednesday, March 14, 2018

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)

Isaiah 11:6 has long been one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Whenever I hear it, and I usually hear it read in worship a few weeks before Christmas on the Second Sunday of Advent in Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary cycle, it evokes images of Edward Hick’s iconic Peaceable Kingdom and leaves me feeling warm and … well, peaceful.

Until recently, the most powerful images for me from Isaiah’s vision have been the ravenous wolf cohabitating with the domesticated lamb, the wild leopard reclining with the tame kid, and the calf and lion and the fatling coexisting in harmony. That changed on February 14th, 2018, when students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, located in Parkland, Florida, after seventeen of their colleagues were gunned down by a former student firing an AR-15, decided they were no longer going to accept politician’s thoughts and prayers. They started demanding common sense gun safety legislation instead.

Led by students like David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and other schools across the nation, students at 10:00 AM on March 14th stood in class or walked out of class for seventeen minutes, one minute for each victim in the Parkland shooting, in protest. They were protesting to demand that our political leaders offer legislation rather than mere moments of silence, prayers, and thoughts.

What makes the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas different from students in other schools where mass shooting have occurred over the past two decades is that they can’t remember a day when school shootings were not part of their lives. All the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and every high school in America today, were born after the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre when 12 students and one teacher were murdered and another 21 were injured.

Many older adults, like me, have almost lost count of the death and carnage from mass shootings since Columbine. As disastrous as Columbine and Parkland were, they have become blurred in my memory with other catastrophic events like the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., the debacle of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and many other catastrophic events in my lifetime. 

Not so with high school students today. Their psychological and spiritual scars, and in some cases physical scars, left from mass shootings, serve as constant reminders that the politicians of my generation and the generation between me and students young enough to be my grandchildren have done absolutely nothing to end the culture of gun violence in our nation by limiting access to weapons designed not for hunting or self-defense but mass killing.

I applaud the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other students from across the country who today take to the streets in Washington, DC and in large cities and small towns across the country to demand  that their lives and safety become a priority, and that we end gun violence in our schools and communities. Thoughts and prayers are not enough to honor the victims of gun violence. What we need now is action.

For too long, change has been twarted by cowards in the House and Senate, by the NRA Washington gun lobby, and now by the Trump Administration, who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives.

To the impotent politicians of my generation and younger who have so far been able to offer only thought and prayers, I say move out of the way and let the younger generation, a generation who are no longer innocent children but battle scarred adults, many of whom are already or soon will be registered voters, lead us into a more peaceable kingdom.

(The original March 14th post was revised and updated in light of the March 24 MARCH FOR OUR LIVES event in Washington, DC and similar events across the country. I read a slightly different version of the above at the Wheeling, West Virginia MARCH FOR OUR LIVES rally at Wheeling Heritage Port.)

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