Gun Violence

Woman Crying Urban Faith InTeenGun violence is a very serious matter in the lives and communities of many Americans. All over the country you will hear on the news about a shooting or about someone dying after being shot just about every day. The average number of people killed from gun violence is 83 daily. Five of those 83 people are children, and nine are 19-year-olds. These losses completely change the future that could have been.

One of those little boys could have grown up and became a firefighter who could have saved hundreds of lives. One of the little girls could have grown up to be the very first female president. But now those chances are all gone, all because of gun violence.

Just think about how it makes a mother feel when she finds out that her child didn’t survive the travel to the hospital, or that she would end up outliving her child. It would break the mother’s heart. Can you imagine the mother of the child that fires the gun? That would completely tear her apart. It would make her think that she was a bad parent, and she would burst into tears seeing her own flesh and blood taken away for life to sit in jail because of a stupid decision to join the crowd and shoot people.

How do you think that this would make the mother feel on Mother’s Day? It’s suppose to be the day that the children get to honor their mothers. If her child is dead or in prison because of gun violence, then there is nobody to appreciate her. It would leave a hole in her heart that could never be filled. As long as gun violence exists, there will be sorrow in the world.

We are the new generation. We can stop it once and for all. We would say, “I love you, Mom… I will never leave you,” and “I promise I won’t do anything to hurt you.” Now all we have to do is live up to our promise and make the right choices.

One of those choices is not letting your child know there is a gun in the house if you have one when you become a parent. About 40% of Americans have a gun and children in the household. People buy guns for protection in their homes, but little kids may see it as some kind of toy, not really knowing its destructive properties. If they find it, they start getting curious about it. They will try to make it shoot and show it to friends. In the end, they end up accidentally firing it and either killing themselves or killing their friend. Either way, that is a loss of a life, and another mother who lost their child.

Some people may say things like “Nobody would be that dumb,” or “I know what I’m doing.” But things happen, and once they do, it can’t be changed. When someone kills a child or adult or anyone, wouldn’t their conscience bother them for the rest of their life about what they did? I mean, what if someone just shot and killed you? How would that affect your friends and family? I think someone who killed someone would be thinking about this for the rest of their life.

This is what my mother thinks about gun violence: “I think gun violence is a tool of destruction that preys on innocent victims in our communities. We lost a family member due to a random shooting inside of a nightclub. Due to black on black crimes, drive-by shootings, and accidental deaths, gun violence will continue to eliminate many young people who may have made a difference in someone else’s life.” This was a thought by an everyday mother. I’m sure that all mothers feel this way about gun violence, and this just gives another reason to bring it to an end.

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We’re All Outsiders

Person in Exile for Urban FaithAs Christians, we are exiles who follow an alien, undocumented, migrant Messiah. Shouldn’t we, then, have a more compassionate and unified voice in the immigration debate?

There’s a scene in the film Food, Inc. that reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of U.S. immigration policy: In Tar Heel, North Carolina, Hispanic workers at a Smithfield Foods packing plant are rounded up by ICE agents (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in a pre-dawn raid. A politician running for office would narrate such a scene by saying that these men and women, while perhaps hard workers, are in the U.S. illegally and if the rule of law is going to mean anything in this country, they must be picked up and sent to a detention center where the legal process can run its course.

But the film tells the true story: After NAFTA caused cheap American corn to flood Mexican markets, putting even prosperous Mexican corn farmers out of business, many fled to the U.S., desperate for work to support their families. Many others were actively recruited by corporations like Smithfield to work dangerous jobs in American factories. Government raids, like the one depicted in the movie, are carried out in collusion with the senior management of companies like Smithfield to “send a message” (to Americans, to the undocumented) while never really interfering with the company’s production line or, more importantly, its bottom line.

The dominant narrative — the one about illegality, rule of law, blah, blah, blah — is persuasive because it provokes and exploits the one emotion that has driven American politics since 9/11: fear. We’re told by critics and commentators that Americans have never been so angry, that our public discourse has never been this strident and dangerously uncivil — all the red-faced name-calling, the ugly race-baiting, the shrill, snarky meanness.

But much of the anger — at least the real anger, not the feigned rage of opportunistic politicians — is symptomatic of Americans’ deep-seated xenophobia. This fear has been carefully cultivated since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was crucial in rallying the country to support two insupportable wars. As a political strategy it was brilliant; it worked so well that now many Americans fear their own duly-elected president. They hate him too, of course, and they’re mad as hell at him, but all that hate and rage start with an irrational anger that continues to be stoked shamelessly by that most misnamed of all political groups in a purportedly civil society: the Tea Party.

The anti-immigration bill signed into law recently in Arizona is an unsurprising outcome of this ongoing collective fear of outsiders. When I heard the news, I was reminded of a book published last year, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and Truth in the Immigration Debate. Authors Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang deftly link legislation, work visas, border patrols, ICE raids, and green cards to the Hebrew scriptures’ insistence that “Israel’s very identity was tied to how they treated the foreign born” and to the truth that the New Testament’s “most notable refugee was Jesus himself.”

In a review of the book I noted that Soerens and Hwang challenge any reader who claims to follow Jesus to consider immigration through Scripture’s insistence that we see ourselves as a people in exile: sojourners in a foreign land who live not by claiming “our rights” over and against so-called outsiders, but solely by the mercy and grace of a generous, hospitable God.

We are exiles who follow an alien, undocumented, migrant Messiah. As Edgardo Colón-Emeric notes (in the sermon linked above), “Jesus did not have a valid birth certificate. Mother’s name: Mary; Father’s name: unknown. In fact, Jesus had no papers in his name, no title deed, no rental contract. Nothing. ‘Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.’ ”

A phrase formerly associated with interrogators of the Third Reich — “let me see your papers” — will now enter the lexicon of law enforcement in Arizona. Jesus — in the guise of the brown-skinned “other” — will be asked for documentation he doesn’t have. And unless his followers practice the kind of perfect love that casts out all phobos (1 John 4:18), fear, on both sides of these encounters, will have won the day.