Forces beyond our control, forces within our control.

as delivered by Rev. Phil Blackwell on July 23, 2012 upon the announcement of Peace Weekend

When in Aurora, Colorado, twelve people are shot to death and 58 are wounded, we call it a “tragedy;” when it happens in Chicago, we call it “Saturday night.”

Neither of these is a “tragedy.” A dam breaking that drowns people down river is a tragedy. A plane crashing after hitting a flock of birds on take-off is a tragedy. A train derailed by a mudslide is a tragedy. A tragedy occurs either because there are forces beyond human control or there is a person with what we call a “tragic flaw” who inevitably brings disaster to others.

There is nothing inevitable about murder. It is the result of choices people make. It is what people of faith call “sin.”

When a thirteen year-old shoots and kills an eleven year-old on the street corner in Chicago it is the result of peoples’ actions. Who? The thirteen year-old, yes. But the thirteen year-old did not buy that gun. Someone put it into his hands. Who?

Who makes money off of the thirteen year-old gunning down the eleven year-old? Those who sell guns? Gun shops, gun shows, Internet weapons sites? Those who smuggle guns illegally into the state? Those who control the drug market in the city? Those who control turf in the neighborhoods? Those who intimidate merchants and politicians and police officers?

Who profits from kids killing kids? Follow the money. There are powerful adults who are treating kids like “suicide bombers” in Chicago. “Here, take this gun to the playground and shoot somebody. It’ll make you a hero. People will look up to you like they look up to me.”

Things have to change. Everybody who wants to make things change is welcome. If you don’t want to make things change, then at least don’t make things worse.

Where do we start? With churches, synagogues, and mosques? With the schools? With parents and grandparents? With boys’ clubs and girls’ clubs and libraries and the Y? With businesses that are afraid to invest in neighborhoods? With developers who ignore basic housing needs of people in the city? With politicians who would rather gain power than serve the people? With policing strategies? With the story-tellers, the press? Start in any one place and ultimately all will be drawn into the circle of responsibility.

This is a public issue that must be discussed by all of “the public,” and addressed by every part of the public.

We pray for the victims of the shooting in Colorado and their families. But prayer alone is not enough. We prayed after Oklahoma City, we prayed after Virginia Tech, we prayed after Columbine, we prayed after Northern Illinois University, and we pray now. But if, as the Christian scripture says, all of life is a prayer, then we must put our words into action.

If you’re committed to putting your words into action, add your name to the July 23, 2012 covenant.


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