March 19, 2018
Good morning. I’m Reverend Kerri Parker, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, a network representing nearly one million Christians around the state. I’m also a mom of a high school student.
I’m here because I have had to preach too many sermons on gun violence, staring into the faces of congregants seeking answers and reassurance, hoping that their community and family won’t be next.
Our unwillingness to confront the powers of death has come with a cost.
Gun violence is causing spiritual, as well as physical, damage. Since we have failed to act, our children have been forced to prepare, again and again, for terror. As a pastor, my heart breaks knowing that children I have baptized are huddling in their classrooms, anxiously awaiting the end of an active shooter drill – wondering, not knowing if this lockdown is real. Whether or not the worst happens, we are subjecting our children to traumatic situations and shaping the future in ways that will not become clear to us for years to come.
There’s a point where hardening yourself to the world can no longer protect you. In Christian teachings, Jesus tells his followers to set aside violence as a solution to violence. Even when one was ready to take up arms in his defense, he told him to stand down, saying, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.”1
We need not be captivated by the power of death. We need solutions that set aside weapons, and invest in community relationships. We need solutions that support those who have been victims of violence, in our schools and the community at large. We need solutions that build community equity – or this cycle will continue.
Our faith tradition teaches that courageous, fierce and loving nonviolence is a powerful source of social transformation.2
So I should also tell you: I am here, too, because my daughter shows me how to do hard things. She had the courage to exercise her civil rights in last week’s student protests, stepping out of class to witness to something she believes in. She was willing to pay the penalty when her school assigned detentions to participants. I have a great deal of respect for her – and for all of the students who stood up last week to advocate for change.
Lockdowns have been a part of the educational experience since my daughter and her peers were very young. If we have the courage to take action now to change the status quo, we can make this the last generation for whom the fear of gun violence in school is the norm. The students’ witness – passionate, fierce, truthful – has called us to action. We would do well to heed their wisdom.
1 Matthew 26:52
2 WCC Statement on NonViolence, April 2002