Learning to work together before it’s too late

Rev. Cathy Jurgens - Immanuel United Church of Christ

Watching the country react to the horror that unfolded on June 12 in Orlando has been interesting, to say the least. Many are grieving, many are afraid, and even many more have an opinion on whether or not we should attempt to stem the tide of gun violence in our nation, and how to best do it.

Prayer vigils have been hosted, church bells have been tolled, Internet arguments have reignited, gun sales have soared, filibusters have been waged, and votes in congress have been taken. But nearly two weeks later, not one thing has actually changed. But the problem goes deeper than this.

I found it rather interesting, that while the shooting nightmare was happening in Orlando on Saturday night into Sunday morning, my parents were half a country away in Wisconsin dealing with something completely different, but not entirely unrelated. My mom worked late that Saturday night, so she was still awake when she heard a commotion coming from one of the apartment buildings across the street from my parents’ house. One of the tenants had apparently gotten into an argument with his girlfriend, and things were spinning out of control. It wasn’t just screaming. Mom said she could hear things being thrown around the apartment as well. As this clearly was not your typical argument over who didn’t load the dishwasher, Mom called the police.

While she waited for the police to show up, the situation escalated. Mom said she could hear things breaking inside the apartment as the fight raged on. As the boyfriend got more out of control, he began to throw things outside over the balcony on to the lawn below. Desperate, Mom called the police back and told the dispatcher they needed to send someone now. The police eventually showed up, and the girlfriend packed a suitcase and left the same time the police did. What chills me to the bone is what happened after that.

After the police and girlfriend left, the boyfriend went downstairs to talk to the neighbors who had been sitting on their patio taking in the scene. He asked them if they were the ones who called the police. They laughed and said of course they hadn’t and that they were cool like that. Mom said they all spent several hours outside after that laughing and joking about how funny the entire thing was.

As I told my church on Sunday, this is where it all begins. When we accept acts of violence on a small scale, because it doesn’t hurt as many people, or because we don’t want to get involved, we are saying that violence is an acceptable answer. We give it life as we refuse to step in and say there is a better way to live. So by the time someone picks up a gun, it is entirely too late.

As the church, and concerned and caring individuals in the community, we need to take a stand and be willing to step in and help others and affect lives where it is needed now, and not wait until someone wields a gun in a crowd. If we can’t be the change in this world Jesus calls us to be, who will? We as Christians are called towards peace, love, and reconciliation. And that needs to start in our own homes and neighborhoods.

But while I speak to and of Christians as my world view, we need to come together as a community. We all need to work together towards peace, love, and reconciliation. If we wait around expecting those in Jefferson City and Washington D.C. to fix things, we may as well start manufacturing extra caskets now. Our representatives may come up with some ideas and solutions to stem the tide of violence, but I don’t see a lot of priority being placed there. And even if they were able to work together to come up with a solution of sorts, it won’t change the hearts of those of us living in community together.

We need to come together and start caring about each other. Until people can see solutions for their problems that don’t involve injuring other people, we will not be truly safe in our communities.

Rev. Cathy Jurgens

Immanuel United Church of Christ

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