The Same Damned and Cursed Fight
By Nellis Kennedy-Howard
Teaching Pastor, Missiongathering Christian Church
How does one explain the Boulder shooting to a one year old?
Less than two years. That’s how long my daughter was able to go through life without experiencing a local mass shooting. There is no guidebook for this discussion. There is no blog with all of the answers. And with all of my extensive biblical knowledge, I’ve never come across a passage entitled, Teaching Children About Mass Murder by Assault Rifle.
I spent Palm Sunday in a motorcade convoy honoring Officer Talley and the sacrifice he made when running into a building where everyone else was running out. At the Boulder Police Headquarters, Officer Talley’s car sits parked underneath a mound of flowers, candles, and messages of love. But for me, it was the Paw Patrol balloon that captured my attention and broke my heart. The infamous “Ryder” pictured on the balloon was all too close to home and reminded me of the little Ryder action figures that my daughter plays with every night. And it breaks my heart to think that Officer Talley's seven children will not get to see their hero come home every night.
I held my wife’s hand and tried to shush my little one as we approached the site of the tragedy. Dozens of people were slowly passing by a chain link fence littered with love, condolences, and prayers.
My daughter didn’t get what was happening. She didn’t understand why there were so many fragrant flowers, colorful balloons, and beautiful flags. But, she knows how to pray. And so, I held her close and she grasped her two little hands together and closed her eyes as we prayed. I then set her down and whispered in her tiny little ear, “Please make the world better when you grow up.”
I’ve failed as a parent. I shouldn’t be handing my daughter the problems I myself have failed to solve. It is not her responsibility to undo the evils that I allowed to fester before she was ever even born. It is on me.
Just over twenty years ago, it was any old Tuesday at my high school when class was interrupted to watch live footage of the Columbine massacre happening across town. Columbine was a familiar site - it was where my brother wrestled and where my choir had performed the month prior. Fast forward to today. And here we are, still fighting the same damned and cursed fight.
A few weeks ago, our country mourned the loss of eight women in Atlanta taken by the hands of a mass murderer targeting Asian women. And in just the last several days, our phones rang out with text messages, emergency alerts, and warnings that this mass murder was taking place in Boulder.
As I walked through the vigil, I passed by a man wearing a bright red coat with white bold letters spelling out, “Chaplain,” and dawning a black mask labeled “Billy Graham Response Team.” He walked among the masses offering to pray with anyone willing.
The reality is that I don’t want to lift up another prayer in response to a mass shooting. And if I had to guess, God is probably tired of hearing our empty prayers followed by complete lack of action.
Throughout scripture, Jesus’ disciples discuss forms of spiritual gifts: giving, serving, teaching, etc. However, none of these gifts equate to simple prayer. Yes, all of these spiritual gifts benefit from prayer, but they are at their heart gifts of actions for us to practice here on earth.
This tragedy in our home-state is not the end. There will be others. There will be more heartache and pain - unless we use our gifts to act and unless we move ourselves beyond prayer. Consider supporting a group today that works to prevent gun violence: Everytown for Gun Safety; Newtown Action Alliance; The Brady Campaign; or others.
At the end of the day, I know that my daughter’s future is on me. And I want to build a solution for her before she ever has to whisper in her daughter’s ear.