Worship Guide 7/21/2024

  Sunday, July 21st, 2024 at 10 AM in the Church and Zoom Sanctuaries

Worship Guide

Responding to Recreational Violence

What if the shooter whose bullet grazed Donald Trump's ear had no motive but sport? What if he woke up that day and thought, "Oh, I could take Dad's semiautomatic rifle and go and
shoot somebody famous today – that would be cool."  Why go to the firing range, when he could go hunting for big game?

Such was the motive that led a shooter to kill 60 people with military weapons he fired from a hotel room in Las Vegas in 2017.  It appears that he did it because he felt like it.  Not out of hatred, but because he found it to be a satisfying form of entertainment.  Some folks go to Vegas for the shows and the gambling.  He went for the pleasure of shooting people. 

What happened on Saturday ought to be the occasion for deep soul-searching by Americans of all political and religious persuasions.  We have created a society that produces people who kill people for kicks.  To turn this horror around, we have spiritual, cultural, and political work to do.
As of today, it appears that Donald Trump is not the victim of political violence, which of course should be universally condemned, but rather of recreational violence committed with a military weapon that no civilian should own.  This event should mobilize citizens and politicians to ban civilians from owning weapons which have no practical purpose but the mass killing of human beings. 
 And until serious gun control laws are passed, we must engage in the cultural work of
making it cool to engage in life-affirming recreation, and making it uncool to play with weapons of mass mayhem.  (Calling all creatives in all mediums:  lets get busy with this!)
One outrageous response to the attack has come from Christians proclaiming that the hand of
God reached down to save Trump from death on Saturday because he is divinely anointed.  This
is spectacularly bad theology.   It begs the question:  why did God allow the bystander to be shot
to death?  Why did God let bullets rip through the other bystanders who were critically injured? 
God saves Trump but not Trump’s loyal followers?  Why would an omnipotent God let anyone shoot at people just for laughs?  This ought to be an occasion to reconsider belief in a supernatural God who picks and chooses those whom he allows to live and those he allows to suffer and die. 
 As progressive religious people, we need to double-down on offering an
alternative understanding of God as nothing less nor more than unconditional love.
We are called to lift up that love and spread it.  And, in particular, to share it with the socially
alienated.  We must transform our society from one that generates loneliness into one that
extends conviviality.  Progressive religious folks should count this terrible incident as a call to be more vigorous in inviting people, especially those who are isolated, into our faith communities. 

The salvation we offer is not from hell in an afterlife, but from an empty existence in this one.  What if someone had invited the shooter to play a game of tennis on Saturday?  Or dominoes? Or to watch a funny movie together?  (There are documented stories of people who were on the verge of violence but were held back because someone treated them kindly at exactly the right moment.)
Divine, unconditional love could have saved the day on July 13.  Through our personal and
collective action, may it save the day for our community and our country – today and tomorrow.

I’ll be back to preach at our church on 7/21. 
The following weekend, 7/26-29, I’ll be in Ohio where I’ll be speaking at the memorial service for my childhood buddy, Bruce.  I wish a happy summer to you all!


PS:  If you’d like to subscribe to my weekly blog, “musings”, email me at jtburklo@yahoo.com and I’ll put you on the list!

P.S.S.:  In addition to being your pastor, I’m also the (volunteer) Executive Director of ProgressiveChristiansUniting.org .  I’m leading its main project, a new global network of progressive Christian ministries at colleges and universities called ZOE…  zoeoncampus.org . 


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