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Thoughts, Prayers, Orange Ribbons and Anger

Feb 22 2018

Our youngest daughter, Rose is 16, and last weekend in Concord, New Hampshire she had her first dance competition of the current season. She is in four team routines: ballet, pointe, lyrical and jazz. She also is competing with a lyrical solo piece, and they were all beautiful. She won first place in the novice-lyrical category, and it was a wonderful weekend. She seemed to enjoy the camaraderie with the four high school aged girls from her team at least as much as her competition itself, as the girls spent free time in the hotel sauna and hot tub. They were doing exactly what high school girls should have be doing.

As my wife, Sue, and I enjoyed the weekend mostly from our seats in the auditorium, we first noticed one coach with an orange ribbon, then a few dancers, then an entire team had them in their hair during a modern performance piece. Within hours, they were everywhere. I went out to the merch table (dance competitions ALWAYS have merch tables) and asked if they knew what the ribbons were all about. The answer stopped me in my tracks. It seems that one of the teens killed in last week's Florida school shooting was also a competitive dancer, and was to be competing in her first competition of the year last weekend as well. As a way to honor this young girl whose life was pointlessly taken in her high school classroom, all dance competitions last weekend were providing orange ribbons. The lady at the table gave me two ribbons, and I returned to my seat.

Suddenly, the school shooting hit much closer to home. Someone's daughter around our Rose's age was gone forever. She was undoubtedly just as excited about her weekend as Rose was; she probably drove her mother crazy as she incessantly danced around the kitchen when she was supposed to be doing the dishes; she was probably planning to be in the dance studio every evening leading into her competition; her parents were certainly as excited and proud to watch their little girl dance as Sue and I were to watch Rose. And now their little girl was gone. I wasn't sad exactly as I sat in the auditorium, but I was exceedingly grateful. Sue and I could enjoy our daughter's weekend, and we drank in every moment.

After the costumes were back in their garment bags, the medals admired, and we were once again back home, the contrast of our weekend's memories and what this other family's weekend must have been wouldn't leave my alone, and my gratitude became sadness and anger.

Especially anger.

I'm angry with the editorials all over the Internet claiming that "thoughts and prayers" are of no value after a tragedy. Prayer can bring peace, hope, and even be a means of grieving. It helps us to forgive and empathize. True, thoughts and prayers haven't seemed to change our evil gun culture anymore than an orange ribbon will, but they change the hearts of the ones saying the prayers. That's a start.

I'm angry, though, with the people who think that thoughts and prayers are enough. Token prayers are worse than no prayer. That's why I'm so glad to see these young people in Florida becoming activists. "15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? 17So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead.…" James 2:15-17

I'm angry with the hideous smoke screens the pro-weapons-of-mass-murder folks use to justify their idolatry. I heard a guy on the news say, "An AK47 could be on this table all day and no one would be killed. Guns don't kill, people do." I suppose a vial of heroin and needles could safely sit upon the same table because heroin doesn't overdose on heroin, people do. Sue and I are close with two different families who have had adult sons die from overdoses, and we would never consider saying something so tactless (not to mention simplistic, stupid, etc.) to either set of parents.

I'm anger that almost 20 years after Columbine, were still having this discussion that has gone NOWHERE under four presidencies.

I'm especially angry that somehow Bible believing Christians (specifically, middle class suburban Christians) are among the most pro-gun demographics in America. I'm angry that we have such a biblically illiterate church culture that one obscure verse about the disciples carrying swords when they travel somehow justifies allowing 18 year olds to own weapons of war in 2018 America. I'm angry that my Lord is being totally misrepresented to the American culture at large because somehow so many fellow believers are more committed to right wing politics than to Jesus Himself.

So the orange ribbon will stay on my jacket until it frays into scraps. And I will use every opportunity to tell anyone who will listen that it's past time to do things God's way and put an end to the idolatry of guns in America.

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