Therefore Be It Resolved
On Friday last week, 12 people senselessly died in Virginia Beach when one of their fellow employees roamed through three floors and the parking lot of a municipal building with two handguns and extended capacity magazines and committed yet another horrific mass killing in our nation. Another city in our nation is gripped by unfathomable trauma. Families and friends are grieving because their loved ones were brutally killed just trying to finish out their work week.
On Wednesday of last week, Scott Daniel Warren’s trial began in Tucson, Arizona. He is a border activist who helped a pair of migrants get water, food, clean clothes and lodging. Now he is charged with harboring and conspiring to transport illegal migrants. Warren says he was moved to offer assistance to the men because his faith guides him to extend mercy and compassion to people in need.
These are two very different stories. But they both leave me heartsick, shaking my head at a world that seems to have gone absolutely mad. The issues they once again raise for all of us — gun violence and immigration — are both so enormous and complex that some days I just feel helpless to do anything to change them at all.
In the United Church of Christ we try to have an impact on a great many issues. Conferences and our biennial General Synod pass countless resolutions on almost any issue you can name. Gun violence and immigration are two of those issues we’ve addressed. In the Minnesota Conference, we passed a resolution entitled “Preventing Gun Violence & Recognizing it as a Public Health Emergency” just last year; it echoed a similar resolution passed at General Synod in 2017. In 2016, our Conference passed the “Immigrant Welcoming” resolution; we led the way in seeing it passed at General Synod the summer after that. Both resolutions have something important to say about these complex issues and direct our public advocacy and effort.
There’s always a lot of debate about whether these resolutions we so boldly pass are really effective in shaping our shared witness and creating real change. There’s even a resolution coming to General Synod this summer that calls for a nationwide discussion on the future of resolutions and our social witness in the United Church of Christ, questioning whether the way we’ve always done it is the best way after all. True enough, if resolutions are simply statements that don’t actually move us to authentic, concrete action, they are indeed both useless and hypocritical.
But I’m not quite ready to throw in the proverbial towel when it comes to resolutions of social witness. At the very least, resolutions force the Church’s reflection on issues that matter, create space for conversation that we might not otherwise have. They cause us to reckon as one Body of Christ with how God is calling us to make a difference in the here and now. And they give us an opportunity to raise an alternative voice of compassion, justice, and love amid the noisy din of merciless, insane rhetoric that otherwise clutters our nation’s public dialogue. That matters. It matters more all the time.
Twelve people are dead in Virginia Beach, one more mass killing that will never make any sense. Thousands of people are still fleeing violence and poverty south of our border, while those who render aid to them may now be charged with a crime. It’s a crazy, senseless world we’re living in. So I’m going to be grateful that in the United Church of Christ at least we’ve not been silent. And I call on all of us to deepen our resolve to embody what we claim.
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister