Rev. Steve Wilson
Pacific Unitarian Church
October 28, 2018

“We are going to need a lot more than fig leaves to protect us; especially now when it is becoming obvious the enemy we face is not a chill wind or a fire breathing demon, but that part of us that operates its own agenda, ruthlessly ignoring the possibility of suffering and very real pain for the rest.”
—Lyall Watson, from Dark Nature


I am sitting in my car, having arrived at my destination, but I can’t get out.

Getting out feels disrespectful.

Disrespectful because another American tragedy has just happened.

Another story that, a generation ago felt like an annual moment of despair, has become a weekly sad sigh.

I am listening to another unacceptable story be told that, had I not have come to know would be followed by another one like it, feels like the kind of story that has to be the last straw.

I bet you have had a similar experience. Or many.

Sometimes like last week, with bombs in the mail, gunfire in the Temple, and a human train of refugees walking towards an unwelcoming promised land, a more than weekly event.

Our news is starting to feel biblical.

Sitting in my car, seat tipped back, my leg propped up on the dash, comfortable but only physically, I wonder fearfully if we have reached the saturation point on these stories mattering. And what that means for us as a people.

These stories, like the directions on a shampoo bottle—“lather, rinse, and repeat”—don’t seem to have a conclusion. The cycle of these stories now seems to be scary, violent moments, the public discovery that a tragedy is or has just taken place, images of coiffed reporters wringing their hands, video from a tearful vigil, short clips of poignant speeches calling for peace, followed by a fairly silent quick exit off stage to make room for the next tragic news item.

Sitting in my car, I begin to silently run through a list of practical questions and responses.

Mine last week were of the following nature.

We can’t send a security guard out with every Fed-Ex truck. Can we? Should we?

Not every school temple, church, needs an armed security guard at the door. We haven’t gone that far. Have we?

We could publicly realize that running a free modern society simply demands that more resources and attention go towards mental health.

We could publicly present a moral challenge to gun owners of good conscience as to how they can hold what they might consider a hobby, to be such a right.

Sitting in the car, I wonder if there might be a class action law suit possible for gun producers. The kind where tobacco companies eventually had to face the consequences of their actions.

Maybe a federal tax on bullets, I muse, one that is pro-rated for how many innocent people are shot, a higher tax if it’s a hate crime.

All of these are actually decent ideas, but I remind myself that all political problems are problems of limited will, not options.

This leads me to settle on the fact that I and we could care more.

Maybe not more, but longer, more virulently.

When I was in Grad school I got a chance to study with the Evangelical but progressive Editor of Sojourners magazine, Jim Wallis. Yes, an evangelical Christian, who is essentially a progressive. They do exist.

Wallis, who was quite famous at the time, consistently said to us Divinity School students that it was our sacred task, our job description in fact as clergy, “to act as the political conscience of society.” Essentially to be prophets.

I remember Wallis reminding us that in the Bible it reads, “Without a vision, the people perish,” and points out a different translation: “Without prophecy, the people cast off restraint.” Both deep and catchy phrases.

I agreed and agree with all of it.

I know that I don’t always, or even usually, live up to that, but I agree.

For Jim Wallis the two elements of being a prophet were to first cry out against injustice, and second to cast a new vision before the people.
It’s not like we as modern Americans are not aware of the injustice of innocents dying.

We collectively cry out against the injustice of innocent lives lost pretty well.

At least for a while.

It’s the new vision part that seems to be the problem.

It seems that the new vision is actually an old vision. A vision of a world that doesn’t exist anymore

Our new vision is one in which our country is white and run by whites, run by males, developing or exploiting natural resources like we just discovered them, like we needed guns because it was the frontier, and that there was a diversity in the world and in our world that we could dismiss.

The problem is the new vision.

We need a new vision for America that acknowledges that we have a choice. We can be a people that can pretend the world doesn’t exist, and that this latest tragedy has to be the last straw, because we just can’t face that it is not.