COUNTING THE COST
Clergy must always count the cost. What will be the cost for speaking out? Will people leave? Will offerings dip? Will I be asked to leave? Will the congregation be strengthened? Will our faithfulness be tested? Will the cost further the creation of the Reign of God in the world?
I have been there. I recall the cost of flying our American flag upside down in response to the US invasion of Cambodia. I recall the cost of working with A Roman Catholic Mother House and Presbyterian congregation in the creation of a community ministry. I recall the cost in preaching against the invasion of Iraq. I recall the cost of sponsoring and speaking to resolutions at synod assemblies.
Addressing gun violence prevention also entails a cost. Many members of our congregations own guns and do not want anyone telling them what to do with them. They believe it is their right to own a gun. Yes, it is. They believe they will use them in a safe manner. Overwhelmingly yes!
Yet, there is the reality that 33,000 people die of gun violence each year in the United States: one third by homicide and two-thirds by suicide. In Minnesota, 80% of all gun deaths are by suicide.
Yesterday, our pastor preached on “counting the cost” from Luke’s Gospel. He made it clear that following Christ entails a cost. We cannot escape the call to discipleship. We are goaded and bothered. The only direction home is towards the Cross.
Daniel Berrigan recently passed away. The Jesuit priest and long time activist, came to prominence when he and eight others burned with home made napalm 378 draft cards taken from a draft-board office in Catonsville, MD on 17 May 1968. The result was jail sentences for the group. He went underground after the sentencing. (Sojourners-August 2016) Some of his words are appropriate as we consider “counting the cost” of addressing gun violence: “The time is past when good people can remain silent.” “We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.” And in speaking in favor of nonviolence, when someone accused him of being naive and said, “Father, no one can live the way you outlined. Do you know what will happen if you try?” Daniel responded, “Yes, I know where it leads. Before you start down this path you better make sure you look good on wood.” (John and Mary Schramm, THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE)