This past Sunday was the 50th Anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four young girls died, one of the great tragedies of American history. The hurt and the outrage echo through time, growing louder and louder rather than fainter, as it passes through the violent death of children, hundreds of thousands of children. We should be able to hear nothing but this echo, but it seems clear to me that we hear very little. Our hearing is stopped up by denial that has been elevated to a lifestyle.
According to a counter on the website of Slate magazine, whose accuracy I have no reason to doubt, a minimum of 158 children, 414 teens and 7,469 adults have been killed by gunfire in the United States of America since the Newtown, Connecticut massacre on December 14, 2012. This number represents only those deaths reported on in the media and then reported to Slate. It is only the tip of the iceberg. In 2010, the last year for which we have accurate statistics, 31,076 people were killed by a gun in the US. That's at least one every twenty minutes.
Twelve in several minutes yesterday in Washington, DC. None of them children, for which we can be grateful, but will any of us be surprised when the next school shooting comes across our televisions, computers and smart phones? No. We do not want them to happen. We are not that crass. But we expect them to. We have decided that 158 children dead in nine months is an acceptable cost of our so-called liberty, which,in reality, is an idolatry of the power one feels when you hold a loaded gun.
I cannot believe that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and their colleagues would stand for this state of affairs for a moment. Amazingly enough, we do (and I count myself). Since Newtown the gun lobby as been totally successful in stymieing any advancement in gun control. Supporters have simply given up, and so, it seems, have the rest of us. If the "mainline" churches want to speak their value and proclaim their commitment to the Gospel "on earth as it is in heaven," than why haven't we taken over Capitol Hill? There
The echoes of Birmingham are the screams of the children of Newtown. Can't we hear them?
Pray for us Addie Mae, Carole, Cynthia and Denise.