In times of turmoil or great difficulty, many of us in East Texas turn to those who lead us in worship. We look to our faith leaders to provide meaning, or to help us find some hope that might come from tragedy.
That was certainly true than when people gathered Sunday to worship just hours after dozens were killed or wounded by a white supremacist in El Paso and more were gunned down in Ohio.
Ministers are only human and no doubt they were struggling to find meaning themselves in those hours. But they must have known the topic would be at the top of the minds of those attending services.
They also are fully aware they are in East Texas and to whom they speak. While most rightly use their pulpits to discuss such issues, no local minister we know of is going to advocate for strict gun control, even in response to such heinous acts.
The same Bill of Rights that allows for free, unfettered religion says the government shall not infringe on the rights of people to bear arms.
We could continue arguing for years about what the Founding Fathers meant about both rights and how they should translate to the present. After all that arguing, we would be in exactly same place we started, with nothing resolved.
Thus our ministers did not — and probably should not — propose laws or political action as a solution. Instead, they spoke of what they know: How the example of love and faith can and must transform the hate and fear that leads to these tragic instances.
“We tied it in, in the sermon, around the whole concept that change happens when we allow it in our hearts,” said the Rev. Jay Jackson, minister at Longview’s First Methodist Church.
That’s truly the first step — allowing change to take hold in individuals then using that to change the broader world. Jackson made another valid point: That the entire responsibility for change does not lie with elected officials.
To be sure, much of the work does fall squarely on the shoulders of those we elect to represent us. And we believe too many of our representatives have been ducking that responsibility.
The Rev. Lamar Jones of Hallsville’s Galilee Baptist Church echoed those feelings when he said he would like to see officials making decisions that focus on what it actually takes to end violence as opposed to basing them on hopes of getting reelected.
Still, too many of us simply sit back and wait for elected officials or others to take care of problems.
Instead of continuing that, just as we all are affected by racism and gun violence, we all must work on the problem. Merely passing another law is not going to be enough. A change of attitude must take place.
Without that change the situation is hopeless.
That was the message from the Rev. Richard Emerson at First Christian Church in Longview. “Make an example in our community, and hopefully that will spread further,” he said. “Obviously, we pray. I just hope that we can come together and change for the better.”
The Rev. Kendal Land of First Presbyterian Church in Longview put the situation at its most basic level when he said, “We can’t be afraid to talk about it.”
Indeed, we’ve been afraid for too long. It’s time to change that.