Nearly every week, at the end of the worship service, our congregation sings these words:
Surely it is God who saves me,
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,
and he will be my Savior.
I think these are powerful and subversive words. We call it our "sung blessing," but I think it is really more of a confession of faith. It echoes the confidence of Romans 8:
I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It isn't that we aren't still vulnerable. We are. To be saved by God is not to be exempt from suffering. It's just that the suffering will never have the final word. No matter what happens to us, we belong to God and cannot be evicted from his presence or robbed of his love.
When you know this - when you trust God no matter what happens - you don't have to be afraid anymore. Not even AR-15s can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A few weeks ago, during a meeting with our state representative, one of my fellow gun violence prevention advocates spoke eloquently, knowledgeably, and passionately about our shared commitment to this campaign. "We are afraid," she added.
And I paused inside. Maybe it was all those Sundays singing that I will trust in him and not be afraid, but I thought: no, let's not do this out of fear.
Fear is an incredible motivator. Indeed, I'm pretty sure it is a significant part of what is fueling the frenzy on the "other side": fear of the bad guy, fear of the tyrannical government, fear that they/we are trying to take their guns away.
Fear has its place - you know, fight or flight and all. But I'm not so sure about the long-term efficacy or the theological coherence of a movement rooted in fear.
Guns scare me. The possibility of what happened in Newtown happening in my town terrifies me. I am devastated that the youth in nearby Chicago live in very real fear that they will not live through their adolescence.
And yet: I will trust in him and not be afraid.
I will keep advocating for sensible gun laws not because I am afraid, but because life is far too precious for more than thirty thousand people to die in the United States from gun violence each year (and yes, suicides count.)
I refuse to give any more power to our Moloch by offering him my fear.