It’s Not Normal!

I hope you’re aware that there was a shooting at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Vestavia Hills, Alabama this past Friday. My reason is yes, most importantly to continue to pray for those who lost their lives, those who grieve the loss of loved ones, those who were injured and for the entire faith community. However, there is another reason I hope you are aware of this mass shooting…it is critical that we do not succumb to normalizing gun violence.

My cottage in Alabama is less than 5 minutes from St. Stephen’s. Moments after the shooting I was with Bishop Glenda Curry consoling survivors and negotiating with law enforcement to see if we could get into the church to be with victims still in the church. Such an incredible tragedy for a wonderful faith community who were doing what they are called to – gather for fellowship and welcome the stranger.

This is now the fourth mass shooting I have a direct connection with. The first took place at Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, Washington in 1996, three years before the Columbine High School shooting. Many of my ‘camp kids’ from my time as Executive Director at Camp Cross were there that day. Fortunately none of those young people were physically injured. In a 2017 school shooting two young women I coached at Freeman High School were injured, as was one other, while one student lost his life. In 2018 in the Parkland shooting one of my ‘Kanuga kids’ was killed and a number of others were deeply traumatized.

Statisticians look for patterns. Sociologists observe behavior. Both are looking to establish predictability. Predictability, psychologists’ often suggest, provides a sense of rhythm and routine, and inevitably an experience of normalizing. As such, after being personally impacted by these shootings it could be suggested categorically that they have become normalized for me.

Even if you have not been impacted directly by mass shootings, just the fact that we live in a country where there have been more mass shootings than days in 2022 suggests it could be easily categorized as normalized behavior. It is ‘normal’ or ‘normative’ to expect that at least once a day there will be a mass shooting? I invite you to read that last sentence again. How ludicrous is it that mass shooting be normal?!

We do have the agency to de-normalize gun violence. All of us, regardless of our political leanings or relationship with guns, can make a conscience choice to take deliberate actions that change our present reality and move daily mass shootings from normal to never. It is difficult, complicated, essential, urgent work.

I am grateful for those who work hard every day to bring an end to gun violence. I am grateful to the first responders, law enforcement, medical personnel and clergy who unselfishly give of themselves in response to gun violence. I pray every day for the victims of gun violence and that all of us will stand up to end normalizing gun violence.

9 thoughts on “It’s Not Normal!”

  1. Jackie Bernacchi

    Always thankful for your courage, your heart and soul.
    Thankful for your wisdom. Chi Miigwech

  2. We have to be willing to ALL take that first step to limiting access to assault type rifles and high capacity magazines. If not now when? How long of Lord, how long! Thank you bishop!

  3. Brian I can not imagine being “on-site” to what has become so ingrained in this our United States. Yes, if not now when ? Can we individually say …”I commit to change this paradigm”. And if not , how can we even begin say to those we love we simply bore witness. Yes ! If not now, never.

  4. Susie Honaker Wirzbicki

    Nothing close to normal, even if it has become familiar. Prayers for the supporters of the supporters and the advocates to interrupt access to the sources of weapons to harm people. I am also sorry for your loss, BP. Much Love, Susie

  5. These events are not normal and they are done by people who are not normal. There is no good reason to have relatively easy access to violent weapons for anyone! We can do better.

  6. Thank you Bishop Prior! I hope that church leadership will provide specific individual and collective guidelines on these deliberate actions.

  7. I totally agree. As people who seek to follow Jesus, we must have the courage to do what we can. No other developed country in the world has this problem. Yes it is complicated, but ultimately we must admit that the elephant in the room is that we are a nation with only 4% of the world’s population, but over 40% of the world’s guns.

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