The Holy Innocents

Friday, December 28, 2012 — Christmas

The Holy Innocents

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 996)

Morning Prayer

Psalms 2, 26

Isaiah 49:13-23

Matthew 18:1-14

Evening Prayer

Psalms 19, 126

Isaiah 54:1-13

Mark 10:13-16

The feast of the Holy Innocents feels particularly poignant this year coming so soon after the horrible events in Newtown, CT. Last Saturday my friend and parishioner David Lewis wrote with an additional detail about his six-year-old grandson Jesse’s death that day. Jesse tried to help other kids escape and was killed running into the line of fire. For his actions, he was recognized as a “First Responder” and given a “Commander in Chief” funeral — a motorcycle police escort, mounted police at the funeral home and at the burial and a full line of police standing at attention at the funeral home, the church and the gravesite.

Meanwhile, the whole world prays for Malala Yousafzai and other children oppressed by the evil violence of the Taliban. And for the children caught in the horrible violence in Syria and elsewhere.

At this moment, one of my heroes Sam Totten is risking his life trying to bring food to thousands of children and adults who are being systematically starved in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, Sudan, where defenseless people suffer indiscriminate bombing directed by indicted war criminal, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. Sam is a genocide scholar and is trying to bring the world’s attention to this horror. He’s also a good friend, the husband of my parishioner Kathleen Barta. We pray for Sam and for those he is trying to help. But we need more than prayer. We need international military intervention to stop the genocide.

We also need some political backbone to help stop the continuing murder of the innocents in this country. It’s time to stand up to the bullies of the NRA and pass sensible gun laws. Our nation is different from other developed nations. We have more guns than they do, and we have 32 times the rate of gun homicides that they do.

Hang in there with me for some numbers. In the U.S. there are 3.2 gun homicides per 100,000 residents each year. Switzerland ranks second among the advanced democracies — 0.7 per 100,000. Ireland and Canada, 0.5; Sweden and Finland, 0.4; New Zealand, Spain and Germany, 0.2; France, Britain and Australia, 0.1; and 0 in Japan. Can anybody say Americans are 32 times as mentally ill and dangerously deranged as the other Western democracies? Of course not. It’s the guns!

In the U.S. states with the highest proportion of gun ownership tend to be the states with the highest level of gun deaths. The presence of guns increases the likelihood of deadly action.

Grown-ups — get rid of the guns in your own home for the sake of your family’s safety! Politicians, stop letting the NRA bully you and stand up to them. Nobody needs military style assault weapons or Saturday Night Special handguns. Guns are costing our nation profoundly. Tax them, license them, register them and use the money to improve our mental health services and to increase public education about the dangers of gun ownership.

In today’s reading, Jesus says, “If your hand or your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 18:8) It’s time to throw away the extensions of our hands — the guns that are causing us to fall into sin. Chop them up and throw them away. Too many children, too many innocents have died. “It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” (18:14)

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