underneath guns.

Yet another mass shooting has rocked us this weekend. Our hearts are still reeling from Las Vegas and another one slams us, this time at a church in TX.

Our Facebook feeds will be filled with different perspectives on guns and we’ll go through the cycle of grief yet again. Horror, shock, anger, and “We can’t keep living this way” and then slide into next month where really, nothing changes.

New gun laws aren’t going to be in place anytime soon.

The NRA isn’t going to give up its fight.

As a friend said recently, “If Sandy Hook and little kids being slaughtered didn’t do it, nothing’s going to.”

The polarization will continue.

The words on Facebook and Twitter and every news source known to humanity flying every direction will increase.

The helpless feeling will probably pervade so many of us.

What can we do?

Praying for the victim’s families is good but won’t change anything.

Crying out to God can involves more mystery than certainty.

Writing letters, making calls, and advocating for gun control probably won’t change much, but it could do something.

The thing that we can, indeed, do is far underneath addressing the issue of “guns.”

The work that I believe needs to be done is much deeper.

It’s the work that often “the church” has miserably failed at.

It’s the work that social service agencies can’t do alone.

It’s the work that teachers and educators of all types can’t shoulder the burden on by themselves.

It’s the work that we are too tired, too scared, too ill-prepared, too self-focused, too busy, too violent, too ___________ to tackle together because it will require more from us than we want to give.

Because the work underneath guns is about community and connection.

Mock me if you will. Trust me, I know I’m like a broken freaking record.

It’s because I think that ultimately, underneath guns and violence and the whole mess we’re in as a nation and as “the church”, is broken community and connection.

Yeah, I’ll hold to the idea that the work underneath guns is about community and connection.

It’s about healing in a world (and church) desperate for quick fixes.

It’s about relationship in a world (and church) that values unhealthy independence.

It’s about human dignity in a world (and church) that’s lost so much of theirs.

It’s about helping little boys not grow up to be angry, fragmented, divided men in a world (and church) who are examples of broken (or pathological) male role models.

It’s about mental health issues in a world (and church) that’s in complete denial about the problem.

It’s about building healthier systems at the most basic levels in a world (and church) that keeps perpetuating the same patterns of power and

It’s about “slow” in a world (and church) that is addicted to “fast.”

It’s about weakness in a world (and church) built on perceived strength and power.

It’s about peace-making in a world (and church) that thrives on violence.

Oh, my heart hurts at another senseless tragedy.

My heart hurts that they are all starting to run together, that we are becoming numb, that this has become a new normal.

My heart hurts that our call as Christians has become such a hot mess that no one trusts us anymore, when community and connection is supposed to be our wheelhouse. What we are often now known for is a travesty.

My heart hurts that we will carry on with our week and think that what we have to contribute won’t really make a difference anyway.

Really, my heart just hurts with no perfect words that go with it.

I am thinking of all of you today and your hurting hearts, too.

I hope we can use the hurt for good.

To not give up advocating for change.

To play our part in some small way to bringing light in the darkness.

To keep our dignity in a world that keeps trying to steal it.

And somehow, some way, consider that the conversations we need to be having over the next chapter of our story as a nation, as a church, are the ones that lie underneath guns.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • “It’s about helping little boys not grow up to be angry, fragmented, divided men in a world (and church) who are examples of broken (or pathological) male role models.”
    Very true. And it’s about church reaching out to the lost and the divided. Why is it that the church only reaches out in a time of such tragedy and not before? I am not placing blame on anyone, since I know that every church tends to have a Judas in it’s midst, but the church has become a place that someone reaches into, instead of being a place where people reach out.

  • Well said! It is not a gun issue – it’s so much more. If someone wants to harm or kill someone there are many ways to accomplish this. If there were no guns, people can still resort to homemade bombs, chemical concoctions or even use a big truck to kill. We are disconnected and broken – I truly wish situations like this could be prevented by removing guns but that simply is not true.

  • Kathy, if this kind of thinking and focus were put to the issues of violence in America, I’m confident we’d be making progress rather than falling back. You are highlighting the right diagnosis and right approaches to remedies.

    It’s so right and proper how you’ve included “(and church)” on each point. Community and connection indeed ARE key, as you say. Though I’ve not gotten to attend your local community/church, from knowing you some and following your ministry, I want to applaud you for going way beyond just words and actually living out what you speak about! And applaud your congregation, who I know participate actively in the same work, the same difficult “life together” when relating is not always easy.

    One further “kudo”: I sense that one key for you all is that you, better than most faith communities (of all theological types), determine to deal honestly with human emotion and the human condition…. As we find it, not just as it is idealized in many versions of Christian spirituality.

    I’ll repeat concepts I posted about in your more recent (11-17) article. As a former Evangelical insider in leadership and counseling, I long observed the denial of psychological exploration, in various forms: Denial of real and deep emotion. Simplistic (over-spiritualized) answers to complex issues of the soul and spirit. Efforts to bury things so as to appear more together (“righteous”) than a given person or group really is. And on it goes, as you know. (I say these things more for your readers than for you, realizing you are probably more up on these issues than I am.)
    As I’ve implied, you are already doing much of what is most needed, and being a model which I’m sure others are and will BE finding compelling and helpful. So thank you!


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