#StudentsStandUp

I cried last night, watching video of the #StudentsStandUp protests from around the country. It was the first time in several years I have allowed myself to cry after a mass shooting. Probably the first time since Charleston, if I am being specific. I have not been able to cry because I have become incredibly cynical about believing that we would ever really stand and face the scourge of gun violence, and the proliferating spate of mass shootings that plagues our nation. I believed the #NRA was too strong. I believed the Republicans under their sway (they are the largest beneficiaries of NRA $$$) would never speak out against them or for sensible gun laws.

But these kids are inspiring me. These kids brought me to tears…to weeping, heaving tears…because of their courage and their conviction…and their willingness to speak directly to The Powers That Be.

I also want to apologize here. Yesterday, I said some harsh things about how Donald Trump needed “notes” for his meeting at the White House with those kids. I condemned his lack of empathy, and suggested that all our other modern presidents understood empathy without notes.

I apologize for that.

Why?

parklandshooting

Because he SHOWED UP. He invited in the pain, anger, frustration….of victims and their families. He sat there and he listened. Yes, he had some crazy-ass ideas about arming teachers. ( Here is: “If I Only Had A Gun”  shows just how stupid and pointless arming teachers is…).
But the point is: He sat there and took it. He and the Vice-President allowed the White House to be the people’s house.

Marco Rubio did the same thing. And he’s getting a lot of crap for his answers. But he showed up last night at that town hall. He took the grief and anger of his constituents, and did not shy away from it. I didn’t like some of his answers, and I’m frustrated at how he seemed to parrot NRA talking points far too often. But at least he took the first hard step of showing up.

Now, it’s incumbent on leaders to ACT.

The fact of the matter is, the #NRA has changed. That change has been documented by great reporting over the years. They USED to be a lobbying group for sportsmen and hunters. They are now, quite clearly, bought and paid for by gun manufacturers. In a way, they are aptly named. They don’t represent the interests of hunters. They represent the interests of the “rifles” themselves. Their tone-deafness in the wake of every school shooting in recent memory is proof that they don’t represent people…they represent guns and gun makers.

Here is an episode of “More Perfect.” It details this change in the NRA, from passive organization that represented hunters, to activist organization with a strong pro-gun political agenda.

They are coming here to Dallas for their convention later this year. Some of us will be waiting for them. Not with guns and violence, but with the non-violent love of Jesus. Watch for it…

As I’ve said a couple of times in recent days….

We are NOT coming for your guns.
But we ARE coming for assault rifles.
And we are DEFINITELY coming for the NRA.

We will meet their talk of violence, and their defense of the weapons of war, with non-violence and love. And we will defeat them with our VOTE, not with guns.

I believe it’s incumbent on people like me, and you, and all of us, to keep pushing on this issue. One thing I am pleased about, one thing that is different “this time” is that there has been no ridiculous assertion that “it’s too soon” to talk about guns. That was always a ridiculous claim that played right into the NRA’s “rope a dope” strategy. THIS TIME, the victims are saying: “We want to talk about guns, and you’re not going to stop us.”

God bless them for that courage.

One of these days, I need to write that book I’ve been threatening to write. The one called “Follow Your Heartbreak.” It basically says that, contrary to what we often think, it’s our heartbreak that often leads us to our true callings. We take our sufferings and we redeem them through making the world a better place. We don’t DENY our heartbreak…we let it lead us. And where it often leads us is to solutions to society’s problems….to a world that’s transformed in new ways.

I see these kids doing that. I see these grieving parents doing that.
God bless them for it.
They still might not be able to break the evil power of the NRA, but I’m gonna help them try.
How about you?

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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