The violence of hate is the denial of the image of God in all human beings.
In the fall of last year I gathered with clergy friends in Arizona for a time of study, prayer, support and learning. We were meeting just a few miles from where then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot on Jan. 8, 2011, while holding a public meeting in front of a local supermarket.
During our meeting we were presented with new orange clergy stoles. Clergy often wear stoles during traditional worship services as a sign of ordination and as a reminder to the liturgical calendar marking the Christian year. Orange however, is not a liturgical color. Rather, orange is the color hunters wear to say, “I am here, don’t shoot!” Orange is a color of safety. Orange is the color that represents gun violence awareness.
I wear my orange stole not as a political statement. I wear orange as a moral choice to love and not to hate. I wear orange not in opposition to guns but rather in contrast to gun violence. Last year, 12,942 people were killed in the United States by gun violence. In that same year, more than 50,000 additional people in our country were victims of gun violence.
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Just one year ago, hate led a young, white man to a Bible study at Mother Emmanuel Africa Methodist Episcopal Church, where he gunned down nine people in attendance, hoping that his hatred would ignite a race war.
Recently, hatred led another young man to attend a different safe haven, Pulse night club in Orlando. Forty-nine LGBTQIA people were murdered through gun violence.
Hate creates fear. Love reveals the face of God. As a disciple of Jesus, I follow the way of radical forgiveness. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44b (NIV). The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Love looks like acceptance. Love stands together even among differences. Love becomes an ally. Love is like the congregation of the Orthodox Synagogue Ohev Shalom, in Washington, D.C., where all traveled to a gay bar after services to stand in support, to meet people and to be present together. Love lives in the tension and beauty of our differences. Love works for an end to assault weapons.
On 9/11, terrorists didn’t use guns; they used planes to kill thousands of people. And as soon as we understood that planes could become weapons, we worked together, as a nation, to keep this from ever happening again. We changed cabin doors. We created a “no fly” list. We increased scanning security at every airport. We changed the air travel industry. The one thing we did not do is to say, “This has nothing to do with airplanes.” We must again work for change. We must find new ways to end gun violence. Together we must seek solutions to end gun violence.
I wear my orange stole as a reminder that ending gun violence must be a priority. To not take action is a denial that all are created in the image of God. Love wears orange.
Rev. Dr. Duane Anders is the lead pastor of Cathedral of the Rockies.