“Not Those People?”: A Meditation on Gun Violence on Good Friday – Rev. Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Duggan


“Not Those People?”: A Meditation on Gun Violence on Good Friday – Rev. Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Duggan

As an additional reflection on Good Friday, the Rev. Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Dugganfrom Shaw University Divinity School shares with us her thoughts in both prose and poetry. Focusing on the historical, oppressive foundations of the United States, she frames the current debate on gun violence to the broader forms of violence that plague our country – tying them into the unignorable reality that the founding violence of the nation still is with us to this day. It is a jolting read, and a good addition to any Good Friday mediations. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – We Talk. We Listen.


The problem is not “those people.”
Most babies are born with potential to love and engage;
few are born as psychopaths and sociopaths.
Violence is an us problem.
As we think through
what it means to be civil, respectful
We must educate ourselves
about our own propensities,
our capacities to love and hate–
hate, born of fear;
about others’ differences:
differences we need not fear or despise
differences we might embrace,
might even like, if given the chance.
And, it is essential we put our fears in check
crucial for us to realize the role of ignorance, avoidance, delusion.
Violence does not begin with
firing the trigger,
detonating of the bomb,
weaponizing a car,
welding the knife–
Violence begins as miseducation and mismanagement of anger,
which fuels fear and creates pain.
Pain metastasized
produces violence.

Violence, domestic violence, gun violence, any violence against innocent others is not acceptable. Too many slaughters of innocent people occur daily in the United States, due to gun violence. The names of these victims are too numerous to name. The depths of anguish and anger and deep grief produced by such heinous, horrific, evil acts traumatizes families and communities: the grief unbearable; the evil unconscionable.

The dead are not statistics; they were real people, with hopes and dreams cut short. We lament their deaths; the earth groans under the weight of such loss.


Candle-light vigil for the victims of the Parkland Massacre

In memorializing the premature dead, see below the names and ages of the murderers, some who kill family members and others; the places and dates of the slaughters. Some committed suicide; police kill some; some are serving life sentences. The rampages occurred at homes and in public spaces. On this Good Friday, the scandal of these mass murders must be heard. We also memorialize those innocent persons murdered by state sanctioned police. The Roman state murdered Jesus. County/parish deputies and city police murder the Sandras, the Trayvons, the Tamirs, as if they are prey or rodents; some cops act like they are exterminators.


In honor of #BlackLivesMatter and #NeverAgain, voting adults need to be mindful of who we elect. We all need to be more mindful of the loss of lives to gun violence. Read this out loud:

World War II veteran, Howard Unruh (28) kills 13 people, Camden, New Jersey, 1949. Charles Whitman (25), wounds 31 people, kills 16 people, and a 17th victim dies 35 years later from injuries sustained then, 1966, Austin, TX. Prison guard George Banks (40) kills 13 people, 1982, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Carl Brown (51) kills eight people in Miami, 1982. Kwan Mak, Benjamin Ng, and Wai-Chiu Ng, kill 13 at the Wah Mee social club, Seattle, 1983. James Huberty (41), kills 21 adults and children at a McDonald’s, San Ysidro, California, 1984. Patrick Sherrill, kills 14 postal workers, Edmond, Oklahoma, 1986. Joseph Wesbecker (47) kills 8 people, Louisville, Kentucky, 1989. James Pough (42) kills 9 people, Jacksonville, Florida, 1990. George Hennard (35) kills 23 people, Killeen, Texas, 1991. Johnathan Doody (17) and Alessandro Garcia (16), kill 9 people at a Buddhist temple, Waddell, Arizona, 1991. Gian Ferri (55) kills 8 people, San Francisco, 1993. Dylan Klebold (17), and Eric Harris (18) murder 13 people at Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado, 1999. Mark Barton (44) kills 12 and wounds 12, Stockbridge/Atlanta, Georgia, 1999. Jeff Weise (16) kills 9 at home and school, Red Lake, Minnesota, 2005. Robert Hawkins (19) kills 8 people in Omaha, Nebraska, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho (23) kills 32 people and wounds many others, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, 2007. Michael McLendon kills 10, Kinston, Alabama, 2009. Jiverly Wong kills 13 people and injures 4 in Binghamton, New York, 2009. Maj. Nidal Hasan kills 13 people and one unborn child, and injures 32, Fort Hood, Texas, 2009.  Robert Stewart (45) kills 8 people in Carthage, North Carolina, 2009. Christopher Speight, 39, kills 8 people, Appomattox, Virginia, 2010. Omar Thornton kills 8 co-workers, Manchester, Connecticut, 2010. Scott Dekraai (41) kills 8 people in Seal Beach, California, 2011. James Holmes (25) injures 70 people and murders 12 people at a theater, Aurora, Colorado, 2012. Adam Lanza (20) murdered 20 children and 6 adults, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, 2012. Aaron Alexis, (34) kills 12 inside the Washington Navy Yard, 2013. Married couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik kill 14 people, Inland Regional Center, San Bernardino, California, 2015. Dylann Roof (21) kills 9, Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Christopher Harper-Mercer kills 9 people, injures 9, Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon, 2015. Omar Mateen (29) kills 49 and injures over 50 people, Pulse nightclub, Orlando, Florida, 2016. Stephen Paddock (65) sprays gunfire on over 22,000 concertgoers, kills 58 people and injures almost 500, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2017. Devin Kelley kills 25 people and an unborn child, and wounds 20 others, Sutherland Springs, Texas, 2017. Nikolas Cruz, 19, kills 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida, February 14, 2018.[1]

What mean these things? Because U.S.A. mass gun shootings occur about every two months, they do not make global headlines. Not only do firearm sales escalate after mass shootings, in 2007, with a population of 320 million people, civilians owned 270 million guns in the U.S.A. 406,496 people died as a result of gun violence (2001-2013); 237,052 suicides; 4,778 police shootings.

We cannot agree on the issue, and Texas has the largest numbers of mass shootings.[2]

A 19th Century image holding up the image of the “Anglo-Teutonic race” superior, with racist depictions of other foreign “races” used for contrast

What means these things? We, particularly people of faith, should not be surprised. The United States evolved by enslavement, murder, theft, couched in the language of manifest destiny. Millions of slaves were bought and sold in Africa; many died during Middle Passage and rest at the bottom of the Atlantic. Thousands of Native Americans were slaughtered and their lands stolen. Native persons were here prior to the colonialism that established the Thirteen original colonies, westward expansion, the Gold Rush, the expeditions. Japanese citizens were put in camps in World War II; some Chinese, Irish, and more recently Latinx persons have been used for grunt work, underpaid, treated in despicable ways.

Our country, rooted and built on violence, cannot heal and get well until we have a truth and reconciliation process. Our current political climate is Reagonomics on steroids. Reading history, there are no surprises. White patriarchal misogynistic oppressive standards undergird the Constitution. Some mothers who conflate patriotism and faith continue to raise up boys with these beliefs, and girls who acquiesce. When the “Declaration of Independence” stated “all men are created equal,” it meant all white male, Protestant landowners. If one did not meet all of these criteria, one was not free. Freedom is not free. Oppressors and oppressed are in bondage.

Where do we go from here? We need to stop lying to ourselves and see our hypocrisy for what it is. As one of the wealthiest nations, how dare we have high mass incarceration, high homelessness, and expensive health care!

Shame on us!!!

As Christians, we need to stop pimping Jesus, the scriptures, and the pulpit. We need to confess our sins of hate from fear, love everyone regardless, enact just policy; and practice the words of Micah 6:8 (do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God) and Luke 10:27: love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, your soul, and your strength, and your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Only when we embody these principles is there any hope, will there be a return to civility, will we be great, if we have ever been great. How can a people be great when they own, oppress, murder another?


Just as the lilies of the field
matter, and they do not work;
so each human being matters
Each person matters to God.

Since God made us in God’s image,
We need to accord each other respect.
No one has the right to oppress others–
Because we can, because of fear,
greed, desired control, or due to difference.

And “we” can stop the madness!
We need to learn how to do family–
Avoid being emotionally unavailable;
Avoid remaking children in parental images
Avoid domestic violence and sexual assault
rape and molestation at home.
Many aberrant, violent behaviors
in the streets, in our neighborhoods
in board rooms, and offices, and alleys
Emerged, were first initiated
begin in the home.

[1] (https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/us/20-deadliest-mass-shootings-in-u-s-history-fast-facts/index.html; viewed March 28, 2018).

[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/one-mass-shooting-every-day-seven-facts-gun-violence-america/; Viewed March 28, 2018.

Cheryl-Clergy-PHOTORev. Dr. Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan is a Professor of Religion at Shaw University Divinity School [SUDS], Raleigh, NC, and an Ordained Elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Her unique proposition is that she specializes in helping individuals and families who have experienced the trauma of grief and loss, come into their authentic selves.

Dr. Kirk-Duggan has written numerous articles and over twenty books, including those related to experiencing trauma and grief: Misbegotten Anguish: A Theology and Ethics of Violence Chalice Press, 2001; Violence and Theology, and her edited The Sky is Crying: Racism, Classism, and Natural Disaster, both Abingdon; her co-written is Wake Up!: Hip Hop, Christianity and the Black Church. Her volume, Baptized Rage, Transformed Grief: I Got Through, So Can You, a volume of poetry is forthcoming with Wipf & Stock press.

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