by Leslye Colvin

Anger drains me — emotionally and physically. It is an act of violence against myself and I try not to experience it intensely for this reason. The celebration or glorification of the culture of violence angers me especially when it is done by a person who has been given authority. A priest posting a photo on social media of himself holding an automatic firearm, a weapon of war, while wearing his clerical collar angers me greatly.

As a Black woman in a southern state, I am aware of the use of law and order rhetoric as a racist trope as is the priest’s expressed intention of “protecting my people and property.” We also live in a period when  stand your ground laws are used to justify murder. Sadly, I remember the murder of a child, Tamir Rice, who was killed because he was a Black boy playing with a toy gun. 

There are many people who respect firearms and use them for hunting and sport. They understand and respect the deadly force at their fingertip. Growing up in a household with firearms, I also was taught to respect them. They were neither toys nor props, but a tool to be used as a deterrent or for protection. As an African-American in an openly racist state, my father would often discreetly pack a pistol for our road trips. Even as children, we knew he had a rifle in his closet. Similarly, my paternal grandfather hide his firearms in a rack above the fireplace in his bedroom. Not to exclude them, but a number of my aunts also owned firearms.

As an adult, I enrolled in a citizen police academy requiring me to visit a firing range and use a variety of firearms. Surprisingly, I scored a 10 out of10 on my handgun test even managing to hit the exact same spot three times. No one was more surprised than me. My father was so proud that he wanted to take a photo of me holding my target practice sheet. It was one of the few times that I remember strongly denying a request from him. 

It was not until my adulthood that I learned of Pax Christi. The organization is recognized internationally as the Catholic voice on peace as modeled by Jesus Christ. Pax Christi began in France in 1945 as a few people gathered to pray for peace. From these humble beginnings it has attained a status of credibility on matters of nonviolence. The movement arrived in the United States in 1972 and is now active in more than 50 countries.

Recognized as the world’s most powerful nation, and the remaining superpower, violence permeates American society and culture. Without thought we use common words in conversation that reflect this mindset. Unfortunately, the conflation of faith and national identity have given rise to a violent form of nationalism fueled by a misaligned perspective on the significance of the second amendment that is in direct conflict with the Gospel of Christ…

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