Pastor Noel posted the following commentary in the Pelham Interfaith Council Facebook page:
The February 20th issue of the Pelham Post and the Pelham Plus both carried memorable photographs of six students outside the Pelham school campus holding signs in a protest against gun violence and government inaction to keep students safe. This was, of course, two days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed seventeen students and adults.
The photo that most moved me showed a young male student holding up a sign: “Stop Praying and Start Leading.” How brave and hopeful that our Pelham High School students decided to take action. But how sad prayer now is linked in many young minds with inaction, delay, and obfuscation when it comes to the important issue of gun control.
First of all, let me say that most religious leaders and most religious institutions, at least the ones around Pelham, would be on-board to support tighter and more meaningful gun control legislation. Though the NRA often claims it is furthering the cause of the protection of individual rights in league with many conservative Christians in this nation, most Christians I know, conservative and liberal alike, know the difference between sham self-serving arguments meant to rile up the NRA base, and a logical defense of the right to bear fire arms. No one other than someone in the military needs to own an ar-15 assault rifle.
But my main point goes beyond the issue of gun control. It’s a shame the act of prayer has come to be identified by many with stalling, lack of courage, and even hypocrisy. All our faith traditions teach a necessary link between prayer and meditation and actions that require courage and fortitude. We don’t pray instead of acting, as some claim. We pray in order to take action. We pray to find the wisdom, courage, and perseverance to take actions that will be difficult and face opposition.
So it was with the prophets. So it was with Jesus. So it was with courageous leaders like Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So it must be with us when we know we can no longer sit on the sidelines but must take a difficult action to move forward for the common good.
Dear Pelham students, thank you for your vision and courage in wanting to take the lead in this urgent national issue. An organized mass movement by high school students against gun violence is a bright sign of hope. The next time you are going to protest, please call me so I can pray with you all first.
Pastor Noel Vanek
Community Church of the Pelhams