Today’s post is an author interview with Taylor Schumann. Injured in a shooting in 2013 and left with wounds both visible and invisible, she weaves her own story into the larger conversation about gun violence in America in her newest book, When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough: A Shooting Survivor’s Journey Into the Realities of Gun Violence. She writes the truth of her own story, and the stories of the countless precious lives affected daily by the crisis of gun violence, to implore others to join her in meeting the suffering around us with whole-hearted attention. She writes to ask, simply, that we resist the impulse to look away. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Sojourners and Fathom.
What led you to write this book?
My book is the one I wish I had been able to read in the immediate aftermath of being shot and experiencing a life-altering tragedy. After becoming involved in advocacy for gun reform and really coming to terms with the fact that Christians as a majority are largely silent on this issue, I knew I had to write about it. I wanted to offer a way into the story of gun violence for people who have not personally experienced it.
Who is this book for? Who is the audience?
My book is for anyone who has been through a tragedy or a trauma and is walking through grief—or for anyone who wants to support someone they love through that experience. My book is also for anyone who wants to learn more about gun violence and what we can do to reduce it.
How can the local Church support shooting survivors and their families? What do survivors need to hear from their local church community?
What survivors need most from their local Church is to feel seen and acknowledged. Survivors need to know that their church doesn’t see gun violence as a political issue, but a Kingdom one. Churches are often afraid to engage in the conversation about gun violence and gun reform because people may perceive it as being a political statement. Yet in reality, this only perpetuates the idea that the issue of gun violence is only political, instead of understanding it as a spiritual issue as well. Churches can help us see that gun reform is about reducing suffering, preventing needless deaths of our fellow image-bearers, and making a way for humanity to flourish.
How else can the local Church teach and shepherd their congregations about preventing gun violence in general?
Right now American Christians are having trouble differentiating their identities as Christians from their identities as Americans. It’s easy for us to be against gun reform when we mistake our identity as an American with a right to bear arms as more important than our identity as a follower of Jesus. We must remember that just because we are offered a right as an American, doesn’t make it beneficial for us to exercise at all costs. I think the Church has the opportunity to shepherd Christians back to the foundations of our faith: to love Jesus, to love our neighbors, and to lay our lives down for the sake of others.
Is this a book that could be read and discussed in a group setting? Are there discussion questions?
Yes! The book was written with hopes that it would be something that groups of people could come together and talk about. There is a discussion guide with questions in the back of the book.
What is one of the main takeaways you hope readers will get from your book?
Ultimately my hope for this book is that it would bring together people who find themselves on opposite sides of the gun reform debate. I hope that people will see that my desire for reducing gun violence is not about taking away anyone’s rights or guns, but to prevent people from having to suffer incredible trauma and pain that gun violence causes.
What is one surprising thing you learned while writing it?
I really learned a lot about myself while writing the book. I have written about the shooting for years, but something about doing it in this long form way brought about a lot of healing and clarity about things I hadn’t been able to see before. I was able to trace so many changes I went through back to specific moments where things began to really click for me. I hadn’t been able to do that before putting my whole story together in this way.
What kind of feedback or response have you received so far?
So far, the response has been incredibly encouraging and positive. I know not everyone will like my book, and that’s okay—because it’s not meant for every person. My prayer is that it connects with the people it’s meant for. If it helps just one person, or changes the life of one person—I will count it a success.
Are there any other additional resources that you would recommend?
One of my favorite books, Beating Guns, by Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin.
Connect with Taylor at www.taylorschumann.com.
Resources for gun violence survivors or to learn more about the topic.