Investigating the Lived Reality of Those Who "Got Shot": Listening and Seeing People Who Have Long-Term Disabilities as a Result of Gun Violence

“This project will investigate -- and then share -- the lived reality of some people who have been left severely disabled as the result of gun violence so that the larger church may become aware of their suffering -- and possibly be moved to do something about the epidemic of handgun violence. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Heidi Vardeman Peace Presbyterian Church Contact Me
Frank Vardeman Contact Me

About this pastoral study project

In the United States, about 230 persons a day, or about 84,000 a year, are shot and wounded by gun violence, but they are invisible to all but a few. Thousands are left in constant pain and economic hardship but few notice. The church, which is charged by Jesus himself to attend to those in physical and psychic distress, is unaware of them. As gun violence is an urban problem disproportionately affecting dark skinned people (McBride, 2017), housing patterns and racism make it so white Christians just don't see those who are injured and their family members. They are like the man in the parable of the Good Samaritan who was left bleeding on the side of the road. Aren't we supposed to stop and help?
By means of in-depth interviews and taking formal photographic portraits of those left para- and quadriplegic after "being shot," this project will investigate their and their family members' lived realities, listening to what life is like after "being shot" and being "in a chair." We will then tell their stories by means of magazine-like profiles and TED-talk type presentations and show their bodies by exhibiting formal photographic portraits. Our objective is to "un-other" those injured so that white Christians in suburban, rural and wealthy areas will start seeing them and stop to help by getting involved in existent church efforts to end gun violence.
This project is possible because Frank is himself paraplegic. We live in a high crime area of Minneapolis just blocks from where George Floyd was murdered. Heidi serves a white suburban congregation. Young Black men "in chairs" in our neighborhood have engaged Frank, who is older and white, in conversations. We will deepen these conversations and take portraits in an effort to introduce those severely disabled by gun violence so that church people will start seeing them, pay them heed and do something to alleviate their suffering, including preventing future gun violence.