09 Oct Processing through the Lens of Faith
I spend most Mondays immersed in reading and writing. I journal, reflecting on the worship service the day before. I think about the tasks, events and responsibilities of the week. I recharge my spiritual battery by reading and praying. And, I spend time doing sermon prep. I almost always walk or work out. I almost never turn on the television.
Last Monday was so glorious that I sat outside on my deck for several hours reading and journaling. I came in around dinnertime and eventually checked the news. Needless to say, images from Las Vegas were everywhere. My blissful reverie ended abruptly.
I have spent the past week thinking about what I should—and should not—say about yet another horrific gun violence event in our country. As I watch the candlelight vigils spring up, see the mountain of flowers and memorabilia that grows daily at the scene, and hear the tragic stories of lives cut short and lives forever altered, I am weary: weary of this oft-repeated cycle of shooting, horror, vigil, and story that never seems to change. We weep and pray. Flags are lowered to half-staff. Authorities delve into the background of the perpetrator. Someone inevitably asserts that we must re-evaluate our gun laws while someone else inevitably asserts that this isn’t the proper time and that gun ownership is a constitutional right.
I am tired of this polarizing debate. I am tired of the lack of common sense and decency in this discussion, the lack of moral courage by public leaders, and the stoking of irrational hysteria. But, where does any of that get us? How does any of it move the dial? Our collective shock and grief were never more apparent than after Sandy Hook, where 5, 6 and 7 year-old children were mowed down in their elementary school by a gunman, but has anything changed as a result of that moment of national outrage? Can you imagine being one of the parents who lives not only with the loss of a precious child but also the knowledge that your pleas for substantive debate on gun control largely went unheeded?
I also cannot help but place the Las Vegas tragedy in the context of everything else that is taking place in our country. How can we label entire groups of people as “dangerous” and “criminal” based solely on ethnicity or religious affiliation, when the overwhelming majority of those who commit mass murder in the United States are born and raised right here? Surely I am not the only one to notice this offensive hypocrisy. But, again, where does this get us?
Don’t misunderstand—the vigils and the moral outrage are critically important. I fear the day when we’ve seen so many mass shootings that we are no longer angry and we barely pause for a moment of obligatory silence. But moral outrage alone won’t cut it. I am asking myself what more could I or should I be doing? Perhaps if we asked that question together, it would eventually make a difference, and the likelihood of another Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Navy Yard, Charleston, San Bernardino, Nickel Mines and all the others, would be lessened. And perhaps it would also allow us to talk not only about our “rights” but to have an equally robust conversation about our corresponding responsibilities to ourselves, our children and our neighbors to ensure that our communities are safe.
I don’t have all the answers, but I am clear that my first responsibility as a Christian is to practice Jesus’ call to love my neighbor. That means that I treat all people with respect and dignity—no matter where they’re from, what they believe, and whether they agree or disagree with me. It means I listen. I develop what we at Calvary recently called “people ears” (to go along with our “people eyes.”) It means I seek to see the image of God in every person, seek to see how God is at work in their lives and how to relate to them as children of God. This is all the more important (and hard) with people who see the world through a different lens than I do.
Jesus never said Kingdom living (and loving) would be easy. He simply said it is the most worthwhile, meaningful, impactful, lasting work we’ll ever do. We can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it by “trying hard.” We live the kingdom life only as we become kingdom people, and that requires that we allow our hearts to be transformed by God’s Spirit. As we continue to pray for the victims in Las Vegas, let us also pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”
Yours for the Kingdom,