Gun violence, Jesus and knowing better.
I’m a Canadian living in America. There are many similarities in our cultures to be sure. The one glaring difference I’ve noticed right now is gun control, or to be more specific - a lack of it. People keep shooting people in America – a lot of people. What is going on?
I remember watching the Bowling for Columbine documentary where Michael Moore suggests that all Canadians never lock their doors and live a utopian violence free life simply because guns are not common or legal (except for hunting). That’s a rose-colored view but I’ve got to admit the reality we live is a lot better than the common story of massive gun violence at work in the fabric of America – and ALL OVER America. There is a tension brewing – an internal combustion of fear, violence, and mental illness – a toxic mix of video games and bent minds and the coming of age of fragile egos with over loaded brains filled to the brim with “violence as normal” and nation wide consent of violent songs, violent films, violent images, violent advertising, and well, a whole lot of violence.
“We do what we know”. I heard that in a talk by Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries who knows better than anyone the realities of violence and its aftermath after working a lifetime with gang members on the streets of LA. If we know violence – we do violence. But the thing I heard him ask that’s even more important than that is can we know better?
My friend joined a ‘moms demand action’ group that advocates to stop the violence and campaigns for gun control.
I asked her why and her answer matters. By the chance of timing and the sure hand of grace, her daughter wasn’t at her college the day a gunman showed up and shot some students. With a heart filled with gratitude she also felt the pain that even though her daughter was spared many others weren’t. It was her wake up to the realities of what a violent culture and an acceptance of that culture can lead to – death. She realized that what she did or didn’t do – mattered. I wonder what will wake everyone else up?
The behavior of my friend and her response to the wake up call to end the violence resonates with hope. Of all the things I believe are true, I believe the answer to the question ‘can we know better’ is Yes. We can know better. And we can DO better. And we can become the people and the place where peace is known and grace trumps retribution and love conquers all.
And I believe that as we wake up to the realities of the consequences of violence un-checked and un-controlled we can be the answer to the problem. People are shooting each other because they can. But people can also stand up, speak up, change their minds, ask for help, embrace tension and fear and start repenting for not paying attention until it almost seems too late. We can know better. And because we can know better we can do better. And people can stop shooting each other and start helping each other.
Peace on earth isn’t the cry of a heavenly minded, idealist who can’t see what’s going on – it’s the prayer of a pilgrim, with a heart filled with pain, eyes wide open, ready and willing to lay down their arms and live for something better. It’s the prayer of Jesus and His followers as we believe for God’s Kingdom to come ON EARTH as it is in heaven.