How Do We Stop the Violence?
Over the last few weeks our country has been ravaged by violence. Attacks on people have taken place in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Texas. Many people have lost their lives and many more have been seriously injured. It did not take long at all for this to become a political issue. People on the right and left have taken advantage of these tragic events in order to get their message heard on the 24 hour news conglomerates. Politics has stymied the discussion, and some do not want to weigh in because they fear they will be labeled conservative or liberal, when in reality they are simply striving to be reasonable. Christians often feel as though they only have two choices, and never consider a third option. Instead of responding as a conservative or liberal we should respond as Christians. Our answers to serious questions should have more to do with our faith than our political affiliation.
How can the Christian community help to prevent further acts of violence? How should Christians respond when violence grips our nation? I do not pretend to have all the answers, but here are a few suggestions. I would love to hear your feedback on this issue, but please keep the discussion civil.
We Must Address Redemptive Violence: As a nation we have openly embraced redemptive violence. It can be found in our entertainment, politics, religion, and even on the mouths of those we love. Redemptive violence is the idea that violence will solve our problems. When someone asks, “What do we do about all the terrorists in ________ country?” It is not unusual to hear a response like, “We should just drop a bomb on them.” This is an extreme example, but our children are exposed to redemptive violence every day. It is found in the video games they play and the television shows they watch. Redemptive violence is different than violence in general because it teaches us to solve our problems through violence. This is a problem. The church needs to speak more about the dangers of redemptive violence. Parents need to teach their children that problems are not solved through violent acts. Once a person embraces violence as the only solution to their problems, then innocent human beings are in danger.
We Need to Focus on Community: Christians need to work at strengthening communities. We should begin with our families and churches, and then move outward to our neighborhoods and towns. God has designed us to live in community. When we neglect this we are creating opportunities for sin and trouble. We must work at creating caring and loving communities that are alive. Just because you belong to a church does not mean you are a part of a healthy community. These are things we must work at. Often when you hear about a terrible act of violence, you will later discover that the person was a loner, someone who had separated himself from community. Strong communities will not be able to prevent every act of violence, but they will be able to prevent some. Communities can recognize warning signs when something is wrong. Communities give individuals the opportunities to talk through their problems rather than acting them out. Communities also remind us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
We Must Strive to Minimize Fear: Why does violence occur? There are many reasons, but one of the most prevalent reasons is fear. People act out because they are fearful of something. Some of these are real fears and others are created fears. When people are afraid they sometimes respond in irrational ways. As Christians we need to strive to minimize fear in ourselves and others. Fear is a tool that is used to manipulate others. Companies use it to get us to buy certain products. Politicians use it in order to get a vote. We must recognize these fear tactics so that we do not fall victim to them, nor perpetuate the fear by passing them along. “Do not fear” is the most common command found in Scripture. The only antidote to fear is faith. We must help people to free themselves from the strangling power of fear by introducing them to the freeing power of faith in God.
The Debate is About the Sanctity of Life: When I hear people talk about gun control after a terrible act of violence they often speak about their rights. You hear the same arguments in regards to abortion. You will hear people say, “This is my body. This is my right.” As Christians the debate is not about our rights, but about the sanctity of life. Life trumps our rights. Jesus commanded in Luke 12:33 that we sell our possessions and give to the poor. Jesus argued that the life of poor people trumps our right to possessions. Now a person can still argue that more guns or fewer guns will make our country safer, but it should not be about rights. The debate needs to be about what we can do to protect the shedding of innocent blood. The answer may be more guns or it may be fewer guns, but our reasoning needs to be about protecting life, not our own wants and desires.
Lament and Prayer Should Come First: The most powerful thing we can do is pray. We live in a fallen world. Sin is rampant. In Eph. 6:12 Paul reminds us that, “our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of the present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our weapon of choice in this battle is prayer. We need to spend time on our knees. When violence engulfs our nation we need to lament all the evil in the world, and take our worries and concerns to our heavenly Father. He is the only one with real solutions to the problem.