How many different messages have you heard about violence since the Las Vegas massacre? In particular, what have you heard from the pulpit about our latest mass murder?
Did the leader of your faith community talk about the deep darkness in our society? Or, did they say nothing? Did you hear prophetic words about how we need to heal and change? Or were the words limited to a generic prayer and nothing more?
There is something terribly wrong in our society. If our religious leaders won’t find words to address it beyond superficial sentiment, then they – and we — are contributing to the sickness. We need to hold them accountable.
We have a divided, violent, gun-soaked society. We can’t seem to disagree without being disagreeable. Our streets and offices and churches and nightclubs and public squares get spattered with more blood every day. More graves are dug every day.
We must talk about all of this. And the pulpit must be an important part of it.
The conversation isn’t just about guns, although that’s certainly a huge part of it. We need to look at the bigger picture of how we’ve made violence our norm, how we endorse and encourage it in so many ways.
We must talk about all this
Our children shoot imaginary people in video games, treating killing as entertainment. We normalize violence through our television shows, our movies, our monuments. We sell guns as the solution – we need more “good people” with greater firepower and better aim.
Forget about God’s everlasting presence; in guns we trust.
We applaud warriors and dismiss peacemakers as out-of-touch dreamers. We conclude that the one with the most bullets and bombs gets their way, so we spend mountains of money making more of them.
We’ve reached the point where we can’t send a loved one to school, to church, to work, to a mall, to a nightclub, to a concert without concern that they could get gunned down by a deranged person with weapons.
Even many “religious” people advocate for “holy” war to eradicate perceived enemies, even though war is always the ultimate blasphemy.
How did we get so lost? How do we find our way?
We need prophets like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who forced us to confront the ways we glorify guns and violence and thus create a “morally inclement climate” in our culture. He challenged the many religious leaders who refused to speak up.
For too long, a lot of religious leaders have shied away from prophetically challenging their communities. Some have done it, and we applaud them. But many others look the other way when it comes to our culture of violence. Why is that?
They’ll speak out on other issues. They’ll campaign to protect life in some forms. They’ll lobby for religious rights. But they won’t give the same attention to the lives extinguished and the rights erased by one pull of the trigger.
Healing wounds, not wielding weapons
While the pulpit is a good starting point, we all need to be promoting this conversation. We need to say in as many places and as many ways as we can: This must change. We must put away our weapons, stop glamorizing violence, and give up our infatuation with conflict.
If we don’t say it, then our faith is nothing more than noise.
Jesus lived in times that were soaked in violence, weapons and conflict. Romans killed for domination and pleasure. Crucifixion was commonplace. The religiously observant also advocated violence – death by stoning for breaking certain rules.
Jesus told everyone to drop their stones, put away their swords, resist the temptation to treat anyone as an enemy. Those who live in his spirit use their hands to heal wounds, not to wield weapons. We need to hear that message again and again, even though it’s widely unpopular in our violence-addicted culture.
Are you hearing that message in your faith community? If not, this is a good time to ask why not. And to spread the message yourself in every way you can.