Those Who Live by Violence

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’ John 18:10-11

Sometimes it seems as if we in America are truly a violent people. Not too long ago I saw a headline that read “Four Dead in Ohio” and I immediately thought of the Kent State shootings–stuff of legend in my family –but that was not the reference intended by the headline. No there had been another tragedy.  The community was in shock that something so brutal could happen in their community. Lord Hear My Prayer.

Last weekend a man went on a shooting rampage in a movie theater in Auroa, Co–surely you have seen the headlines. It did not take long for some to find artistic portrayals of similar violent acts in comic book art. And this move theater tragedy has reminded many of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado some years ago. The community is in shock, and many are talking about the need for tighter gun regulations as the media reports on the astounding number of munition round the theater shooter was able to legally purchase and possess. All the while, gun sales have been at a record high in Colorado since this shooting. Lord Hear My Prayers.

Last weekend Manuel Diaz (unarmed) and another Latino man were shot and killed, in separate incidents, in Anaheim, CA by police. The headlines have been few. The community is at the end of day four of protests by a community outraged by this violence and the community’s feeling that there have been tensions between the Latino community and the police for sometime that have not been addressed by those in power. Some news outlets have reported these protests as rioting. Lord Hear My Prayers.

At the very lest the juxtaposition of these incidents and the responses to them raise questions. Questions related to gun possession in light of the Second Amendment; who is legally able to wield weapons and what responsibility they have as a result; and how we as a society may, or want, need to monitor and limit ammunitions possessed by private individuals. At the very least these events bring our entire society into a time of mourning and ethical reflections and we ponder how to stop such tragedies from occuring in the future. Lord, hear our confusion and help us to pray through it.

These events raise many questions. Legal questions, questions about bullying, questions about whether or not mental health issues were involved. (Note, although many have speculated, I have heard no confirmed reports yet that the theater gunman has a mental health diagnosis. Let us not equate illness with violence when 1) there is not a link between mental illness and violence and 2) it is unknown if the person in question has a mental health diagnosis.) Lord hear our confusion and our questions and help us pray through them.

At the end of the day I am a clergy woman, bound by ordination vows to preach and teach the gospel. And as I look at these events I see two things. I see a society in which no matter where you look you see some form of violence–be it real or a fictional/artistic portrayal of violence. Perhaps this is not a new thing in the history of humanity. But, I also see a scriptural teaching of Jesus. A teaching in which even Jesus would not condone violence to save himself from arrest and death, not even to continue his teaching among us. And I wonder when we, individually, let alone as a society, will not only take up the task of doing what seems so contrary to our natures but will also be willing to sacrifice our own betrothal to violence, to follow the teachings of Jesus. Lord Hear My Prayer.

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