I hope that I’m always shocked in the face of hatred and violence! This shock factor is possible for me because, on a daily basis, I see way more examples of love and goodness than I do hatred and violence. Even when I expand to a world-view, this is still what I see. The day that I’m no longer shocked could be an indicator for me that this balance has shifted. No matter how often I hear it from other people, I don’t believe that this day will come. I one-hundred and ten percent believe that love is more powerful than hatred, and in the end, love will persevere!

With this said, the frequency of mass violence is simply unacceptable. I don’t believe we will ever eliminate violence and hatred, but there has to be a way to reduce it. I admit, though, that I’m at a loss on how to do it. Perhaps the easiest argument to make is to get rid of, or limit, weapons capable of mass violence. This is something I believe we already address in our country. There are some weapons that I’m not allowed to own. Building a nuclear bomb or owning a squad of modern American fighter jets (fully weaponized, of course), will get me into some deep trouble (I looked up the fighter jets on-line, but I didn’t even dare have a computer trail looking up the consequences of building a nuclear bomb!). The question that we need to keep asking is if we have drawn the line at the right place. Are there additional weapons that should be added to the “not allowed” list? It is helpful to take enough emotion out of this issue so that we can rationally ask the necessary questions.

The easiest argument, though, is not always the most important one. We need to keep in mind that weapons are tools. How they are used is determined by those who are handling them. Limiting accessibility is a partial solution, but not a full solution. The full solution is to change the people who choose to use these weapons out of a place of hatred and anger. The truth is that a person highly motivated by hatred can turn a lot of things into weapons of mass violence. If one tool is denied them, they will look for another tool. We can’t ban everything that can be used as a tool for violence.

So, are we truly looking at the people who are inflicting violence? Are there any commonalities from one person to another? Are there red flags that indicate a future high-probability for violence? Are there issues that we can help to address before they become too serious? When the issues do become serious, are there options that we can offer them to get help? I can already hear some of my friends saying that is the purpose of prisons. I disagree. I think that we are using prisons to warehouse offenders, without trying very hard to address their issues. As a society, it is much healthier (and cheaper!) to deal with issues before people end up in prison. How do we do that?

This is one of the places where I think that churches can (and do) help. We are in a position to see people as people. We are all flawed, and each of us have challenges. Church is a place where we can make room for everyone. A lot of organizations are quick to welcome the beautiful people of the world (those just better at hiding their flaws). What about the less lovable people? Who is reaching out to them? Church needs to be a place where we are not recruiting people to invest in the church but be a sanctuary where we invest in people. I think that we do this to some degree, but if I’m going to be perfectly honest, often times we don’t go far enough. It is common for churches (I’m talking about the people, not the buildings) to hesitate from getting too involved. Difficult problems rarely have simple solutions. Real change often follows a long, dark, difficult trail. Are we willing to walk this trail with others? This can require deep investments and force us out of our comfort zones.

Here is a challenge for us as Christians. If we want to walk these difficult trails with people, we have to become (and stay) spiritually strong. If we don’t do this first, it is easy for us to get lost on these same trails. Instead of being a guide, we can find ourselves as the one needing to be rescued. As a church, it is essential for us to teach people how to be spiritually strong. Are we doing this?

Your brother on the journey, Mark

A further thought: I have been thinking about ways that we can do mass blessings. Anyone else want to dream with me?

My health update: I go back for more surgery on Halloween afternoon. I’m hopeful that this is the last round to get rid of my staghorn kidney stone. I’m trying hard to be a good patient, but I’m afraid that I sometimes fail in this role.

 

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