A little over thirteen years ago on April 20, 1999, my wife and I were living in Rolla, Missouri. I had a job working the graveyard shift, so I normally slept during the day while my wife was at work. But for some unknown reason, I had trouble sleeping well. So I woke up and turned the TV on.
What I saw is firmly etched in my memory. It was the live footage of the Columbine High School shooting massacre. It was horrifying, heartbreaking, and disturbing, to say the least.
Of course, this was not the first mass shooting at a school. Bono, Arkansas and Paducah, Kentucky also come to mind. Sadly, the horrific shooting at Columbine would not be the last of its kind in America. The shooting massacre at Virginia Tech and at Fort Hood also come to mind.
And now, there is Aurora, Colorado.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the theater shooting is not how horrific of a tragedy it is, but how normal it seems. There has been enough of these mass shootings that I cannot even recall all of them by name. And that is only one specific type of violence which does not account for all the numerous other acts of violence which harm, injure, destroy, and kill human life.
When will we Christians have enough?
When will we say, “Enough! No more!”
In many ways, violence has been an accepted part of the American narrative since the beginning of the nation. America began with a violent revolution and since then, violence has been an accepted solution whenever deemed necessary. From the way Native Americans were treated to the thousands and thousands of abortions committed every year to the numerous wars which have been waged. We may have justified and legalized many of these actions but more often than not, if we have the eyes to see, this just seems to be the tail wagging the dog.
We now have a culture that is saturated with violence in every corner we turn. It is part of our media, part of our entertainment, and a part of our socio-political and moral framework. It seems that we almost have an unconditional love affair with violence. When will we have had enough and begin championing the values of peace and non-violence? When will we speak out against the evil of violence with the same passion we have given to other moral causes?
I am not under any illusion that we will rid society of all violence and senseless tragedy on this side of Jesus’ return. But that does not mean we cannot facilitate a fundamental cultural change in the beliefs and values regarding violence.
Fifty years from now, if abortion is abolished, history will point to the many Christians who spoke out in protest against this ungodly and immoral practice. Sadly though, the church has not always risen to the occasion in the face of injustice, deplorable beliefs, and practices. Many churches and Christian institutions found themselves on the wrong side of history, defending the practice of racism either by commission or omission.
Now we have a great evil that has been upon us for sometime, progressively darkening life. It is called violence. How will we respond.
Some in society will suggest stricter gun laws while other will suggest curbing the exposure to violence in the media. Perhaps such changes are needed but that still misses the point. This evil of violence is a darkness within the human heart and just like the evil of racism, until the hearts has been changed so that we detest not just the acts of violent mass murderers but the very idea of violence —even the violence we sanction as justified and necessary—then there is little, if any, possibility for change.
So will we, who follow the Prince of Peace, the Lord, Jesus Christ, whose first words after resurrection were “Peace be with you!”, will we finally lead this very worthy cause and champion a love for peace and non-violence among our culture?
Will we hate the violence enough to speak up and speak out for peace?