Monday, February 19, 2018

Is Anyone Listening?

The recent horrific events of Parkland, Florida, has thrust the topic of guns front and center, yet again.  As if we needed another thing to tear us apart.  The blood wasn't even scrubbed off the sidewalks  and we're at each other's throats, unable to even do the decent thing and keep our mouths shut while the parents and a community grieve over the unexpected and tragic loss of their children.

If there was a time to put aside differences, to come together, to be united, to shoulder each other's burdens, to listen, would this not be it?  Apparently not.  Apparently this is exactly the time to divide ourselves even further, with shrill and vociferous diatribes spewing forth to ignite the fires of anger and malice.  We'd rather talk about our rights, our views, and all the reasons we know best, despite the fact most of us have never lost a child to a violent encounter with a deranged gunman. Even our president feels this is the right time to leverage these tragic deaths and try to take the heat off his own sorry situation.  Pathetic

My wife and I were talking recently, discussing what the 2016 election and subsequent year of politics seems to have done to our national psyche.  The public square has degenerated into vindictive memes and barbed sound bites, expressing deep disdain, even hatred, for those who view the world differently.  We now even wish for our own American athletes to lose in competition with foreign nations, or worse, incur an injury, because they criticized our president.

What seems to have been missed by many, is that the shooting occurred on Wednesday, February 14th.  Ash Wednesday.  The first day of Lent, and a Christian holy day for peace.  Where are the peacemakers?  Where are the voices of reason?  Where are the soft responses that scripture tells us will turn away wrath?  I'm sorry, you wanted us to actually practice what we preach?

Christians always talk about not being part of this culture, or "counter-cultural" as they say.  But to paraphrase the words of a famous Spaniard, "I do not think those words mean what you think they mean."  Because counter-cultural means behaving in a way that is different than the culture around us.  Now, if we only had some tangible description on what that actually looked like...

Wait, we do!  The Bible is full of principles and commands on how to be a light in a culture full of darkness.  Paul's final instructions to the church at Colossae is but one example of many:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Notice how the passage says, "Make the most of every opportunity to let everyone know it is your right to own a gun, and let your conversation be full of sarcasm and harshness toward any obnoxious liberal misguided enough to believe gun control will help solve the problem."  Oh, wait, it doesn't say that?  I could have sworn a verse like that must be in Scripture somewhere, they way we talk sometimes.  But no such verse exists, of course.  Just the opposite, in fact - repeated exhortations to love your enemy, to gather the outcast under our wings, to treat the foreigners in your borders as one of our own, to turn the other cheek, and to approach each conversation as an opportunity to expand the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

Wait, Jerry, don't you support the right to own guns?  Of course I do. I just also happen to believe the root of the problem is deeply spiritual, and therefore requires a response rooted in the spiritual wisdom that comes from the Word of God, not necessarily man's wisdom that comes from a political document.  And for me, fulfilling our God-given obligation to deliver the weak from the hand of the wicked means engaging in honest and open conversations about common-sense parameters we can put in place to reduce the carnage that is now so commonplace, we are in danger of becoming desensitized to it's horror.

And as long I'm offending people (in for a penny, in for a pound I say), I need to ask, how effective is salt when it is sitting in a container with the rest of the salt?  It's not.  Our scriptural mandate to be the salt of the earth, to be the light on a hill, can only be accomplished if we are engaged in our communities and in our schools.  Removing ourselves from the very institutions that need us the most, then pointing fingers at how godless they have become is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  When we decide to withdraw into our own little protected enclaves, then we abdicate any moral high ground we think we have on the solution, in my not-so-humble opinion.

My niece, Jenette Lauridsen, in a Facebook post full of wisdom said, "These mass shootings, that have plagued our society for decades, that have taken our children and fellow human beings in such a violent manner, have become secondary (and in some cases completely forgotten), in the bid to prove who is right."

Christian, this isn't the time to be "right".  This is the time to be the broken hands and feet of our savior, ministering to the hurting, advocating for the helpless, and suffering with those who suffer.  And doing it quietly, as to not draw attention to ourselves.

We want everyone to listen to us.  But are we talking so much, and so loud, we can't hear the voice of God as he attempts to lead his people through this wilderness?