Some of my friends told me they were numb after they learned of the shooting in Las Vegas in Monday morning. This again? They just accepted it as a daily part of their life in the U.S. I can understand it. With so little change regarding gun policy by our elected officials, those chief agents of change the U.S. canonized, it can be hard to continue to feel the pain and suffering of the senseless loss of life.
It might be because I’m just a softy, but I feel particularly attuned to the pain. It may also be because I have a hard time experiencing pain and sorrow in my life, external stimulus is often a form of how I express it. But I was brought to tears. I am saddened every time this happens and I am equally dumbfounded.
As much as I criticize our elected officials (some of who are worthy of much criticism), I admit that a policy solution is harder to reach than it seems. It is a political disaster in some cases; and for some reason the Second Amendment is the one that keeps getting tagged with the “price of freedom.” It’s true that some folks don’t want us to ask why, but it also seems true that quick fixes and prejudiced categorization is flawed. I am not ready to submit myself to a state that takes away my rights based on what could be an arbitrary diagnosis. I don’t think it’s just about mental illness either.
But the problem is real and it’s really American. Look at this chart:
The problem is clear. But the mystery is great. And honestly, I have more questions than answers. Is it a gun problem? It is a mental illness problem? It is about poverty? Why are men the perpetrators so frequently?
I sometimes try to find comfort in the hope of a solution that can be codified in legislation (despite our recalcitrant Congress). But I think that’s the key word there: comfort. I want comfort. I want hope. And the world seems to keep getting worse. I do not know what to do. How long, O Lord, how long?
I will say that I do think that our access to deadly military-grade weapons seems like a major problem. I do not want to speculate further (though some of you might have better answers), but it seems like it’s a problem with our culture in the United States. We glorify violence. It is everywhere; in our movies and TV shows in particular. It is all over the news. We worship war. Our National Anthem is a hymn praising violence. We think the president, even this president, is acting “presidential” when he bombs another country. We canonize our soldiers and cops are heroes, and rarely mention the diplomats, FEMA workers, and social workers that are often helping people without a weapon.
In short, it seems like we are addicted to violence. We have a problem. We might need to admit we have no control over our violent addiction—the whole country may need to take a page out of an AA’s Big Book.
On weeks like this one, when I am dumbfounded about the state of the U.S. and its lust for violence and power, the one thing that the powers trickle down to us, I hold fast to my nonviolent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the one who made a mockery of the violence of the Roman Empire by not succumbing to it and ending death once and for all.
I want to make it clear that I think there are good policy solutions to curb this addiction. In this era of inaction, though, we mustn’t lose hope, Jesus is the author of hope. And people need him, as he expresses himself in the body of Christ. We need to know and relate to him. That’s the ultimate antidote. But rest assured, this knowledge and relationship will make us all the more attuned to the suffering around us. It doesn’t numb us.
To the victims of the violence in Las Vegas, God will have mercy on you. And to their killer, I pray that God will have mercy on you.
Back to what I really seemed to want: comfort. In the war-torn world, I want comfort. I have to turn to Jesus. I have to turn to the one who will turn all of our suffering into glory. I have to make the alternative. I don’t know how to solve the problems of the world, but I lament them, and I’m moved to action. The best thing I can do is act in my local context and find comfort in it too.