This has been a hard week. The news out of Ohio of a killing rampage targeting eight members of one family in four different locations is the kind of story you’d expect to see on Criminal Minds on T.V. The only saving grace was the fact that the killer(s) spared the three children in those homes. But that didn’t prevent the perpetrator from murdering those children’s parents—likely in front of those children.
What is one supposed to say to such a senseless, horrifying event? No attempt at understanding the “why?” of it will work. Surely there is mental illness present here, but there is also more. Our American culture is one that has become preoccupied with death and violence. Try watching T.V. for less than 2 hours without witnessing multiple shootings and murders. Try watching what video games your children are playing and see if most all of them don’t glorify violence in some way.
Last week our neighbors to the south in Mississippi passed a new gun law to allow guns in churches. I’m told the Governor signed that bill with a pistol resting on top of a Bible—what a nice photo-op. Christian Churches founded by The Prince of Peace now preferring to trust more in a gun. I don’t have the words.
I saw a story on the national news just yesterday about a group of high school girls who beat a fellow student to death in the high school bathroom. What has become of us?
I don’t think it’s terribly helpful to play one of our favorite games, “Ain’t It Awful?” Too many of us get some strange sense of satisfaction looking around and bemoaning what is occurring around us. For instance, “Did you see the presidential debate last night? Can you believe the way candidates talk about each other? Ain’t It Awful?” OR “That refugee crisis in Syria is horrifying. Can you imagine putting fifty men, women and children in a boat designed for 20 and having them try to make that crossing from Turkey into Greece? Ain’t It Awful?”
Rather than wallow in the game, I prefer that we Christians begin the hard work of finding solutions. We have a voice and it is a very powerful voice. But it is impotent unless we use it. So what are we willing to do—as the Church of Jesus Christ—to address this glorification of violence around us? Are we willing, for instance, to volunteer our time at the neighborhood school to be a “presence” there? Are we willing to start some conversation groups—support groups for parents or young people—where we can consider alternative ways of “being” in the world?
“Ain’t It Awful” changes nothing. I don’t recall Jesus EVER saying it. I DO remember him wading into all kinds of human distress and bringing healing to it. As far as I can tell, that’s still what we followers are called to do. Does it sound like a daunting challenge? Of course it does. But that is precisely what makes it worth the time and effort.
We can change the world together—we CAN! What we can’t risk doing is hearing Jesus say to us one day in the future, “you had a chance to change the world and you refused—and that WAS awful!”
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.