Following Jesus in the Era of Mass Shootings

Vigil held in the wake of the lives lost in mass-shooting at an Oregon community college

Once again it has happened.

As a result of violence being visited upon people in a space that is uncontestedly assumed & expected to be “safe”, our nation has been forced to pause & ponder on who we are as a people. Unfortunately, equally tragic violence often gets overlooked or rationalized because of where it happens & who it happens to.

Yet, it is our duty as followers of Jesus to mourn ALL acts of violence & loss of life.

Whether it’s a mass-shooting at a mall, movie theatre, or school campus, or it’s a child caught in the cross-fire of a drive-by shooting in an economically deprived & oppressed urban community.

We mourn the violent deaths of persecuted Christians in places like Kenya & Egypt while ALSO being deeply grieved by the deaths of innocent Muslim children in foreign countries as a result of U.S. drones strikes.

Though shooting deaths of law enforcement officers are at a record low, our hearts break for the families of police officers who receive the call that their fathers will never return home again. As we affirm the humanity of individual officers we continue to feel anguish & despair over the 150 year legacy of systemic police brutality with impunity on the bodies of black people in America.

“Outrage olympics” are unproductive. Its important that we become a community that helps one another see our blind spots & ignorance instead of self-righteously declaring, “MY outrage is better than yours.”

We must seek to be a Jesus loving, Gospel preaching, peace-waging, oppression undoing, light shining force in the midst of this dark & crooked world.

As we pray for those who lost loved ones in Oregon may we recommit to holistically practicing the non-violent way of Jesus & influencing others in this vein. Jesus never said, “blessed are the war-wagers & gun worshippers“. He said “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God!”

Peacemaking is not passive. It is an active posture that prayerfully stands in the gap of hostility & prophetically speaks to diffuse it at the roots.

We have to teach the next generation (of all backgrounds) “creative alternatives to violence.”

Violence is the very seed by which America was sown. It’s in our DNA & the glorification of it in our movies, tv shows, video games, & music continues to numb our consciouses.

We cannot allow our “right to bear arms” to infringe upon our “birthright to bear witness” to The Wonderful Counselor’s in-breaking reign of peace. (see Isaiah 9)

As God’s salt of the earth we must engage on the soul AND systemic level to preserve life through Jesus-centered discipleship in our churches, evangelism in our communities, & activism around public policy in the political realm.

Of highest importance in this process is authentic discipleship in the radical Way of Jesus. Too often, we’ve trained people towards a “cultural Christianity” that morphs & bends to accommodate the status quo. The Jesus of Nazareth revealed in the Gospels is a far cry from the one that many traditions have taught. In reference to the historical misrepresentation of Jesus, theologian Curtiss DeYoung says,

“Sometime after yesterday and before today, His life story was co-opted, reconfigured, and reissued. The story of a colonized and occupied Jesus was replaced with a meek and mild savior who did not disrupt the status quo or with the image of a colonial Christ who sided with the powerful and blessed (violent) imperial realities. The colonized first-century Christian communities preaching liberation and practicing reconciliation were replaced by Christians who were quite and politically pious or who became colonizers, slaveholders, crusadors, terrorists, dictators, and the like.”

The Jesus who rebuked Peter’s violence by saying “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” is the same yesterday, today, & forevermore. It is time that we reengage His life & words. It is time that we go beyond merely applauding the non-violent activism of Martin Luther King Jr & do some serious soul-searching about what his prophetic words mean for us today! As reports come in that the shooter in Oregon targeted people who were Christians there is much that the broader church can learn from the best slices of the Black Church. Being one of the few Christian traditions in America that can truly claim “persecuted status” from its inception, its responses to racial terrorism are awe-inspiring. Instead of conforming to the world’s pattern of an “eye-for-an-eye” it chose to reflect Jesus by only bearing the arms of love & truth!

“Jesus reveals a way to fight evil with all our power without being transformed into the very evil we fight.It is a way– the only way possible– of not becoming what we hate…..Jesus abhors passivity and violence. He articulates a way by which evil can be opposed without being mirrored….”  Wink

May we follow hard after God revealed in Christ with hearts of love in a world of hatred, violence, & hostility.