Tag Archives: violence

He had a shrine to death in his backyard

Pundits are working overtime on the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, and I certainly do not intend to become another one. But as a leader in the church, I think it is important to help people think through what is going on in the world.

Forced into privacy?

So often, these days, the church has a “private” sphere of existence to match the privatized faith of its members. Christians in the United States do not generally practice the conviction of Anabaptists and consciously stay separate from the godless ways of the world. They are more likely to be driven into privacy by the unacceptable nature of their “views” and the supposed irrelevance of their faith. That pressure is reinforced by legal and public-school teaching that faith is just a personal choice or preference and has no objective value.

I told the congregation last night that they may be increasingly called upon to have objective value in a society that is increasingly frayed at the edges. When the society is committed to domination by violence — as the U.S. has been for over a decade in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, when the policy of the government is to flood the country with guns in the name of “freedom” and “rights,” when the political discourse is about winning and not about the common good, where the police are increasingly militarized death dealers, expect the forces of evil to be more bold.

Will Loughner’s death worship wake up the powers?

I hope Jared Loughner’s attack results in some common sense governance. If the government bans hand guns and stops the revolving door treatment for mental patients that will be great. I am not anticipating the U.S. government to abandon deeply entrenched convictions, however.

As for the church, I hope the attack wakes us out of our general acquiescence to the spirit of the age, drives us out of our preoccupation with arguing about human rights and nonessentials, and convicts us to speak the truth in love to a fearful and endangered people. We followers of Jesus have a lot to say and demonstrate in relation to this attack to a population subject to death.

Loughner's shrine to deathApparently, alongside his other problems, Jared Loughner was religious. He had a shrine to death in his backyard, according to the Daily News. Police investigators had seen the symbols before. Parts of the media and Arizona Republicans are rushing to label Loughner in scientific terms as “unstable” and dampen down his ability to make a rational choice. That is likely to prove true. But along with being influenced by his psychological issues and the political maelstrom our leaders have created, he was apparently influenced by evil quite directly.

Lead us not into temptation

One of the main benefits I derive from being a Christian is that when I pray, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil,” I can expect a reply. Loughner was apparently praying the opposite. He had already given over to temptation and was assigned to deliver evil.

We won’t be able to overcome evil with evil, as is the general policy of the government and domination system. We won’t be able to overcome evil with scientific explanation – especially when the government won’t contribute enough to mental healthcare to respond to the explanations. We will have to overcome evil with good, or it will not be overcome.

That’s where we come in as followers of Jesus. The system dominates us and explains us away, too – and who knows when the millions of guns may be turned on us! But we have the response of God to our cries, seen in Jesus and resident in His Spirit, to help us receive good and to offer good. I hope this incident helps wake us up to how necessary we are.

Just owning our value as God’s co-workers makes a difference. Acting creatively to speak the truth in love in troubling times makes even more of a difference. Whether we have a cogent commentary to offer about current events or not, we can certainly tell our story about Jesus and the reality he has revealed to us. He said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Tasers and John Doe Graves

I’m glad I am not the only worried one. The national media wandered into a couple of territories with which I am familiar recently: Citizen’s Bank Park and Imperial Valley, CA. They told some disturbing, important truths about where our country is headed.

Jacob and I were at the Phillies game when the teenager got tasered by the Philadelphia policeman. A hush fell over the crowd where I was, followed by boos. I don’t think any of us knew quite what to think as we saw the kid fall on the ground. Although Gov Rendell thinks it should not have happened, the polls seem to be going in favor of tasering trespassers. People seem to just be happy the authorities are tasering instead of shooting bullets!

It makes more sense than ever why my youngest friends are so hesitant to speak up about being a Christian among their friends and workmates. The last ten years have seen a steady erosion in the respect for people who express a “suspicious” mentality. Running around on a baseball field is hardly defense-worthy self-expression, but watching someone getting tasered for doing so sends a message: the powers that be can stop you and stop you hard. I kind of wish all the seventeen year olds in the stands had rushed the field and run around in protest. But, as it is, I think people digested the message that the police are prepared to do what it takes to keep us in line. We are all terrorists until proven innocent. If you suddenly bring up a picture of Jesus being questioned by Pilate in your mind, I think that might be appropriate.

Another story someone mentioned to me makes me understand a bit more about how hard-hearted our government is prepared to be. Something has been happening along the southern border of my old home state, California. Had I found a way to do it, I really wanted to get involved in calling for justice and love at the center of the immigration debate in neighboring Arizona by trekking with some people at the end of May along the “migrant trail.”   Out in the desert, desperate people too often die trying to get to some work in the U.S. CBS had a segment on 60 Minutes about drownings in the All American Canal which was even more appalling to view than the tasering.

After about 16 years of the government burying victims in Imperial County, CBS said something about it.  The fence the government put up in the urbanized areas nearer San Diego works. It sends people out into the desert to cross the border, where they meet up with the All American Canal – a swift-moving aqueduct bringing Colorado River water to San Diego. It is like a moat for California. The canal has no escape devices for people who fall in or dive in.  Scores have died. The Imperial County officials seem to think that if you are doing this illegal thing, you should die. There is a growing collection of graves for unknown drowning victims. It is horrifying how willing the populace is to accept the deaths of foolish and desperate people in the All American Canal, and the whole Sonora desert.

The incident at the ball park and the militarization of the border are both examples of how we are all being tempted to accept our government’s commitment to violence as the best way to solve problems. I don’t want to be silently complicit as the culture develops in that direction.

We, as the members of the Lord’s body, as the light of the world, are the alternative to the evils of the world. We should not be so threatened that we make our cell meetings a secret we fearfully hide lest someone make us illegal. The new humanity is built by obedient followers of Jesus who don’t care if telling the truth about evil puts them at odds with the same fearmongers who killed Jesus in the name of national security,