Loaded: The Church’s Response to Violence
Since the Newtown massacre of innocent children and the ensuing debate about gun-control, thousands of Americans have rushed out to purchase firearms. Many of them fear the government will clamp down on the sale and possession of certain types of guns. The Second Amendment has once again become a hot topic of debate.
But what does the tragedy of Newtown say about America? If you look at the FBI statistics on violent crime, you will see that violent crime has declined in the last five years. Still, the advent of school shootings should make us pause and take a sobering look at ourselves. What is the role of the church in this generation of cavalier attitudes about violence?
When I research words like “violent” and “violence” in the Bible I am struck by how forcefully the Old Testament prophets tried to warn their fellow citizens that the proliferation of violence in their society was making God every angry. The wisdom books of the Old Testament also contained warnings. “Hands that shed innocent blood” is described in Proverbs 6:17 as one of the things God hates. This is not just a severe warning to individuals; it is also a warning to entire nations that do not take God’s loathing of violence against the innocent seriously. The strong have a responsibility to protect the innocent. Yes, God will deal harshly with individuals who shed innocent blood, but he may also deal harshly with a nation, or factions within a nation, that seek to advance agendas rather than pursue genuine safeguards that protect the innocent. I don’t think God will accept our excuse that real solutions are too expensive.
We can’t stop every evil or insane person from shedding innocent blood, but we can at least begin to explore and implement real safeguards. It is also time to rethink the unhealthy relationship we Americans have with violence in many forms.
For as long as I can remember, sexual sins have topped the list of sins that American Christianity deemed most serious. Perhaps the sin of unwarranted violence needs to replace sexual sins at the top of our list. I even wonder if the church should focus more on confronting violence against the innocent than it does on things like, say, gay marriage. I’m just saying.