We live in a culture of violence.
The other night, for the very first time, we allowed our son to witness someone being murdered in cold blood.
It wasn’t intentional. Kelly and I were excited to introduce Owen to some of our most beloved Christmas movies. So, we sat down on the couch to watch Home Alone. We had forgotten over the years is that a mob murder scene plays a crucial role in the plot. As I fumbled in the dark for the remote so I could fast forward the scene, Kelly and I glanced at each other in alarm, shocked at the spectacle to which we had just exposed our innocent son.
You might think we’re overprotective. Maybe we are. But, in a world in which mass killings like San Bernardino happen on a weekly basis, aren’t we justified in being careful about what he sees?
The tragic events of this week have caused all of us to do some serious thinking about the violence we witness. There has been no shortage of discussion about gun control. The people on the left want to amend the Constitution, stemming the tide of violence by taking guns off the street. People on the right assure us that guns aren’t the problem. They go so far as to insinuate that the massacre might have been less bloody if more civilians on the scene had been armed. Both sides really only succeed in condemning those who don’t share their view. Religious people, no matter where they appear on the political spectrum, haggle over the root causes of the problem and wring their hands about what the future holds. Is radical Islam the problem? Are these isolated occurrences? Should we pray? Is that enough? How should we align ourselves politically? Can I find a verse in my Bible that connects all of this with the Second Coming? What can or should we do?
The truth is that nobody is really offering a good answer.
How do you kill a culture of violence?
It has to be stopped. And, although it isn’t as immediate as a Constitutional amendment, as black-and-white as more state laws, or as easy as washing our hands and blaming another group for the problems, we can each do our part to change culture. It isn’t going to happen on a public stage. It isn’t going to be glamorous. And, it’s certainly not going to be quick.
Here are three things we can each do to change our culture of violence from within.
Stop consuming violence
It astonishes me that there is so little conversation about the utterly violent nature of American culture. We purchase grossly violent video games for our children and then react in shock when teenagers play first-person shooter in real life. We pay $300 for the price of a ticket to watch our favorite football team beat the stuffing out of their rivals and gasp in horror when a violent player knocks the stuffing out of his girlfriend. We eagerly binge watch the most carnal, violent sexual acts and then reel back in disgust when a neighbor ends up being a monster who preys on innocent victims. The horrific examples can go on and on and on and on.
This is madness! It’s hypocrisy at its most appalling. It has to stop.
We must resolve to stop glorifying violence and consuming it until we’re stuffed. We have to stop inviting it into our homes and idolizing its most brazen purveyors. We have to determine to protect our hearts and the hearts of our children. Because, make no mistake, people become violent because they are nurtured to become violent.
Become and partner with people of peace
We must pursue peace. We must pray for it. We must work for it. (It can never be an either-or proposition.) It must begin with us, extend to our children, include the people with whom we partner, and pervade every area of our lives.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” (Matthew 5:9).
Political philosophy, theological distinctions, culture, background, color, and socio-economic status are immaterial; we can work together if you’re a person of peace. We can take Jesus’ call to work for peace seriously and we can work together, in our neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, and communities to foster and protect peace.
Leverage the Gospel to bring about true change
As we proceed, we can never forget that the only force that can bring about true change is the Holy Spirit, working in individual hearts, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without the Gospel, all other change is shallow, temporary, and tenuous at best. But, by God’s grace, hearts, homes, communities, nations, and the world can be truly and forever transformed.
What will you do?
Will you stop consuming violence? Will you partner actively with people of peace? Will you embody the Gospel? The only way to kill a culture of violence is to transform it from within.