Debate on violence needs GodIn the wake of the Connecticut murders, a variety of solutions are being offered to secure our society from violence: Restrictions on guns, curbing violence in media and video gaming, enhancing school safety and improving access to mental health care.
By: By David Schoessow, Superior Telegram
In the wake of the Connecticut murders, a variety of solutions are being offered to secure our society from violence: Restrictions on guns, curbing violence in media and video gaming, enhancing school safety and improving access to mental health care.
As well-intentioned as these might be, they fail to address the root cause of our violence-turned-inward. It is spiritual. It is the decay of our life with God and the consequent decline of our values and morals in relation to our neighbor.
Recorded history’s first crime was a murder, Cain’s murder of his brother of Abel recorded in Genesis 4, and all our vaunted “progress” since then — technological, scientific, political, the arts — has not changed us.
Ours is a culture of death. It has idolized individual pursuit of pleasure. As a culture, we enflame our desires until they consume our very lives.
And it is personal. Our culture is a reflection of our own inner core.
Jesus observed: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness …” according to Matthew 15:19 ESV.
That is why General Douglas MacArthur, as he referenced our inherent proclivity to violence at the surrender of the Japanese on Sept. 2, 1945, and again in his farewell speech to congress April 19, 1951. “Men since the beginning of time have sought peace … The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years, It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”
MacArthur points to a spiritual solution to violence. He says we need a spiritual “recrudescence,” a “breaking out anew” of life lived in Christ. It is only through the atoning work of Christ and the renewing of the Spirit that humans can live as God designed us. This transformation comes to us through the waters of Holy Baptism where we were clothed with the righteousness of Christ — a true spiritual rebirth, according to St. Paul’s letters to the Romans (6:1-14) and to Titus (3:3-8). That new life must be daily renewed through honest reflection (contrition) and personal commitment to follow the Bible’s lofty moral and ethical teaching, best boiled down in the two greatest commandments “to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind … and to love your neighbor as yourself,” said Jesus Christ as quoted in Matthew 22:34-40.
The proper reading of the Bible instills the values of strength, honor, integrity, compassion, respect, personal responsibility and above all, faith and hope in God. It teaches that some values, behaviors and beliefs are inherently immoral and evil and therefore harmful, while others are upright and good and therefore conducive to life and health.
The culture’s attempts to marginalize the Christian faith to a circus sideshow, instead of embracing its presence in the public square as a necessary component of a vital and healthy society, does not bode well for America or the rest of western society. Indeed the culture’s violence-turned-inward (abortion, murder, bullying, coarse and abusive language and behavior) is the result of that marginalization. We have sown to the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind. Cf. Hosea 8:7
It took 40 years to get to this point and we can’t legislate a quick solution. A permanent solution to violence is for generation after generation of individual Christians (the leaven in the lump (Cf. Matthew 13:33) of our culture) to recommit themselves to daily live out the new life Christ gave to them in the waters of Holy Baptism. As that faith is fortified through weekly reception of His Supper, regular Bible reading and prayer, Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3:15-18) states, it will express itself in a commitment to be your brother/sister’s keeper by being accountable for and intervening in the lives of the downtrodden and distraught. After all, obeying God’s command to not murder is not only the obligation that we do no bodily harm to our neighbor, but also that we “help and support him in every bodily need,” as Luther’s explained to the Fifth Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism.
The Rev. David Schoessow, M.Div; S.T.M in New Testament and Bio-Ethics, is the pastor of Christ Ev. Lutheran Church of Superior.