Swipe Left • Violence Normalized

There are times whenever an experience happens which is so complex and so emotionally-charged that you find yourself only able to start at a blinking cursor on a computer screen. This past weekend, the mass-shootings in El Paso and Dayton specifically, are an example of just that. What can be said? What words can be written to bring clarity or comfort? What is to become of us as a society, whenever tragedies like these become so normal, they are just a notification on our phones?!

That was my experience Saturday. It was the day before my son’s 5th birthday, so understandably we were a little busy. The whole weekend was a lot of fun for us celebrating a little boy we love to the moon and back. Though I don’t remember exactly where I was or specifically what I was doing, I consciously remember seeing a notification on my phone screen, “At least 20 dead in Texas Wal-Mart massacre, 21-year old in custody.” What did I do next? Perhaps the most callous thing possible: I swiped left. Cleared the notification. Went on with my life…to then sadly learn of even more senseless violence and tragedy a few hours later.

Gun control debates rage in this country. The topic pits one friend against the other, raises tensions around the water cooler, and can make the Thanksgiving dinner table uncomfortable. This post is not about gun control, because the facts speak for themselves. In 2019, our country has experienced 20 shootings where 4 or more people were shot and killed. This is the 32nd week of the year. That’s nearly one mass shooting[1] per week. 107 people. 32 weeks. Imagine if we lived in a country where a serial killer killed 3 people per week in the first half of a calendar year?! The leadership of our country needs to do more to remedy this crisis.

My son’s all-time favorite movie is LEGO Batman. Secretly, I love it too. It’s hilarious. I love how he and I can quote the movie and laugh together. One of the primary themes in the movie is to realize we must first change ourselves before we hope the world around us changes. The truth is, if you are a Christ-follower, we need to be American citizens who stop pointing the finger at others, stop engaging in raging debate, and remain committed to allowing God to transform our own hearts first.

If you read the Bible, you’ll find there are often headers for sections of scripture. Consider Matthew 8 and 9. In those two chapters, in the ESV, you’ll find a ton of great action words. “Jesus Cleanses”, “Jesus Heals” (6 times), “Jesus Calms”. There was never a doubt about Jesus’s priorities in His daily schedule. But more importantly, there was never a doubt about who Jesus considered a priority. In verses 14-17 Jesus visits Peter’s mother-in-law and heals her of a fever. What happens next? How did the people say “thanks?!” They brought people to Jesus who were demon possessed! Even more people who were troubled and in need. If I just healed a woman of a likely fatal fever, I would expect at least a gift card to Starbucks, or something! Jesus never checked up. He never put His comfort or His needs above His own; not stopping to debate or discuss unnecessarily.

What does this have to do with gun control? This is not a post about gun control. This is a post to encourage all of us to prioritize people. Stop pining away or arguing on how we should change the country or reform our laws. Those things will come in due time, IF we take personal the example to live like Christ. Evil will be thwarted whenever we remember and commit to loving all people at all times. The battle against injustice belongs to the Lord – whether we understand His ways and His timing or not. In the meantime, may we see every encounter with every person a chance to push back darkness with the light of God’s love. May we treat every moment, every conversation – especially with total strangers – as a chance to be a difference maker in the world. We truly never know what a person is going through, what he or she may be thinking. Therefore, let’s be Christ-followers who cleanse, heal, and calm like Jesus.

[1] Consider a “mass shooting” defined as the shooting and killing of 4 or more people in one setting; statistics obtained from www.gunviolencearchive.org