In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
I was checking out of a hotel to head to a congregation as a guest preacher. That same weekend another angry, armed, hate-filled man attacked and killed people at worship at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile in Kentucky another man killed two people merely for being black. And another man sent pipe bombs to over a dozen public figures because they didn’t share his political point of view.
The man for whom the Lutheran tradition is named said and did many profound things that shaped modern theology and religion. However, we also acknowledge that in his later years Luther said and wrote horrendous, bigoted and hateful things about the Jewish people. His writings helped fuel the Nazi genocide of Jewish people in Germany during World War II. That same senseless hatred has infected some in our country today.
The Run-Off Between Good and Evil
The battle between good and evil has raged since the beginning of time. Sometimes it appears evil is winning. Other times those promoting good keep evil at bay. Before I left the hotel that morning I stopped to make sure I had everything ready for the morning worship service. I did this near the courtesy computers in the lobby. I saw two little boys, apparently using two of the computers to play some sort of computer game. They looked to be around ages six and eight. I literally felt a wave of nausea when the little one said to the big one, “Move the sniper in closer. He can kill more people that way.”
Not even 24 hours after an actual sniper wrought havoc on people gathered peacefully to worship, I heard this conversation between two little boys. I almost went over to say something to them. I couldn’t think of anything that I, a semi-gray-haired grandmother they do not know, could say that would make any difference. Instead I edited my prepared sermon to interject a couple of thoughts about the travesty in Pittsburgh, and called for a moment of silence for our Jewish cousins in their time of grief.
I’ve heard all the arguments about how video games don’t cause people to be violent. I’ve heard all the arguments that disrespect and verbal harassment spewing from the most influential mouths in the country don’t cause people to be violent. I’ve heard the insistence that guns don’t kill people; only people with guns kill. And I conclude it’s all a flawed attempt to justify our collective decision to cast our ballots for evil in the run off between good and evil.
If words don’t influence people, why do advertisers spend billions interrupting us every few minutes to tell us about what they want us to buy or do? If words have no influence over us why are political candidates spending millions per candidate to invade our mailboxes and voice mails with their pleas for our money and votes?
Real vs. Fake
These two young, white, clean and neatly dressed boys seemed like decent enough chaps. But it distresses me greatly that our culture thinks it’s OK for them to learn how to be active shooters before they hardly know how to write or do basic math. I have a colleague whose son is seven. Last week this colleague was telling us how his son is trying to sort out what is real from what is pretend. They have frequent conversations about action figure heroes, reality TV shows, and the evening news reports about the latest carnage. “Is that real?” he often asks his father. When we expose our children to non-stop images of violence before they can tell the different between actual and pretend; when we let leaders get away with bold-faced lies and distortions because it advances the cause they’re promoting; when we know people are guilty, but we don’t impose consequences – how do we expect our children to grow up with a moral compass pointing toward true good?
I read hundreds of social media posts from people bemoaning the carnage taking place all around us. I read posts attacking people who see things differently or arguing about what we should do about the dramatic increase in violence. I frequently hear people asking, “But what can we do about it?”
I’d like to suggest that part of the solution starts in our children’s playrooms, especially our boys. Let’s quit training them to kill and blow it off as play. Let’s not let them get away with aggressive behavior, as “boys will be boys.” Boys can be boys by doing hard, physical work. They can join athletic teams. They can learn how to build things. They can learn how to grow things. There are endless ways they can exert their youthful creative energy that don’t involve learning things like, “Move the sniper closer. He can kill more people that way.”
A Better World Is Ours For the Making
A kinder, saner and safer world starts in the nursery and continues through the informative early childhood years. Why do we keep witnessing deranged angry – usually men – often white men – inflicting horror on innocent victims? Because we tell them over and over they are dominant, they are special, they are superior and they have the right to get whatever they want by any means necessary, even if that means killing others to carry out their warped sense of reality. Maybe if we quit training children to kill in pretend scenarios we wouldn’t see so many deranged adults killing for real. Maybe if we emphasized collaboration over competition and conquest, we could create a world where all are welcome, and we can finally live in peace.
What do you think?