Even when I cry out, “Violence!” I am not answered; I call aloud, but there is no justice. (Job 19:7)
Again, our country is shocked into silence by wanton, senseless violence. The shootings in Las Vegas are simply the most recent in a long line of massacres and bloodbaths committed by sick and deeply disturbed individuals. Horror mixes with heartbreak. What in the world is happening? We cannot fully fathom the depths of despair that result in such hopeless acts of domestic terrorism. Each and every time we ask, “How could such a thing happen?”
Our inability to understand such levels of brokenness say much about our ability to repress, deflect and deny. Throughout our Hebrew and Christian scriptures; prophets, poets, scribes, priests, and apostles addressed the same questions and concerns about violence and inhumane acts. It is in the fallen and selfish nature of human beings to lash out violently in the face of hopelessness and despair. When there is no hope, no faith, human beings take matters into their own hands. Violence is the lowest form of response to a world gone wrong. As one person hurts, so they wish to inflict hurt on others.
In Genesis 6:11, the author writes, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” Perhaps we should reflect on whether these words might apply today? Our American culture glorifies and adores violence. Television shows, such as “Supernatural” and “The Blacklist,” depict weekly images of torture and viciousness. Movies, such as the new remake of “Death Wish,” make heroes of violent vigilantes. Guns are objects of worship; water and fire are made into weapons. We take it all in stride, never batting an eye. An epic tragedy the scope of the Las Vegas shootings quickly becomes a subject for debate by gun enthusiasts who claim that “anything can be turned into a weapon by someone bent on harming another.” One National Rifle Association spokesperson made the claim that a rifle is no more dangerous than a hammer or a kitchen knife, completely ignoring the damage a hammer might do from over 400 yards away. It is an insult to intelligent people everywhere to compare an automatic weapon that kills and injures hundreds in a matter of seconds from a distance greater than four football fields to a hammer or a kitchen knife, but this simply distracts from the horrible tragedy of victims and gunman.
Guns are not the main issue; violence is – and more importantly, the hopelessness and despair that lead to violence. Unaddressed unhappiness that leads to unresolved despondency and depression, resulting in hopelessness and eventual violence, is a growing problem in our complex world. And what is the church’s response? How are we championing the love of God and the healing grace through Jesus Christ? In what ways do our random acts of kindness mitigate and mend the random acts of violence?
We will never eradicate violence, hate, hostility, aggression, and anger in this world, in this lifetime. Our Bible is stunning evidence of this fact. But we must become a faithful witness to the reality that love conquers hate; peace trumps violence; grace is greater than insult and injury; and that there is hope in this world that cannot wait for the world to come. Brothers and sisters, be peacemakers; stand with the poor; comfort the victims; pray for the world. And cry out! Cry out until justice and peace prevail.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).