Tuesday, October 03, 2006

School Shootings and Safety

"It could happen anywhere!" is the sentiment of several people after a deadly shooting at an Amish schoolhouse. Reporters have been speaking about how the community has been "devastated," and how their sense of safety in this "insulated" community has been shattered. There is no place that is safe.

In other news, there are more discussions about metal detectors, police officers in schools and things of this nature. As people scramble to pass new laws and rules to try and make schools a safer place, it becomes more glaringly apparent that these people do not understand what is going on.

The problem is not lack of security in schools. The problem is, and always has been a spiritual one. Darrell Scott, the father of Columbine martyr Rachel Scott, called the Columbine shooting a "spiritual event." There was more going on than meets the eye. Changing the surroundings without change in the inner person changes nothing. Metal detectors, police officers, locked doors, and such will not solve the real problem. True change comes from the inside out. As tragic as they are, the shootings are really symptoms of a deeper problem, which is a disconnect from the God who created us all. The result of this disconnect is frustration, anger, and hopelessness, which can lead to violence.

We live in a dark world which is under the influence of Satan. The Bible calls Satan the "Ruler of this World." I think these Amish people probably understand this better than most Evangelical Christians who seem to confuse nationality with Christianity, which are very distinct from each other. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world, which is why his disciples did not engage in "holy war."

I think it is interesting that in all the news coverage, very little attention was given to how this Amish community was actually dealing with it. Contrary to many a reporter's depiction that they have been "devastated," a counselor who has been with the victims' families says that there is no bitterness or resentment, though there is sadness. In the midst of the sadness, the Amish are already speaking forgiveness. Some reporters almost seem appalled at this.

As a spiritual event, it is plain to see that the gunman really had no power over any of these people. He sent the children to Heaven, and caused sadness in their families, but he did not "devastate" them. "Devastate" is such a strong word. If we truly understand God, the nature of our world and our place in it, we will recognize that there is nothing on this earth that can "devastate" us. Jesus himself said that no one could have any power over him unless the Father has granted it. The book of Revelation tells us that as believers, we have been "sealed" by God, and this seal protects us. Even though Satan, the beast, or some gunman may shoot us dead, he really cannot touch us. Our body is temporal, but who we really are is out of reach of the enemy.

The real battle is not stopping a killer's bullet, because we will always have killers with us on this earth. That is not to say we shouldn't be concerned about it, because God is. The governing authorities are established by God for this very purpose. However, this deals with the external. The real battle is spiritual. What will believers do with this tragedy? The fact that this Amish community is already talking forgiveness shows that the gunman neither devastated them, nor did he ever have any control over them. It was the gunman who was in bondage. He was enslaved to the "old grudge" he was carrying out. These believers will neither be enslaved to bitterness nor to a cycle of revenge. They will display the Spirit of Christ who has set them free.

As I reflect on all of this, it occurs to me that the battle rages around me every day. Although the ways I am wronged cannot begin to compare with what happened this week in Pennsylvania, the warfare is still there behind the scenes. I realize that, like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18, I need to look not at what is seen, but what is unseen. Satan's tools include fear, resentment, hate, selfishness, and a host of other inner attitudes. I have little control over external circumstances. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit that has sealed me, I do have control over my inner circumstances. Surely if they can forgive someone who killed their child and prevent Satan from getting a foothold into their heart, I can also forgive someone who has talked behind my back! If Jesus can forgive those who put him on the cross while he was on the cross, I should be able to forgive anyone!

I suppose it is good to stop on a regular basis and spend some time in solitude and silence. Silent prayer. Being with God. Hanging out with him. It is NOT wasted time any more than being with my wife is wasted time. It is in those silent moments that my inner self comes to the surface. There is no activity or noise to push it into the background. Sometimes I don’t' like what I see, yet God in his love and grace helps me to reorder it, if I let him. He will not force it on me. I have to be willing. Like Elijah in the cave, there are times when I need to listen for his whisper.

And what a powerful whisper it is! It is there that I learn what true safety is on this earth. It is not safety from thieves, robbers, and murderers. It is safety from any of them touching me, who I really am, my inner self. God is there, and they cannot penetrate there. It is a fortress for my soul. There, I am safe in the arms of my Lord.


PatrickMead said...

Exceptionally, powerful, my friend. Thank you for your words. I need to share them with some people today.

bbboomer said...

You put the small things in life into perspective. Thank you for your words and insight. Very good.

K. Rex Butts said...

Wonderful words John.

On the spiritual problems that many of us "born again" Christians face, it seems that our biggest fears are death and having our way of life disrupted. This leads us to go to great lenths (economically, militarily, etc...) at protecting us from death and preserving life as it is. I do not want to sound like death is a trivial matter because it is and it is an enemy of God (and therefore an enemy of the Christian). But God has dealt with the problem of death in Jesus Christ.

So if we are truly "born again" Christian living in the resurrected Jesus Christ, then why do we fear death so much? Perhaps we need to spend some more time reflecting (and perhaps believing again) the claims made by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps we need to stop "spiritualizing" the gospel and realize, as it was, that it was/is as literal event in history which has altered the course of history and has also determined the future of history (paraphrasing Jurgen Moltmann).

So why if we are truly "born again" Christians, then why are we so driven to preserving our way of life? Do we not know that the gospel says that our life in Jesus Christ can no longer be destroyed? Or perhaps "our way of life" is more wrapped up in our national identity than in Jesus Christ.

Our overt fear of death and strong determinism to preserve our way of living seems, in my opinion, to be a spiritual problem -- one in which we have failed to understand and claim the gospel of Jesus Christ. The very same gospel that we confess and celebrate in baptism and the Eucharist seems to have very little impact and claim upon us. It seems then that the church needs to be re-evangelized with the truth of the gospel.