Editorial: In the Absence of Love

The tragic murders in Charleston re-surface the debate about gun control.  We are already hearing the predictable responses from people and groups positioned along the spectrum of opinion. 

If the past holds true one more time, we will find ourselves deadlocked in dualistic thinking rather than breaking free from it to a new day which actually makes things better and different.  Left where we are, our current and future Presidents will appear over and over on television giving voice to a national lament which continues because hatred and the violence it produces is left unchecked.  In the absence of love, the moral imperative to be a human family is lost. It is a fallen world, not a God-oriented world that follows Ayn Rand more than Christ.

It is at times like this when my college Sociology major reminds me of things I too easily forget in the stereotypical argument about gun control, etc.  It helps me remember that deformative and destructive systems (and the people imprisoned in them) do not emerge quickly, but rather are the products of an evolutionary process that eventually arrives at a “flash point” that everyone with any sense recognizes as having gone too far.

And so it is, as we stare at an average of 88 gun-related deaths per day in the United States–totaling about 32,000 per year–the highest number of any nation on earth.  Statistics alone cry out, “Enough is enough!” 

When a tragic act is called a hate crime, the question is, “What social factors and conditions created the hate?”  When did the privileged orchestrate attitudes and actions that create a culture of violence, which the privileged can then go on to claim they had nothing to do with?   Where people cry out, what produced the pain?  These are questions the ego refuses to entertain, preferring to lay blame on an “other” who is judged to be “less than.”  These are the tactics of victimizers who falsely claim to be victims.

But only the morally deaf fail to hear the cry, choosing instead to believe that the singular way to stop the madness is to “pack heat” yourself, and get “them” before “they” get you. (notice the pronouns).  Lost are Jesus’ words that if we live by the sword, we will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).  Lost in the mayhem is the biblical vision (which is supposed to inspire action) that swords will one day be turned into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4), with no mention that between now and then, killing those with whom we disagree is an acceptable option.

As long as our swords (which can be words as well as weapons) remain swords–as long as our guns (which can be figurative as well as literal) remain guns, we will see the armed wounding and killing the unarmed–sometimes with legislation and sometimes with firearms.  It is a fallen world, not a God-oriented world that chooses dominance over community, fear over love, and destruction over resurrection.

Shouldn’t this fact alone bring us to our senses.  How long, O Lord?  When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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