For years now, various right-wing religious types have been lecturing Americans about the moral dangers that are threatening to undermine our society. The dangers they point to basically boil down to sex and abortion. For years, they have been telling us that sex outside of marriage — particularly among gay people — somehow threatens the very foundation of American society. Abortion, they insist, is similarly threatening. And whenever anything terrible happens – including, tragically, the horror that unfolded last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut – certain representatives of this point of view insist on connecting it somehow to these same two issues. To hear them tell it, forcing gay people into the closet and outlawing abortion would somehow result in a perfect society where nothing bad would ever happen.
What these same would-be arbiters of morality never seem to talk about is the real crisis in American society, the thing that is truly threatening to increasing numbers of people: the crisis of violence. According to one report, in 2012 there at least 16 incidents in the United States classified as mass murders involving a gunman who unexpectedly shows up and kills people.
- February 22 – five people were killed in Norcross, Georgia, when a man got into an argument and opened fire inside a health spa.
- February 26 – one person killed, 20 others injured when multiple gunmen opened fire in a Jackson, Tennessee, nightclub
- February 27 – three students killed at Chardon High School in rural Ohio when a classmate opened fire
- March 8 – two people killed, seven wounded at a psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when a gunman entered the hospital with two semiautomatic handguns
- March 31 – two people killed, 12 injured when a gunman opened fire at a funeral in a North Miami, Florida, funeral home
- April 2 – seven people killed, three wounded by a former student at Oikos University in Oakland, California
- April 6 – three died, two wounded by two men who started randomly shooting black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma
- May 29 – six people died (including the gunman) at a Seattle, Washington, coffee shop
- July 9 – three people killed, including a 16 year old, at a soccer tournament in Wilmington, Delaware
- July 20 – 12 people killed, 58 wounded at a midnight movie screening in Aurora, Colorado
- August 5 – seven people killed, including the gunman, at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- August 14 – three people killed at Texas A&M University by a rampaging gunman on campus
- September 27 – five people shot, three wounded, at a sign company in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a laid off former employee
- October 21 – three women killed, four others injured at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin
- December 11 – three people killed, including the gunman, in a “random” shooting incident at a mall near Portland, Oregon
- December 14 – 28 people killed in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School
It is long past time for Americans to stop worrying about who is having sex with whom, about who is marrying whom, and about what healthcare decisions women are making for themselves. These are not things that endanger American life. We need instead to turn our attention to the very real anger problem we have in this country, and the violence that is ending lives and tearing apart families and communities.
From a Christian point of view, Jesus had nothing to say about gay people or abortion. He did, however, have a lot to say about violence, about the danger of allowing anger to build within us. He also had a lot to say about our obligations to take care of each other – and he spent a lot of his time healing people who clearly suffered from what we would now understand as mental illness.
Yet, Christians who are given a public forum rarely talk about these things.
It is deeply troubling to me that many of these same people, when the subject of what to do about guns or ammunition arises, have as their first reaction the defense of their personal right to bear arms. I don’t think this would have been Jesus’ first reaction. I think his first reaction would have been a concern for others’ rights – like the right to live in peace, without fear of becoming the victim of random violence.
It is also troubling to me that many of the solutions offered involve arming our teachers or posting armed soldiers at all of our schools. Is this really the kind of society we want to live in?
These are complex issues, and I don’t mean to imply that they are easily addressed. But we can no longer ignore them. No other country in the world (except in places of war) experiences this level of violence. America, we have a problem – a problem that is literally killing our children and something must be done.