The Common Good

A Call to Arms

In the wake of the recent school shooting tragedy in Connecticut, we will undoubtedly hear the lament, 'America is at the crossroads', as we struggle to contain an increasingly violent society. Sadly, this country left the crossroads some time ago. We have passed the tipping point, and are rapidly descending into the abyss of chaos when it comes to respect for human life. 

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People pay their respects at a makeshift shrine to Sandy Hook victims. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

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Well-meaning voices are sounding the alarm that things are different now — innocent children have died in great numbers in Connecticut. This is true, but people are dying every day in towns and cities throughout our nation due to acts of senseless violence. The deaths in Connecticut represent an unspeakable new low, but we have been steadily arriving here for decades.

We will rightly pray for and comfort the families and communities of the victims. We should do no less. There will also be calls for greater gun control. However, we can count on this: we cannot count on our governments to get this epidemic of violence under control. Nor can we retreat to the false comfort of innocuous statements such as, 'Guns don't kill people. People kill people.'  

In truth, people kill people with many instruments. But undoubtedly, terrifyingly more potent weaponry make that killing much easier and more horrific. This nation cries out for an adult discussion around gun violence.  However, the real conversation must go far deeper. It must reach into our very soul as a people of peace and good will. It requires collective reflection and decisions. But it starts with each one of us individually.

When will we finally admit our absolute addiction to the things which are slowly, but surely, killing us? When will we come to see our self-serving nihilistic, pleasure-seeking escapism for what it is? It is a cancer that is killing our true meaning as a loving humanity. It is rapidly draining our very life blood. When will we awaken to the false reality of a freedom grounded in fear-- grounded in our captivity to random destruction? Have all our guns made us safer? Ask the countless families scarred forever by violent crimes and terrorism. Are we any freer when we have to lock ourselves tightly in our homes? Is life well-lived when our children cannot attend school or walk in their neighborhoods without fear of violence? Are we any more connected to each other in community when our heads are buried in TV, movie, and gaming violence which teaches us to hate? Are we whole human beings when our life purpose has degenerated into immediate gratification-seeking lives, requiring no vision for a better future beyond our own self interest. The only surprise here is that we are surprised at all with the outcome.

The patient is now on life-support. We are sick patients, set adrift from hope in a violent world. We are failing. Looking to someone else to solve this for us is a ruse. It is weakness and dependency. We will surely have more policies and laws. Perhaps we need a few. But the real answer lies in us. I challenge our nation, one person at a time, to voluntarily lay down the weapons. Do the counterintuitive thing. Let us show what real courage is: turning in the guns.  

We will all be safer in the long-run, and we will have done it in the spirit of freedom. It is also time to voluntarily lay down our violent video games, and make a statement for spending 'caring' time with each other — not with our machines. It is time to turn off our smart phones far more often and look around. We need to look for those who could use our help, conversation, or simply a loving smile. It is time to think about a life dedicated to making a positive difference, not about our next indulgent activity. It is time to turn toward others in love instead of ourselves.

This once great nation was founded on individual liberty. We will only be a free nation once again if we soberly admit that we are currently imprisoned on death row. We will only be free when we acknowledge that real power comes not from our will but from our hearts. We will only become human again when we say No to life as it is now defined for us. That life is, in reality, death.  

We were made by God to love each other in community. Admittedly, living life in this way is risky. We may be alone in the beginning, but others will follow our lead and example. And we cannot give up. We must make a commitment for the long run for a change. Please join in a battle worth fighting. Please join in refusing to give into the inevitable alienation that surely lies ahead of us. Join in truly honoring the lives lost in violence. Join in recapturing the fullness of our humanity and the greatness of a people who make a true and lasting Call To Arms. Those arms are not guns or knives or even smart phones. They are the loving, outstretched arms of human beings who welcome each other in God's name and grace — in a truly worthwhile cause of peace. 

Jeffrey Tucker is currently working on a Master of Divinity from Palmer Seminary. He also holds a Master of Theological Studies from Palmer Seminary and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. He currently serves as a volunteer hospital chaplain.

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