“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons [and daughters] of God.” Matthew 5:9
The news cycle, the blogosphere, and social justice advocates often focus upon crisis, tragedy, and pain. Moments of freedom, of healing and hope are often drowned out by the cacophonous sounds of self-interest, fear and danger. Today I’d like to silence that cacophony and trumpet loudly about the brave and humble Antoinette Tuff, a peacemaker filled with the Spirit of God, who faced a gunman with her arsenal of love and compassion and saved a school full of children.
Antoinette Tuff’s faith and courage changed the outcome of history on Tuesday, Aug. 20. It is a day that will not live in infamy. Unlike other days that started on a similar path to violence, families did not grieve the loss of their children to the would-be mass gunman who walked into an elementary school with almost 500 rounds of ammunition. Police were scrambled to the scene, but did not have to evacuate classrooms of frightened children watching for a shooter. In fact, despite the heavily armed suspect and a heavily armed law enforcement response, not one person lost their life.
Antoinette Tuff stood in front of a man bent on destruction and revenge, saw in him the Imago Dei and humanized him saying, “It’s OK, we all have situations in our lives. I went through a tragedy myself." She volunteered to walk with him to surrender so he would be protected. She helped him apologize for his actions, and gave him her forgiveness and prayers. As she loved and encouraged that young man, he surrendered, apologized, and lived — to possibly the find the help that his troubled mind needs for healing.
I am praising Ms. Tuff because too often in our violence-saturated world, we fail to see the miracles of hope and humanity. I don’t know Antoinette Tuff. All of my knowledge about her comes from watching her interviews on television. But in those interviews, and on her now famous 911 call, it is clear Ms. Tuff lived out the meaning of “love your enemy” and “pray for those who persecute you,” by helping a desperate young man find his humanity in a moment of chaos and fear. In other school shootings, there were people who attempted to talk down the shooter. I am not suggesting that such efforts didn’t occur. But in a climate where the NRA and many religious and political leaders are calling to arm schools as the only solution, Ms. Tuff is an example of the power of peacemaking.
As our nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this week, I have been remembering the prophetic call of Dr. King’s nonviolence. In honor of Ms. Tuff’s bravery, let us ponder together his words.
Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.
Ms. Tuff’s love-filled bravery is a reminder of the power of love and peace. While the horror of a school taken hostage will be remembered in the lives of the children of Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy and by many in the community near and far, this day will also be remembered in our collective narrative not for the tragedy of a young life bent on destruction, but also for the courage of a Christian woman committed to peace and love. In Proverbs 31, a woman of noble character is described as “she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Ms. Tuff’s wisdom and noble character saved children like my own, and for that I am publically asking that we “give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
Tara C. Samples, Ph.D. is a grateful disciple of Jesus. She has worked as a Professional Counselor, is a Professor and is currently completing her postdoctoral residency in Clinical Psychology. She believes that social justice is the responsibility of the Body of Christ which is called to speak for those whose voices are not heard by the powerful. Tara is a wife, a mother of two creative young girls and tries to be an advocate against injustice, violence, oppression and sexual exploitation in the church and in the world.
Image: Peace illustration, jdwfoto / Shutterstock.com