I had a veteran friend once tell me, “The biggest lie I have ever been told is that violence is evil, except in war.” He went on, “My government told me that. My Church told me that. My family told me that. … I came back from war and told them the truth—‘Violence is not evil, except in war… Violence is evil – period.’”
Every day it seems like we are bombarded with news stories of violence—a shooting in Colorado, a bus bombing in Bulgaria, drones gone bad and the threat of a nuclear Iran, a civil war in Syria, explosions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The recent cover story of Time magazine was "One a Day," showing that soldier suicides are up to one per day, surpassing the number of soldiers who die in combat. The U.S. military budget is still rising—more than $20,000 a second, more than $1 million a minute, spent on war even as the country goes bankrupt.
Our world is filled with violence—like a plague, an infection, a pandemic of people killing people, and people killing themselves. In my city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, we have nearly one homicide a day—and in this land of the free we have more than 10,000 homicides per year.
This week President Barack Obama called the shooting in Colorado “evil.” And he is right.
But perhaps it is also time that we declare that violence is evil, everywhere—period. It’s obvious that killing folks in a movie theater is sick and deranged, but the question arises: is violence ever okay?
As a woman preacher, I can’t help but love St. Mary Magdalene. She was the first witness to the resurrection. When I first discerned my call to be a preacher I got a tattoo of her on my forearm – it’s from a rare depiction in ancient Christian art – of her proclaiming the resurrection to the apostles. I felt that when I needed to, I could borrow her strength. And since July 22 is her feast day, we decided weeks ago to ditch the normal Sunday readings and celebrate her as an important saint to us.
But then Friday happened. I was still in New Orleans when I saw the news of the shooting. After praying that you were all safe I soon thought, “we can’t really hold a celebration of a saint today … it just wouldn’t make any sense.”
I had gone to New Orleans with an idea for a sermon on Mary Magdalene – a sermon about who gets to speak in the Bible and who gets to be named and blah, blah, blah.
And just as I was about to ditch it all and go with the regularly assigned reading for today, I went back and again read this story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb and realized, given the violence and terror thrust upon our community this week, that maybe Mary had more to say about it than I could. I decided again to borrow strength and voice from her. So were I a pastor who titled her sermons, this one would be WWMMP – "What Would Mary Magdalen Preach?"
Worshippers in Aurora, Colo., rocked by the July 20 mass shooting flocked to church Sunday, seeking solace within their faith communities.
"People are saying that if there's a day to go to church, this is it," said Allie McNider, associate pastor at Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church, about a mile from the movie theater where police say James Holmes opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58 more. "They're looking for a sense of something bigger than themselves."
Meanwhile, in Rancho Penasquitos, Calif., a San Diego suburb and the hometown of alleged shooter James Holmes, Pastor Greg Hoffmann prayed with his congregation at Penasquitos Lutheran Church, where the Holmes family are members.
Hoffman spoke of the pain and shock the church community was feeling. He preached on the verse from Mark in which Jesus tells his disciples to "come with me to a quiet place."
In light of the tragic events which took place in Aurora, Colo., a few days ago, I feel uncomfortable providing a review of a film I was watching at the same time as the dozen souls who lost their lives in such an unfathomably awful situation. I’m sure that the emotions of excitement and anticipation that I felt in the days leading up to the film, as the previews rolled and as the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises unfolded before my eyes, will forever be mixed with feelings of deep sadness and anger the senseless violence that descended in Colorado.
Through the lens of what happened last Friday, The Dark Knight Rises has, rightly or wrongly, taken on a new layer of meaning for me (and, I'd imagine, many other moviegoers). It is a film about the very darkest of times — when all hope seems lost, when there are no heroes — and what happens when we allow the worst of ourselves to take control.
But it is also a story about redemption. It is a tale of finding courage in the face of overwhelming adversity, in spite of overwhelming physical and spiritual suffering. Christian Bale’s Batman (and indeed his Bruce Wayne), is in some ways a more timid character, by comparison, to the Batman who saved Gotham City from The Joker's psychotic games in The Dark Knight.
Older, weaker, and yet not much wiser, in The Dark Knight Rises Batman/Wayne does not see the city that in which he has made himself a recluse, in the same way as its other citizens. We see a man out of touch with those he once had inspired, with many citizens of Gotham believing Batman to be a murderer (the ghost of Harvey Dent looms large throughout the film) or leaving him for dead.
He has nothing more to give to a Gotham where organized crime is a thing of the past, a city that no longer believes it needs a hero to protect it. Gotham, its leaders conclude, is doing just fine without "the Bat."
Darkness has covered our nation and thick darkness has descended upon our people. Tragedy has clouded out the light. Shots rang out in Aurora, Colorado. Some people were wounded by gas and bullets. Others were murdered.
In this time of darkness may your resilient light shine forth.
May your light shine on the family and friends of the 12 people who were killed during this senseless crime. There's no way to explain the darkness that indiscriminately murders children, women, and men. They were each someone's son, daughter, mother, or father — and nobody can fully understand the immense grief and righteous anger of their loved ones. They need your light, Loving God. Please pour it forth....
Among the 12 moviegoers killed in the massacre in Aurora, Colo., early this morning was Jessica Ghawi, a aspiring young sportscaster from Texas who had narrowly missed being injured in another act of random violence — the shooting spree in a Toronto, Canada shopping mall last month.
On June 5, Ghawi, who wrote under the byline Jessica Redfield, described her experience at the Eaton Center in Toronto on her blog, A Run On Of Thoughts.
She wrote in part:
I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.
What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life.... I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.
I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.
I feel like I am overreacting about what I experienced. But I can’t help but be thankful for whatever caused me to make the choices that I made that day. My mind keeps replaying what I saw over in my head. I hope the victims make a full recovery. I wish I could shake this odd feeling from my chest. The feeling that’s reminding me how blessed I am. The same feeling that made me leave the Eaton Center. The feeling that may have potentially saved my life.
Read more about Ghawi HERE.
Five chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team, already in Colorado and New Mexico ministering to victims of the ravaging wildfires, redeployed to Aurora by 8 a.m. mountain time,
Dealing with mass trauma isn't something taught in seminary, says Jack Munday, director of the team.
The BGEA is now headed by Graham's son, Franklin, who also leads Samaritan's Purse, which rushes in aid in natual disasters.
Munday says the chaplains went directly to Gateway High School in Aurora where the survivors and victims friends and family are gathered. They're also on call with local authories to go to other locations such as area hospitals.
Munday described how the team -- sent to mass shootings, natural disasters and other major tragic events -- approaches people who may be angry, grieving, in shock or simply in need of help reaching their own family or clergy.
Read the entire report HERE.