Opinion

Let’s begin the dialog

Tom Murray

Fifty-eight dead at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. Twenty-six dead at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Eighty-four lives have been lost in these two events in just a matter of a few weeks.

And so we grieve. We grieve for the families who will never be whole again. We grieve for children whose nightmares have suddenly become very real. We grieve for communities who will never feel safe again. We grieve, yet if recent history is our guide, we will do absolutely nothing to stop the next shooting from happening.

There is an all-too-familiar pattern of discourse that follows these horrific events. In the immediate aftermath, we indignantly decree that “Now is not the time to politicize such things.” We then go online and quarrel about what might be done; not to solve the problem, but rather to justify our own social and political views. Eventually, a Kardashian will get married, or an athlete will take a knee, or a politician will unleash a tweetstorm, and we’ll move on as if these events had never happened.

We are broken. But this is certainly not news to us. We have divided ourselves into cultural, political, and religious camps with no desire to listen to one another, much less compromise to work toward a common goal. We have fallen into the sin of believing that life is a zero-sum game. If you are winning, then I must be losing. It’s simply human nature to do so.

We can’t look the other way just because these shootings don’t fit our preconceived notion of where my rights end and your rights begin. We can’t pretend that the technology to kill with a multitudinous will can’t impact us living here in Cook County, insulated from the rest of the world by the long drive up Highway 61. Every violent death, whether it takes place in an elementary school, at an outdoor concert, in an LGBT nightclub, or inside a country church, directly impacts each one of us individually, and all of us collectively.

Perhaps you will disagree with me here … and that’s perfectly all right … but for me, the crux of this, at least within the Christian community, is our disregard for the prophetic imagination of scripture. The prophetic imagination is that which proclaims that God is always working new things in us.

This is the ancient voice that reminds us that the world is rarely how we perceive it to be and that it is almost never how we wish that it would be. And yet, it is the world we are given to serve. We are called to live among the shards of our brokenness as the living voices and hands of God.

Reclaiming the prophetic imagination of our faith will require three things of us: repentance, growth, and love. We will need to repent whatever role we are playing in the cultural gridlock that we share in. We will need to embrace the gospel so that we can grow into the community we are called to be. We will need to love our neighbor as ourselves, including those whom we vehemently disagree with. All three of these things require the same investment, which is the willingness to change. We need to be willing to first transform ourselves before we can go out into the world and confront the evils that need to be changed out there.

Whatever side of this issue one falls on; whether one wishes to protect the rights of gun ownership, or to seek limits on these rights, or somewhere in the broad middle of these two positions; the prophetic imagination of God reminds us that repentance, growth, and love aren’t options. They are requirements.

This means listening to one another with respect. It means being willing to turn away from long-held beliefs. It means loving those whom we emphatically disagree with. It means standing shoulder to shoulder with those holding political, cultural and religious views that are perhaps difficult for us to accept. In short, it means working together as a community.

Let’s begin the dialog before another Kardashian intrigue takes over the news cycle, and we move on to another topic. This is a conversation to have around the supper table, over coffee with friends, on street corners, and in our churches. I pray, and I know that you do as well, that this kind of violence may one day cease.

Each month a member of the Cook County Ministerium will offer Spiritual Reflections. This month’s contributor is Tom Murray of the Lutsen Lutheran Church and Baptism River Community Church of Finland.


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