It’s from our hearts comes violence, not the means we use


A rising tide covers everything. But tides go out as well as go in. It’s part of nature. Because we build so much so close to the ocean sometimes a really high tide can be destructive. Life is like that ebb and flow of the tides; sometimes life is good, other times we cry “peace” but nowhere is there peace.

The very first words from Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities, are:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

The story begins before and continues through the French Revolution. We have always vacillated between this is the best of times ever and this is the worst of times ever. Like the perpetual pendulum swing we go from one extreme swing to the opposite and spend little time in the middle, the truly peaceful times. Unlike physical nature causing the ebb and flow of tides, in our case it’s human nature dragging us between extremes.

We have just witnessed two mass killings caused by guns and one mass killing caused by a car. All three events were planned by a person intent on killing. We’ve also in the last decade seen mass death brought about by bombs and airplanes. In every case and for different reasons each person planned to do the killing. In some of these killings we can feel somewhat good that we understand the reason was ideological, that America was a battlefield and a waring army was attacking us. The others didn’t have this so-called greater justification, it’s one person acting out some personal anger and senselessly killing others to assuage that anger. The Jihadists attacking and killing us we can make plans to limit it and stop it, but senseless (to the rest of us) violence, how do you stop that?

Laying it all on a “gun culture” is an easy answer but it misses the reality of why we are a gun culture. If it was just the gun that was the problem why then is it true that during our “western” period when most men carried guns were there far fewer gun deaths than today? If you are intent on killing, not having a gun to do it doesn’t stop you because it wasn’t the gun that led you to kill, it was just a means of killing.

One thing about high tides sometimes it also brings in flotsam. Flotsam ruins that otherwise great day you planned on having at the beach. It changes the nature of your experience negatively.

In the 1500s the German experience with the Roman Catholic Church was a love-hate experience. At this time there was no unified Germany, there were kingdoms like Bohemia, Bavaria, Swabia, among others, yet all had a German consciousness and connection that would bring them into a unified federation. When Luther, a German, challenged the Church he found himself also speaking for the German people. When the Pope was intent on bringing Luther to Rome and burning him at the stake, Luther fled and hid out for months. All that he wrote and taught became the new faith of Germany, or at least many of the German people, and some without Luther’s wisdom decided to take his place in starting a reformation. Their teaching became religious flotsam that eventually led to a peasant revolution.

Natural tensions can be made worse if a society breaks apart into factions and becomes tribal, each fighting against the other. There is no perfect society, it’s always a balance between good and evil with the pendulum swinging one way to more good and the other way to increased evil. What distinguishes one from the other is not the absence of nor the presence of guns or other forms of weapons, which is why our western ancestors who carried guns didn’t use them and today we are inclined to use them. Be careful about gun lies we so often believe. “According to DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. gun-related homicides dropped 39 percent over the course of 18 years, from 18,253 during 1993, to 11,101 in 2011.” And this while gun ownership has risen to new heights.

Two scriptures help explain: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come . . .” (Mark 7:20-21 NIV.) “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it.” (Jeremiah 17. 9 NIV.) Our hearts as a society is filled with flotsam, with divisions, with tensions, with bitterness, with hate. All this breaks down our moral sensitivities. What would otherwise check our tendencies to become violent are weakened and in some cases torn down and we let the wickedness of our heart direct our activities.

Changing our hearts will not stop violence, it will, however, limit it and we will not find the need to carry into even church our guns to protect ourselves.