We find ourselves in the aftermath and shock of the shootings in Newtown. Last night, a reporter rightly said that this is tragedy that touches us all. Our hearts are broken and our spirits are deeply troubled by what has happened.
It is not the first time our nation has been brought together by a senseless act of violence, and it will not be the last. But it is a “moment” in our collective history when people of faith need to live by their faith.
Unfortunately, within a day of the Newtown shootings, Christians are debating the place of gun control in the reduction of an acknowledged escalating “culture of violence” in our nation and elsewhere in the world. One well-meaning writer advocated gun control as part of the answer, only to receive a harsh rejoiner from a reader who accused the writer of abdicating the conviction that “Jesus is the answer.”
I have worked deliberately—and sometimes against my own inclinations—to be sure that the Oboedire blog is not a forum for political conversations. And I want you to know that this post is not in any way “political” in my mind. I trust you will receive it as nothing other than an attempt to figure out what spiritual formation looks like—this time in the face of tragedy.
In that context, I have to say that a caricature of the phrase “Jesus is the answer” does nothing other than misrepresent Christianity’s fundamental and historic commitment to social holiness. My own Wesleyan tradition (which is an expression of the larger Anglo, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions) contains “prudential means of grace”—the first of which is to vow to do no harm, and to stand against anything which causes it.
There must be a time when spirituality says, “No more!” And I believe this is one of those times. We may debate what Jesus would do, or not do, in such a time as this. But surely we cannot imagine him telling us not to be involved in standing against forms of violence that leave children dead in their schoolrooms.
There must be a time when spirituality says, “No more!” We stand on the soil of the day after an event when that is the only response that faithfully represents the Gospel.
Jesus is the answer, but He has commissioned his followers to be the means by which His answer gets into the world to actually make a difference. To separate Jesus from the event of yesterday is a pseudo-spirituality. To bring Him into the picture through witness and redemptive action is His call upon our lives.