In-Sight: A Modest Proposal

As you know, I have not created Oboedire to be a medium to generate ongoing threads of conversation.  But I read every response that is posted and benefit from them.  I also receive occasional emails (, and I respond to those as I am able.

But today, I want to take our thinking about the spirituality of “No More!” one step further, in light of the comments which have been made to the original post this past Saturday.  I surely agree that mass shootings are not the only issue where we need to apply the principle of social holiness.  And I also agree that diagnosis moves us inevitably to try to speak about cure.  Diagnosis without cure only increases our frustration, and rightly so.

To be sure, an attempt to speak about “cure” is much more difficult, and it cannot be applied in any one-size-fits-all way.  But the responder who aches for some way out of our current dilemma speaks for all of us, I’m sure.  And in the spirit of her response, I offer (as the title of today’s post suggests) a modest proposal….

I start with my agreement that what we are seeing is the result of a longstanding erosion.  We may never fully understand the “whys and hows” of that erosion, and we may never completely agree on the factors that have contributed to it.  But if any solutions are to be found, they must be found in relation to the problem.  The sorrows we see in our culture did not “erupt” overnight, they are the results of a slow “erosion”—and erosions are always more difficult to detect, and even when we detect them, the slight shifts don’t seem to make a lot of difference at the time.  It’s only later, when we tally up the total, that we realize the actual price we have paid for our small compromises.

The point is, that which takes a long time to create will also take a long time to solve.  And (as with the erosions which happen by choices we make) we will only move in the direction of positive change by willful exercise of a new vision and the related values it calls for.

And so….the modest proposal.  Two things…

(1) I propose that a key issue which underlies the many manifestations of sorrow is the loss of the sacredness of life.  Things—and even people—are expendable.  But that is not true.  We must rebuild the value which says, “All life is holy.”  We must speak of this in our meetings and in our homes.  We must build companies and communities on this principle.  No more expendable people, whether with a gun or in a sweat shop.

(2) I propose that there is a deeper issue which causes us to view life as expendable—it is the false notion that reality is defined by what “I” want it to be—whether comic or tragic.  Once we put ourselves at the center of determining how life goes, it will go in the direction that our egotism takes it.  We must rebuild the value of “other-orientedness,” and (of course) we believe as Christians that the ultimate Other is God.

Unless and until we can reverse the effects of egotism (which are only accelerated when pathologies and illnesses are added), and unless and until we can pervasively restore a sense of the sacred in our culture, we are not likely to see things get better.

The applications of these two principles are legion, and I have to leave it to parents, educators, civic leaders, business and industry persons,  media producers, clergy, etc. to discern how they could be applied concretely in their particular contexts.  But unless and until we do these two things (and doubtless other things that will emerge as we go along), we will continue to see eg0-driven people (albeit it sick ones too) perpetrate acts of violence and degradation on others whose lives they have deemed to be expendable.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to In-Sight: A Modest Proposal

  1. genesmith12 says:

    A little research on mass killings in USA will reveal that for the last 40 years we have had an average of 20 tragic incidents per year and according to NPR last Friday this number pales in comparison to one on one homicides in USA however, media coverage for mass killings generates higher ratings for broadcasting than one on one. If we allow ourselves to be inundated by the media coverage we can become overwhelmed with the problem while our best solutions are waylayed. It really is going to take discernment and prayer for God’s timing to change the culture of violence to value human life. Then we also have the superbian mind set of the last 30 years to contend with as well. As followers of Christ we certainly have our work cut out for us. Have mercy Lord and give us the grace to do your work in your time.

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