“[The Lord’s] soul hates the lover of violence.”
~ Psalm 11.5, NRSV
Christopher Lane. A name that I would not have known, much like that of Trayvon Martin, if it were not for the violence that is lamentably common in many American cities. Every day, there are multiple stories involving children, youth and gun violence. And while there are always reasons for which we could point to and consequently, away from ourselves, it seems much more appropriate to consider how we have contributed to this love of violence.
After the tragedy at Sandy Hook that occurred less than a month after giving birth to our son, I felt convicted concerning the violence that I had been entertained by. I had not acknowledged and accepted responsibility until the murder of those precious six and seven year olds that I had become quite desensitized to violence. I no longer flinched or gasped at the news of death by murder but would simply whisper a prayer of comfort for those impacted. But, Sandy Hook was different.
Perhaps, it was number of dead children: twenty. Twenty coffins entering a shocked earth. Twenty incomplete obituaries. Or, maybe it was because of the new concerns that now flooded my mind as I held my newborn son. While I did not consider him to be a possible future victim of such violence, I did feel sad about the violent world that I was bringing him into. Whatever the reason, I am grateful and have added myself to the prayer list. Lord, prick my heart.
In response to the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach and the sadness that swelled my heart, I stopped watching Criminal Minds, NCIS, The First 48 and other shows like it. Now, I turn away from shows and movies that use guns whether they are held by the “good” or the “bad guys.” I even critique news reports that offer details of the way in which the victim is murdered when a gun is used.
But, I suppose that this response was inevitable. I had a similar response to movies reenacting the devastation that occurred on September 11, 2001. I, along with so many others, had lived through it. I didn’t now want to sit back in a comfy theater seat with buttered popcorn and a soda and be entertained by it. It was not too soon but just plain inappropriate. There could be no “stars” as this was a real life drama and I didn’t want anyone to be awarded for their performance of pain that had been felt by so many. This violence was not for my entertainment but had served to educate me as words like terror were made real.
So, I will also not sit idly by when African Americans commit crimes against persons of other cultures. Rev. Jesse Jackson tweeted that the actions of the teens were “frowned upon.” That’s all? A tweet? And you only “frown upon” the actions? Where are the calls for justice, for protest, for gun control and reform? Where are the t- shirts for me to purchase, the petitions for me to sign, the conversations for me to participate in? Mr. Lane’s death is no less heartbreaking and his parents are suffering no less. All deaths due to violence are created equal. I am sorry that he died and “I weep with those who weep” (Romans 12.15).
Mr. Lane was a college athlete from Australia who was murdered, according to his alleged killers, due to boredom. For them, killing was the cure. They found pleasure in violence. While recent news reports suggest that the attack was not racially motivated, there are those who would disagree. And something must be said for the language of one of the suspects who is being charged in his murder.
James Francis Edwards posted messages on his Twitter page that are proof that he hated those he identifies as socially colored white people. In fact, a couple of days after the Zimmerman verdict was handed down, one of his tweets said just that. Using a hash tag, he writes, “#HATETHEM.”
So, what are we to make of this? While Mr. Edwards might hate “them”, Mr. Lane is from Australia, a country that participated in slavery on their shores not America’s. Consequently, he cannot be tied to the dark social history of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation and retributive hatred that has defined relations between European and African Americans. Maybe Mr. Edwards should have picked up a book and discovered this instead of allegedly participating in actions that led to the death of Mr. Lane. The score that he attempted to settle will most likely lead to him losing the rest of his life behind bars.
Lord, forgive us for loving violence and hating each other. Amen.