I'm going to tell a story with as few details as possible, because it's not exactly my story to tell. It was told to me, and it haunts me.
Some kids were being a nuisance, getting onto someone's property, doing some damage, minor but still damage on land that was not theirs to mess up. This someone, a woman, was complaining to her neighbor about these kids, about how she'd asked them to stop and they continued anyway.
The neighbor said, "You have a gun, don't you?"
"Yes," answered the woman.
"Well, you know that if they're on your land without permission, you can shoot them."
Thankfully, the woman was appalled at the notion enough to not take the advice. She didn't want to shoot teenagers, she just wanted them to respect her property.
What I heard in this story is that we no longer, as a culture, assume that it's wrong to shoot people. It seems to me we actively look for reasons to shoot people, now. We look at the law for when we can shoot people rather than look for ways to avoid it.
A friend recently posted on Facebook, in response to a horrific family shooting in the suburbs of Houston, about how we "prepare our hearts" to shoot one another.
I think there are so many ways we prepare our hearts for violence these days, from the games we play and the entertainment we consume to the fear and hatred of the unknown that we feed and turn into political movements.
I don't want to ban guns, but I do want our hearts to change.
I don't want to censor anything, but I do want our hearts to change.
This business of shooting people is ultimately a heart issue and if I take anything from the Gospels and the desert mothers and fathers, my 4th Century Egyptian teachers, it's that we prepare our heart for life, service, love.
But it seems we have much work to do. So many people are afraid and we know that love is hard when we're full of fear.
Still we teach: Love casts out fear.
We have work to do with recognizing the holy in each other. We look at differences and we get suspicious to the point of paranoia.
Still we teach: We are all made in the Image of God.
I keep saying I really only have one or two things to say. These two teachings of the Christian faith are basically it. We are made in the Image of God and when we see some difference in each other, that just may be an aspect of God that we can't contain in our own self---for surely no one of us holds the full Imago. Surely we have to share it, to complement one another. We need to set aside fear and suspicion to learn something of God that we don't find in ourselves.
We have to stop preparing our hearts for violence. We have to stop shooting one another. We have to be brave enough to love even when teenagers are messing up our property.
We have to prepare our hearts for life giving (said with more than one meaning) love.