After the cheerfulness of Christmas, with delicious leftovers still uneaten, we hear of a man entering a rabbi’s home in New York and stabbing five men. Before we can catch our breath, a gunman kills 2 inside a Texas church.
These acts make us wonder how human beings can be so violent.
There are spiritual dimensions to violence that the Bible speaks to, including sources and solutions. We need to understand the evil impulses of violence, and what we can do in response.
So we go to the Bible to find a deeper understanding of the roots of violence. The media coverage of shootings are drastically shallow, centering on gun control — but doesn’t get to the root causes of violence.
We only have to read a short way to Chapter 4 in the Bible to find the first horrendous act of violence. Cain murders Abel because of jealousy. God questioned Cain: “Why are you angry?” Jealously leads to anger. Violence often is the result of jealousy and resentment turned into rage; it is as close to us as our own heart.
In Genesis 9:6 (NIV) God presents us with a profound principle that is foundational: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”
Most importantly, this verse tells us that violence against human beings is wrong because human beings were made in the image and likeness of God. Humans have a value and are worthy of honor and respect, making violence a moral offense.
Befuddled over the senselessness of these murders, we start accessing oversimplified reasons for the cause: mental illness. But in the profound report Mass Shootings and Mental Illness: by James L. Knoll IV, M.D., and George D. Annas M.D., the doctors tell us our belief is a misconception and that focusing on gun laws will do little to get to the heart of the problem.
They have done their homework and conclude: “Gun Violence and Mental Illness laws intended to reduce gun violence that focus on a population representing less than 3% of all gun violence will be extremely low yield, ineffective and wasteful of scarce resources. The debate on how to prevent mass shootings has focused heavily on issues that are 1) highly politicized, 2) grossly oversimplified, and 3) unlikely to result in productive solutions.”
The deadliest mass murder in a U.S. school history, was by a farmer who killed 38 Michigan elementary school children, six adults and injured at least 58 others. The farmer had run into financial trouble, his wife was seriously ill, he was angry over an increased tax bill and he lost a town clerk election. His suicide message suggested he had a long-term grievance, blaming others for his resentment.
As the Bible says: all of us were made in the image of God and are of value. I believe we need to practice treating others with honor from kindergarten all through life.
Include people instead of excluding them. Students and teachers know the person who stays by themselves, is being bullied and perhaps has an abusive home life. Let’s begin to treat them with value. Let’s see the God in them by projecting the God within ourselves.
The Rev. Ellin M. Dize is executive director of nonprofit NRS Inc. and facilitates A Course in Miracles spiritual discussion group at St. Paul’s UCC. She can be contacted at NRSsolutions@yahoo.com.