June 2, 2018

Our New Reality

Some of us are old enough to remember the first hijacked airliners. Terrorists, or those emotionally unbalanced, would smuggle weapons on board a plane, and while it was mid-flight take over, make demands, and threaten to start killing passengers and crew.

To adjust to this new reality, passengers were screened before takeoff to make sure the crew and passengers wouldn’t be threatened.

Then came 9/11 when airliners weren’t hijacked to make demands, but simply to inflict maximum loss of life and damage to property. This new reality required even more rigorous airport screening and the advent of the Transportation Security Administration in the United States.

Now we are in the midst of another cultural shift: shooters on the loose in schools, nightclubs, theaters, churches, music concerts. Thoughtful people are suggesting solutions both realistic and unrealistic. Welcome to our new reality.

Deliver Us From Evil

Anyone who doubts the existence of evil need look no farther than those with automatic weapons and irresponsible amounts of ammunition who go after vulnerable and unprotected targets. City streets and sidewalks become battlefields with pedestrians as casualties and motor vehicles as weapons.

The temptation in situations like these is to become reactionary: the answer is more guns; the answer is fewer guns; all immigrants are either potential terrorists or gang members. In fact, an intractable problem such as random, senseless violence is not solved by phony, simplistic solutions.

Over the past 2,000 years Christianity has been guided by principles, which, if more perfectly practiced, would make this world a better place to live. The golden rule—“Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12)—is a great place to start.

We live in a society increasingly segmented: those with guns, those without guns; those with money, those who are financially desperate; those who have access to healthcare, those who don’t; those who are native-born, those who are immigrants. Many people, even Christians, have a hard time imagining the desperation and hopelessness experienced by large segments of our population.

And a shockingly high number of people in both public and private sectors seem ready to capitalize on those differences and use them for political gain. But the gospel teaches us to look at others using the same lens with which we see ourselves. In fact, Jesus said that the way we treat others is a barometer of how we would treat Him (see Matt. 25:31-46).

Our new reality forces us to undertake more extreme security measures in our schools, churches, concert halls, and athletic fields (with many already in place). But we should never allow the threat of evil incarnate to force us to lay down our weapons of Christian love, mercy, and grace, and its quest of justice for all.

Evil is real. Danger is real. But for Christians the answer is not “let’s get them before they get us.” Our mandate is to represent kingdom values without fear. The promise is ours to claim: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). That’s a reality just as real as evildoers with guns.

Stephen Chavez is an assistant editor of Adventist Review.