Another day, another mass shooting. We grieve for Odessa, Tex., and we grieve for America.
The aftermath of every mass shooting follows a now-routine pattern: Feverish coverage will be followed by politicians and pundits engaging in a predictable conversation about gun-safety legislation. All of which we know by now. Of course, we need universal background checks; we need to close all loopholes; we need to outlaw bump stocks; and we need to outlaw assault weapons and the bullets needed to shoot them. But politicians trotting out various forms of I-will-do-this-or-that neither gets to the heart of the matter nor breaks the logjam that has made this horrific and uniquely American problem so intractable.
It is not just our gun policy but our politics that fails to free us of this insanity. Until we override the nefarious influence of money on our politics, it will not be possible to break the National Rifle Association’s chokehold on our society. It is not the will nor safety of the people but the profits of gun manufacturers that is given primacy in our gun policies. Legislation that establishes public funding for federal campaigns should be the battle cry of our generation.
But even then, Americans will have to look deeper for the causal layers of our epidemic of violence. We will have to look beyond politics. We will have to look at ourselves.
As individuals, Americans are not a violent people, but it is undeniable that we’re a violent culture. Regular mass shootings are not societally normal. And until we face this, the situation will not fundamentally improve.
Most politicians stick to a discussion of symptoms only. Politics should be the conduit for our most expanded conversation about societal issues, not the most superficial one. Conventional politics does not lend itself to a discussion of the deeper issues that plague us. Yet go deeper we must.
America does not just have a gun crisis; it has a cultural crisis. America will not stop experiencing the effects of gun violence until we’re ready to face the many ways that our culture is riddled with violence.
- Our environmental policies are violent toward the Earth.
- Our criminal justice system is violent toward people of color.
- Our economic system is violent toward the poor.
- Our entertainment media is violent toward women.
- Our video games are violent in their effect on the minds of children.
- Our military is violent in ways and places where it doesn’t have to be.
- Our media is violent in its knee-jerk shaming and blaming for the sake of a better click rate.
- Our hearts are violent as we abandon each other constantly, breeding desperation and insanity. And
- our government is indirectly and directly violent in the countless ways it uses its power to help those who do not need help and to withhold support from those who do.
The darker truth that Americans must face now is this: Our society is not just steeped in violence; we are hooked on violence. And in area after area, there are those who make billions of dollars on deepening the hook. Until we see that, we will just have more violence. Our minds must awaken so we can see all this. Our hearts must awaken so we can change all this. And our politics must change so we can discuss all this.
Though gun-safety legislation should be fervently pursued, a political establishment so steeped in the ways of brute force is hardly equipped to be the purveyor of a solution to the problem of violence in this country. With a nearly $740 billion military budget but only $40 billion proposed for the State Department budget, our outsize commitment to brute force and ever-withering commitment to soul force is obvious. With the Air Force seeking 100 stealth B-21 Raiders, each with a price tag of $550 million and each equipped to carry both nuclear and conventional weapons, while 12.5 million children in the United States live in food-insecure homes — the idea of politicians who allow this to happen being the ones who are going to save us from the epidemic of violence in America is almost laughable.
We will not break free of dysfunctional realities until we are willing to embrace more functional ones. I propose a U.S. Department of Peace
- to coordinate and harness the powers of conflict resolution;
- restorative justice;
- violence prevention;
- trauma-informed education;
- mindfulness in the schools;
- child and family wrap-around services;
- social and emotional learning; and
- a world-class peace academy to train and to deploy thousands of peace-builders, plus
- national conferences and a presidential task force for peace creation.
We will make every effort to promote a culture of peace both at home and abroad. We will address the root causes, not just the symptoms of violence in America. And in time, we will transform our culture from one of conflict to one of peace.
Nothing is going to fundamentally change until enough of us are willing to take a stand for fundamental change. And no change could be more fundamental than for the United States to transform from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. From the frequency of attack to the frequency of forgiveness. From a land of fear to a land of love.
Two theologians I deeply respect, Marcus Borg (1942-2015) and John Dominic Crossan (b. 1934), offer important historical and symbolic context for the crucifixion. The theory of “penal substitutionary atonement” only became dominant in recent centuries.  Over the next two days, consider their advanced perspective on Jesus’ death on the cross:
This common Christian understanding goes far beyond what the New Testament says. Of course, sacrificial imagery is used there, but the language of sacrifice is only one of several different ways that the authors of the New Testament articulate the meaning of Jesus’s execution. They also see it as the domination system’s “no” to Jesus (and God), as the defeat of the powers that rule this world by disclosing their moral bankruptcy, as revelation of the path of transformation [dying and rising], and as disclosure of the depth of God’s love for us. . . .
Though Mark provides the earliest story of Good Friday . . . Mark’s narrative combines retrospective interpretation with history remembered. . . .
Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified between two “bandits.” The Greek word translated “bandits” is commonly used for guerilla fighters against Rome, who were either “terrorists” or “freedom fighters,” depending upon one’s point of view. Their presence in the story reminds us that crucifixion was used specifically for people who systematically refused to accept Roman imperial authority. Ordinary criminals were not crucified. Jesus is executed as a rebel against Rome between two other rebels against Rome. . . .
[When Jesus died,] “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). As with the darkness from noon to 3 PM, this event is best understood symbolically and not as history remembered. . . .
To say. . . that the curtain was torn in two has a twofold meaning. On the one hand, it is a judgment upon the temple and the temple authorities . . . who colluded with imperial Rome to condemn Jesus to death. On the other hand, . . . [it] is to affirm that the execution of Jesus means that access to God is now open. This affirmation underlines Mark’s presentation of Jesus earlier in the gospel: Jesus mediated access to God apart from the temple and the domination system that it had come to represent in the first century.
Then Mark narrates a second event contemporaneous with Jesus’s death. The imperial centurion in command of the soldiers who had crucified Jesus exclaims, “Truly this man was God’s Son” (15:30). . . .
That this exclamation comes from a centurion is very significant. According to Roman imperial theology, the emperor was “Son of God”—the revelation of God’s power and will for the earth. According to the same theology, the emperor was Lord, Savior, and the one who had brought peace on earth. But now a representative of Rome affirms that this man, Jesus, executed by the empire, is the Son of God. Thus the emperor is not.
To accept death is to live with a profound sense of freedom. The freedom, first, from attachment to the things of this life that don’t really matter: fame, material possessions, and even, finally, our own bodies. Acceptance brings the freedom to live fully in the present. The freedom, finally, to act according to our highest nature. . . .
Only when we accept our present condition can we set aside fear and discover the love and compassion that are our highest human endowments. And out of our compassion we deal justly with those about us. Not just on our good days, not just when it’s convenient, but everywhere and at all times we are free to act according to that which is highest in us. And in such action we find peace.
9 Attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit
The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit, according to chapter 5 of the Epistle to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is:
- Love (Greek: agape, Latin: caritas)
- Joy (Greek: chara, Latin: gaudium)
- Peace (Greek: eirene, Latin: pax)
- Patience (Greek: makrothumia, Latin: longanimitas)
- Kindness (Greek: chrestotes, Latin: benignitas)
- Goodness (Greek: agathosune, Latin: bonitas)
- Faithfulness (Greek: pistis, Latin: fides)
- Gentleness (Greek: prautes, Latin: modestia)
- Self-control (Greek: egkrateia, Latin: continentia)
Love (Agape) #
- Agape (love) denotes an undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest good for others, no matter their behavior
- It is a love that gives freely without asking anything in return, and does not consider the worth of its object.
- Agape is more a love by choice than philos, which is love by chance; and it refers to the will rather than the emotion. Agape describes the unconditional love God has for the world.
- Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
- The joy referred to here is deeper than mere happiness, is rooted in God and comes from Him. Since it comes from God, it is more serene and stable than worldly happiness, which is merely emotional and lasts only for a time.
- The word “peace” comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos.
- .. of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
- Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace, who brings peace to the hearts of those who desire it.
- He says in John 14:27:
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. In Matthew 5:9 he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
- Generally the Greek world applied this word to a man who could avenge himself but did not.
- This word is often used in the Greek Scriptures in reference to God and God’s attitude to humans.
Exodus 34:6 describes the Lord as “slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
- Patience, which in some translations is “longsuffering” or “endurance”, is defined in Strong’s by two Greek words, makrothumia and hupomone.
- Also included in makrothumia is the ability to endure persecution and ill-treatment.
- It describes a person who has the power to exercise revenge but instead exercises restraint.
- It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances,
not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat, (Strong’s #5281) with hupomone (Greek ὑπομονή) being further understood as that which would be “as opposed to cowardice or despondency”
- Kindness is acting for the good of people regardless of what they do, properly, “useable, i.e. well-fit for use
- Kindness is goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence, kindness, affability. The word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience. The Holy Spirit removes abrasive qualities from the character of one under His control. (emphasis added)
- The word kindness comes from the Greek word chrestotes (khray-stot-ace), which meant to show kindness or to be friendly to others and often depicted rulers, governors, or people who were kind, mild, and benevolent to their subjects. Anyone who demonstrated this quality of chrestotes was considered to be compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane, kind, or gentle. The apostle Paul uses this word to depict God’s incomprehensible kindness for people who are unsaved (see Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4).
- One scholar has noted that when the word chrestotes is applied to interpersonal relationships, it conveys the idea of being adaptable to others. Rather than harshly require everyone else to adapt to his own needs and desires, when chrestotes is working in a believer, he seeks to become adaptable to the needs of those who are around him.
- Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what. We should live “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left”.
- The state or quality of being good
- Moral excellence; virtue;
- Kindly feeling, kindness, generosity, joy in being good
- The best part of anything; Essence; Strength;
- General character recognized in quality or conduct.
- The root of pistis (“faith”) is peithô, that is to persuade or be persuaded, which supplies the core-meaning of faith as being “divine persuasion”, received from God, and never generated by man.
- It is defined as the following:
- objectively, trustworthy;
- subjectively, trustful:—believe(-ing, -r), faithful(-ly), sure, true.
- Gentleness, in the Greek, prautes, commonly known as meekness, is “a divinely-balanced virtue that can only operate through faith
- “a disposition that is even-tempered, tranquil, balanced in spirit, unpretentious, and that has the passions under control.
- The word is best translated ‘meekness,’ not as an indication of weakness, but of power and strength under control.
- The person who possesses this quality pardons injuries, corrects faults, and rules his own spirit well“.
- Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted”.[Gal 6:1]
- “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”.[Eph 4:2]
- The Greek word used in Galatians 5:23 is “egkrateia”, meaning “strong, having mastery, able to control one’s thoughts and actions.“
- We read also: “…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love”.[2 Pet 1:5-7]
Memorize All 9 with a Song:
Here’s a song that will help you memorize the fruits of the spirit:
[While] European mystics and contemplatives often lived in community, they tended to focus on the individual experience of encountering the divine presence. African American contemplatives turned the “inward journey” into a communal experience. . . . The word contemplation includes but does not require silence or solitude. Instead, contemplative practices can be identified in public prayers, meditative dance movements, and musical cues that move the entire congregation toward a communal listening and entry into communion with a living God. . . .
.. This is how Howard Thurman describes the embodied locus of contemplation:
There is in every person an inward sea, and in that sea is an island and on that island there is an altar and standing guard before that altar is the “angel with the flaming sword.” Nothing can get by that angel to be placed upon that altar unless it has the mark of your inner authority. Nothing passes . . . unless it be a part of the “fluid area of your consent.” This is your crucial link with the Eternal. 
. . As I see it, the human task is threefold.
- First, the human spirit must connect to the Eternal by turning toward God’s immanence and ineffability with yearning.
- Second, each person must explore the inner reality of his or her humanity, facing unmet potential and catastrophic failure with unmitigated honesty and grace.
- Finally, each one of us must face the unlovable neighbor, the enemy outside of our embrace, and the shadow skulking in the recesses of our own hearts.
Only then can we declare God’s perplexing and unlikely peace on earth. These tasks require a knowledge of self and others that only comes from the centering down that Thurman advocates. It is not an escape from the din of daily life; rather, it requires full entry into the fray but on different terms. . . . Always, contemplation requires attentiveness to the Spirit of God. .
Buddhists are much more concerned about waking up to our innate wisdom and compassion (our Buddha-nature) than they are about working for justice. If Christians insist that “if you want peace, work for justice,” the Buddhists would counter-insist, “if you want peace, be peace.” That’s the point Thich Nhat Hanh gently drives home in the little book . . . Being Peace. His message is as simple and straightforward as it is sharp and upsetting: the only way we are going to be able to create peace in the world is if we first create (or better, find) peace in our hearts.
Being peace is an absolute prerequisite for making peace. And by “being peace,” . . . [Thich Nhat Hanh] means deepening the practice of mindfulness, both formally in regular meditation as well as throughout the day as we receive every person and every event that enters our lives; through such mindfulness we will, more and more, be able to understand . . . whomever we meet or whatever we feel, and so respond with compassion. Only with the peace that comes with such mindfulness will we be able to respond in a way that brings forth peace for the event or person or feeling we are dealing with
.. This Buddhist insistence on the necessary link between being peace and making peace reflects Christian spirituality’s traditional insistence that all our action in the world must be combined with contemplation. . . . But the Buddhists are very clear: while both are essential, one holds a priority of practice.
.. I (Richard) personally believe the entrance point can be either action or contemplation. Most people act, love, sin, risk engagement, and make mistakes before they personally experience their own deep need for contemplation. Until you have “loved and lost,” your contemplation is often gazing at your navel instead of a passionate search for God and for your calling.
Trump forcefully caps off years of deterioration in European-American ties.
.. This trans-Atlantic partnership was a vast historical accomplishment, a stumbling and imperfect effort to extend democracy, extend rights, extend freedom and build a world ordered by justice and not force. Since 1945 it is the thing we have all taken for granted.
Over the weekend, Trump ripped the partnership to threads. He said the European Union is our “foe.” On Monday, Trump essentially sided with Vladimir Putin, who has become the biggest moral and political enemy of the Euro-American relationship. Trump essentially dropped a project that has oriented American culture and policy for centuries. He pointed us to a world in which the central ethos is that might makes right.
.. Progressives fell into the poisonous trap of racialism. They looked at the glories of Aristotle, Shakespeare and Mozart, and the most interesting thing they had to say about them was that they were dead white males. Future historians will marvel at how sophisticated people willfully made themselves so simple-minded. Eurocentrism became a code word for colonialism, oppression and privilege, taking a piece of European history for the whole of it.
Europeans didn’t help. In the wake of the Cold War, they have dedicated themselves to a post-nationalist project that is too top-down and technocratic and is now crumbling.
.. Trump could have gone to last week’s NATO summit and taken credit only for increased European military spending. Instead, he moved the goal posts, humiliated the Europeans, reasserted his trade war talk and made it impossible for European leaders to do anything that might seem to support him. These are the actions of a man who wants the alliance to fail.
His embrace of Putin Monday was a victory dance on the Euro-American tomb.
“This is not just another family quarrel,” Kagan writes. “The democratic alliance that has been the bedrock of the American-led liberal world order is unraveling. At some point, and probably sooner than we expect, the global peace that that alliance and that order undergirded will unravel, too. Despite our human desire to hope for the best, things will not be okay.”