Monday Memo: Violence

Terry Walton



I was thinking...

Violence! It is everywhere!

We have lost a beloved Pastor to violence. Rev. Marita Harrell was a blessing taken from our midst due to a violent act by a broken and pained individual. People were shopping for their groceries in Buffalo, New York and racial violence took innocent lives. This past Tuesday, 19 precious children and 2 teachers were killed by a disturbed teenager. These elementary school age children and their teachers were celebrating their school year with award ceremonies and celebrations when violence struck. I cannot nor do I want to imagine the grief of those parents, grandparents, teachers, school administrators, EMT personnel, police and the people of the Uvalde, Texas community. Violence! It is everywhere!

My fear is that we have seen so much of this kind of violence that we are becoming numb to the pain of violence. My fear is that we have allowed power and money from various gun lobbying entities to lead us to a place that reminds one of the wild, wild west. My fear is that the gift of communication via the internet has allowed for too easy access causing a breeding ground for violent strategy and behavior. My fear is that freedoms that are expressed as privilege in this beloved country are becoming a curse to future generations’ freedoms. My fear is that our lack of attention to mental illness is coming home to roost. My fear is that all of this and so much more is leading us down a path of lives lived in constant fear.

What is our answer to violence? Is it legislation? Is it better enforcement? What is our answer? Bob Dylan wrote a song sitting in a café in 1963. It took him 10 minutes to write. Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, gave a demo of the song to another act he managed, a trio named Peter, Paul, and Mary. That song is entitled “’Blowin’ in the Wind.” A few words of that song ring in my head as I ponder violence in our midst. “And how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? Yes, and how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that too many people have died? The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” (Special Rider Music, Universal Tunes) What is the answer referred to in the song? The intent was to say that issues that kill and torture people are so obvious, but humans’ selfishness has ruled it out. The implication is that the answer is in the wind, but we don’t want it blowing our way.

Andrae Crouch wrote another song a decade later, 1973, that can sound overly simplistic but I’m wondering if it is more profound than sometimes, I’m willing to admit. “Jesus is the answer for the world today, above him there’s no other, Jesus is the way… I know you got mountains that you think you can not climb. I know that your skies have been dark. You think the sun won’t shine. In case you don’t know…Jesus is the answer for the world today, above him there’s no other, Jesus is the way…” (Bud John Songs, Inc.)

What is the answer to the violence in our day and time? I do believe that it is blowing in the wind…the Hebrew word for spirit, breath or wind is ruach. The Greek word for spirit, breath or soul is pneuma – Holy Spirit wind. We cannot legislate our way completely out of violence. We cannot outguess violent intenders. We cannot hospitalize all mental illness. But, my friends, we can pray for God’s Holy Spirit to be unleashed with a renewed Pentecost wind that has the power to change minds and heal hearts. We can choose to be discouraged and believe that the world is going to hell in a handbasket; or we can choose to believe that God is almighty and stands ready to do something in and through us, the Jesus followers on earth. So, what do say, let’s pray, then act as the Spirit of God directs. If not us, then who? Jesus is the answer. And the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Always Thinking…

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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