I have had this week penciled in to restart the e-votionals after the summer break. Art & Music Camp, Mission trips, classes, and vacations are all over and I am returning to a somewhat regular schedule. I figured my first message back would be about the Holy chaos that was this summer and how God is present in the chaos. Then last Saturday happened. Two horrendous mass shootings within a 13 hour period. While we were still getting news updates about the shooting in El Paso, the reports about the shooting in Dayton broke. Since then I have struggled to find the words to say. What can we say when mass shootings are becoming a weekly, if not daily event?
Many things have been blamed for the mass shootings: video games, lenient gun regulations, white supremacy, single parents, mental health, the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, as with many modern concepts, we do not find these issues in the Bible. Scripture does speak to weapons and violence, but it gives a decidedly mixed message. The Old Testament has some extremely violent and disturbing parts such as Yael, who drives a tent peg through an enemy’s head in 2 Samuel or when Joshua causes the walls of Jericho to fall and the Israelite army invades resulting in genocide.
The New Testament tells of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Yet it is also not crystal clear. Not only did Jesus turn over the tables in the temple and drive out the money changers with a whip of cords, but in Matthew 10:34, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” and in Luke 22:35, he says, “but now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. ” Without examining these texts closely, it seems as if Jesus is condoning violence. Yet, he also taught that if someone strikes us we are to turn the other cheek and when Peter cut an ear off one of the guards who came to arrest Jesus, Jesus stops everything and heals the guard.
What the Bible is very clear about is idolatry. Idolatry is putting anything above or in place of God. The first instance is when Moses is on Mount Sinai, Aaron created a golden calf and the Israelites worshiped it. Idolatry is mentioned at least 140 more times in the Bible from Exodus to Revelation. I believe idolatry is partially responsible for these mass shootings. The shooter in El Paso elevated white supremacy into an idol. Both young men elevated violence into an idol.
Above all, we have lifted firearms into an idol. In our society, many worship them. Many have placed them at a sacred level. You can hear it in the rhetoric. “Our guns are the only thing that can protect us from a corrupt government.” “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” A former NRA president even said, “sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel.” When we say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” we are saying that guns can do no wrong. In the United States, guns have become our Golden Calf. Guns are talked about as if they are the only thing that can protect us, can offer us salvation. Guns can are discussed as if they do no wrong. Guns demand loyalty and even the smallest measure to regulate them is seen as a grave offense. Worst of all, we are willing to sacrifice our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters, and even our children on the alter of the almighty gun again and again and again. This is because we have created idols out of guns. The solution is not to take away all the guns, but we need to start by stopping the worship of guns.
Idolatry is one of the sins we see mentioned most often in scripture, yet it is one that we as Christians tend to forget. It is the basis of the first two of the ten commandments, we are not to have any other gods before God and we are not to create any idols. Yet our society is full of idolatry. So what are we to do? First we need to examine what we have personally made into idols in our lives. Do we worship your career, comfort, money, power, or something else? What do we worship in our lives? We, then, need to examine what our society idolizes. We need to remember that Jesus, alone, is Lord. We need to denounce anything that society raises to the level of idol. We need to remember that idols don’t leave on their own, that they have to be torn down. We need to speak out against the idolatry of violence, white supremacy, and gun violence, as well as anything else people try to worship. Only then will we see the day that the prophet Isaiah spoke about when he said, “The haughtiness of people shall be humbled, and the pride of everyone shall be brought low; and the LORD alone will be exalted on that day. 18 The idols shall utterly pass away. ”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus in Matthew 5:9
“You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. ” – The Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:3-4