The San Bernardino, California shooting last week has left many Americans feeling insecure. Everyone feels more comfortable when the war on terrorism happens half-a-world away (Syria, Yemen, Iraq, or Afghanistan). But when it comes to a nearby neighborhood, the stakes change.
President Obama addressed the nation last night. Talk show pundits have pontificated for days about how to make us safer. Even Jerry Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty University (the largest Christian University in the world), last Friday advocated that his students apply for concealed-weapon permits so they could teach a lesson to any Muslim (terrorist) who comes to campus.
Gun control advocates and opponents are back at it. Donald Trump would have everyone in America armed like mercenaries, at all times, and in all places. Meanwhile, debate is underway about the limits of surveillance and the value/virtue of monitoring Islamic mosques more closely.
The events of this past 5-7 days, following on the heels of the Paris attacks a couple of weeks ago, has produced widespread phobia and rising levels of hysteria.
This second week of Advent has a second candle — the Candle of Peace. How (strangely) appropriate.
The Candle refocuses our attention on the Prince of Peace and the message of the angels when Christ was born: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth among all people” (Luke 2:14). If only.
The social conversation this week seems far more focused on protection than peace. People want to feel safe rather than find reconciliation. The rhetoric between us divides and damages us. And we increasingly opt for isolation because it feels safer than exposure. Everyone wants to hunker in a bunker.
At a personal level, peace will never come by arming ourselves and resorting to the same violence as our enemies. Hysteria cannot understand this. Historical myopia denies it.
The pathway to peace comes by walking with the Prince of Peace and living like the Prince of Peace.
The Advent candle this week — quietly burning, seemingly soft and gentle — challenges the vitriole of politicians and the muscle of the NRA. The Candle of Peace calls us to a higher hope, a greater Way, and a different word for a culture in apocalyptic upheaval.