Conservative Christians are found of quoting from the Book of Revelation about the “Beast” (Rev. 17:12) to show how evil our times are and to predict the end of the world. The world is not ending, but life-destroying in the form of gun violence. It is prevalent today and, it is truly evil.
This time the beast didn’t have 7 heads and 10 horns. This time the “Beast” took the form of a 14 year old boy having access to a gun.
I wonder what sort of trauma would seduce such a violent act from such a young soul. I know to the children at Townville Elementary, their parents, the teachers and staff his shooting must feel beyond sinful or evil but downright wicked.
They were lucky this time but, that is little consolation to the children in Sandy Hook, the celebrants at Pulse, the patients at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, the parishioners in Charleston. With the growing barrage of bigger and more violent shootings Gun violence has become a plague of evil, a demonic force in the US. (Shooting Tracker has dedicated itself to creating an archive of them.)
I would say our current state of gun violence in the US is apocalyptic.
The word apocalypse come from the Greek meaning “to uncover.” Here is what I uncovered.
Every year over 100,000 people are shot, 18,000 of them are children and teens. Further, an average of 31,537 people die from those wounds almost 10% of them are children.
If seminary has taught me anything, it that faith is hard, sometimes dangerous. Jesus did say “I come bearing a sword,” but I think he was very clear what that meant when he quoted Jeremiah: “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” Perhaps, today’s reading should be: those who live for the gun die by the gun.
My own experience has brought me all too close. As a hospital chaplain, I have seen the victims of gunshots gasping as blood spurts from their lung. I have attended vigils of youth gunned down on a church lawn. At my apartment, I have heard gunshots like lullabies…as I lay me down to sleep. I fear that I may die before I wake. I fear the Beast, the demon of gun violence, who to me is our systemic and willful refusal to limit access to guns.
How in the name of all that is holy does a 14-year old have access to gun?
Low restrictions on bearing arms runs the risk of bearing the mark of violence the “Beast” so greatly craves. Since the Sandy Cook massacre. many states actually lessened gun restrictions. Hearing the claims that more weapons are the answer to increasing violence, we have loosened the laws allowing open carry in the public square. In some states, that includes churches, colleges and public schools. This approach has increased the burden on an already scrutinized law enforcement as suspicious persons calls rise. It has become difficult for police to distinguish suspects from lawful citizens… from those who bear the mark of the beast from those legally brandishing swords.
We are country suffering an epidemic that’s victims are crying out like the souls after the 5th seal opens: “…how long will it before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” (Rev 6:10). Have we become a dwelling place for modern day demons brandishing our cocked and loaded marks of violence in our right hand?
No, we have not, because the demons are not some dragon, not some beast with many heads and horns. The demons are us and because they are us we can stop this. Americans working together against violence is how we turn this around.
This is how we live into the vision of the Books of Revelation of our cities as “bright as crystal: with the river of life flowing through them (Rev. 22:1).
Please God make it so!