As this Lent has unfolded, I am struck by the irony of the recently re-ignited debate in the halls of the Supreme Court over gun rights in America. The particulars of the present state of the debate are irrelevant – though I would be happy to enter into the debate if anyone wishes. It is not that I feel that the particulars aren’t important for on some political level they are important indeed. Nevertheless, the particulars are irrelevant today because they will ultimately lead me back to the heart of the issue: our gun culture is a symptom of a certain culture of violence that is hard to ignore.
I will humbly admit that I don’t know which culture came first: gun or violence. But does it really matter which came first? This opine, I guess, isn’t really about guns (that just provided a nice segue). It is really about violence, compassion, Lent and repentance.
In short, let us use this Lent to stop the violence. You say, “What a great idea – but practically impossible.” I say, “Stop the violence! If you want to stop the violence just stop the violence.”
Art Laffin of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Movement writes,
Lent is a time for personal and societal repentance, a time for radical conversion, renewal and transformation. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman empire, Jesus declared: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel (Mk 1:15).” Living in the US empire, which Dr. Martin Luther King described as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” we need to heed Jesus proclamation now more than ever.
As Christians living in America, our Lent should be a witness to the call for repentance and conversion of ourselves, our society, and our churches to the Gospel way of justice, nonviolence, and reverence for all living creatures. As Christians living in America, we must call for an end to the sinful wars being carried out in our name.
How can we mark this Lent? While its good to give up sweets, I hope we can all make similar efforts during these forty days to join in local efforts of Lenten repentance and conversion to Gospel nonviolence: join or start a peace vigil, write to your political leaders, join a far-reaching movement of peace, meet with church leaders. The practice should help us to walk with Jesus from the desert, where he resisted temptations to violence, to Jerusalem, where he confronts the structures of violence and gives his life for all creation in loving, nonviolent compassion.
Somehow, we need to walk with Jesus, share his spirit, take up his cross, and carry on his work of peace and compassion. Peace.