Yesterday I went for a bike ride. Waiting to cross Spanish River on the El Rio Trail, a motorist yelled at me to use the flashing crossing lights. “Use the crossing lights, in God’s name” he yelled at me as he stopped for me. The thing was, I didn’t intend for him to stop. I was waiting for traffic to go by, but he insisted on stopping for me. And to get angry. And to yell at me.
I just looked at him. What has gotten into us as a society that we feel like (one) people need to cross when we think they should, but more importantly, that we have the obligation, the right, the need, whatever, to yell our angry opinions at them?
Continuing riding, I approached the TriRail station – who knew you could bike ride to the TriRail?! – I pondered the angry motorist incident. It seems like it’s the norm now to speak our minds, to “make our voices heard,” to complain in loud voice about whatever we happen to be thinking about at the time.
I thought about how this anger and voicing gets worked out in our culture. Demonstrations, with their accompanying fiery speeches, have become much more prolific in the last couple of years. Clashes of contrasting points of view get worked out on the streets. And figuring out who the provocateur is and who the reactionaries are is the folly of figuring out which came first, the chicken or the egg.
Then, when I got home, the news flashed that an 18-year-old boy had shot and killed 19 children in Texas. Another Parkland. Another Sandy Hook. Suddenly we were all traumatized by the worst of horrors, innocent children being slaughtered in the very place we intend for them to be safe in. Like all of us, I just shrunk in horror and grief. I lamented the senselessness of it all, and I grieved for the parents. They experienced something that I have been spared from and can’t imagine.
And then the bike ride thoughts came back. Are these young men, are any of the perpetrators of mass shootings, not acting out their anger in the same vain as the motorist on Spanish River? Now, there’s some scale that needs to be considered. I get that – it’s much better for somebody to yell at you than to shoot you. But are there some parallels that are happening across the board? Are the shootings not extreme expressions of analogous thought patterns prevalent in our culture today? Maybe the two incidents of that day are connected. If so, what do we do about it?
Some politicians will argue that we should have gun control, some will argue for mental health resources. Personally, I don’t think the politicians have the answers. I think the answer is a spiritual one.
In the book of James, the apostle says: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Very good counsel. It’s hard to do that on your own though. On our own we justify our own resentments. On our own we connect our angry thoughts with malevolent actions. It’s not easy to listen and not react. A little later on in James he says: “pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.” With God’s help, we can change things!
I really think the solution to our country’s problems emanate from Scripture and have to start with us. We need to be the first to listen. We need to be slow to speak. And we need to be the first in modeling how our disagreements do not need to yield to anger. Never mind shooting somebody.
How does the hymn go? “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” Let’s fill our hearts and minds with that which produces peace.
Praying for us all,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8