A Spirituality of Peace in an Age of Violence

The flowers guy was right. And we should start planting flowers every time an act of violence ruins our day. The idea is to resist ugliness by adding beauty.

Honestly, I want as much gun control legislation as you can get. But the counter-arguments are probably somewhat true: bad guys don’t care about laws, etc., etc.

Furthermore, I have limited confidence in legislation. I am aware of human tendency to grow complacent about civilized behavior even when smart, agreed upon laws are on the books. This past spring, I got pulled over for using my phone while driving. It was completely stupid and I knew it immediately. A few years earlier, a girl on our street driving to school was texting and veered head-on into a guy coming home from his late-shift. Two fatalities. And here I was, in my clergy collar, texting (trying to voice-text FWIW) while cruising right past the Portland PD in broad daylight. All that’s to say that laws are good…but cultures are better.

You may know about the dad who allowed his conversation with his 6 year old son following the Paris attacks to be broadcast across the world. His famous words were: “It’s okay. They might have guns, but we have flowers.” And there’s probably nothing better than could be said.

At the same time, I’m not planting any flowers, much less writing legislation. To extend some notions of democracy, if I’m not fighting it, I’m kind of for it, right? But I don’t want to be for mass shootings. I want to be clearly against it. Like most people I want to be effectively against mass shootings, but I don’t know how.

Resistance is Not Futile if it is Beautiful

shoes-93756_960_720I learned a few years back to look up at power lines with shoes strung over them. The shoes mean that someone died at that spot. I’m not sure, but I always assume that that person died violently. Similarly, ghost bikes adorn many a telephone pole in Portland and beyond. They designate a place where a cyclist was killed. I do drive slower…when I notice them.

So we should plant flowers every time a mass shooting occurs. Place them where people died, as a symbol of life overtaking death. Place them in memorial gardens in solidarity. I don’t mind people resisting through legislation. But laws can be cold and they can be ignored and I don’t know how to write a law. What I can do is address the heart of the matter.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

I don’t just want a shootings-free world. That seems like a pretty low standard for the only planet in the known universe fit for human living. I want awesome living. I want it for me. I want it for you. I want life to be so awesome everybody has their own personalized heavy metal anthem. I heard about abundant life somewhere and that seems like the only life worth living. And I just can’t hang my head in shame and paralysis twice a week. But it’s also not loving of my neighbor to not hear his needy cry when the unthinkable happens yet again. It’s a roller-coaster: to be conscious and vigilant and free and hopeful.

How do you do it?

The Soil in Which Violence Grows Must be Amended

I know things happen because an environment allows it to happen. That’s maybe the best concept from seminary that really stuck with me. Many are rightly dissecting the environments that led to Paris…and Colorado…and San Bernadino…and whatever place will become infamous next week. I know at the very root, there is a great spiritual lacking. I don’t mean a lack of formal religious training (though I believe in that). By spiritual lacking, I mean the inability to see good, even in a troubled world. Why couldn’t the killers in Paris see the beauty of the city? Or the divinity in the people they were shooting? Why wasn’t the beauty of Paris enough to overcome the ugliness they were seeing? The Planned Parenthood shooter apparently had plenty of ugliness in his life. I kno ugliness is everywhere am can be very jealous of our attention. But it then seems to me that adding beauty and truth and kindness is the spiritual element needed. It seems like praising the gracious and gentle and peaceful and joyous is part and parcel of combating the ugliness of violence.

So I think we should begin planting flowers and begin identifying the beauty around us. Churches should have visible gardens as a testament against the ugliness of the world. Christians and other people of faith should have flowers in their homes and neighborhoods. Activists should seed bomb public places to add beauty to the world. I don’t think it would have stopped the guy in Colorado or the folks in San Bernadino. But adding beauty can only be good for our hurting world. And it would at least speak to the heart of the matter.

I genuinely want all people to live full lives surrounded by goodness and beauty. I want it for myself. I wish the Colorado guy had that.

So, I gotta learn a lot about flowers. Which ones are easy? How do you make a seed bomb? Could we pick a rather easy common one and make this a movement…geraniums for peace or something?

Here is the dad and his boy:

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