March 13, 2018 Daniel Rivera

Parkland in Perspective Part 2

For young and emerging adults, school shootings and acts of public violence have become a regular part of our cultural narrative. I was a child when I observed our country’s baffled posture during the Columbine shootings. Millennials have grown up in an America where guns are correlated to mass shootings and public violence. Whether it be at the hands of police officers or troubled adolescents, gun violence is simply the background music of any given cultural moment. I say this to emphasize that as another generation approaches adulthood, gun violence will continue to be a significant talking point.

Unfortunately, millennials were a vocal generation that did not always prove to have the most resolve when it came to social issues. We rallied behind social media campaigns, went on missions trips all over the world, and spoke out against international and domestic terrorism as we experienced it in our own lifetimes. 

Each called for a period of mourning, but few have left evidence of active steps that ignited change.

Now examine the response of Generation Z to their first national tragedy. They did not just take to social media to voice complaints, but used it to organize rallies and public protests. News coverage was full of young people taking a stand in the public square and the national conversation shifted towards listening to the voices of the next generation.

Looking back to Part 1, I identified the importance of the Church’s role in lending an ear to the victims of Parkland. With this responsibility in mind, let us not be so quick to judge those whose views seem so different than our own. Let us seek the Holy Spirit as we listen to our brothers and sisters in Christ and exercise empathy and compassion. This means asking the Holy Spirit to help us as we engage in political discourse as well.

That said, there are two points within the current political discussion which I believe need to be clarified. First, seeking more federal regulation over firearms does not make you anti-American, and certainly not any one less of a follower of Christ (a caricature, I fear that is all too common from those that oppose this view).  Jesus’ vision for the Kingdom of God is one where war and violence cease to exist. The end of Revelation paints a clear picture of a restored heaven and earth where violence and death have fired their last shots of resistance and all that remains is the powerful resonance of God’s redemptive love.

Jesus’ vision for the Kingdom of God is one where war and violence cease to exist.

Contrarily, making a case for responsible gun ownership does not make you a war monger. Speaking more specifically to the issue of firearm safety in schools and public spaces, to argue for better security protocols on school campuses, trained campus deputies, and even programs that arm highly trained staff or personnel on campus remain positive solutions that can help reduce the average time span of an act of violence. However, these are not preventive solutions.Higher security protocols on campus can lead to a faster response in the event of a violent crisis, but will not be enough to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people to begin with.

How then do followers of Christ take real preventive measures? I believe a first step would be in the way of changing our perspective.  Let us interrogate our own convictions about what it means to be made in the image of God and ask the hard questions like, “is owning a firearm a part of Christian anthropological right, or is it part of an adopted American worldview?” A second step is to speak out and engage in the current dialogue. My wife and I are currently praying about what sort of involvement we should have in the March for our Lives movement that is happening now.

One option is for us to reach out to our local congressional leaders and let our voices be heard, but we should also take steps towards actualizing the things we want to see happen. We should march, we should vocalize our political concerns, and finally, maybe most importantly, we should sing––sing because we have hope in a Kingdom not yet fully realized. Sing for a Kingdom that is unlike a political ideal or movement on earth, a Kingdom with a king that rules justly and loves radically.

Our King is found ministering amidst the mourning of the one’s lost in the Parkland shooting and responding to the earth’s groans as it cries out for justice.

If we find ourselves guilty of perpetuating any other kind of Kingdom, let us repent and cast such things aside. Jesus is the one we worship, and His Kingdom is the one we seek, a Kingdom that will never fade away.

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About the Author

Daniel Rivera Dan Rivera is the director of Southeastern University's School of Worship and songwriter for SEU Worship.