“Preacher, you’re just WRONG!”

Over the years, I have heard many a sermon, given one or two, attended lots of Sunday School classes, taught nearly as many, been to religious conferences and seminars, taught a workshop or two a seminaries, worked ecumenically and Interreligiously at all levels.  During all those times, I have brushed against a person or two that I wholeheartedly disagreed with, either philosophically or theologically. I have found, however, that the best was to proceed as if I might be wrong.  It usually prevents me from saying something I might regret a and helps me to love my neighbor when there is a clash of ideas or ideals.

Tonight I threw that rule right out the window!

While scanning through my email, I saw a MethoBlog email with a title that sounded interesting:  “We Never Used to Have Mass Shootings or Killings of Law Enforcement Officers”

Here it is in its entirety:

Always when it happens there is the troubling question that begins with the word, why, and the struggle for an explanation begins. Law enforcement officials begin an intensive investigation into the background of the person or persons responsible for the killings. One of the main questions is that of motive – exactly why did the shootings happen? What was in the mind of the person or persons who committed the violent acts?

What is not recognized and there will be massive resistance in facing what has been happening now for decades is that seed has been sown and it is now harvest time! Or to use a quote that has been around for generations: “The chickens have come home to roost!” The “foundation” for it all was laid back in 1963 when the U.S. Supreme Court made about the deadliest and most costly decision it ever made in the history of the United States. The Court declared that the practice of having the Lord’s Prayer and the reading of the holy Scriptures each day in classrooms of public schools would no longer be permitted!

All students had been exposed to the fact that there is a God Who is accessible through prayer and that He has given us a special revelation commonly referred to as the Bible. Even students whose parents were not church involved were exposed to this reality – there is a God and He has given us His holy Word! This experience took place 9 months out of each year, 5 days each week! In the decades and generations since that fateful decision of 1963 we have large numbers of heathen who are reproducing – absolutely no exposure to the truth that there is a God Who holds all of us accountable and One Who loved us so much He sacrificed His Son, Jesus, to make forgiveness possible for each human!

But something else began to happen as well. The entertainment industry used to hold to standards of decency. Hollywood would not permit profane language to be spoken in films produced. Violence was extremely limited when shown in conflicts. Moral standards were quite high as depicted on the screen. But that began to change. Word by word profanity began to be used. Violence was increased and immorality began to be graphically displayed. The violence was even more graphic with slow motion splattering of blood, brains and guts! The immorality involved sexual scenes and the actors and actresses appeared naked! Music also has changed greatly with lyrics often depicting some type of violence or acts of immorality! The time for video games arrived followed by hand held devices with games and access to all manner of highly questionable material. Violence and immorality are a common part of the entertainment “diet” offered through movie and TV screens and a myriad of hand held electronic devices in today’s world!

Our culture became an increasingly violent one as the Supreme Court issued another decision 10 years after the ban on prayer and Bible reading in the public schools. That decision declared that a pregnant female has the constitutional right to have her unborn child murdered if she so chooses. The murdering of an unborn child is a violent act! You say, no? What do you call it when one person uses tools to dismember and intentionally kill another person? This happens thousands of times a week in our republic. Over 60 million acts of intentional homicide involving unborn children have taken place so far since 1973!

The young in our republic have for decades been continually exposed to violence that has its fountain source in the world of entertainment! It is a kind of brainwashing experience for them. The influence of this moral and ethical junk conditions them to accept violence as a way of settling differences in their life experiences. If someone or more than one someone does you wrong, then you settle it by resorting to violence. A gun is simply one of a number of ways this can be done. The use of the gun, however, gets the most publicity!

Is there a solution to this problem which is comparable to a cancer out of control? It would mean a very drastic change in the arena of entertainment – a radical “cleaning up” process which the people who are in control would be unwilling to do mainly because big money is involved! Even if there would be the drastic changes implemented it would take a generation or two before significant improvement in our quality of life would take place.

Things continuing as they have been and that is how it will be – in fact, it will likely be getting worse. The violence will erupt time after time following identical patterns. Signs at present time indicate we as a nation are on the path leading to absolute and certain judgment at the hands of a holy God!

For the few that take their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord seriously, it means seeking by the grace of God to set a noble and holy example in word and conduct (be light and salt as stated by Jesus in Matthew 5) and sound the warning that if there is not full repentance from all sin soon throughout the nation, there most definitely will be judgment by Almighty God. Billy Graham said it this way a long time ago: “If God permits the United States to get away with what it is doing, then He will have to issue an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah!”

Here was my response:

I’m not sure your theories match up with the dates, Howard Unruh, by all accounts the first mass shooter in modern America, after being discharged from the USMC following WWII, went on a shooting rampage in 1949. The common denominator to yesterday’s shooting, a semi-automatic rifle. Strangely enough, one of the survivors of the Unruh shooting was a 12-year-old by that his in a closet. In yesterday’s shooting, his granddaughter his in a closet. Unruh attended Bible College and was a regular attendee of church services. And who can forget Charles Whitman, another discharged Marine, from the UT Tower in 1966

As far as police killings, those numbers entered triple-digits in 1909, with the highest number killed in a single year, 307, was in 1930. That is nearly double the number of most subsequent years, including 2016 and 2017. The spike years were wartime years between 1914-1918 and from the 1920’s through the 1940’s.

Although tying mass shootings and police killings to those specific SCOTUS rulings may be totally inaccurate and perhaps even irresponsible, I think the texts in 2 Kings, Habakkuk, Jeremiah and even Matthew suggest a wicked nation could punish Israel. Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is whether America is the New Israel?

Understanding Scripture is difficult.  Understanding the criminal mind is an even greater challenge.  I like to think I know a little bit about each.  What I read tonight was uniquely insenitive and irresponsible.

But I couldn’t proceed as if I might be wrong.  Because, in this case, I don’t believe I am.


About Vince Gonzales

United Methodist Laity, married to a recent Seminary graduate seeking ordination. Active at all levels of the Church, I sit on the Board of The General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church, one of our 13 UMC Agencies. I also am the Chair of the Racial and Social Justice Task Force of Churches Uniting in Christ, an ecumenical group of communions, dedicated to the reconciliation of ministries and fighting racism, as well as representing the UMC at Christian Churches Together's Hispanic/Latinx Ministry Gatherings. Additionally, I am one of two committee members from the South Central Jurisdiction serving on the DisAbility Ministries Committee of the UMC. My polity pendulum often swings to both extremes so one never knows what they might find on this page!
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