How can the church help to reduce violence in our culture?
Americans have a high tolerance for violence. Many concur with the death penalty for heinous crimes. Many support military intervention in foreign lands for economic, political, or national security reasons. Many accept abortion for any reason. Many support euthanasia. Many support using drones to kill terrorist suspects, even when unintended victims include innocent children. Many embrace violent films and video games as entertainment. In responding to life's challenges, many believe there are times when for security, convenience, expedience, vengeance, or other reasons, a violent response is acceptable, even preferable.
Children are perceptive. They may or may not accept what we try to teach them, but they most certainly observe and learn from what we say and do, how we live our lives. If the message we convey is that for security, convenience, expedience, or vengeance, a violent response is acceptable, they will take our message to heart. For some, violence will become an option when they feel pressured by life's challenges, when they feel alone and desperate, when no easy alternatives exist. After all, if people around them employ or support the use of violence to achieve their interests, why shouldn't they, as well?
Still, other Americans abhor violence and believe in the sanctity of all human life. They consistently convey messages of peace, tolerance, forgiveness, love. These too are values children learn through observation. Living nonviolently can require courage, as life is filled with challenges and dangers. The non-violent do not carry weapons for protection, they seek no death penalties, they cherish the lives of the innocent unborn and all children, they oppose war and its laudation by politicians and the media, and they oppose gratuitous violence in entertainment. They consider every human life important.
If our children are to have a less violent future, our society needs to commit to nonviolent principles, and not simply when it is convenient. Respect for life must be a guiding value. The way to diminish fear and violence is not through responding in kind, but through compassion, courage and love.
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