Monday, January 10, 2011

Arizona shootings

The terrible shootings in Arizona lift up another opportunity for church leaders to be intentional about creating a culture of peace. I hope that church leaders will reflect on these three questions

1. How are we doing at teaching people in our congregations to share compassion with those with whom they disagree?
I’m not convinced that the use of language is any more raucous today than in our past; however the use of technology gives more people the ability to spew inappropriate language. One of our tasks in the church is to model and teach compassion for those with whom we disagree. Jesus did teach us to love our enemies. I don’t believe that a person who looks at the world differently than me is my enemy, but I do believe that Jesus wants me to love that person. I don’t think this is easy or happens naturally. I have had many incidents in my ministry when I would have preferred to use my linebacking skills I learned in playing football at Carleton college on a parishioner. But I didn’t—because Jesus called me to love that person. Before blaming others, let’s work harder at loving the other.

2. How are we doing at sharing Mental Health resources with the world?
I don’t know the faith background of Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged shooter. From what I’ve read he seems to suffer from some type of mental illness. I wonder what type of Mental Health Resources he received. Not receiving counseling help is not an excuse to kill six people, but those resources might have prevented the murder of six people. When I served a small Presbyterian church in Plainview, we hired a counselor on our staff. The only cost to our own budget was giving him free space. As we grow at Chain of Lakes Church we will offer Mental Health Resources for the community. If we could do this at Plainview, any church can do this. I believe that every church in America should have a counselor on their staff.

3. How are we doing in our congregations at modeling healthy disagreement?
We have established “healthy disagreement” as a Core Value at Chain of Lakes. We understand this to mean that “when we disagree we will encourage discussion while valuing all opinions. We will speak truth in love, treat others respectfully & with dignity, and seek to remain in community.” It’s amazing how often in our short history as a church that someone mentions this Core Value. Having this Core Value has given people at Chain of Lakes permission to share their opinions. We certainly have a long way to go in living into this Value. I challenge all churches to spend time focusing on modeling healthy disagreement.

Being successful in answering these three questions might not have prevented this shooting in Tucson, but it would create a healthier culture and prevent future murders.

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