A spiritual approach to preventing gun violence
I live a couple of hours from Uvalde, Texas, and the impact of the tragedy at Robb Elementary School continues to reverberate throughout the community. Clearly we aren’t the only region trying to come to terms with, and prevent, similar tragic outcomes. Whether in regard to other mass shootings or increased gun violence within cities, many individuals and communities are hoping and working for change.
Living our lives in accord with spiritual precepts that prompt us to love our neighbor as ourself requires us to care enough to recognize when things aren’t right with those in our community and do what we can to help. And as we look for answers, let’s make sure to leave room for a spiritual approach.
Turning our attention to the Divine quiets the fray of fear and anger that would keep us from discerning ideas from God, the infinite divine Mind, who is always imparting ideas that bring harmony. And doing so aids us in getting to the heart of the matter—addressing the dark thoughts and emotions that are so often behind violent acts.
Each of us is made to love. Understanding this is a powerful tool toward disarmament.
Addressing the need to overcome such darkened thinking, Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, wrote: “The pent-up elements of mortal mind need no terrible detonation to free them. Envy, rivalry, hate need no temporary indulgence that they be destroyed through suffering; they should be stifled from lack of air and freedom” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 356).
The best way I have found to stifle those “pent-up elements” of mortal thinking that can lead to violence is to recognize everyone’s true, God-created identity. Our spiritual identity is incapable of being drawn to or touched by evil. The New King James Bible tells us, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). No one is made to harm. Each of us is made to love. Understanding this is a powerful tool toward disarmament.
The Old Testament describes a situation where David felt disrespected by a man named Nabal, and as a result, David decided to kill Nabal. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, courageously intervened and appealed to David’s innate goodness. The spiritual astuteness, wisdom, courage, and love she expressed neutralized the explosive anger David was feeling, causing him to realize the error of his ways and averting the crisis (see I Samuel 25:4–38).
Unlike Abigail, we may not be able to directly reason with or even know of those intent on perpetrating an attack. But prayer connects us to God, who is ever-present, intelligent good, and whose light is reflected by each of us. The Bible tells us, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Nothing can hide from the light of God, divine Love.
Christ Jesus proved this Love to be the greatest power there is. Through Love, he faced down murderous hatred and healed mental and physical illness. He also showed that when paralyzing fear threatens, the Christ, God’s saving power, is present to guide and protect us. Jesus didn’t excuse evil. He exposed it and called it a “liar”—whose lies can be corrected through Love. He showed that divine Love gives us guardrails as well as builds bridges.
Several years ago, I worked for an organization that provided temporary housing for teens in crisis. During that time, youths with more hardened backgrounds were sent our way, which caused challenges within the program.
I prayed each day before I went to work to recognize God as being in control. I also prayed to see beyond the label of troubled mortal to the true identity of each one as a child of God—spiritual and good, created to love and be loved.
When paralyzing fear threatens, the Christ, God’s saving power, is present to guide and protect us.
At one point, a large chef’s knife was missing from the kitchen. Several days later, the knife was found hidden in the boys’ dormitory, and better security practices were put into place.
Some time later, a young man greeted me and introduced himself as having been through my program during the time of the knife incident. He said that he and another boy had become so angry at being detained that they’d planned to attack me with the knife, take my car, and get away. But at the last minute, they had decided not to. He wanted me to know how much his life had changed for the better since then, and I rejoiced with him.
The vast majority of people want a society where all violence becomes a thing of the past. To get there, we can start in our own thinking to deactivate anger, hatred, and resentment through Love. We can look for and cherish the God-created identity of each individual in our communities. And we can learn to love those who most need our love, even if we don’t know them. In our collective efforts to turn the corner on stopping gun violence, let’s let spiritual steps enlighten our way!
Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor’s Christian Science Perspective column, August 9, 2022.
New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.