This is where I take my stand.
Last week, I was upset, and rightfully so, when I heard that a man intentionally drove a truck through bike lane in New York, killing eight people. I am, in fact, a biker who uses the bike lanes of Chicago on a frequent basis and it is unnerving to think that someone would deliberately try to harm civilians in this way. My initial reaction was anger towards the man who was responsible and fear of what would happen if this was ever duplicated by someone else.
I was, however, very surprised at the response of Donald Trump and other leaders in Washington. As soon as it was confirmed who the man was, an ISIS-follower, it was immediately declared an act of "terrorism," and there was an instantaneous call for "extreme vetting" to keep people like this man from entering the country. The program that allowed him into the US was called into question and they began looking at ways of ending the program altogether. There was no "let's wait and see what other details there are," or "let's allow the mourners have a few days before offering any solutions." They immediately sought change to fix a loophole that cost precious human life.
This response, although somewhat commendable, is very alarming because not once did I see this type of action following the events of Las Vegas. Fifty people were shot and killed by a man with an assault rifle and since then, legislators have done nothing but look the other way. There was no call for change by those in power, there was only a request for silence. The media reported that the shooter was labeled a "good man" by those who knew him and never once was he called a terrorist.
Sunday morning, a man armed with an AR-15 walked into a church and killed 26 people while injuring many more. Many people are still reeling from this event and I can only imagine the horror and sadness surrounding that community, but once again, we have been greeted with nothing but silence by those in power. No calls for change, just "thoughts and prayers" and generic pleas for unity and peace. No demands to fix the loopholes in a system that allowed two men to end the lives of 76 innocent people in just over a month.
Because it doesn't fit the political agenda of those in power.
If you are angry at me for making this statement, please think about this: I have outlined an obvious case of hypocrisy by those in power. They demand immediate change only when it helps them further their influence. They do not care who has been killed or how they have been killed: they only care if they can use the story to their advantage. They will send heart emojis and type 140 characters of remorseful sadness, but refuse to take action when the violence does not help their party win votes during the next election.
If you are still angry, perhaps more so now, consider this: I have not made the claim that Barack Obama and the Democrat-led congress did not do these things, for they most certainly did, but it is this administration which is doing it now. They must be held accountable for these deliberate acts of ignorance and silence. If they are truly enraged when a man kills 8 people with a truck and then claims it is for a violent, activist group, how much more so should they be enraged when two men kill 76 people for no apparent reason.
How much more so should we be enraged at the deliberate apathy of these leaders.
The label of "terrorism" suggests that something must be done immediately. It invokes a need to fight against it or defend ourselves from it. That is why they have chosen to use this title in regards to the Halloween attack. The fact that neither shooting has been labeled as such allows them to pass on it as though it is just a reality of life; "people get shot and killed all the time and therefore, there is nothing we can do about it." We are allowed to stand idly by until the next mass shooting happens and continue to deny that something must be done in order to prevent these kinds of things.
It is time that we face reality: any mass shooting, regardless of who does it or the motive behind it, is an act of terrorism. It targets innocent civilians and instills fear in people across the country. It invokes a demand for political change and influences how all people of this nation, whether leaders or citizens, behave toward each other. Shootings like these are not done by accident and mental illness is not a good enough explanation for why this keeps happening. It is terrorism, plain and simple, and we need to treat it as such. This has gone on for long enough.
My demand is not for immediate change but for honest reflection on what has happened. Something needs to change as soon as possible and all options must be considered. Shrugging off mass shootings as "very sad" because an honest response does not lead to the answer you want shows that you truly don't care about the life that has been lost. Anything and everything must be on the table as an option to limit these events and, if possible, to eradicate them altogether. The lives of those around us are far too precious to take them for granted any longer.
This is where I take my stand.
I am pro-life and therefore I am anti-violence, no matter who it is for or against. I know that we as humans do not always get along and that some will resort to violence to get their way. I do understand that in some cases, a gun in the hands of law-abiding citizens can offer protection and even stop mass shootings before they get worse. I understand that we are not peace-loving people and that these things can happen when weapons end up in the wrong hands. I was an advocate of gun rights back in high school: I know all of the arguments for them and I used them at one point.
I also know that Jesus declares to Peter, "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." I know that the man I claim to follow never once lifted his hand to protect to himself or any of his disciples for that matter (most of them were crucified too). It is a messy world when you decide that "turning the other cheek" is a literal statement of what is expected of a follower of God, but that is what I believe we must do. Jesus isn't just some motivational speaker teaching us truths of the "spiritual life." Everything he said and did sets for Christians not only an example, but an expectation of what the Kingdom of God on earth should look like. If we are only changed inwardly by this example, we have not learned to follow him. Faith without works is dead.
I am done being a hypocrite by sitting idly by and hoping things change for the better. I am done trying to keep my silence on political issues because I don't want to upset some of my friends. I am done supporting blatant terrorism by simply sending my "thoughts and prayers" to the families of victims. As a Christian, I must support whatever actions look the most "Christ-like" in nature and help the most people live a flourishing life. I am convicted to demand more of my country's leaders, and thus, I will not be silent on this issue.
Violence has no place in the Kingdom of God.
Guns have no place in the Kingdom of God.
This is what I believe.
This is where I take my stand.