It seems almost every day as I read, watch, or hear the morning news, there is news of another shooting. Some of those have been “mass shootings” in Orlando or other cities, some have been shootings here in Indianapolis, and some have been “officer-involved” shootings in cities where we have actual video of cops shooting citizens. While not wanting to jump to conclusions without all of the evidence in hand, and while trying to maintain our constitutional belief in “innocent until proven guilty,” still it is easy to know from the visual evidence that we are all suffering from too much violence. And in particular, our communities of color are living in fear and dread of even the most casual police action. Mothers fear that their own children will be victims of shootings as innocent bystanders (we have had several of those in Indianapolis), and every family (especially African-American families) fear that they will become victims of police action.
Obviously the huge majority of our police officers and officials are honest and fair and even compassionate in their dealings with the public, but the number of persons shot by police seems to be rising – or at least we seem to see video evidence of those shootings on a regular basis. It gets to the point where we can say with apathy, “Another day, another shooting.”
We must not be apathetic. We must not get used to all of this violence. We must be peace-makers, especially in our faith communities. Jesus taught us a long time ago that “those who take up the sword (or today he would say guns and knives) will die by the sword.” That goes for average citizens and it goes for police departments. Too much reliance upon weaponry seems only to escalate the violence.
At our Indiana Conference Prayer Breakfast, Mayor Joe Hogsett made this statement: “It is not enough to be peace-lovers, we must be peace-makers.” He went on to observe that everyone loves peace, especially when it means we can live in comfort and without getting involved in the problems of our various communities. But being a peace-lover is NOT the mandate of Jesus. He calls us to be peace-makers.
I don’t know how we do that. I admire the work of the 10 Point Coalition here in Indianapolis where faithful men (and women) walk the streets, interact with gangs, and try to keep the peace. There is evidence that strategy works, but it involves lots of commitment from faithful citizens who work for peace. I admire the work of police officers and their leaders who require sensitivity training, especially racial sensitivity, for their officers who interact with the public. I see evidence that the old concept of “beat cops” can work – whereby the police and the citizens get to know one another and develop trust. All of those strategies seem small in the face of so much violence, but they are the efforts of peace-making.
Ultimately we need more peace-making in our families and our homes. Parents and grandparents need to teach the children that violence is not the answer – even when confronted with unjust actions by others, reacting with violence only perpetuates and increases the problem.
Ultimately we need more coaches and leaders at our sporting events to help keep the competition peaceful and reasonable.
Ultimately we need our media and public officials to tone down the rhetoric. We don’t need newscasters to use war imagery and violent language to talk about things like the upcoming political conventions.
Ultimately it is up to each one of us to be peace-makers, and not just peace-lovers.
Otherwise, every day will be just another day of violence.
*Bishop Mike Coyner serves the Indiana area. Read more at the website for the United Methodist Churches of Indiana.