Responsible

Not to sound melodramatic but what a week of juggling unexpected events it has been! And it’s only Tuesday. One of my favorite Old Testament stories is when God tells Elijah to have a snack and take a nap and after he’s had two snacks and two naps Elijah has the strength and courage to proceed. Conversations with God, snacks, and naps are key to my functioning for sure. Not that I’m equating my job with Elijah’s, not at all. But there are times when I wonder why on earth do I keep trying to help us all learn to be better people. My minuscule voice is nothing compared to the vitriolic yelling that is over abundant in our society.

The violence in this world takes on many forms: our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Violence is anything we do that harms another and ourselves and violence against another always involves harm to our self.

I saw a post in a social media platform that said “I think since all these children want guns taken away we should take all video games with guns and violence in them away as well.” And while I agree with the shrouded message that what we expose ourselves to or let our children spend time doing shapes how we see the world (which is the same premise that discipleship is grounded in), I am deeply concerned by the attitude of “us vs them” revealed in the words “all these children” and the retaliatory nature of the post. It’s basically saying to our children, “if you complain about getting shot at school, it’s your fault for playing violent games. It’s not our fault as the adults who are supposed to teach you how to properly navigate this complicated world.”

Adults blaming children for the atmosphere of violence and the idolization of guns in our country is the most shameful thing I’ve seen in this grand debate. Children did not create violent video games, adults did. Children did not buy them, adults did. Adults let the children play them. Children are not responsible for the state of our culture, adults are. And as adults it is our job to raise up our children either to respect and value all human life or to see violence as the answer to all issues.

This statement about taking away video games as punishment for school shootings models the immaturity of a nation of adults who refuse to hold themselves accountable for the culture we have made. It is just one more instance of the blame-game. If I can find someone to blame, then I don’t have to be responsible or accountable for anything.

Blame wants revenge and retaliation, a tit-for-tat response. Responsibility and accountability will enable us to actually solve the problem. I had a conversation with a parishioner this past week that didn’t go how I thought it was heading. This person asked me why our confession of sin is in the plural ‘we’. I thought he was asking why we are all accountable for each other’s sin and I began to address the reasons we are. He listened patiently and said, “no, I get that, but what I’m worried about is that without individual accountability of ‘I have sinned’ that our responsibility gets diluted; we need to confess both individually and corporately.” I had never thought of it this way around before, but he’s right: avoiding individual confession dilutes our accountability. I reminded him that we do offer individual confession if he ever wanted to and showed him the liturgy for it in the Book of Common Prayer. I agree with him on the necessity of both forms of confession. I am so very grateful for folks who ask the questions that broaden my view.

As we follow Jesus, we are responsible for our own behavior and the collective behavior of our community. All of scripture teaches us this. As adults, we are responsible for the safety of our children and we are responsible for teaching them how to love others and the value of human life. Blaming others instead of taking responsibility is just another form of violence. It wounds our souls and our ability to see the image of God in each other.

God’s peace be with you, my friends.

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