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The slaughter of you and me

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By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

I hope this doesn’t offend you but I haven’t watched the TV news in more than a week. I know I’ve missed some important stuff but I don’t need or want to know anything more about Las Vegas, the statistics of this mass murder, or the motives behind the actions of the killer, whose name I will not even mention.

I suffer from mild depression and I cannot bear to listen to, or watch, anymore of this. I just can’t. I’m not stating a political opinion or a religious one. I am not denying the reality of this event. But humanly I just can’t tolerate this stuff anymore. My refusal to watch is a way of surviving.

It has taken me a long time just to write this letter. I guess, in part, it’s because I was close enough (15 miles) to the massacre at Sandy Hook to feel just a smattering of the pain that poisoned our area. I attended one of the funerals because I knew one of the teacher-victims a little and I know her parents well.

I hate guns. I despise them because I am terrified by the damage they can do in the hands of irresponsible people. But blaming all gun owners for the violence in Las Vegas is like blaming all Muslims for the bloodshed caused by ISIS or Al Qaeda or Boko Haram.

And yet gun owners are irresponsible if and when they prevent government from curbing the use of fully automatic firearms and the conversion kits for semi-automatic weapons because these are, in effect, weapons of mass destruction. Gun owners also are irresponsible when they say that violence can cure violence.

There is nothing new about massacres. They’re as old as human history – a history that teaches us that we human beings are incapable of ending this epidemic on our own because we all engage in the violence that we detest in others.

Banning such mass-assault weapons, however, will only mitigate this problem, at best, because the basic problem isn’t mechanical; it’s spiritual. We need a change of hearts even more than a change of mind. And only God can accomplish that feat. Translation: We need God.

Until we acknowledge that need – all of us – we can expect more acts of slaughter like this. And every time another massacre occurs we have a new opportunity to confess our need of Jesus – who, by the way, was a victim of irrational violence.

Our response to this slaughter must be more than a knee-jerk reaction against hatred, in part because nobody knows if hatred was in the shooter’s mind. I offer two other possibilities.

First, there’s the “rush” we get when we act violently. That’s the word a Nevada gun association executive used during a radio interview while talking about firing an automatic weapon. How do you unlearn the quest, the love, of that kind of power?

More important, what fuels this rush, this inner thrill of power that can, under certain circumstances, let you totally control others? It’s indifference, which is the opposite of love. Love proclaims the absolute value of the other; indifference barely acknowledges the other one’s existence, and sees no value whatsoever in the other.

Satan tricked Adam and Eve not merely because he hated them as creations of God, whom he despises. He manipulated them because he was utterly indifferent to them, which is the opposite of the love God had for them.

Think about how your life has been diminished by acts of violence – emotional, intellectual, financial, sexual, psychological and/or physical. Was it the result of hatred? Or that “rush?” Or indifference? Knowing that will put the violence in perspective.

Then think how the lives of others have been diminished because of the same kind of wounds that you have inflicted. Whenever we hate someone (even the Las Vegas shooter), or want the rush of controlling them, or are indifferent to them, we are guilty of violence. Any form of violence diminishes the other person. And ultimately it diminishes you.

How do we “unlearn” the poison of indifference? The only way is to experience love as recipient and then giver. And where do we find that love? As it says in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.”

We need the Lord/love for three reasons. First, so that violence will be lessened. Second, so that we will receive the peace, joy, hope, healing and forgiveness for all the acts of violence that have been perpetrated against us. Third, so that others can find those same blessings to heal the wounds which, I regret to say, we also have inflicted.

We must all confess that we need a change of heart as much as the next guy. We need love desperately. I am still going through that transformation because it takes a lifetime. It’s part of the personal responsibility I bear as someone who is not just your fellow human being, but your brother.

I remember someone once telling me that my views on personal responsibility were correct “but first we have to take care of this” problem, whatever it was. But putting personal responsibility on hold like that, until the current problem is resolved, is the same as refusing forever to take personal responsibility, because there will always be another crisis that demands our immediate attention.

Judge for yourself. Ask yourself if you are willing to endure a never-ending violent loss of life – whether we’re talking about emotional, intellectual, sexual, psychological or physical life – rather than accepting personal responsibility by humbly confessing your need of God who is love.

All God’s blessings – Mark

Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and a non-denominational prayer community and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal Sate Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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