Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Can American society pray violence away?

A current FB blog is circulating a statement made to a House Judiciary Subcommittee by Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado. In short, he said what is needed to overcome shooting tragedies is not stricter gun laws but a return to God and prayer.

I've got to disagree. It isn't a deity but rather the sense of shared community values and responsibility that are missing in today's society. Children in pain are ours to heal, and if we as citizens ignore those needs, no deity will step in regardless of a million prayers. It is not belief or words but healing actions that prove our commitment to mend social ills.
Circle of adults and children holding hands
Laws, it's true, are stopgap measures. For those who respect the dignity of all others and encourage development of potential in every person and stand for equity, fairness, and cooperation, a law is just a commonsense reminder.

Sadly, it's also true that stringent laws are not effective deterrents for those who have failed to learn the basic values of respect, fairness, and mutual support. What those without a moral foundation need is neither law nor faith that some deity is watching but guidance from caring adults to help build a supportive basis for constructive cooperative living in community.

A retired friend was feeling purposeless until he signed up to mentor an eight grader who lacks appropriate direction in his life because of a difficult home situation. Bill is thrilled to share his passions for fishing and for remote control flying with this child and envisions helping groups of boys who may need some positive outlet in otherwise under-playful lives. Attention and support from an enthusiastically involved adult are often all a child needs to turn the corner from neglect or despondency to proactive participation in becoming more of his best potential. It's not a prayer but a willing model that makes the difference.

When no adult steps in, there is no way for an ignored, neglected, or abused child to learn a better way. Social moral values are not learned from the words of school officials or elected leaders or law enforcement officers or religious clergy; rather, social moral values are demonstrated by the actions condoned by members of the public.  If bullies are tolerated with a headshake or kids are discouraged from "tattling" or victims are told to suck it up or push back, the stage is set for violence to be a way of life.

While faith-sure adults are free to choose prayer any time and individual children coached to pray have no legal boundaries to exercising their personal practice, imposing prayer on others is neither effective nor ethical. Praying to God may self-soothe, but it won't dissuade an alienated shooter. At the same time, current gun control laws are a piecemeal effort; too many guns and too much ammunition are readily available in too many unguarded places and too many unregulated exchange venues. What is more germane and necessary is mental health assistance for troubled individuals and early childhood support for kids whose parents are overwhelmed by and underskilled in parenting.

Lacking public interest in the necessary sorts of effective mental health assistance, too many children will continue to feel unvalued and fail to develop appropriate social moral values. Unless adults step in to fill the gap and teach the younger generation by example (whether through faith-based tenets or any ethical and moral principles) and demonstrate to each child that s/he is valuable and help children learn values that serve society's common welfare, they will only learn what is modeled in the world around them.

Today's models are abysmal. Not only do we "war" on drugs and in other countries, TV shows highlight schoolyard bullies, news reports excuse rapists, shooters are profiled and talked about, "reality" quests for money and power are ruthless. Notoriety can seem attractive to a desperate and lonely youth – and mandating prayer is not a sufficient social adjustment to reach a better result.

Since good role models today are so heartbreakingly scarce, unvalued kids are likely to continue to agitate society's conscience despite demographic statistics claiming religious faith is prevalent. It's not a lack of faith that pulls the trigger of violence. It's the gun in the hand of an already-wounded individual that creates the environment for a violent outcome.

After so many tragic killing crazes, we who witness cannot remain blameless when further violent outbreaks occur. We only make a difference in the future when we do something that changes the status quo. In today's world, that has to be to support gun control laws. Active measures to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable indivduals will have far greater a real-world impact than all the prayers rotely recited by unvalued schoolchildren.

Of course, if you really want to make a difference to change the status quo, you could follow Bill's example. To mentor a needy child doesn't require faith in prayer but only faith that you have a valuable contribution to make to the life of a child, to your own sense of purpose, and to the ending of the cycle of violence. If enough adults choose to value our nation's children, we won't need any gun laws or to pray violence away because we'll already have the safe, ethical, and cooperative society we can only dream about today.

And if mentoring a student isn't feasible for you today, perhaps you could practice deep-healing a child you know intimately with this process:

Imagine yourself as a very young child, for living in this imperfect world, we all have childhood wounds to heal. Imagine your adult self soothing and embracing your child self, reassuring that wounded, needy part of your inner self of her/his worth and perfect wholeness. Now imagine as your child self feels your perfect accepting interest s/he relaxes her/his perfect, healed, loved innermost child self into your heart. Feel the sense of healing energy surrounding your melded hearts – and imagine your healing heart energy reaching outward to others you know. Imagine that in the embrace of your healing heart energy, other wounded hearts are healed and they too embrace you embracing your healed child-self – and as every person your heart touches joins your embrace, a spiral of love grows out from your heart into the far reaches of the earth and into the galaxy beyond, sending the resonance of healed love to every being on the planet, to every particle of energy in the cosmos.

You have that much power within – to heal the planet, to heal the world, to heal humanity, to heal your heart.

You don't have to pray for that – just do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope this message gets to the masses. Each of need to care enough to take this very serious issue of "wounded youth" to heart and reach out to provide guidance in whatever way they can to halt the senseless violence....caring and nurturing strong moral values are the child's only chance to mature towards productive adulthood......bb