Reduce Physical Violence: A Call to Action

    UnityPeace SymbolPeace

As the following abbreviated list indicates, Dylann Roof is not the first hateful person to murder or attempt to murder innocent people in a house of worship.

  • Sunday, September 15, 1963/ Birmingham, Alabama/ Four children were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
  • Wednesday, June 17, 2015/Charleston, South Carolina/ Nine people were murdered, and one person was wounded, inside the Emmanuel African Methodist episcopal (AME) Church.
  • Wednesday, January 11, 2012/Rutherford, New Jersey/ A Rabbi sustained serious burns as the result of the firebombing of a Jewish synagogue.
  • Tuesday, December 9, 2014/Brooklyn, New York/A Jewish student died as the result of fatal stab wounds he received to the head while in a Brooklyn synagogue.
  • August 5, 2012/ Oak Creek, Wisconsin / Six people were murdered inside a Sikh temple. [i]

Against the background of the preceding information, why is the nation so unnerved by the nine murders that took place in Emmanuel AME Church?  Perhaps it is the age of the shooter and the cold and calculated way he carried out his dastardly deed.   Dylann Roof entered the church for the sole purpose of committing murder. Our sensibilities are disturbed because we know that before carrying out his wicked plan, Roof pretended to engage in worship with the welcoming people he subsequently murdered.  Roofs actions are almost unfathomable.

Some are unnerved because there is no way for them to deny the fact that Roof murdered the churchgoers simply because of their race/ethnicity. He confessed that he wanted to kill black people. That confession takes away the opportunity to blame the victims for their own deaths. It also makes it difficult not to hold Roof responsible for his actions (although Rick Perry seems to have tried by describing the massacre as an accident).

Dylann Roof’s actions and motives speak to the larger issues of racism and the wide-spread use of violence that permeates every strata of society.  Therefore, efforts should focus on developing and implementing strategies that systematically address the major problems that lead to violent behavior.

Parents and religious leaders must do their part to curb violence by emphasizing the brotherhood of all humankind and the value of tolerance. Likewise, politicians should try inspiring unity instead of sowing seeds that grow hatred and distrust. Also, there needs to be a national movement that seeks to revive a sense of shared goals and a commitment to building a unified United States.

The Charleston, South Carolina mass killing of nine innocent people in a church prompts us to look for meaningful ways to reduce physical violence.


The preceding list does not include the documented lengthy attacks against African American Churches.   Fortunately, in most of those incidents lives were not taken, but the loss of property, the subject many contemporary cable news anchors seem to relish discussing rather than the tragic and violent loss of life that precipitated the destruction of property, was substantial.

Violence: A National Crises

Stop all Vviolence

After nearly every highly publicized mass shooting a national debate has ensued about whether there is need for stiffer gun legislation.  The discussion is needed; but, gun control should be thought of as only one aspect of a national campaign focused on promoting  peace and reducing all violence.

Neither gun control legislation nor arming more citizens will curb the violence that permeates society.  People who have the means and opportunity to acquire weapons will continue to possess, sell, and use them, even if they have to do so illegally.  Additionally, if every gun manufacturer in the United States was shut down and stiffer gun laws were adopted making it difficult for average Americans to get guns, criminals and mentally ill people could still have access to firearms and other weapons that they would us against others. [i]   A cursory study of the number of senseless deaths that occurred during the settling of the American West, where nearly every male owned a gun, proves that arming more citizens is not the answer to reducing violence.

Guns do not cause violence, people do. It is the lack of respect for life, objectification of others, glorified violence, divisive and hateful political rhetoric, absolution from personal accountability, and absence of a sense of community that contribute to the thinking that intentional  acts of violence are acceptable.   Moreover, if guns are not available those bent on hurting others will use  weapons such as knives and bombs to perpetrate their crimes.

For example, on April 19, 1995, disgruntled Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols reportedly killed 168 people by bombing the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Similarly, on April 15, 2013, Dzhokhar  Tsarnaev and Tamerlane Tsarnaev killed three people and injured more than 260 by setting off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

The actions of McVeigh and Nichols and the Tsarnaev brothers, coupled with the recent highly publicized mass shootings, illustrate the fact that the nation needs to find ways to rekindle shared personal and cultural values that emphasize: the value of all people, the importance of unity, and that make it socially unacceptable to unjustly cause harm to others.

[i] I am not opposed to gun control, I just think it must be part of a comprehensive strategy for reducing violence. I do not support the National Rifle Association’s  (NRA) interpretation of the Second Amendment.


The Journey: Guidelines for Developing a Spiritual Life

   The Spiritual Journey

  1. Put God first and genuinely care about the welfare of all people. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22.37 – 38
  2. Seek Jesus, the giver of spiritual gifts. Do not seek gifts that satisfy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. “Seek ye first the kingdom of GOD and His righteousness.” Matthew 6.33  “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”  1 John 2. 16
  3. Surrender your life to Christ, not to a denomination, a preacher, or a ministry. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14.6
  4. Promote only Jesus. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4.12
  5. Live a meaningful life by denying self in order to focus on the things of God, including helping others. “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
  6. Do the right things for the right reasons. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than himself.” Philippians 2.3
  7.  Seek godliness.  “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. “You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  ” 1 John 2.15
  8. “Pray continually.” 1 Thessalonians 5.17