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February 9, 2013

We need to work toward living in love

By Cheryl Petersen
The Daily Star

---- — Heads swirl, stomachs ache and hearts throb when violent thoughts rear their hideous heads and commit atrocious acts. Unfortunately, the aches and throbs only wane after follow-up regulatory efforts are made to stop the sadism, or after we seek solace in religion or spirituality. It’s not that the rules and religion are useless, but that the challenge to do better never goes away. Consciousness is constantly on the move to overcome its own challenges.

Because of December’s shooting in a Connecticut elementary school — killing 26 people, of which 20 were children — President Barack Obama recently proposed a plan to close background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands, to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to make schools safer and to increase access to mental health services. Not surprisingly, reactions to the plan vary as much as snowflakes whether they agree, disagree or sit neutral on the whole matter.

While our minds may be clear on certain issues, we still spend a lot of time weighing pros and cons or questioning other issues. I see the value of rules and regulations in the secular and nonsecular realms; however, I also see how rules stifle and coerce. I may not like or use guns, but I can see the validity of the Second Amendment guaranteeing citizens the right “to keep and bear arms.” 

Truth be told, a gun without a human mind is a blob of atoms, the same type of atoms that compose a butterfly. It takes human beings to create guns and use them violently. As unpopular as violence is in my house, I can’t be oblivious to the datum that violence is actually popular with a minority of people, even casually considered necessary. The whole scenario becomes a full-blown paradox when we see that it sometimes takes violence to stop violence.

The dichotomy of violence/nonviolence has existed for millenniums. The repercussions are noticeable. In the Bible, King David wanted to build a house for God but David heard God say, “You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth.” (1 Chronicles 22:8, English Standard Version) So David’s son, Solomon, a much less violent leader, went on to build the house. 

King Solomon’s reign was more peaceful then his father’s. However, there is no record that the peace came from background checks or by banning certain weaponry. And, I doubt the nation buried all the weapons with King David after he died. But I do think a shift in consciousness was happening. Instead of the right to bear arms, are the people exercising their right to peace, or the wisdom that stops a violent thought before it becomes an action?

A historical perspective sees that generations of people prior to Solomon heeded the advice “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Genesis 9:6) However, generations of people after King Solomon began adapting the concept, “Love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you.” (Matthew 5:44) 

The “love your enemy” tactic is only successful when it is accompanied by other biblical readings such as, “All who are wicked will be punished with trouble and suffering.” (Romans 2:9, Contemporary English Version) Basically, the world consciousness is designed to love and pray for, or try to help, violent people only when it is pro-actively destroying the violent thinking and behavior.

The horribleness in the world triggers the goodness to stand firmer. We make rules, we follow rituals. But while rules and rituals may temporarily remove the angst of violence, they can’t be used as a substitute for the need to stand continually for peace, wisdom and the courage to stop all forms of violent thinking before it takes control. As difficult as it is to accept, living in love is a better goal than living in fear.

Cheryl Petersen writes on Christian Science. She lives in Delhi.