We have met the enemy, and he is us - we must stop


How many more times must this be breaking news? A disgruntled former student, who was identified as a threat, took an AR-15 into his old school, opened fire and killed 17. They went to school that day, never dreaming it would their last day on Earth.

The wearying debate renews between gun advocates and gun controllers. Facebook fingers point in every direction. We all want to find who to blame. Was it the parents? The school administration? Teachers who failed to make a report about the troubled student?

What if the system didn't break down? What if the problem is the system itself? What if the problem is the culture we are building?

Culture is a strange thing: It is built by what is accepted by the majority. Choice by choice, the majority builds the culture it wants. We may decry a culture of violence, but we still purchase video games that allow us to give virtual opponents a gory death.

Parents try hard not to warp their children and become so hands off they leave the souls of their children blank slates. We push sex and technology onto our children before they have the wisdom to make good decisions. It is easier to be carried by the tide than to fight against it.

Resisting what is accepted by the majority has always been God's agenda. God said to Noah, "I want you to resist this culture. Build an ark. Be foolish. I'm going to save you." God said to his people in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, "You are not to be like the nations around you. You are to be my people and follow my ways, my teaching." Jesus said, "I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid."

The call to God's people is the same: Resist the darkness. Resist the violence. Dare to parent your children like Jesus would and risk being called the most unpopular parent in the world (you will survive). Churches, invest in children and students. Their homes are broken, and they need to know God's people love them and accept them.

Jesus followers, stop being entertained by violence. It is not entertaining. It is sending a message. Hollywood says, "We're only making movies people want to see." Let's send a message back, "I don't want to see that."

Do you own a gun? Make sure it's locked so kids can't get to it. Own an AR-15? Ask Jesus if that's something you really need. Even if he says "yes," I'll bet he also says, "Lock it up." You might say, "Nobody's going to get my AR-15 and shoot up a school." That's not the point. The point is you should ask Jesus what he thinks. Or do you trust Jesus only with heavenly matters and tell him to stay away from what you treasure?

I don't know if Jesus followers can stem this tide of violence. I don't know if we can stop children from killing children. But I know this: Jesus followers can live by a different culture, the culture of the Kingdom of God. That's where we're supposed to be.

Years ago, Walt Kelly drew a cartoon of his character Pogo, looking at a trash-filled swamp. He said to his friend, Porcupine, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Look at the swamp of this violent culture. Who trashed it? We did. Only Jesus can redeem it. His church is to be his agent of redemption - people who say we will not live by this culture of violence. We will be different.

For Jesus followers, it's time for the enemy to no longer be us. Stop aiding the cause of the enemy. Let's be citizens of a different kingdom, the kingdom of light, peace, joy and powerful redemption - the Kingdom of God.

Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church.