Laws Won't Eliminate Hate
About a month after Luke and I returned home from adopting our two boys, Uganda closed international adoptions. Well, not entirely, but they made it darn near impossible. The government determined that this was the best course of action to prevent their children from being sold into sex trafficking. The horrors of Ugandan children being kidnapped and sold into slavery had to stop. So the government took action the best way they knew how. They made more laws.
Now, you should know that adopting from Uganda was not easy to say the least. Interviews, home visits, psychological evaluations, thousands upon thousands of dollars, living in country for 3 months, Ugandan court investigations, United States embassy investigations, more interviews, more paperwork...you get the idea. So when I learned that Uganda was closing down international adoption in an effort to reduce the sex trafficking crisis I was quite perplexed. I couldn't imagine 1) How sex traffickers would make it through the grueling process anyway and 2) Why traffickers would ever go through the trouble of going the legal route. Not to say that this NEVER happened but it didn't seem to be the most likely source of the problem.
The reality is, the vast majority of people kidnapping children and selling them into slavery are not upstanding citizens looking to uphold the law until they are no longer being watched. They are sadistic criminals who prey on children in the easiest and cheapest way possible. Despite the new laws, sex trafficking is still very much a problem in Uganda and around the world. The laws didn't fix the issue.
The U.S. has a gun violence crisis and unfortunately laws won't fix it either. Let me give this disclaimer: I don't own a gun. I don't ever plan to own a gun. I don't really know how I feel about gun issues.
"Ok Holly, then why are you writing a blog post about gun laws?"
Well, because I think the whole "we need stricter gun laws" argument is a bit of a cop out.
Hear me out for a second.
I wholeheartedly believe that laws should be in place to obtain a gun. I wholeheartedly believe that those laws should be evaluated as to whether or not they are thorough enough. I think the discussion itself is absolutely critical.
What I don't buy into is this idea that if the gun laws would just be stricter, mass shootings wouldn't occur. How can I be sure of this? Because there is an epidemic of HATE in our country and LAWS DON'T ELIMINATE HATE.
"But Holly, we should at least make it harder for people to get guns."
That's fine, but friends, people who want to shoot up groceries stores, schools, and spas can obtain any gun they want at any time. Criminals will always have guns. If someone is filled with so much hate in their hearts that they would open fire on innocent people, they will find a way to do it regardless of what laws you put in place.
To be clear, I am not advocating for some gun free for all! I am advocating for a different conversation surrounding the crisis of gun violence. I am advocating for a conversation that doesn't simply scream at the government to make more laws but rather one that brings to light problems within our society as a whole that are contributing to the problem. I am advocating for a conversation that takes a lot of work, conviction, and action from every individual in this country.
Listen, CLEARLY this issue runs far deeper than I will EVER comprehend and I don't pretend to be an expert but I do think there a few important questions we should all be asking in light of the recent tragedies:
1) How do we bring back the inherent value of human life?
Holy cow this question is loaded and feels impossible to answer. How do we shift an entire culture that preaches a "me first" mentality to adopt an "others first" one? What intervention should be put in place that will produce a radical shift in how we value other human beings? Personally, as a Christ follower, I cling to His command to "love your neighbor as yourself". (Mark 12:31) There is no "unless" or "however" after that command by the way. Just a period. But here's the issue, in order to give that kind of love, people need to receive that kind of love. So perhaps the first step is for those of us that claim to love and value ALL humans, to act like it! If you say you love everyone, show radical love to everyone! Seek out the outcasts, the angry kid, the withdrawn teen, and the hate filled adult and love their socks off! Show them that they matter and that they have value. Speak life and hope into their lives no matter how much they resist. My guess is that people who feel safe, loved, seen, valued, and needed aren't shooting innocent people.
2) How do we re-sensitize people to violence?
Violence is glorified everywhere. In video games, tv shows, movies, podcasts, documentaries, the news, YouTube, social media, and on and on the list goes. You can literally watch someone get beat up, shot at, run down, or killed any time you want (In real life or pretend). In the instance of video games, you can do the killing! Violence makes headlines and violence makes money. What would happen if every horrific tragedy that occurred didn't make national news for days on end? What if the entertainment industry had to reduce or even stop exploiting violence to make money? What would happen if serial killers didn't get documentaries made about them? Could some of these shootings be prevented if the perpetrator knew they wouldn't get any attention? If their name and face wouldn't be shown across every tv screen in America, would they be as eager to pull the trigger? I'm not implying that the motive of every shooter is fame for their cause but we would be naïve to think it doesn't play a part! Perhaps we should be committed to not spending our money on or giving our clicks to anything that perpetuates violence! For me, as a Christ follower, I look at his life and see that he never once raised a hand at another human being! Even when they came to wrongfully arrest him for execution, he condemned one of his follower for cutting off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. He then goes a step further and heals the man! (Luke 22:50) If Jesus is my example, violence has no place in my life.
3) How do we demonstrate civility among people of differing opinions?
The hateful and divisive language used in the media, political platforms, social media platforms, and even in churches is appalling! Grown adults turn into children right before our eyes when faced with someone who disagrees with them. What would happen if CNN and Fox News had to merge and they all had to sit at the same desk together and talk civilly to one another? What would happen if our schools and universities required classes that taught how to have calm and productive conversations between people of differing thoughts? Or perhaps required classes dedicated to cultivating emotional maturity? What if our teens couldn't graduate unless they can demonstrate self-control in the midst of difficult conversations and situations? What if disagreements between parents at the dinner table could be a teaching moment for children to see how to disagree while showing love and respect? So much of our society uses language that does nothing more than fuel the fire of division and hatred towards people who think, feel, or look different from you. If we want to work towards eliminating hate, we must eliminate hateful speech towards all people groups. In the book of Ephesians Paul says, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (4:29) Could you imagine our world if everyone committed to only using their words to build up others!?
4) What are we going to do to END racism?
Good grief! This is another doozy! It feels so impossible! It's so deeply engrained in our society! Perhaps part of the answer lies in every single one of us doing an internal assessment of our own racist tendencies. Where do we hold prejudices? Where are we silent when we should be speaking out? Do we sit by while family members or peers make racist jokes or do we pull them aside and help them see why it's not ok? Does your teen know to speak up or tell someone when they hear peers speak about another race in hateful and demeaning ways? Do we allow people of different races into our lives and listen to their experiences? Do we let our leaders know that we will not tolerate any speech that fuels the flames of racial division? As a society, are there strict and swift penalties for people who commit racially motivated crimes? All you have to do is read any part of the New Testament in the Bible to know that unity among all people is at the heart of God. Read any of the letters from Paul to the churches and you will find him helping people from different backgrounds, cultures, and races be unified under Christ. It's not easy work but it's work we must do! If you identify as a Christ follower, you are called to be a peacemaker and unifier in a deeply divided world!
These are just 4 questions to discuss but there are so many more! For instance, what about the raging mental health crisis we have in this country? What are we going to do to address poverty and how it plays a role in violent behavior? What about the breakdown of families?
Do we need thorough gun laws? YES!! However, by saying "we just need stricter gun laws" is like saying "just give me a pill for it". Just give me a pill so I don't have to change my diet or lifestyle. Just put in place stricter laws so I don't have to address my prejudices, treat my neighbors with love, pay attention to people hurting, or demand better from our communities and media sources. I'm grieved to say that it's just not that simple! I wish it was!
We have a lot of work to do friends. A LOT. And it would be easy to throw our hands up in the air in defeat. But we don't have to do it alone. There is a God who cares deeply about His creation and is working to redeem it despite what it may seem at times. God longs for unity among His people. He hates the violence we are inflicting on each other and if we are listening, He is calling his followers to do something about it!
Laws don't eliminate hate. Love does.