Has a new threshold in the culture wars been crossed? On August 15th, 2012, reports indicate that a man entered the lobby of the Family Research Council building in Washington, DC, declaring, “I don’t like your politics.” In his attempt to go further into the building, he shot the security guard in the arm. The guard was able to pin him down.
Certainly, the security guard, Leo Johnson, is a hero for his courage and quick action. He prevented further bloodshed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family in the face of this incident.
The reports indicate that the alleged shooter was a 28-year old Virginia man, who had been volunteering at the DC Center for the LGBT Community.
Thankfully, a coalition of 25 gay rights groups spoke out loudly and clearly that they eschew violence, and they don’t agree at all with the actions of the alleged shooter. I’m reminded of when there have been occasional acts of violence against abortion-providers, pro-life leaders cannot get to a microphone fast enough to denounce the violence.
The day after the shooting, FRC president, Tony Perkins, said, “We’re not going anywhere. We’re not backing up, we’re not shutting up. We have been called to speak the truth. We will not be intimidated. We will not be silenced” (AP, 8/16/12).
I’ve been to that building many times, conducting interviews for Christian television with Tony Perkin, as well as with some ex-gays, among others.
Hopefully, Wednesday’s shooting incident is not the beginning of some new trend. But historically, persecution often follows effective Gospel work. How are we to respond?
“A Mighty Fortress,” Martin Luther’s hymn, reminds us “The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still.” There is a wider sense in which the Kingdom of Christ will prevail in our world—if we show love even in the face of hatred.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his wonderful letter from the Birmingham Jail (May 1963): “We must meet hate with creative love….Let us hope there will be no more violence. But if the streets must flow with blood, let it flow with our blood in the spirit of Jesus Christ on the cross” Obviously, he was dealing with much more difficult circumstances than we are today.
Love is the key to overcoming hate. Christians are commanded to love even our enemies. How can we creatively love those who resort to violence against us, while still taking common sense measures to protect the innocent, just as the security guard did?
When a deranged killer murdered several Amish children a few years ago, the Amish community showed amazing love by reaching out to the widow and family of the killer. If you get a chance, watch the made-for-TV movie, based on this incident, Amish Grace. It’s very touching.
Rev. Rob Schenck of Faith and Action in Washington, DC, actually saw firsthand some of the love the Amish poured out to the shooter’s family. He once told me, “the Amish emissaries, the elders of the Amish community, arrived at that home, while I was there, to offer their forgiveness in Christ to that family…And that extension of Christian love and forgiveness was so powerful. “
Look at the example of Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” of Roe v. Wade, the infamous Supreme Court decision of 1973 that legalized abortion on demand. When her identity was revealed in the late 1980s, she became a hated woman in some circles.
But Roe now agrees with Wade, in her opposition to abortion. How so? She was “won by love” through the active transforming power of love on the part of some pro-life demonstrators. She even wrote a book, chronicling her story, with that very title, Won By Love.
We live in a time when, ironically, normal God-fearing people who are just trying to rear their families in peace, are often accused of being “haters.” I wrote about this recently—that we are “living in Orwellian times,” when right is called wrong and vice versa.
In modern America, we’re generally so removed from violent persecution it’s hard to picture it. Yet Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said in 2010, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”
History tells us that all the apostles except John died a martyr’s death. They didn’t seek it, but they didn’t shrink back, when the time came. They chose the next life by holding on to their integrity, rather than choosing this life by denying the Lord.
Historian Will Durant, who has written a definitive, multivolume survey of world history, once wrote about the Gospel’s conquest in ancient Rome:
There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fiery tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has ever known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.
It turns out that the way to overcome hate is with the love of Jesus Christ. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace….”