Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Story of Noah: A Pastor's Review

This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. (Genesis 6:9 NLT)

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.”

– A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit Of God

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch "Noah" staring Russel Crowe as Noah.  It was a well produced, and well directed fictional account of the Biblical story of Noah.  By now, I have read and heard various well meaning Christians speak about the horrors of such a film: The conspiracies to undermind the Biblical truth; The conspiracies to promote pro-ecological agendas; The "Hollywood" mindsets to be anti-God.  I get it and understand the reality of those trends and how deeply troubled and threatened Christian communities are when there is a re-interpretation or manipulation of the Biblical narrative as it literally is "living and active".  I have a very high regard for scripture and accept its teachings as the paradigm for truth but more importantly, it is the revelatory narrative that connects to the living God and His mission for His creation.

I mention my understanding and regard for scripture as the backdrop for the following observations about the movie and the Christian community:

1. The Biblical narrative on the details surrounding Noah is quite sparse.  We have no idea of Noah's personality, his interactions with his wife, his parenting skills, his experiences growing up, his experiences in the ark, etc.  We understand his character to be "righteous" or in a right relationship with God, but that can express itself broadly.  I personally, did not like the character of Noah as developed in this movie because he was very nihilistic.  His emphasis was on God's judgement and he could not understand God's grace, for which he himself was a sign and an agent.  However, its very realistic for a servant of God to misunderstand His mission and calling, even in the midst of doing it.  Overall, the liberties that they took in his character were believable because they are rational and consistent with the responses of other Biblical characters in the Biblical narratives faced with the kind of catastrophic event and global calling. (You can not help but to see the Director's ingenious comparison of Noah's willingness to kill his family due to his perceived calling and calling of Abraham and his sacrifice in Genesis 22).

2. The Biblical narrative is unclear regarding the role of angels, giants (niphillum), and supernatural beings in the story of Noah.  In the movie, these beings take a surprisingly prominent role.  Interestingly, the angels in the story remind me of the way J.R. Tolken uses the "Tree herders" in the Lord of Rings. It brings an understanding that the world, humanity, and our stories are not the only things that God, the creator is involved in.  

3. There are obvious departures from the Biblical narrative that are mostly not important to the overall understanding of the big picture.  The biggest was the failure for wives of his two sons, and the presence of the evil king on the ark.  However, mostly, they were not important.

4. Most importantly: The movie was very pro-God, pro-faith, and pro-redemption.  I believe that it expresses themes of trusting God, grace in the face of judgment, and glaringly, the promotion of God's life agenda.  

With that, I would not be afraid to suggest for someone to watch it.  It makes a great discussion piece for the greater narratives and themes of scripture.  I, myself, found myself looking up the timeline for Methusalah, only to realize for the first time, that Methusalah does die in the flood (check it out yourself).  

Lets look at this story as a means of drawing closer to God and understanding all of our roles in the Biblical narratives and inviting conversations with those with different, alternative, and conflicting word views.

God bless and I would love your thoughts

Pastor M Traylor

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wearing Shame

As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11 NIV)

“What is shame?

You are:





-Edward T. Welch in Shame Interrupted.

In western Christianity, there is a tremendous emphasis on dealing with guilt.  Guilt is that feeling or understanding that you have done something wrong or trangressed a particular standard.  Guilt is associated with something one does, or sometimes something that one does not do.  Guilt is a universal emotion that is culturally defined.  Culturally defined because the standards that produce guilt are defined and re-enforced by one's community.

However,  shame is a much more insidious and opppressive emotion. While guilt may speak "I have messed up"; shame screams "I am a mess".  Guilt may impair our actions and outlook, but shame distorts and perverts our identities.

Guilt is often related to shame in that shame may result in our pathological ways of dealing with guilt.  I have seen children who make mistakes in my office (spilled a drink, responded incorrectly to a question, etc.) literally be called "Stupid", "dumb", and "retarded".  Those descriptions are not describing the action, but the actor.  Particularly in childhood, when parental words and actions help us form our identity, these reactions imbed shame deep into our understanding of ourselves.

Its interesting that throughout scripture, God's focus is not only to deal with our guilt but also to release us from our shame.  Shame that is brought on from our own actions and attitudes as well as those dumped upon us in our life journey.  Look at the following text from the earliest of scripture:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” .....The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:9-11, 21 NIV)

Notice that Adam's response to the presence of God was not guilt, but shame.   He could have responded "I am sorry that I ate the fruit that your forbade."  That would have been a response coming from his sense of guilt caused by his disobedience.  However, he responds according to his nakedness.  Nakedness is a state, not an action.  His nakedness was a badge of shame.  Interestingly, his understanding of nakedness as a sense of shame was created by his own desire to define what was respectable and what was not (God made him naked and did not feel it was shaming and Eve received him naked and also felt no shame (Gen 2:25).

The fascinating aspect of this story is God's response.  While he judges the guilt (Adam, Eve, and the Serpent all receive consequences for their wrong doings), he covers their shame (Gen 3:21).  This is a window in which all of the rest of God's interactions, including the sending of his son, with humanity can be viewed.  

This brings me back to the original point.  The emphasis of Christianity, as expressed by many churches, is not to deal with our shame but merely relieve our guilt.  We are concerned about being right, but God is concerned about making us rightous and respectable.  This is why so many feel like their faith is sterile and impotent.  They know cognitively that their sins have been forgiven and that their actions have been atoned for, but they remain living in their shame.

God sent his son to develop a relationship with us that fundamentally changes our identity.  We are no longer defined by our failures, our abuses, or our indescretions, but our relationship with God and His mission.  

If you are a follower of Jesus, relinquish the burden of shame that declares you are not good enough, not beautiful, or a failure.  Refuse to act out a script written for you by others pain and brokenness. Understand that Jesus calls you metaphorically "His bride" that he presents you "without blemish".  This is a description of who we are in his eyes.   

I pray today that you will go deeper in your faith and you will not settle for a faith that merely takes away the guilt.  Start this year with the understanding that Jesus wants to take away your shame and lead you to a full, abundant life.  Delight in the fact that no one who puts their trust in him will "ever be put to shame".

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reflections on the Trayvon Martin Tragedy: Part II 

Our society's obsession with media violence does not show that human beings are naturally violent.  Instead, it demonstrates that our society is ill.”

– Paul k Chappell in Peaceful revolution

“The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation”

– Jonathan Sacks in The Dignity Of Difference

Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways. Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly. (Proverbs 3:31, 32 NLT)

This is a continuation of a series of reflections on the tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death and its implications for me personally, and the broader society.  In the first post, I spoke about the clear racialization that initiated the process and how that racialization destroys the possibility of true community.  Regardless whether you believe George Zimmerman's accounting of the events or not, I think we can all agree that Trayvon's death was senseless and that his family is justified in feeling a sense of injustice.  If we stop for a moment and seek to empathize with the Martin family, we can begin a process of support and even see a glimpse of possible means of redemption of this horrific event.

It is the lack of community that leads to paranoia and profiling.  No ethnicity has the market cornered on paranoia, mistrust, or suspicion, but it is the attempt to have authentic community which lowers the fences of misunderstanding and yields an openness to accept and identify with people who are culturally dissimilar.  It is easier to kill and maim that which is a thing than that which is truly human.  It is easier to kill and maim that which we feel is evil and malicious than that which has similar motives and relationships as our selfs.  Relationships reduce violence.

So this brings me to a polarizing topic that I need to just get out in the open.

The presence and access of a loaded firearm not only led to a senseless killing but emboldened Zimmerman to stalk and confront Trayvon in the first place.

The defense maintained that Zimmerman was a physically weak man who is not capable of physically matching up with Trayvon. (I personally do not believe that, but for the purpose of this blog, lets assume there is truth in what he said).  If George Zimmerman was intimidated by Trayvon Martin, then what explains his zealousness in tracking him and confronting him, despite law enforcement counsel not to follow?  The answer is simple: He had an equalizer, a loaded gun on his person.

The presence of loaded weapons in public spaces has not led to people being safer.  There are no statistics, when analyzed objectively, that demonstrates the presence of guns as a deterrent to crime.  Everyday, 13 children and young adults between the ages of 10-24 will be fatally shot today.  By the way, much of those fatalities are not planned shootings but accidents and negligence.  

The constitution did not give us the unconditional right to bear arms everywhere and anywhere.  It actually granted the right of a well armed militia, which we all have now in the national guard.  It has been expanded most recently (1987) to understand the second amendment as the right for people to carry firearms.

All that to say, is this tragedy begs us to consider our gun laws.  The presence of a gun in this tragedy enabled George Zimmerman to boldly pursue Trayvon Martin.  According to NRA logic, the answer to this would have been to have Trayvon Martin with a concealed weapon as well.  That way, he would also feel emboldened and safer.  Gun access leads to more death and destruction.  It equips hatred with potency.

Simply adding guns to fractionated communities of suspicion and mistrust is a recipe for disaster.  Its interesting, that we can understand that any legitimate right, such as the right to bear arms, comes with responsiblities.  Our children are dying at unprecedented levels because America can not responsibly have such access to guns.  Paraphrasing peace activist Stanley Hauerwas, we can only begin to study and approach peace once we have decided that violence is not necessary or inevitable.  

This tragedy should move us to look at the role of guns in our society and how they often escalate tense enviornments.  In this case, Zimmerman's right to bear arms took Trayvon Martins's basic right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I will be working with advocacy groups such as the Children's defense Fund to work to protect children and young adults and to reduce gun access.  This, makes us all safer and reduces the probability of reading about more senseless deaths and mourning families.  I want to encourage you to make a difference and to look at the role of guns, not only in this tragedy but in the ongoing violence that is robbing the futures and dreams of our communities.

God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reflections on the Trayvon Martin Tragedy: Part I

"There is a tendency to judge a race, a nation or any distinct group by its least worthy members"
     -Eric Hoffer, Philosopher and Presidential Medal of Freedom writer

"It's clear that an essential way to stop the violence and the despair in our culture is to engage in activities that bring us empathy and conviviality."
     -Cecile Andrews, in Living Room Revolution

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
     -Romans 12:14-16 NIV

The entire tragedy of the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman incident and trial is almost too large to behold, too deep to describe, and so personal that it is hard to control the emotions that it provokes.  It has been several days since the verdict of not-guilty was issued and I have read some superb blogs and commentaries regarding the legal issues, the reasons for the verdict, and analysis of almost every part of the crime, from the crime itself to its implications for our society.

I want to take a couple of days to unpack the pain that I am experiencing and its implications for our society and culture at large.  I recognize that I come to these issues from a distinct socio-cultural-historical view point and that my perceptions are influenced by my faith, age, ethnicity, parental status, and personal history.  We all have such baggage in analysis.  However, I hope that readers can appreciate that these things also can help us have insights that may not be apparent to many.

When I began my medical training, I began in Psychiatry.  I recall reading a study out of New York where a psychiatrist made the simple observation that psychiatrists often perform significantly more detailed evaluations and assessments when the patients were ethnically, socio-economically, and culturally similar.  This has been proven over and over again (For a fantastic review of cultural bias in mental health, read the article from the American Journal of Public Health in 2003 ).  There is a sub-conscious degree of empathy and compassion that is present when we are with people we think we can identify with.  This is not necessarily a negative thing as it helps to build community and bolster cohesiveness.  The flip side of this is that we also have a tendency to stereotype, often negatively, those who are culturally, ethinically, and economically different from us.  As quoted above, we often perpetuate and justify our stereotypes based upon the worst individuals of that group, not the actual peoples or connections we have had.

So, my first reflection is how this case shows the disintegration of community.  George Zimmerman could not see Trayvon Martin as part of the community, nor could he identify with him or his family as one of the tenants in his neighborhood.  He literally, instantly assessed him as a threat to peace (by his own admission) and could not fathom that he was the child of one of the people he was trying to protect.  There was nothing in Trayvon's behavior, his dress (he was wearing a hoodie because it was raining), or his location that would alert and warrant such suspicion.

Regardless of the many attempts by many to suggest that racial profiling was not involved, it is clear that George Zimmerman stalked Trayvon because he was an African-American walking were George Ziimmerman did not think he should be.  When you listen to George Zimmerman's statements, you will see that there was curse-filled stereotyping to the 911 operator based upon appearance, not behavior.  It is this stereotypical assessment that began a series of actions that led to the tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death.  Racialization began the avalanche of the poor decisions that spun out of control.

Its interesting to me how subtle this identification can be and how powerful its implications are.  We see it at work in the jury. One juror, spoke of the "riots" in Sanford after his death, but there were no riots.  That misinformation informed her understanding of the nature of the African-American community from which she saw Trayvon's family as part.   When asked by Zimmerman's lawyers to describe what she knew of Trayvon, she simply said "He was a boy of color".  During her post-trial interview, the same juror called George Zimmerman as "George", demonstrating a personal tie.  She stated that she felt "George's heart was in the right place". There was no evidence of those sentiments, those were value judgments based upon her identification and projection of George Zimmerman.  She then states that "I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him". Again, there was no evidence presented that proved that. She also felt that the prosecution witness Rachel Jeantel, had "no credibility" because the juror perceived that she "felt inadequate towards everyone because of her education and her communication skills.  I just felt sad for her.".  Once again, the value judgement of credibility rests on cultural differences, not the truthfulness of her statements.  I could go on and on, but what I want to express is how the crime and the trial were biased by racializing processes.

It comes down to our understanding of community.  Racialization and racism represents processes which destroy a sense of community and prevent the creation of a safe, democratic, and civil community.  It prevents, what Martin Luther King Jr. called, the "beloved community".  It may  not be the overt racism that was televised in the civil rights attacks in the 1960's, but it still leads to the dehumanization and degradation of those who we perceive to be "the other guys".

22 years after Rodney King asked "Why can"t we all get along", we are still asking that question.  I am worried that my son, and my future grandsons can be stalked, attacked, and killed without any protection from our communities.  I mourn that people refuse to talk about the racial aspect of this trial and I pray that we see this tragedy as an opportunity for dialogue, deeper understanding, and the possibility that we all have some George Zimmerman fear within and all have some Trayvon Martin victimization that is possible.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "A threat to justice anywhere, is a threat to injustice everywhere".

Take time today to interrogate your own stereotypes about others that are dissimilar.  Pray for our communities that we get beyond that "us-them" mentality and begin to come together for activities in our communities that develop a deeper sense of empathy and a celebratory sense of conviviality.  It is our desire to know others who are different that gives humanity, dignity, and value.

More to follow,

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My take on the History Channel's: The Bible

"This series endeavors to be true to the spirit of the Bible"
Disclaimer before each episode of History Channels "The Bible"

"All Scripture is God-breathed, and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God will be thoroughly equipped for every good work"
II Timothy 3:16-17

Earlier this month, the History Channel began to air a highly anticipated and highly promoted 10 part, 20 hour series called "The Bible".  This long awaited series was promoted in many evangelical Christian circles as one of the most up-to-date attempts to capture the essence of the Biblical stories.  It has been promoted in the most widely used Bible app (Youversion) and Youversion has become the "official" Bible app of the series.

I want to begin by saying that such an undertaking to render an authentic telling of the Biblical Narrative is daunting enough without the limitation of only having 20 hours to tell it.  The writers, editors, and advisors had one of the most difficult tasks I can imagine.  Trying to figure out in a limited scope, which stories to include and which to exclude depends on cultural, theological, and cinemagraphic frameworks that are often varied and expansive.

I am genuinely appreciative of this attempt of bringing the written Bible into visual imagery that people  since the1960's prefer. The History Channel brings credibility to this series through its reputation for using scholarly work in its products, and "The Bible" is no different.

I believe that the response to "The Bible" has varied within the Christian community due to the diverse opinions regarding the nature of Scripture and the relatively common phenomena of Biblical illiteracy. Personally, I have a high regard for Scripture as the word of God and that in itself flavors how I understand "The Bible" and why I have been somewhat critical.

A couple of thoughts as I have watched 2 episodes:

1. There are numerous errors (direct contradictions with Scripture) in the depiction of the stories.  Abraham rescues Lot with just his men as opposed to the Armies of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham is seen looking back at the destruction of Sodom but not destroyed.  Samson's wife is raped instead of simply married off to a Philistine.  All little distortions that are minor, but easy to fix. There are more but each tends to glamorize and market the characters in a way that is not the tone or the spirit of the texts.

2. Most of the chosen Bible stories feature important and well known characters whose depictions are often exaggerated with gratuitous violence.  Now, the Bible stories are often incredibly violent and "The Bible" has been very accurate with most of them.  However, we see the Angels performing ninja-like, Samarai moves in Sodom (In the Bible it says that they blinded the men of Sodom) while causing the eyes of the men of Sodom to bleed profusely.  We see Abraham, not as the participant with an army to liberate Lot, but as nearly a single handed warrior who is a deadly killing machine.  Samson's portrayal in "The Bible" does not show him as the compromising, manipulative judge that scripture reveals but exaggerates the offense against him by the Philistines in order to set up a redemptive violence scenario that is equal to contemporary Rambo motiffs.  These edits are done to glorify the characters as opposed to supporting a contextual reading.

3. The show seeks to honor the spirit of scripture but accuracy is secondary.  I think it is trying to express the generalities of each story which gives a license to take liberties.  Subtle liberties lead to subtle misrepresentations which is not a big deal. except that people are so hungry for spiritual information that they are willing to base entire theologies on misunderstandings and misrepresentation. Keep in mind that most  major heresies began with a misunderstanding based often on a subtle change.

4.  The Bible stories are often edited to remove stories of failure We see no record of Abraham multiple failures of faith prior to his willingness to sacrifice his son; or Mose"s near refusal and clearly shaken faith in going back to Egypt, or the role of Israel's idolatry in God allowing the Philistines to oppress the  Israelites in the telling of Samson's story.  These edits give an unrealistic portrayal of the characters and I think are actually discouraging to the average person who is flawed and would likely be under the impression that God only uses special, highly gifted and powerfully motivated people.

5. Lastly, the Biblical narrative is a story of the development of a people of God.  At the core of the work of Jesus is the development of community and communion between God and humanity, and humanity to itself.  Much of the Mosaic law is focused on how a community lives.  Yet, there is very little on the development and desire of God to shape a community.  In western society (the Bible is written in much more a eastern understanding), there is an emphasis on individuals and that is reflected in "The Bible" but is not necessarily Biblical.

So overall, I appreciate the effort and anything that brings attention to Scripture I am generally in favor.  I find "The Bible"  as a polished "hollywood" collection of biopics that seeks to tell Biblical stories in a way that is favorable to most themes in the Bible, but manipulates the narratives to promote a version of the story that is far more "acceptable" and "heroic" than the texts actual suggest.  I hope that most faith communities use this series to discuss its themes, its manipulations, and its faithfulness to the text.

I would love to know what you think,

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor

Friday, February 8, 2013

Towards a deeper Valentines Day

"Why is it so hard to keep in mind that our purpose is more important than our purchasing power?

"Our pervasive addiction to consumerism does not stand out in society as a problem, but rather as a sign of success"
Jennifer D. Crumpton in A New Evangelical Manifesto

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25

We are a week away from Valentines Day.  This day, above others is devoted to celebrating the deepest and most profound reasons for living: To receive and express love.  It should be a day where we slow down enough from our hectic paces and busy lives to say, express, appreciate, and demonstrate the people who love us as well as the objects of our love.

Cards, flowers, perfumes and chocolates are all very nice but if they are the ultimate expression of our love then we have a sentimental, but superficial love.

Modern day marketing approaches shower us with images that romanticize the consumption of products in ways that equate consumption with satisfaction, success, and wholeness.  Let's not deny that purchasing products can enhance and supplement our pleasure and provide us levels of comfort unimaginable in previous eras.  However, modern marketing goes beyond suggesting that various products can help you.  They suggest that your identity and your wholeness and happiness are inexplicably tied to your ability to consume products.  In this mythic narrative, success is  the possession and consumption of excess.  It is a self-centered existence where your greatest goal is life is not love, but possession of products that simulate love and satisfaction in life.

Love is most authentically expressed through sacrifice towards another that does not seek reward.  It is not consumption but generous.  Love does not seek but simply gives.  Interestingly, it is the giving itself which is the reward, not the response that it provokes.

While I am not against expressions of love that include flowers, chocolates, and the like, what I am encouraging is a deeper expression of love this Valentines Day.  Not through further consumption and the trap of marketing, but celebrating the loves of your life by recognizing the acts of love that you have experienced and the sacrifices that you gladly make on behalf of the objects of your love.  Flowers, cards do not make you a better lover, giving more of yourself does.

I pray that you experience true intimacy in this celebration of love!

God Bless you,

Pastor M Traylor

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guns in America: A critical test for Christians

Our ingenuity for self-deception is inexhaustible
Hannah Moore

Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, 
Proverbs 3:31

As 2013 unfolds, I am shocked at the polarizing effect of gun control debate.  In light of tragedy after tragedy, we still have discussions focusing on political viability, constitutional interpretations, and the prevalence of mental illness.  According to the Children's defense fund, 3721 American children die every year due to gun violence.  We have an epidemic in the United States that is not only treatable, but more importantly preventable

In a nation where we have more gun dealers than McDonald's and more distributors than gas stations, we need the clarity and the fortitude to admit that we have a gun saturated culture that mythologizes gun violence by covering it with constitutional language and the moralistic trappings of redemptive violence.  I do not wish to bemoan the point, but our infatuation with guns and our persistent celebration of gun violence (think movies, media, and our heroes) is not a sign of strength, but of insecurity and sickness.  

I want to make a couple points for your consideration in this manner, particularly for those readers who profess to follow Jesus.

1. The Constitution is a secular document and not sacred.  Although I have a great deal of respect for the constitution and as a law abiding citizen in America, advocate for the enforcement and implementation of  the constitution, I recognize that it is a flawed document and does not come from God or a divine source.  For Christians, we must realize that teachings of Jesus are superior to the guidelines and principles of the constitution.

2. The Second Amendment was written to provide for arming state based militias, not individuals with killing machines.  The understanding of individuals with the right to bear arms was not the interpretation of the second amendment until 2008 after a 1939 ruling gave some expanded rights beyond militias.

3. The rights conferred and inferred at the time of the constitution can not be considered automatically ethical or natural.  At the time of the constitution, citizens could own other individuals.  We would later understand that inferred right as unethical and flawed.  Just because something was conferred as a right does not make it right.  Time and context often have a way of influencing the morality and feasibility of such things.

4. All Rights have responsibilities and limits.  For instance, the first amendment gives the freedom of speech but that is framed by the right of the government to censor speech when national security is at risk (for instance, an Army general can not share military strategies publicly as it endangers the public wellbeing).  The right to bear arms, even if it is seen as a constitutional right, must have responsibilities.

5. The rationale behind the slogan that guns do not kill people, but people kill people is wrong.  The fact is that people with guns are killing people in an epidemic pattern.  People are not killing people with knives, clubs, sticks, poisons, or cars with this kind of prevalence.  Guns are the tool of choice for killing in America.

I share this because I truly believe that how our society deals with gun violence is of critical importance for our future.  If we can not civilly discuss measures of improving our safety and ridding our neighborhoods, schools, malls, movie theaters, and Colleges of potential weapons of mass destruction in the hands of emotionally and mentally stressed individuals, then we demonstrate the ineptitude of our democracy.

We are truly self-deceived as a nation if we ignore our illness and our culture of gun violence. Proof of this is that many among us believe that adding more guns to our streets and neighborhood will make us safer. (Studies have shown that guns in America are 11 times more likely to be used for homicide/suicide than for protection).  As follower of Jesus, we are not to envy the violent and to understand our role as peacemakers.  That peacemaking role was modeled by Jesus and was not demonstrated through violence.  I understand that nearly 2000 years have passed since Jesus uttered his blessing on peacemakers, but his teachings are timeless.  He was living in an oppressed society where violence was an everyday realty.  He understands what it was like to live under a constant threat of violence and death.

I am asking that if you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus that you take time to study his teachings on violence and consider your role as a peacemaker.

Just keep in mind, that every year that you choose not to act to end gun violence, another 3721 children die.

Its time to be the peacemakers we were destined to be!

I pray that you experience a peace that transcends understanding along with a thirst for righteousness and justice that is the authentic mark of God's people!

May God bless you,

Pastor M Traylor