Revenge, forgiveness, politics, guns and the sanctity of human life


Did you know that since the horrific school shootings at Newtown in the USA in December last year, more than 4000 people have died from gunshots in the US? Let’s try to put this statistic into context.

The war on terror

After terrorists hijacked four planes and flew them into 3 buildings in New York in 2001, just under 3000 people died. As a result of those attacks, the so-called “war on terror” was launched, leading to military operations by the US and allies in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cost of those two wars (to date) has been estimated at about $2 trillion, but the projected costs in servicing debt, medical care for disabled returned personnel, etc, will lift the total cost to about $4-6 trillion in the coming decades. The allied forces have sustained more than 8000 casualties, while the total deaths of fighters and civilians is estimated at something around half a million (with a fair margin of error).

Thus half a million lives and 5 trillion dollars will be spent fighting terrorism in two countries that appear to have little to do with the terrorism of 2001 in the US. Or looking at it another way, that cost was paid to avenge the deaths of 3000.

Or look at it another way. More than twice as many allied soldiers died in the wars than were killed in the attacks, and the cost of the wars so far ($2 trillion) averages out to about $6350 for every person, adult or child, in the USA, or almost $1400 per household per year since 2001.

It seems like the response was way out of proportion with the original cause.

By contrast

In less than six months, more than 4,000 US citizens have been killed by guns, 30% more than the number who died in the September 11 attacks. This fits with an annual average of about 11,000 gun homicides and 19,000 gun suicides.

Yet when US politicians were asked to make modest changes to gun laws, which would have had a relatively small cost, they were unable to do so. This time the response seems less than the problem required.

Does anyone else see a strange imbalance here?

Revenge vs forgiveness; christianity vs Jesus?

What can explain this imbalance? What can explain this set of priorities?

I would guess human selfishness and pride making people stubborn in the face of terrible outcomes; a desire for revenge winning out over Jesus’ command to forgive; an unwillingness to apply Jesus’ teachings when our material wealth and comfort is on the line; an unwillingness to sacrifice our own wishes to serve the needs of others.

What do you think?

Christianity is changing?

But I think I am beginning to see a change. I think some younger christians are becoming more willing to forgive, more willing to sit loosely on their wealth and privilege, more willing to apply Jesus’ teachings even in politics, to be willing to sacrifice self to follow Jesus.

Christianity may indeed be changing. But let’s all change faster!

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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