A couple of days ago, I heard Alan Jackson’s Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)? on the radio.  It had been quite some time, probably three or more years, since I had heard it.  The tears immediately began to flow as I re-lived the pain and shock of September 11, 2001.  Last month, our nation observed a somber eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that forever changed America.  Nearly 3,000 lost their lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.  The death toll is listed at 2,974, with some calculations being higher or lower depending on the source.  This massive, tragic loss of human life and the magnitude of the devastation is still overwhelming.  Added to this human toll are the 5,233 U.S. servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives for their country in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

Another recent event also caused me to think about the September 11 terrorist attacks.  For several days in a row I had read in the Tulsa World about homicides in our area.  You would think that after living in the Dallas Metroplex for 12 years that I would be significantly desensitized to reports about violent crime.  Still, there was something about the brutality and senselessness of these killings that deeply disturbed me.  I started wondering about the cumulative impact of homicides in the U.S., so I checked out the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and became even more unsettled.

In 2001, excluding the deaths from 9/11, there were 16,037 homicides in the U.S.  The total from 2001 through last year was 131,913; an average of 16,489 per year.  Maybe that doesn’t surprise you.  Maybe you keep a mental, running tally of acts of brutality in our country.  But, the number simply blew me away!  Why wasn’t I aware of this?  Maybe it is because the numbers are spread over a population of 300 million and are only reported a few homicides at a time in our respective communities.  Maybe it is because most of us reading this blog don’t live in the neighborhoods and walk the streets where these crimes are committed.  But, on average, every 66 days there are as many murders in the U.S. as there were on 9/11.  These aren’t just statistics.  Each number represents a human being and an eternal soul; a father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister or neighbor.  When cruel offenses like rape and aggravated assault are included, there were 1.3 million violent crimes committed in the U.S. in 2008.  That number does not include the increasingly less-mentioned deaths of 1.2 million unborn Americans by abortion last year.  That subject merits a blog post of its own.

2,700 years ago, God delivered this charge against His people through the prophet Hosea, “Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.  There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery.  They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed,” (Hosea 4:1-3).  Those last two sentences could be a synopsis of recent headlines from the Tulsa WorldThe Dallas Morning News, and other newspapers from across the country.

As vital as our prayers are for our nation and its leaders, we must not allow our petitions to the Father to salve our consciences or absolve us of any sense of additional responsibility.  This is not a matter of political ideology, elections or legislation.  It is a matter of Christian influence, salt and light, through which Christ can impact individual lives and hearts and the collective consciousness of our communities with the Gospel of peace.  This is about a call to repentance, a call for mercy and compassion, and a call for brother to not lift his hand against brother and neighbor against neighbor. While I certainly do not have a quick or easy answer for stopping the bloodshed, neither can I remain complacent or dispassionate about the 45 funerals that will take place today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next and the next…