Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections by Stephen Perry, First United Methodist The massacre of high school students and teachers in Littleton, CO, and the ethnic cleansing of Kosavars in the Balkans take our hearts away from enjoying the blooming flowers and the budding trees of this spring. So many people who have lived on our beautiful earth will never see another flower or another tree. The frustration and destruction of their lives has taken place in the very midst of emerging new life.

It is too early, really, to figure out what could have prevented the disasters in Colorado and the Balkans. A disaster, especially a human-made disaster, results from the convergence of many cases. The removal of any one of them might have stopped what, in fact, happened. It is too early to figure out what could have prevented these disasters because we do not yet know all of their causes.

But what has happened surely ought to sober us up about the prospects for unaided human nature. Both the young killers in Colorado and the older ones in Yugoslavia have presented themselves as injured and aggrieved parties. This may prove to be true in Colorado, and the Serb people have certainly suffered more than their share during their long history. More often than not, however, dwelling on our own sorrows leads us to disregard the well-being of others, including others who are innocent of the suffering that has been inflicted on us. The disasters we have witnessed in recent weeks are extreme examples of a general tendency to the evil of self-righteousness.

Some suffering people have, however, learned to deal constructively with their suffering and not to take it out in physical violence against others. To expect this response in all cases would not make for a wise public policy. To remove the cause of suffering would be a far greater act of justice than to demand that people suffer nobly. To avoid ever concentrating the absolute power of a gun or a government in one person's hands would apply the great insight into human nature that lies behind the American principle of checks and balances.

But to teach ourselves and our children the way of love in response to personal suffering would choose life in the right season.

Stephen Perry is pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Vermillion.

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