What kind of leadership is needed to address the mass shootings in our country? Are our thoughts and prayers enough? Is saying someone needs to do something making a difference?
Since Sandy Hook, ten years ago when 20 children and 6 adults were murdered in their classrooms, mass shootings in schools have become part of who we are. It should not be a surprise that 214 mass shootings have taken place since January 1 of this year. With that said, what kind of leadership is needed to be effective?
What Kind of Leadership is Needed?
In recent years, even when someone stepped forward to do something, a group of people grew indignant. “We have our rights.” “You can’t take away our rights.” And nothing changed. The outrage faded until another act of horrible violence, like the shooting on Tuesday, shocked us back into the reality of our inactivity. The truth is, we do have our rights. But to address the public health crisis of mass shootings does not take away anyone’s rights. In fact, it takes seriously the rights of others, particularly children.
So, let me ask again, are our words enough to be effective? Are our broken hearts, whether rooted in compassion or outrage enough? Has standing in the pulpit and declaring, “In the name of Jesus, someone do something” been sufficient? Oh, there have been some changes. I want to applaud what changes have been made. But it is obvious, the changes that have been made are not enough. So again, what kind of leadership is needed to make the difference?
Who Pays the Price?
There is a story of a monk, Telemachus, from southern France, who went to Rome to take in the splendors of the Holy City. When he arrived, he was caught up in the crowd going to the Coliseum. He wasn’t aware of all that was involved in the entertainment of the day. Soon, however, he realized what was going to happen when the gladiators took their places on the field. They drew their weapons, waved them at Caesar, then called out, “We who are about to die salute thee!”
At that moment, the young monk realized that the gladiators were about to fight each other to their death. He called out in the middle of the roaring crowd, “Stop! Stop! In the name of Jesus, stop!”
His voice could not be heard above the roar of the crowd. He rushed down the aisle to the barrier that separated the cheering crowd from the strutting gladiators. Again, he yelled, “In the name of Jesus, stop!” Still, no one noticed him nor heard his pleas.
He jumped over the barrier and ran out into the middle of the Coliseum floor. He stood between two of the gladiators and yelled at each of them, “In the name of Jesus, stop!”
The two gladiators ignored his words. The spectators of the gladiator fighting grew indignant with the monk for interrupting their sport. So, they stoned him to death.
Caesar was informed of the death of Telemachus. When he learned that Telemachus was now numbered among the victorious martyrs, Caesar put an end to the sport. ¹
From that day on, there would be no more gladiator fights in Rome’s Coliseum. An end to the brutality and the death all took place because one person was willing to pay the price and give his life.
There is a price to be paid if we are to stop the mass shootings and the violence.
We Can No Longer Live Our Lives This Way
Let’s face it, no one wants the violence that has taken place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, or at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, or at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, or Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado or the hundreds of other mass shootings over the years. Yet, we have gotten to a point where we can no longer live our lives without the fear that every time we say goodbye to our children, spouses, and friends, it could be the last. The question is, what kind of leadership will it take to stop it from happening again?
As I think about it, it will take several courageous leaders to step out and risk who they are and the positions they hold to make the difference. It will take courageous United States Senators and Congresswomen/men to risk re-election. The time has come to stop politicizing such acts of violence and to step up and advocate for the rights of children, teenagers, and adults who have become vulnerable in places assumed to be safe. Whether it be schools, concerts, or grocery stores, courageous leaders need to protect the rights of all of us regarding public safety. These leaders must shift from thoughts and prayers to policy and change.
Courageous Leaders in our States It will take courageous governors and state legislatures to do the same. As our country moves more to state rights, it is imperative that state and local leaders think first of the people they serve before thinking of position or prestige. Courageous leaders are vulnerable leaders. They take the risk of being authentic and trustworthy. These leaders too must shift from aspirational rhetoric to real action.
Courageous Spiritual Leaders
It will take courageous spiritual leaders to risk popularity and acceptance. Your leadership helps to shape the thinking and the action of the policymakers. You have the opportunity to model responsibility and accountability, not only for governmental leaders but for people who vote. Through your word and action, you will find a way to assist people to contact their United States senators and congresswomen/men to address mass shootings. You will find a way to contact the governor, state representatives, and local authorities to address the violence. You have the opportunity to step up and lead in an effort to hold the sanctity of life before policymakers as well as those who vote.
Courageous Leaders who Vote
It will take courageous voters to risk voting for candidates who might not be members of their own political party. If there is to be any positive change, you, as a leader, must take advantage of the opportunity to assist people to vote and elect the leaders who will step up to make the changes needed. Help people be an educated electorate so that they will understand who they are electing and what each person stands for. Help people elect leaders who will have the courage to develop and deliver the policies needed to put an end to children being killed in our schools, racial hatred, and the availability of guns without appropriate laws and guidelines.
Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” In leading through this crisis, you will be living as a true peacemaker.
Leading at this time is not easy. But you were created to lead at this time. You have everything you need to step up and provide the leadership to change our accepted culture of violence.
Remember, who you are is how you lead.
Resources to Respond to Violence
Below are several resources to help respond to violence.
Even though these resources were produced several years ago, the need remains the same:
A Response to Violence, A Response to Violence – Part 2, A Response to Violence – Part 3, A Response to Violence – Part 4, A Response to Violence – Part 5
Other resources on the blog are: Prayer in Response to Acts of Violence, Responding to Violence as People of Faith, What is Our Response?
Finally, here is podcast resource: Episode 201: The Intersection of Immigration, Faith and the Future Church with Scott Hicks
What kind of leadership is needed to address the mass shootings in our country? Courageous, grace-filled, and action-packed leadership. Your leadership will make the difference.
Know of my prayers as you become the leader needed for this time. Remember, who you are is how you lead.
- Story adapted from Let Me Tell You A Story: Life Lessons from Unexpected Places and Unlikely People, by Tony Campolo and Favorite Monks: Telemachus: The Monk Who Ended The Coliseum Games, by Monk Preston.