Brad Bushman is a psychology and communication professor at Ohio State University with a chilling perspective on the Virginia on-air shooting that took the lives of two journalists. According to Bushman, we should expect more such violence in the future.
He notes that “nobody knew who Vester Lee Flanagan II even was” before the shooting. Like him, perpetrators of recent shootings in Paris, Brussels, and France wore cameras. The Islamic State constantly videos its horrific executions. With the advent of wearable cameras and drones, murderers who want attention are more likely than ever to kill on-air.
The more we secure our safety, the less secure we seem to feel.
I remember a day when people left their cars and homes unlocked and visited with strangers on the front porch. Now we open and close our garages by remote control, then disappear into homes, some even armed with security systems (psychologists call this “cocooning”). We pass through more extensive airport security than ever. The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, by far. Surveillance cameras are more ubiquitous than ever.
And yet surveys indicate that Americans feel less safe than at any time since 9/11. Identity theft victimizes 15 million U.S. residents a year, at a cost of $50 billion. Experts say 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised every day. And atrocities committed by ISIS and other terror groups continue to make headlines daily.
However, insecurity is not unique to our culture; rather, it is endemic to the human condition. Five centuries ago, theologian John Calvin observed, “We cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety.” By contrast, Catholic priest and martyr Charles de Foucauld claimed: “The one thing we owe absolutely to God is never to be afraid of anything.”
How do we show our frightened culture the power of Jesus? (Tweet this)
In The Furious Longing of God, Brennan Manning tells a remarkable story about professional golfer Arnold Palmer. Years ago, Palmer was invited to play a series of exhibition matches in Saudi Arabia. The king was so impressed with the golfer that he offered him a gift.
Not realizing that gift-giving is central to Saudi hospitality, Palmer politely declined. The king was extremely displeased, so Palmer reconsidered: “Well, how about a golf club? A golf club would be a wonderful memento of my visit here.” The king was delighted.
The following day, a messenger delivered to Palmer’s hotel the title to a golf club with 36 holes, trees, lakes, and buildings. According to Manning, the moral of the story is clear: “In the presence of the king, don’t ask for small gifts.”
Then he points us to Mark 10, where we meet a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. When Jesus called him, Bartimaeus responded immediately: “Throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (v. 50). His “cloak” (Greek himation) was the outer robe he wore over an inner garment called a chiton. For a blind person, the himation was his main protection against the elements.
Manning notes that by throwing it aside, Bartimaeus “dropped all the security he had ever known to follow the one named Jesus.” Then he asks, “What represents security for you?”
In Exodus 4, God called Moses to surrender his shepherd’s staff. If Moses had not summoned the courage to do so, would it have become the “rod of God” (v. 20)?
What is in your hand today?