Our Country is 236 years old.  Of those 236 years we have been in a war of one kind or another or some kind of military action for a total of 165 years and still counting.

Religion blog: Our collective denial

In case you think my count is off here is the history:

War of Independence 1775-1783
Northwest Indian War
Barbary Wars
War of 1812
1st Seminole War
2nd Seminole War
Mexican-American War
3rd Seminole War
Civil War
Indian Wars
Spanish-American War
Philippine War
Boxer Rebellion
Mexican Revolution
Haiti Occupation
World War 1
World War 2
Korean War
Vietnam War
El Salvador
Persian Gulf “Support”
Invasion of Grenada
Invasion of Panama
Persian Gulf War
Afghanistan 2002-2011
Iraq 2003-2011

1,317,348 Americans have died in these 30 conflicts (listed to the left).  I could not find reliable figures for the number of people who were causalities at our hands, but suffice it to say I am sure it is far greater than 1.3 million.

Just since 1976 the United States has executed 3,260 of its citizens.

Killing people seems to be what we do best.  We glorify killing, we put it up in the bright lights of Hollywood, we sprinkle it all through our theology and we justify it as “free speech.”   We call a movie with two people “making love” porn and call it immoral.  We make movies showing people being blown to bits and we give them academy awards.

So has our political speech become so violent as to have played a part in what happen in Tucson last week?  I think if one reads the list the answer is clearly NO. It is who we are as a society.

So there is the truth in black and white for all to see. Say what you will, but we are far better at just eliminating those who disagree with us rather than finding a way to live together in our diversity.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t time to take a second look at how we talk, how we think, how we live and how we relate to others.

Mr. Ira Leonard is a professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Ct. and in an essay entitled; “Are We a Peace-Loving Country or a Violent One?” sums it up rather accurately when he writes:

The reality is that war — whether on a large or small scale — and domestic violence have been ever-present features of American life and culture from this country’s earliest days almost 400 years ago, though this is not taught in American schools and textbooks. Violence, in varying forms, according to the leading historian of the subject, Richard Maxwell Brown, “has accompanied virtually every stage and aspect of our national experience,” and is “part of our unacknowledged (underground) value structure.” Indeed, “repeated episodes of violence going far back into our colonial past have imprinted upon our citizens a propensity to violence.”

Thus, America demonstrated a national predilection for war and domestic violence long before the 9/11 attacks, but its leaders and intellectuals through most of the last century cultivated the national self-image, a myth, of America as a moral, “peace-loving” nation which the American population seems unquestioningly to have embraced.

Despite the national, peace-loving self-image, American patriotism has usually been expressed in military and even militaristic terms. No less than seven presidents owed their election chiefly to their military careers (George Washington, 1789, Andrew Jackson, 1828, William Henry Harrison, 1840, Zachary Taylor, 1848, Ulysses S. Grant, 1868, Theodore Roosevelt, 1898, and Dwight David Eisenhower, 1952) while others, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, for example, capitalized upon their military records to become presidents, and countless others at both federal and state levels made a great deal of their war or military records.”

How sad is that we have become so accustom to violence it only shocks us occasionally.

What is really sad about all this is it does not account for all the murders committed in this country.  It does not account for all the people who die way too early because of a lack of medical care, lack of mental health services, safe housing or enough proper food to eat.

It does not account for the countless number of people who are beaten to within an inch of their lives or killed because of the color of their skin, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any one that does not fit those in power belief system.

My friends read those numbers again, try to wrap your mind around the fact that we live in a world that is far more interested and invested in killing you. We say we honor life but when given the opportunity to do that, we miss the mark not just a little but by a lot.

Critics of President Obama’s speech in Tucson didn’t focus on his words calling for civility, but rather complained of the “pep rally” atmosphere.

One Facebook thread read like this:

I’m confused…. why is this crowd cheering so loudly at the President? At a memorial service??

I can’t watch…I’d be furious if someone I loved had been shot. This crowd is completely disrespectful.

I had to turn away….its like a political rally and not a memorial service…

Because he’s such a rock star



Honestly. And ABC news has the headline “Together We Thrive”… . You can’t make this shit up

Nice – how about hiding the heroes that stopped the crazed shooter way back in the crowd while showing closeups of the political faces like Janet Napolitano, Kristin Gillibrand & Nancy Pelosi?

It is just not right. I cannot believe this one… They all should be ashamed of themselves

It’s all about the politicians and not the people….just another way to make them look like they care…

I’m just sayin….and so are they apparently!

Oh, this was a thread of comments from a friend’s posting. Thought it was interesting and kind of funny.

and it was odd

ummm, am I being politically polite?!

I agree with all of those comments. What a bunch of A-holes!!

clap clap! HRH clap clap was gettin on my nerves, right into that microphone every 2 mins.!

I wonder how that string fits with the words of the President, I mean were they really listening?

“That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

Yes, it is apparent we have gone astray and we have been that way from almost the beginning.

Yet, we have an opportunity here, I wonder will we finally seize the moment?  For those of us who call ourselves Christians…will we now be able to recognize violence has only one certitude-death.

Will we now recognize the only other thing that is certain is violence and violent language does not bring peace…it has not worked to this point, is it not time to try something different?

Will we say there has been enough killing?  Will we take this opportunity to say enough is enough?

Can we take these words and really give them more than lip service:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12 NIV)

My hope and prayer is that we will begin to change our priorities from war and words of war to life and words that give life rather than steal it.

Maybe if we spend our time trying to live out the words from the teaching of Jesus, the words of President Obama may yet come to pass;

“If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.”


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org.