Last night, after trying to absorb a day filled with the news of a mass shooting attack on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, I happened on an article in the Autumn, 2021 issue of Plough Quarterly which focuses on the topic “Beyond Borders.”
The article, Three Kants and a Thousand Skills, by Simeon Wiehler, Dean of the School of Social, Political and Administrative Sciences at the University of Rwanda, centers on his experiences in Rwanda after growing up in the Bruderhof communities in Pennsylvania and England. I highly recommend that you read the entire piece, but I want to focus on an extended quote in which the author questions our response to the horrors of the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis.
“Dare we peer into the abyss [of genocide in Rwanda – or gun violence in America] without also confronting the same propensity of our own hearts, the inclination towards evil, where we have marginalized, belittled, undervalued, or hurt others whose lives are equally precious in God’s eyes?
Truly opposing genocide or colonialism, racism or discrimination does not start from moral superiority but through deep humility that sees fallen humanity with all its failings, and recognizes that human fallenness in our own hearts as well. Only then can we ask ourselves if we are the systemic change that this world needs.”
The author then provides a series of questions which I am listing separately below. I encourage each of us to use these questions of examen (I have changed the author’s “we” to “I”) regularly to motivate us to make a difference in this horrific world.
1. “Do I embody a shared willingness to contribute to the common good to achieve what the individual alone cannot?”
2. “Am I a truth-seeker? Telling the deep truth about ourselves, about our comfortable myths and imagined realities can be uncomfortable, but with truth-seeking, good cannot grow and evil clings on, like mold, in the cracks.”
3. “Have I looked at the world around me and imagined what might be better and then said so?”
4. “Do the small acts of my daily life help build stronger relationships, better neighborhoods?”
5. “Do my actions strengthen justice and enhance what is good in our communities?”
6. “Do I pursue peace and oppose hate even in the small things knowing that small plus small can get pretty big?”
7. “Will I be able to say when life nears its end, that I planted my feet determinedly on the side of good, that I struggled for what was right, that I joined with similarly-minded people and tried to build a better society?”
As I get ready to publish this blog, the news about gun violence in the U.S. and the arguments about the need to control the numbers (it is reported that there are 120 guns for every 100 persons in the US) and the ownership and the use of guns rages. I feel even more strongly the need for every Christ-follower to think carefully about his or her own responsibility in this issue.