School shooters and mall gunmen – disarmed

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

On Valentine's Day last week, a former graduate student opened fire at Northern Illinois University, wounding 16 students and killing five others. Then he shot himself.

Just over a week earlier, a woman shot two fellow students to death before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge. In addition to the school shootings, there have been attacks in malls that have ended with the shooters turning their weapons on themselves. One of them left a note that said, "Now I'll be famous."

There's something wrong about thinking one is leaving a legacy of fame by committing an unthinkable crime – and also expecting to escape the consequences. As Mary Baker Eddy put it in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "The murderer, though slain in the act, does not thereby forsake sin. He is no more spiritual for believing that his body died and learning that his cruel mind died not. His thoughts are no purer until evil is disarmed by good" (p. 290).

So how do we disarm evil and still maintain the innocence and joy that are part of interacting on a college campus, in a shopping mall, and other public places?

Listening to some of the NIU students being interviewed by CNN while they were being held safe in their dorms, one couldn't help being moved by the fear in their voices, the eagerness to know if all was well, and the confusion and violation they were feeling.

There are some things each of us can do to help prevent these events and to help restore trust and peace of mind after the fact.

•Remember to pause: Part of prayer is getting still and listening for intuitions from God that inspire, guide, warn, and protect. God's thoughts, as quoted in the Bible, are an immediate help: "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jer. 29:11).

•Listen to others: Through spiritual intuition it's possible to be more alert and to discern if another is troubled and needs some kind of special assistance – and also to take appropriate action.

•Embrace whatever is good: Many times violent acts occur because people feel excluded, unwanted, or looked down upon. To whatever extent is possible, looking for the good in an "outsider," seeing him or her in spiritual terms, and expressing kindness can lead them away from the isolation where hatred can develop. Keeping them a part of the social fabric can help prevent their tearing that fabric apart.

•Bring a healing attitude to each day: Every moment includes possibilities for healing – for expressing love, recognizing intelligence, valuing the good in others, and affirming God's care.

Each of these steps is spiritually empowered by the Christ, God's message of love to and for humanity. Christ enables us to be at peace with others, to see their spiritual nature and value it, to recognize ourselves as also made in God's likeness. Christ can bridge the gap when other efforts have failed because it recognizes the goodness, innocence, and spirituality inherent in each one of us as God's sons and daughters.

The Psalmist sang, "The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore" (Ps. 121:8). This affirmation can serve as a prayer that guides our decisions and choices every day. Not only does Christ defend us from fear and danger, Christ also defends the one who may be tempted by violence. Our loving, inclusive prayers are far more influential and powerful than hatred, anger, resentment, fear. With that knowledge, we can help disarm evil – permanently.

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