Gun violence. Barely a week goes by without hearing of another mass shooting in America. And then there is the other gun violence that is seemingly never far from the headlines—those given guns to protect, in positions of power and authority, who are shooting and killing un-armed civilians.
True heroes sacrifice and serve. True heroes take the difficult path, they come down to rescue and save those who need them.
Into this mix steps superhero Luke Cage. Not squeaky clean but committed to doing right, Luke Cage is Marvel’s newest series on television streaming platform Netflix. Cage is an African-American crime fighter who is bulletproof. He takes down bad guys using only his strength.
Luke Cage executive producer Cheo Hodari Coker said, “When I think about what’s going on in the world right now, the world is ready for a bulletproof black man.”
One image from the show is iconic—Cage bending and destroying all the guns he finds. It is like he can’t stand them.
Adventism has its own comic book superhero—Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Private Desmond Doss.1 Doss also refused to hold a gun, even during military training. He was ridiculed for it but stuck to his convictions. Instead, he went into the midst of the fight without a weapon and worked to save and preserve lives.
Superheroes stand for the right though the heavens fall. They never give up. They strive and chase and persevere until justice is restored and honoured.
Martin Luther King Jr, a famous proponent of non-violent civil action, said, “Violence never brings permanent peace.”
Violence breeds violence. Pulling out a gun always escalates a situation.
It’s amazing that surrounded by violence, intimidation and depravity, Doss had the strength to hold to his convictions. Not only did he hold to them but they were tested in the fire—refined and strengthened. He made a difference. He saved lives. He didn’t escalate the violence or impact the hell that he found himself in. He pushed it back. He stood in the face of enemy fire, personal risk and injury, “having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). If only we could all stay as true to our convictions.
Jesus had at His disposal the ultimate power in the entire universe. He was no comic book superhero. He was God. He could have killed His oppressors. He could have destroyed the Romans. He could have taken revenge on those who killed Him. But He showed us a better way. Surely it is a more difficult way—a way that needs faith and courage, but a supernatural way. True heroes sacrifice and serve. True heroes take the difficult path, they come down to rescue and save those who need them.
In reading about the Adventist position on violence and military service I’ve been encouraged that we have traditionally taken a thoughtful and courageous stance.
As Adventists, we should be anti-war, anti-violence and anti-guns, while respecting and supporting the governments we live under. We must also love and support the individuals who do choose to serve their countries’ militaries. They are living out their convictions.
Many of us will never have to make a choice like Doss did. Yet violence stems from control, either an abuse of power or a fear of losing control.
Therefore we can perpetuate violence with our words and actions. We can hurt others by the things we do and say—or the things we don’t do and say.
It seems like it takes more courage to save and preserve life than it does to take it. It takes more strength not to fight than it does to hold your own. It’s harder to make peace in my marriage, my workplace, my church than it is to criticise. It is harder for my pride and my ambition to humble myself and extend forgiveness or ask for it, than it is to forgive, to love, to sacrifice in words and actions and let go of tension, grudges, gossip and resentment. A commitment to non-violence starts at home.
It’s dangerous. It’s not a cop-out or coward’s option. It takes strength and conviction. Doss was injured. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Jesus was tortured and crucified.
When I think about what’s going on in the world right now, the world is ready for more peacemakers.
1. Hero without a gun was a comic book produced about Doss’s story.
Jarrod Stackelroth is editor of Adventist Record.