EPPN Lenten Series: "Transforming Our Culture of Violence"
Today, as Christians observe Ash Wednesday and begin their Lenten journeys, the Episcopal Public Policy brings you, as it does every year, the first in a thematic series that will span the weeks of Lent. This year’s theme is "Transforming our Culture of Violence." It is inspired by the emerging conversation in the United States, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting and the escalation of violent crime in some of our urban centers, about how our culture condones, trivializes, and even glorifies violence.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori contributed to this conversation earlier this week with testimony presented to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, which held a hearing on gun violence. "It is abundantly clear to me, as I travel to communities across this country and engage in conversation with people from many walks of life," the Presiding Bishop wrote, "that Americans have begun to find the resolve to grapple with the complexities of violence in our culture." (Read the full text of the Presiding Bishop’s testimony here.)
Before going on to address several specific areas of policy, including cultural understandings of violence, mental healthcare, and gun laws, the Presiding Bishop urged Senators to be mindful of the many facets of the issues involved and to resist easy answers:
"Just as the root causes of cyclical violence in our culture, and the ways in which that violence is expressed, are varied and complicated, so too are the solutions. We must resist the temptation to use the present moment of national angst as a pretext for pre-formed political agendas or simplistic responses that are better suited for sound bites than for meaningful, long-term change. We all share a responsibility to examine the many facets of cycles of violence in our society, and to discern equally comprehensive responses that will address the causes, means, and effects of violence."
This, then, is what our EPPN series this Lent will do. We will look at violence from a variety of angles, both domestic and international. Among other subjects, we will consider violence against women, violence toward immigrants, the violent trafficking of human beings, and the role of gun policy. We hope to stimulate thought and action both with respect to public policy and with respect to the attitudes of our own communities. There is a role for everyone in this discussion!
Lent is, fundamentally, a time of self-reflection and repentance. As our office’s director, Alexander Baumgarten, writes in a blog post for the beginning of Lent, repentance is not simply and individualistic act, but must take on a corporate character as we examine the ways in which community attitudes and public policies undermine the kingdom of God. This should not be a dour or negative notion, but should be liberating and life-giving! (Read Alex’s blog post here.)
This week, as we begin, we would urge you to read the full text of the Presiding Bishop’s testimony to the Senate this week and then share it with your two Senators and your Representative. Congress this year will be considering specific legislation related to many of the themes addressed in the Presiding Bishop’s remarks, and it is vital that we, as Episcopalians, let our lawmakers know where our Church stands.
We wish each of you a holy Lent as we look forward toward Easter, that feast of feasts, and pray, in the words of the great Lenten hymn:
Abide with us, that so, this life
Of suffering, over-past,
An Easter of unending hoy
We may attain at last! (The Hymnal, Number 142)