Friday, September 7, 2012

The Courage to Change

by Dr. Chris Chapman

It has been a heavy summer in terms of news of all kinds -- local, state, national, and world. In recent weeks, like most people, I have been greatly troubled by the revelation of molestation and cover-ups at Penn State University and the tragic shootings in Colorado. Yet, for me, an additional level of concern grows out of the ambiguous way we respond to these problems as a society.

At first glance, it may seem that there is no ambiguity. Everyone is quick to denounce such shameful behavior. The only arguments are over what the appropriate punishments are. Yet, if we consider the way we attempt to respond to the bigger issues of how to prevent such calamities in the future, our ambiguity is exposed.

We want children to be safe but whenever we attempt to put in place better safety procedures, there is resistance. Here I speak from thirty years of experience. Every attempt I have made to protect children has met resistance. "The church is a community of trust," people will say, "How can we question our own people?" Further, when I have become aware of a problem and dealt with it, there have been some who have been angry with me even knowing what happened.

In regard to the shootings, we know mental health issues have to be taken seriously but again and again we do not. Friends, family members, and various professionals ignore warning signs. We belittle people with mental health challenges and underfund treatment of mental illnesses. And we refuse to take reasonable measures to limit access to weapons. (Yes, people kill people, but they do it a lot more efficiently with certain weapons.)

So, how do we feel as a nation about these problems? If we really are outraged, let's express that sentiment in something more than a passing wave of anger. Let's have the courage to change our behavior. We may never prevent all harm but we can do better. Until we do, our expressions of courage are insincere.

Chris Chapman is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Raleigh, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, First Foundations.

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