The Prophetic Message of the Parkland Students

The older you get, the more inclusive you get. It’s not so easy to divide the world into good guys and bad guys. You begin to see that many ethical issues are incredibly complex, so you are more equipped to struggle, listen, learn and see the humanity of those with whom you disagree. (Of course, I’m speaking here of what should happen as we age. This journey is intentional, not automatic.)

But there is a problem on this wonderful journey toward inclusion. For some reason, it seems that passion drains from most people as they grow older. For some reason, the ambiguities they learn and the gray zones they discover have a diminishing effect on their passion.

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We’re experiencing a dramatic moment in our country. We’re seeing unbridled passion from a group of students who have just walked through unspeakable tragedy. Their sorrow and loss are only beginning. And around the country, their peers are feeling it for them and with them. And we just may be seeing the rise of a passion-filled, passion-driven movement that will forever change our country. I hope so.

And, yes, these young people are seeing the issue of gun violence in stark, either/or terms. As David Hogg said, “You’re either with us or against us.”

But don’t dismiss this passion, that sees the issue in this manner, as naïve or without substance. What we are seeing are young people who know that the massacre of children must be thrust into the faces of our leaders. They know that the “Now is not the time to discuss it” approach simply results in more carnage and heartache. They’re not going to allow the White House or the Congress to say, “There, there, children. It’s not really about guns.” They heard the gun fire, saw the blood and went to the funerals.

So, their tactics are strong and bold. They see NRA money as blood money. And there is no nuance to their rhetoric.

It reminds me of the prophetic tradition in the Old Testament. The prophets were wise people who cried out to the nation for justice. They called out the kings and rulers for neglecting the poor, exploiting the weak and making “unjust laws” (Isaiah 10:1). And there was no subtlety in their approach. The prophets issued in-your-face wake-up calls to the powerful.

Jesus did the same. The one who would welcome the very lowest and rejected people into his arms, railed against the powerful exploiters, calling them “hypocrites” and “snakes” (Matthew 23).

Jesus and the prophets before him were not naïve. They fully comprehended the complexity of life. But they also knew that people could hide behind complexity and nuance to neglect simple truth and plain justice. Or as David Hogg said, “We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around.”

The Parkland students and those who are joining their cause are not naïve. They are wise in the ways of the prophets. They know that there is a time for stark, naked truth. The truth is that children are being gunned down with assault weapons and our leaders are doing nothing to stop it. There is a time to thrust that truth into the faces of our leaders. And that time is now.