Sermons

Summary: God's love has the power to reduce violence

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INTRODUCTION

There is a very well-known principle in western media circles: sex and violence sells. America’s blood-lust is reflected with the surge in ratings and the millions upon millions of dollars made by media outlets that feed images of human suffering to eager viewers, readers, and listeners. Cases in point include the amount of media coverage given to the shooter, their weapons, and how they ended the lives of their victims. These monsters are studied, made infamous, and become the subject of books, made-for-tv dramas, and are characterized in big screen movies.

All of this amounts to media manipulation. The following statement (allegedly made by actor Morgan Freeman) puts the manipulation of the media in the best context. In this statement, he explains the media’s role in why such a tragedy occurred:

“You want to know why? This may sound cynical, but here’s why. It’s because of the way the media reports on it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.”

The media is such an important influencer of a peoples culture that we would be remiss to not place at least some blame for the behavior of our society there. Rather than discouraging such behavior, our media promotes it. Glamorizes it. Commercializes it.

Sex and violence has done much for the media moguls in terms of clout and money, but at what cost to us?

A SOCIETY WITHOUT EMPATHY

The cost that we have paid as a media obsessed culture (when that media is founded on sex and violence) is a decline in our collective morality, a rise in violence, and the fall of empathy. You see, when we consume media, we take it into our consciousness. It becomes a part of our thinking. Our thinking goes on to affect our emotions, and those emotions then influence our behavior, which leads to an event.

OUR YOUTH

Our youth have grown up in a society that has glamorized violence and desensitized them to the loss of life. This week in Springfield, Tamik Kirkland, a 26 year old young Black man is on trial for breaking out of jail, going into a local barber shop with guns blazing and killing an innocent 24 year old and wounding Darryl King, a childhood friend of mine.

Violence among youth in the United States has reached critical mass. More specifically, the African American community is disproportionately affected by violence and crime. A Center for Disease Control (CDC) report confirmed that homicide was the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 to 24.1 According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency prevention, African American youth account for a significant number of youth in the Unites States arrested and prosecuted for violent offenses.

How has violence become a staple employed by our youth in resolving conflicts? At what point did the influence of peers, media, and pop culture overshadow the impact and voice of the Church in the lives of our youth? These, as well as others, are critical questions that the Church must contend with if it desires to: (1) have conversations about the issues that are prevalent to the realities of contemporary youth in our society and (2) serve as an alternative space for youth to empower themselves and each other using the message of Jesus Christ.

TEXT

The Gospel of Matthew serves as the first of three Synoptic Gospels, and its authorship is attributed to the apostle Matthew. The Gospel describes and defines a figure named Jesus, whose narratives and ministry are central to the first-century Christian claim of Jesus as Teacher, Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man. For Matthew, each of these designations serves a unique function within the larger context of Matthew’s interpretation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew was written for a community that related to Jesus and his teachings in a specific, predetermined way. Numerous scholars have argued that Matthew was composed after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. This cataclysmic event left the relatively infant Christian community and distinctly Jewish community without a central location of worship, pilgrimage, and spiritual commerce. This tumultuous socio-cultural and religious environment is where one locates the audience of Matthew.

Jesus is presented as Messiah in the Gospel of Matthew and also functions as a teacher usurping the authority of the Pharisees during a time of Jewish spiritual and physical reorganization. Moreover, Jesus as Messiah in Matthew provides a narrative for a community seeking to affirm its identity as one aligned with the salvific agenda of God and establishes its own authority under the scope of Torah.

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