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Last night I was watching one of my favorite new shows: Scandal.  Part of the reason I enjoy this show is because it’s fascinating to watch the story line unfold.

There were moments in last night’s episode that left me a little nauseated.  When Huck entered the house of the family that he admired, he discovered that the entire family had been fatally shot.  This scene was one of the most graphic and intense moments of the series so far.

Even with the intelligent story lines and fantastic acting, the show has a substantial amount of violence.  Two weeks ago on Scandal, the President was shot.  Others have been killed or tortured in the name of politics.

Sometimes, I wonder why I watch any intense and violent dramas.

Shows about homicide investigations and wars do not usually appeal to me.  I like Grey’s Anatomy, a drama where people are healed and sent to live a happier life.  Sure, there was violence on the show (at the end of season six), but overall, a message of healing and hope fills the story line.  I tend to avoid intensely graphic movies, like Quentin Tarantino films, no matter how technically well they are created.

Yet, even a series about healing can’t avoid scenes of destruction and violence.  In fact, violence is in every part of our culture.

Yes, there are times when inferring violence is crucial in telling a story.  But sometimes the director creates a very real scene, and death appears to have happened on the screen in front of us.

It’s even hard to avoid violence in church.  The Hebrew Bible is filled with violent stories; the writers attributed these acts of violence to God.  They also believed they were warriors for God.

Then, we have a cross in front of us.  Sometimes the cross has the crucified Jesus, sometimes it doesn’t.  The story of the crucifixion is read each year during Holy Week.  In many theologies, salvation comes because Jesus was brutally killed since humans are sinners.  Additionally, songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” give a very war-like image of our faith.

Many of our communion tables reflect violence.  Each time we eat the body and blood of Christ, are we creating a violent image in the minds of those in the pews?

So books, the Bible, movies, music, theology, news, internet and video games all include violence.  It’s a reality that’s all around us.  When we allow scene after scene of violence, how can violence not seep into our culture?

In conversations that I have recently had with a friend of mine, we often wonder if people are becoming immune to violence.  After the last shooting in Oregon, very little was said.  Were we becoming tolerant of the stories heard multiple times this year?  What has happened to those who survived the massacre at the Wisconsin Sikh temple in August or the people in the hair salon who experienced trauma in October?

I wonder why all of a sudden that today’s particular shooting in Newtown, CT creates more conversation, even though this type of violence has happened repeatedly in 2012.  Has it become part of everyone’s status updates because children were killed?  Why aren’t we talking about violence that happen in some neighborhoods each and every day?  Do certain stories get attention because we value certain people over others?  Weren’t the Sikhs, the workers in Minnesota or the young adults in the movie theater just as valuable and made in God’s image?

We are becoming immune to the stories.  The fine line between “pretend” and “real life” violence is fading.  As we become more unaffected by violent visions, the ripple effect of violence continues to grow.

There will be people with a variety of views on gun control reading this post.  How can we, a diverse culture with a variety of perspectives on guns, come together to reduce gun violence?  How can we see that a variety of issues (mental health issues, access to weapons, the economy, being exposed to violent scenes, etc.) have the potential to play into these acts of destruction?  How can we work together to avoid casualties like the ones in Newtown?

These are the questions swimming in my head this evening.  I am so blessed that I told my niece and nephew that I loved them this afternoon, and I wish I was there to give them a hug.

Gentle God, Great Comforter,
We open our lives to you and each other.
Yet in times like these it’s so very difficult to remain hopeful and trusting.
It’s hard to hear of more and more violent situations.
Our minds and hearts are with those in Newtown, Connecticut today.
Please be with those who have lost a loved one in this shooting.
Heal those who have been injured.
Give comfort to those who experience trauma,
and bring peace to our communities, country and world.
Give strength to those who bring a comforting presence to those hurt.
We are grateful for our families and friends
and ask for your love to surround all of us as we process this news.
May we see the hope, love and peace that is to come during this season of Advent.