I believe

Screenshot 2016-06-16 at 4.30.11 PMI know it’s there.

Like the warm good-bye hug from a child when they leave for camp. You can still feel it even when they’re gone. You know the love is still there. It’s a part of you, even as it moves miles and miles from home.

Unity. Compassion. It’s there. I can feel it, even when it’s hidden behind a cloud of anger and blame.

Remember 911, when we were all New Yorkers? Sandy Hook? Boston strong? Do you remember how our hearts broke for Paris, and just like that, we were one with France?

I remember.

Now, in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, there has been enough finger pointing that it seems our country could use one giant manicure. Political debate has, too often, pushed caring and unity into the backseat.

And then, as mourners gathered in Atlanta to honor the victims in Orlando, I heard them sing:

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining,

I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.

I believe in this country, even when we’re divided. So often, I’ve seen us come together, united in our hurt, in our resolve, in our purpose. When others lash out at us, we put party affiliations and petty differences aside to bond. I’ve seen it happen.

I believe.

We are the United States of America, not the Fractured States of America.

Giving up would cost me everything

So, I’ll stand in the pain and silence

And I’ll speak to the dark night.

I remember when it was my city under attack by a crazy man who marred what was an otherwise magical Olympic games. It was Atlanta’s time in the world spotlight, and Eric Rudolph brought his darkness. I remember taking it personally. It hurt, deep down, every time he placed one of his bombs in a different spot around our town. In those days, we weren’t subject to the long-time listeners, first-time callers with opinions of who failed to do what to prevent the madness. The world stood with us, denouncing the terror, urging Atlanta to heal.

It’s only logical that we want to understand the motivations behind these savage acts of terrorism. But comprehending the act means unraveling a tightly twisted mind. I was close enough to one of Eric Rudolph’s bombs that the FBI regarded me as a victim. I sat just an arm’s length from him inside a Birmingham courtroom. So close, and yet a billion miles away. I read the letters from his fictional Army of God. He justified his actions to the court by speaking of the British crown, the Pharisaical sect, by calling the Olympics a celebration of global socialism, and revealing that his goal was to “drag this monstrosity of a government down into the dust.” Read it all a thousand times. It will make sense to Eric Rudolph, and Eric Rudolph alone. Given the opportunity to question the Orlando killer, I suspect the explanation would be equally baffling. We won’t get that chance. He’s answering to a higher power.

No dark can consume light,

No death greater than this life,

We are not forgotten.

I believe in the compassion of this country, even as it waits its turn behind the heat of a political season. There is a time and place to discuss the difficult issues swirling around the latest act of incomprehensible violence. We can have those talks remembering that WE are not the enemy. We are the UNITED States of America. Together we stand. Divided, we fall to those who wish to harm us.

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining,

I believe in love even when I don’t feel it,

And I believe in God even when He is silent.

Maybe it’s time we are silent for a moment, silent as a country, so that God can speak. Let’s be silent for a moment and breathe, giving the families and friends of the lost room to cry. Perhaps if our hands weren’t shaped around our opinions like bullhorns, it would free us to wrap our arms around one another, and unite.

Though I can’t see my stories ending,

That doesn’t mean the dark night has no end.

It’s only here that I find faith,

And learn to trust the one who writes my days.

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Bulletproof

recite-by751uGuns don’t kill people.

Hate kills people.

I am a follower of Christ. Jesus provided me with very straightforward instructions when it comes to my relationship with others. He wants me to love. Everyone. He asks me to love even those who don’t love me back. It’s not always easy. Still, I don’t think you have to be a Christian to understand that love is better than hate.

And yet…

Every day, it seems, I read where hate can claim another victory. Death leads to debate. Some are convinced more guns will end the violence. Others insist on new laws that further restrict our ability to obtain weapons. In between, there is a giant void that we fill with mean-spirited dissent. Disrespect. Insults. Our opinions come loaded with gunpowder and a fuse.

An article with President Obama’s reaction to the recent mass killings in California included a comment section.

“I hate that man,” wrote one who disagreed with the president’s stance.

How can we expect others to love us when we can’t even love and respect each other?

It’s no longer just acceptable to hate. It’s become chic. It’s now vogue to express your rancor in a pithy 140 characters and a biting hashtag. In my grandmother’s day, you didn’t talk about someone unless you had something nice to say. Nowadays, you need to whittle your insults into an original sharp jab or it’s just not worth the space on Facebook.

Our issues don’t end with guns. We can eliminate every Ruger, Remington, Magnum, Kalashnikov, and Daisy Red Rider under the sun. If the hate lives on, we’ve still got a major problem. You load a gun with bullets. Hate pulls the trigger.

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.

Jesus said it. In days like this, it’s hard to comprehend. Not only did the guy in the Humvee cut me off, he extended an extra long finger when I tapped the horn. Love him? There’s no asterisk in the Bible that provides an exception for the neighbor with political views that aren’t in line with mine. I mean, he’s always insisting he’s right, and there’s no question that I’m right. It gets even more complicated when we’re talking about organizations with plastic explosives and master plans. Love your enemy. Jesus said it. Not me.

It sure is a lot easier to hate.

It can be so comfortable. You slip into it like a nice warm sweat suit. Your neighbors are doing it. So are the people in the next town, and the next.

Someone has got to be brave enough to go against the grain.

Oh, how Pollyanna of you, Jerry. So, you’re going to bring down ISIS with a hug? Well, not exactly. I don’t have the power to eliminate that kind of white hot hate.

But I can respect my neighbor even when we disagree. I can get to know someone who might be perfectly kind and loving, rather than make judgments from afar based on their skin color or their last name. I can acknowledge that my upbringing and experiences help mold my outlook, and that a neighbor with different experiences is going to have a different view of life. It doesn’t make them a bad person. It makes them different, yet still lovable.

I’m not focused on gun control. My focus is on hate control, and I’m starting with me. Every time I wave a fist at a bad driver, it does damage. Every snarky remark, every haughty political declaration, every time I refuse to offer the forgiveness and understanding that could turn an enemy into a friend, I help spread the hurt. Every act of hate adds more fertilizer to what is already a bumper crop of wickedness.

Wouldn’t it be great if the world were filled with guns, and no one wanted to use them? What if they just sat there, gathering dust?

Yes, it’s a Pollyanna view that I have. Such a pipe dream. So unrealistic. You probably disagree and believe me to be a complete fool.

That’s fine.

I love you.