Ask Fr. John: Understanding guns and violence

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How do you understand guns and violence? — G.P.

Violence and other passions, are consequences of broken relationships with God and neighbor, and we should not be surprised by them. Rather we should be greatly grieved. Orthodox see violence, abuse and exploitation as inevitable consequences of “the fall,” and see the solution in the God-man, Jesus Christ.
Guns do not kill people. People choose to kill people. Contrary to common belief, 9/11 was not the beginning of the “culture of fear.” Orthodox would say that humanity exists in a state of fear since “the fall.”
We fear death — that is ceasing to exist. We believe that “sin” comes from our denial of death or obsession with death.
As a result, we strive to delay our own death and suffering and to exist in a state of bliss and satisfaction.
Comfort, entertainment and pleasure give us a way to forget the inevitable end.
In addition, when we have power, profits, properties and prestige, we may think we are ‘successful,’ falsely immortal.
Unfortunately it has become common to sacrifice the person right in front of us for the sake of survival, success, and satisfaction. Advancing our own will, especially over other’s, is the beginning of violence.
Evaluating every citizen’s mental health will not stop violence in its tracks. To believe it would is unrealistic and may ultimately lead to stereotyping and inequality. These only address the symptoms of violence and not the cause.
Violence is a symptom of separation from God and the solution lies in being restored to perfect relationship with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to one another. When we find life and realize that life is a person — Christ himself, the violence will end.
When we return to God and holy relationship, when as a result of this, we no longer exist in a state of fear of death, and when we fear nothing “created,” the violence will end, God helping us.