RLST 201: Spring Break Reflection: Marching for Our Lives & CSUF

My three children and I were part of the March for Our Lives rally yesterday in Santa Ana.

It was peaceful yet passionate. Lots of amazing speakers, including many high school students, Santa Ana City Council member Sal Tinajero, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. After the speeches, the middle and high school students led a march around Edinger Park.

It’s probably not talked about during recruitment, orientation, or most classes here, but Cal State Fullerton has its own story of a mass shooting. It took place in 1976, in the Library building where I work every day. A mentally ill employee was able to walk into a KMart, buy a semi-automatic rifle, and start shooting up people in the Library, killing seven.

In the years since, the University has taken many precautions, including automatic door closing mechanisms, active shooter drills, increased police presence on campus. But of course, there’s only so much any University can do when military style weapons and ammunition are so easily available.

What does all of this have to do with a New Testament class, you might ask? In the history of the interpretation of the Bible, Jesus’ teachings on non-violence and non-retaliation in the Sermon on the Mount have been tremendously influential. Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., both took inspiration from these teachings as a basis for their movements of non-violent civil-disobedience against unjust laws. It should also be remembered that, in an age of Roman military power and Jewish guerilla warfare resistance, Jesus embodied a third way, refusing to align messianic identity with a strategy of violence, conducting a non-violent prophetic protest in the Jerusalem temple, and then non-violently accepting his arrest and death. Christians and non-Christians through the years have seen the significance of Jesus’ death not merely as a sacrifice, but as a model which we can emulate to transform the world.

I strive to maintain an apolitical approach to teaching, so I’ll close with this simple advice.

  1. Think carefully about your convictions, reflect deeply on the sources of those convictions, and find ways to advocate publicly for your convictions.
  2. Register yourself to vote, convince all of your friends to register to vote, then get out the vote!

Your voices are far more powerful than you can imagine. They can shape this country to be a more righteous and peaceful place.