During the Christmas season we often hear the call for “Peace on Earth.”

It is something almost all of us really desire; if not peace on earth, then at least peace in our nation. 

We desire it because we do not have it. Instead, we are bombarded with news of violent attacks in so many places that should be safe, but are not. Parents even worry about sending their children to school. 

How can we possibly go on in a world like this?

Just the other day, one of my parishioners said to me that he hopes that the world ends soon, because he can’t take it anymore. I told him that we should hold on to hope, and pray for peace, and work for peace.

But how effective is our prayer, and what can we do to bring about peace?

After this recent slaughter in California, the New York Daily News used this headline on their front cover: God Isn’t Fixing This.

Their point was to say that politicians are just offering prayers and not actions, specifically gun control measures. I take exception to this headline on several levels.

First, it appears to indicate that prayer is meaningless. I personally know that prayer can accomplish great things; I have seen that in my own life. Even our nation’s founding fathers often stated how necessary prayer was for the well being of our nation. 

Secondly, the push to say that this violence occurs because of a lack of strict gun control laws is only a way of glossing over much more serious problems.

Believe me, as a person who worked in law enforcement and criminal justice for over 37 years, I can tell you that people do not obey laws. In actuality, California has some of the stricter gun control laws in the country, yet this slaughter still happened. 

So what is the answer?

I see three principal causes of public violence in the United States today.

One obvious cause is that some see terrorism as an answer to a political agenda. A terrorist exists to evoke terror in the people he or she does not like. Our attack of 9/11 is a great example of that.  It would also appear that the California attack is from this mode.

It is the responsibility of our government to prevent these attacks from happening. I know that there have been numerous attacks that have been foiled, but unfortunately some still go through. We need to elect leaders who will take this responsibility seriously, and give them the needed resources to do this. 

Other instances of public violence have come at the hands of people who are mentally unstable.  They bring guns or bombs or fire into schools and public places as a result of their own mental difficulties.

So often we hear that the people who have done this are people who have been bullied or mistreated. The answer to controlling these issues is much more complicated. It certainly means offering better treatment resources, and trying to halt bullying in schools, neighborhoods and within the home.

This flows into the third cause of public violence today.

I believe this is the most serious, and needs to be addressed immediately. This third cause is that our society has become too immersed in violence — in very many ways — and is losing its ultimate respect for human life.

Along with that, much of our society has lost healthy family life and has ignored God.

Too many of our movies, TV shows, and even video games make violence a natural part of our existence. Not only is there violence, but it’s quite graphic. Lives are taken quite easily in these “make believe” worlds. But as “make believe” as it is, it’s still dehumanizing. The violence flows over into our real lives. 

Killing people seems so easy. 

Younger people may scoff at this notion, but they should realize that only a few short decades ago — while violent acts certainly did happen — people would be hard pressed to actually view an act of violence, whether real or make believe. Today, violent images find them.

People need to think again if they believe this major cultural shift hasn’t negatively affected our collective consciousness in this country.

The frequency of abortions in the U.S. is another example of human lives being devalued.  Every year, about 1 million babies are aborted. Mother Theresa said, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?”

There is so much truth in that statement, even though we might want to ignore it.

Above all, I feel a sense of concern for these women. I have personally counseled too many who have had abortions, and it has adversely affected them and their family lives thereafter. To be clear, I certainly am not comparing a woman in a desperate situation, who has an abortion, with the deranged people who’ve been committing these mass murders.

Fortunately, after counseling and other programs, many of these women are able to deal with that which drove them to seek an abortion. We need to find ways to help women who have pregnancies that they cannot handle. There are many life-giving ways to do this.

As a parent who adopted a child, I thank God for that 17-year-old high school girl who chose adoption over abortion.  We need more of that type of thinking — the thinking that holds life so very sacred.

This is a conversation we as a society should be able to have without resorting to vitriol, or as we saw recently, violence — lest real, lasting issues continue to get swept under the rug.

We must also look at family life today. There are too many things that seem to pull family life apart.  Movies and TV often fail to present the benefits of healthy families. Children need to be brought up in a household that teaches them good moral and ethical values.

Alcoholism and drug abuse tears away at these values. Violence within the family occurs much too often. Parents and caretakers working several jobs leave little time for parenting. We must find ways to promulgate a healthy family life, even in our households where the moms and dads both work a lot.

Last, but certainly not least, our society keeps turning away from God. The old adage that “the family that prays together, stays together” seems to hold true. Society in general has tried to remove God from the ties that bind us. School prayer is banned, and in some circles, towns, or cities, so are nativity scenes or Menorahs. Saying things like “Merry Christmas” is frowned upon.

Our country should never try to push one religion, but it is ridiculous for it to stamp out all public signs of religion.  My wonderful town of Patchogue has a Nativity, Christmas Tree and Menorah all proudly standing together in our center of town. That is what America is all about.

I believe that we must, as a country, return to realizing what our national motto is: “In God We Trust.”

If we want to cut back on violence in our country, we need to make changes.

We need to encourage Hollywood, TV and video game companies to cut back on violence in media. We need to find ways of strengthening family life, and we need to return to God.

We need to heed the call in the Bible (2 Chronicles 7:14),  “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Our God is a God who loves us and is always asking us to turn toward him.  During the holy season of Hanukah and Christmas, let us do this.

Perhaps then we will truly experience peace in our lives, and peace on earth.

Deacon Marty McIndoe is a Roman Catholic deacon who has been assigned to St. Francis de Sales parish in Patchogue since his ordination in 1980. He, and his wife Martha, both have lived in Patchogue since 1971.

stock photo courtesy creative commons