In the wake of the latest shooting, right in our own state, perhaps we need to start asking different questions and defending different rights. Every horrible time this happens, the argument erupts over gun control. The second amendment rights are touted by some while limits are pleaded by others. Logic is often overlooked. What about the first amendment right to life itself? How has the second amendment right (written in a century when muskets and bayonets and long rifles were the only options) been contaminated by the US tendency to believe more and bigger is better? How has our pioneer spirit of “don’t fence me in” both served and harmed us?

Instead of taking opposite sides again, why can’t we come together in Unity, agreeing on what is most precious? In the gospel, Jesus used a metaphor of the pearl of great price. He said, “When you find that, sell everything in order to be able to buy it.”

What is the pearl that is so precious? Couldn’t we agree that it might be our children rather than our guns? And if that is agreed, perhaps the time has come to stand together and insist we sell the excess–the unrestrained access to weapons designed for slaughter, not defense; the idea that everyone should get to have a weapon regardless of mental state.

Beyond the issue of gun control, is the question of what are we cultivating? How do we get to the point where a person can do this? As I write, I have no idea of the mental health background of the individual who did the killing but logic demands that we recognize there had to be some issues. A mentally stable person doesn’t set out to slaughter innocent people. What are we doing to take care of those who are mentally ill?

Even more important, what are we doing to encourage mental health? Why aren’t we teaching meditation in every classroom from an early age? Meditation teaches a person to find calm inside, regardless of the circumstances outside; to let thoughts go–including thoughts that focus on what’s wrong with our situation or other people.

Why aren’t we teaching peace and compassionate communication in every classroom from an early age? We are obsessed with test scores as if math and verbal smarts are the only forms of intelligence that matter. What about the intelligence of self-awareness? Or the intelligence of interpersonal awareness? What about actively teaching kindness? Or connection to one another and to our planet? How many shootings might have been avoided if everyone grew up knowing they were part of the web of life? Knowing that they were precious pearls?

In this particular shooting we have the extra element of a hate crime, this time against Christians. Maybe we need to ask the question of why Christians would be targeted? The original Christian martyrs were killed because they were growing in power as they practiced the teachings of Jesus to love everyone, to forgive, to heal, to take care of their neighbors without putting geographical or philosophical/theological limits on who was a neighbor. Many Christians are still doing this. I can think of many people I know personally who would fit this fine description. In the public eye, people like Jimmy Carter come to mind, exemplifying the peaceful center and tireless care for others. Unfortunately, when I hear the term Christian, I am more quick to think not just of extremists like the Westboro Baptist Church, but mainly of all those Christians who believe their way is the right and only way, that it should be legislated into our government, and that any means are justified in stopping those who violate these Christians’ interpretations of Biblical teachings and God’s will. I don’t know what this man had against Christians, but if everyone who loves the teachings of Jesus were to focus on how we can practice them more fully instead of worrying about whether others are practicing them, maybe we would have a more loving world and these shootings would stop.

Finally, in the wake of such violence, remember “Peace begins with me”. We need to ask ourselves the question of where is our peace being hijacked? What are we allowing to be more important than peace, compassion and kindness–to ourselves and to others? Where are we failing to respect life? What is our relationship to the environment? Who and what do we put outside the circle of our hearts? Let’s stop arguing about unlimited gun rights and start looking for ways to cultivate peace and safeguard what is most precious to everyone of us.