Monday, January 21, 2013

In Memory of Betty Becker Leftwich

September 15, 1946 - January 8, 2013

After the Dance Is Over

After the dance is over

After the moonlight gleams

After the music’s ended

I’ll see you in my dreams

After the mem’rys faded

After I’m left alone

Still in my heart I hold you

 And in my arms enfold.

When in the dark I stumble

When in the starlight’s glow

When in the night I tremble

When in my dreams you glow

Still in my heart I hold you

And in my arms enfold

After the dance is over

When I’m alone and old.


Phil Leftwich

January 19, 2013








Thursday, December 13, 2012

What if there had been no Jesus?

I’ve asked myself this question almost every Christmas since I can remember. I asked it as a child, and I ask it now as I try to re-capture something of what it means to be childlike and less jaded by the conditions of the world.

I ask it not as a consumer, or as an outsider to Christianity, but because I am an “insider.” I ask it as a biblical scholar and as a pastor. After all, there are two very different birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. While much of Matthew’s gospel is built around the framework of Mark’s why doesn’t Mark include a birth story? Luke’s gospel is not like the other synoptic gospels in many ways and includes a number of different stories, and even contrasting information. John’s gospel also doesn’t approach the subject of Jesus’ birth. Add to these differences the indecency of knowing there was no Christian movement until after Jesus’ resurrection, or anything written down about his life according to the earliest Markan fragments until around 30 A.D. Jesus never started a church, or even a religion as best I can tell. The name Christian wasn’t of his invention. So using the Bible as a prop for understanding Christmas isn’t always as helpful as we want it to be.

The Christmas stories themselves are often contradictory. Luke seems to be making a theological statement about the purity of a Christ child born to a mother impregnated by the Holy Spirit, while Matthew is a little less concerned about Mary’s virginity, but more focused on the Davidic bloodline on Joseph’s side of the family. There are also the internal clues about shepherds abiding in the fields who probably would have been elsewhere with their sheep in the dead of winter, or Matthew’s account of the Wisemen who ended up finding Mary, Joseph and Jesus living in a house probably in Egypt after their fled Herod’s decree. Jesus was probably a toddler by the time the “three kings” arrived. It’s better than a sure bet they weren’t anywhere near the stable. The Roman census and the season of Jesus birth probably put his birthday sometime in the spring. But, oh how we love to package all of the cast together into one quiet scene with our crèches and lawn decorations that may include Santa and Frosty the Snowman.

There was no “Christmas” until Constantine synthesized the old Roman holiday of Saturnalia, the observance of the winter solstice, with church teachings during his reign as emperor as he Christianized the Roman world. So the church adopted this time of the year to commemorate the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

We’ve not always stuck with this date within the ranks of Christianity, or even commemorated this event at all. Contrary to what we might believe, the early Pilgrims and our Puritan ancestors didn’t acknowledge Christmas because of all the trappings of Roman Catholicism that the church had adopted. They were “pro-testants,” after all. The early colonists forbade the inclusion of Christmas observances in church and social life. Greek and Russian Orthodoxy still celebrate Christmas during the days of epiphany, and each culture that migrated to our shores brought its own traditions.

So. . . I ask my question each season of Advent with the same childlike, searching innocence of what is a bothersome academic question. I find myself asking if Voltaire may have been correct that if there were no God that humans would have created one anyway. I also find myself so deeply attached and emotionally pulled into Christmas that it is my favorite time of the year. Would the human spirit have needed to invent something as mysteriously glorious and joyful if there had been no Jesus?

But this season is not joyful for many people, so Christmas creates a conundrum for some of us. Those who suffer the grief of lost loved ones who still carry their grief don’t find this an easy time for celebrations. Those who were sexually wounded in the church, their families, or both have a hard time with Christmas celebrations. That’s why A Safe Place 2 Heal has Grace for the Wounded services. Those who are not Christians make the best out of this commercial nature of the holidays while we Christians want to have a public argument about whether to say “Merry Christmas,” or the more politically correct “Happy Holidays.” I’m fine with both, but throw in Hanukah and Kwanza, and a batch more of cultural events, and it gets difficult to say anything at all.

So I think of other things like how to be in community with others whom I love, and how to be with strangers in my midst. I ponder the hurt of those who suffer my celebrations in silence because Christmas is worse for them than no holiday at all. I also remember those who will not be with us this Christmas, and the empty place they leave at someone’s dinner table. There’s a sacred solemnness that we need to observe amidst the remnants of torn wrapping paper, the laughter of children, the singing of carols, and the nip of winter in the air. There’s a need for me to pause and find the moments in the rush of getting ready to wish that all may find a way to “sleep in heavenly peace.”

Merry Christmas to us all as we seek to bring joy and peace to one another.


Phil Leftwich

December 12, 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Boy Named Pax

I met a beautiful child yesterday while in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment. He was with his great-grandmother who introduced him to me as “Pax.” Pax, or, “peace,” is six weeks old and smiles a lot and makes easy eye contact with strangers. He is quite alert and a very healthy baby. “Grandma” explained his name to me and I acknowledged that I knew the old Latin word and thought it was a great name for a child. He had been baptized the day before and she was happy about that. I asked her how his family pronounced his name and she “southernized” it to what sounds like “packs.” It doesn’t much matter how it’s pronounced, but the meaning behind the name that’s important. I told his Great Grandma that I hoped he grew into that name well and perhaps he would someday have a special place in our world as a peacemaker. She liked that thought a lot.
I’ve been in the “peacemaking business” for over forty-five years as a pastor. It’s one of the hardest jobs in a world filled with fear, anger, violence, and abuse. The church is not immune from conflict and pain, but is sometimes filled with hurt and angry people. In retirement I’ve learned that some of this is caused by sexual trauma. I volunteer as the President of a non-profit in Nashville called A Safe Place 2 Heal. I began this journey before retirement knowing I would never be completely content not to be involved in some form of mission outreach. Helping lead this non-profit for the last three years has served that purpose well. It allows me to use my heart as a pastor, my skills as a counselor, and my organizational experience in very concrete ways.
I invite you to visit to understand the work we do with providing deep psychological therapy to those who suffer from sexual abuse, and sexual addiction. It is a basic fact that most people who are sexually abused as children and youth also suffer from sexual addiction, and are often sexual abusers. It’s also true that 1-5 women are sexually abused before the age of 18, and 1-6 men suffer the same reality. That’s means that you can look around you as a church-goer if you are among those who go to church and see someone you know who has been sexually abused.
That’s not good news, or a comforting thought, but it’s true. What is good news is that nearly everyone who suffers from sexual trauma can be helped. I know this as a fundamental purpose of what A Safe Place 2 Heal is all about. I know because I spent a year co-authoring a book with one of the men we have helped in recovery. Like many childhood abuse victims he was sexually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually abused. Some of his abuse happened in church and was perpetrated by church members. You can go to my personal website to find information on how to order our book Conversations with Vii Aboard Papa Being’s Big Waters Tour Bus: The Spiritual Journey and Recovery of a Sexually Abused Child. I think it’s a book well worth reading for it tells Vii’s story of freedom from shame and becoming the whole human being Papa Being always wanted him to be. It’s available from Amazon in both E-Reader and hard copy versions.
I also appeal for your help. The mission of A Safe Place 2 Heal is centered in providing therapy for individuals seeking recovery. We’ve made a major investment in the education of Certified Sexual Addiction Specialists who are highly skilled in bringing recovery to people like my friend, Vii. We work through a grant assistance program for the marginalized of our society who cannot afford such holistic care. It takes about a year and 1,250 hours of therapy, group meetings, working with a survivor mentor, and doing a lot of homework that includes reading, journaling, and maybe even writing a book. It costs us about $3,500 to fully help men and women to thrive. You can go to our website and join us in bringing healing to so many people who are living with the quiet burden of shame. There’s a Pay Pal link there for giving. Or you can send a check made out to A Safe Place 2 Heal at 2000 Warfield Drive, Suite C, Nashville, TN 37215.
I think about a child named Pax. I met his mother and grandmother, as well. He will grow up in a home with a lot of love and support and someday may make a real difference in our world. In the meanwhile, there are many children who will not be so blessed. They grow into wounded adults who need special help. I hope you will join me in this time of remembering those who need our care and support. Give with open hearts and open hands because you can help bring peace to someone who has never felt at peace before!
Phil Leftwich

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Creedal Gap

Presbyterians love their creeds and confessions. So much so that we’ve collected them into a book that occupies half of our constitutional standards. Therefore, they hold authority. I learned the The Larger Catechism by memory when I was about twelve. The first question and its answer are familiar to many Presbyterians: “Q. “What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” Most of us can forgive the pronoun “man” for we understand its inclusiveness. What I have difficulty with among those of us who are part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is our confusion about our allegiances and obligations. How can we pledge our obedience to both this creedal affirmation and allow its answer to become equal, or lesser than, The Declaration of Independence and its opening clause about, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

I have difficulty with this disparity since one rests in a context of community while the other is principally about individual rights. What follows with the catechism is largely about the church and the individual’s participation in a community of like values and purposes. The Declaration of Independence, of course, is also premised on such assumptions, but its driving principles are about the freedom of individuals. There’s a far divide between the two documents. One prescribes to “glorify God” as its first and foremost obligation. The catechism also lays claim of our hearts “fully to enjoy [God] forever.” There’s no promise inherent in committing to this affirmation that we will always experience “happiness.” Enjoyment and being happy, though similar, are not the same.

Yet we have a history of confusing these principles. Perhaps that’s why I find objection to flags in churches, or to saying The Pledge of Allegiance to the “flag.” This act seems idolatrous even taking into account the symbolic nature of such items as flags or crosses. Both flags and pledges seem to place our obligations to nation as equal to, or even above, our honor of God as our “chief and highest end.”

Few people stop to contemplate these dissimilar documents, or what they require of us. Both serve a purpose and have a place, but when Christians oblige themselves to choosing country over nation, or unconsciously do so, then there’s a blurring of the lines that are supposed to separate church and state - an inviolable element of The Bill of Rights. The First Amendment is clear and has a rich history with our founding fathers who drew a line in the sand between a new nation that was distinctly driven by this separation in its rebellion against the throne of England where the monarchy held authority over the church.  Some of us believe that because of the “separation of church and state” we are called upon to exercise a higher form of decision making, speaking from the heart of the Gospels, and to hold up a mirror of social righteousness to the larger culture even when it’s an unpopular position. It is diametrically opposed to hold allegiance to the authority of nation over our obligation to “glorify God.” To “fully enjoy [God] forever” seems a more lasting and eternal value than the “pursuit of happiness,” whatever that may mean.

“Enjoying God forever” not only holds a higher promise but bears a higher obligation of following God’s son who advocates for mercy and justice above all else. It leads us to more than the affirmation of creeds though, but to act on our beliefs that rise above public opinion, or even our concurrence within the confines of our comfortable pews.

I’m reminded of the words of Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire. . . “God made me for a purpose, and he made me fast. When I run, I run for his pleasure.” For movies buffs we know this Scotsman refused to run his best race during the 1924 Olympics in Paris because it was run on Sunday - the Christian Sabbath. He was a “flyer” who excelled at the 100 yard dash, not a distance runner. He drew the outside lane for the 400 meters on Monday given little chance of finishing in the top three where the Americans held the edge. It is reputed that just before the race an American team masseur handed Liddell a note that held the verse from I Samuel 2:30:”Those who honor me I will honor.” He ran in record time setting a new Olympic record. It was the year in which a new Olympic motto was set in place that stands today: “Citius, altius, fortius – swifter, higher, stronger.” Perhaps we should add this “creed” alongside the ones we hold so dear.

Phil Leftwich



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hope is a Verb

A friend of mine, Ray Waddle, a journalist and author, turned a phrase recently in regard to American culture that caught my ear. He spoke of the “merchandise of darkness” in referring to the manner in which the church inculcates itself into being bought out by American societal values. It’s not that we haven’t heard, or read about the church’s need to return to its core values as a mirror that reflects culture rather than adopting it, or that we need to return to the nature of being a “change agent” within our society. Many know this reality and are actually trying to reclaim our heritage within the Reformed tradition as prophetic voices amidst the screams of fear and the rancor of anger. There are days when I believe our nation is nothing less than a portrait of the Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream.” Viewing this painting is a terrifying microcosm of life as much of the world understands it.

Ray’s words, however, have given me pause to turn them inside out. After all, it was Jesus who was proclaimed to be “the light of the world.”  The old Latin phrase lux lucet in tenebris – the light shines in the darkness- stretches the human mind to imagine a better world. It stretches the heart to yearn for a brighter one. What if we were to begin purchasing “the merchandise of light?” It may not be for lack of trying, but unless we confront the darkness there is little way for us to invest in the promise that light always prevails.

Much of the world has “bought into darkness.” That’s a hard, cold, hopeless feeling of reality. There’s’ a God-given promise, however, from a higher power beyond our understanding. In the opening to the Book of Genesis, God separates the light from the darkness. It takes courage, conviction, and finding one’s voice to “scream” at the darkness, and to tell it to go away. To do this means believing that light can overcome the blackness of despair.

I read another interesting phrase at about the same time as Ray’s. It’s from David Orr an environmentalist in Oberlin, Ohio. He was quoted as saying that “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.” Though his focus is on earth science and specific environments where’s he leading change for the better, his words carry the weight of theology on their shoulders. Church people should be about changing the earth and everything that dwells within. That includes individual lives, and community evils. We’re not simply about confronting evil and declaring sin where it abounds, but we are about going the extra mile of overcoming it. It’s not enough to proclaim sin and label sinners because as sinful human beings we often get both “sin” and “sinners” wrong. Our tendency is to make a list of what are the sins we are against, and hence, to pronounce judgment on those who don’t abide by our list of rules. We do this, I think, to protect our comfort zones.

The All in All knows I’m on all kinds of people’s list as an outright sinner. Some pray for me “without ceasing.” That’s not a new phenomenon in my life as a pastor. There were prayer groups where I attended seminary who prayed for me and our professors on a nightly basis. I don’t mind people praying for me since we all are in need of prayer, but prayer can become possessed by an arrogance of those who believe they are right and everyone else is wrong who believes something different.  As my mother taught me early in memorizing Bible verses and wise sayings: “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Such human arrogance also can produce a conformity of boredom where we are frightened that “God is making all things new.” So, by God, let’s keep God as far away as we can, and Jesus words of comfort the only one’s we choose to hear. Let’s not comfort the comfortable, or condemn the sinner, or we’ll never move beyond our words.

“Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up,” is another approach to life. I know this less travelled trail more and more.

In retirement I’ve given much of my time and energy to finding a way to “do church,” not simply to “be church.” Both are important, but one without the other is like greasy water from dirty dishes. What do you do with it but let it flow down the drain to the local treatment plant. “Doing church” through my leadership role with The Healing Trust, a Nashville based, non-profit that provides therapy and resources to adults suffering from childhood sexual abuse has carried me on a journey not of my own choosing. I thoughtfully accepted the position as President of the Board of Directors because of our core values and our helping role of redeeming lives. Part of my work background as an Executive Presbyter in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is about organization and administration. I had little idea how quickly this new role would carry me into the painful land of those walking their living hells of shame and isolation.

Hope is one of our keys words, alongside safety and trust. The sexually violated come by none of these words easily. “Hope” is a lost word in the environment of the abused. It is for too many far beyond their sense of reach. Trust and safety are also words of journey. They are learned through experiences where trust is earned and safety is felt through the unquestioning acceptance of others. Grace is also word we often use as a means of allowing people to understand unconditional love. Shame doesn’t disappear by itself. No life is rebuilt through individual resolve, but through the support and encouragement of many others. A shamed, wounded individual can learn to trust; find safety; and discover hope.

The mission of The Healing Trust is not simply about changing individual lives one at a time, but about changing an environment of abuse where one in five young women in the United States is sexually abused  by the age of 18, and 1 in 7 men. This is our nation’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind epidemic.

Believe me. I know. I spent a year with a good man who was deeply wounded named Vii. He’s now one of my best friends. We wrote his story of healing together over nearly a year of mostly weekly meetings. I knew- and so did he- that I would have to earn enough trust for him to help me write his story. We also intuitively understood that we would have to nestle ourselves in a cocoon of safety. We found our space of safety in a peaceful prayer room of a local church near where Vii lives. We learned together about a power we both refer to as All of All, or Papa Being, in our trips on “Papa Being’s Big Waters Tour Bus.” Ours is an unconventional God whom we know through unconventional language, though some of it seems very biblical to me. We don’t need the mostly used name of “God,” however, to talk about, or experience something bigger than who we are alone, or together. Our “God,” or higher power, defies capturing in the weakness of language. We experience this being through the emptying of shame, the dismantling of guilt, the courage to be, and our common bonds of love without restraints. For us hope became a “verb with its sleeves rolled up.”

If you’re reading these sentences then try to trust in one thing if you are a victim of any form of shaming abuse, or know someone who is. There is hope. It’s as real as the therapy The Healing Trust provides. Don’t feel hopeless because you have to say I have no insurance or means of paying for counseling. We’ll find a way to provide what you need. Don’t mistrust hope because you’ve been so deeply shamed that you feel there’s no way out from under its burden. There is. My friend Vii is living proof of this. He and I can speak of this with you together as mutual voices of bringing the possibility of hope into your life, or the life of someone you love. He is by virtue of his journey a “hell walker,” or one who now can walk over the coals of fear unburned. I am his humble voice who carries his words in my inner being. I am a “professional student” by nature who reads insatiably, has several degrees behind my name, and whom some call “doctor.” I’m a pastor with a fair share of humility in the company of survivors. Vii has taught me more about life- and about myself- than what I learned through classrooms and reading, or even over 45 years as an ordained minister. I stand humbly in his presence, but we have a story to tell which we can share with you together. It’s a story of hope with its sleeves rolled up.

We will come to your home, to your church, civic, or community group regardless of its size. We’ll dialogue with one another and with you about the redemption from shame, and therapy that brings wholeness. Ours is a message about helping persons thrive as whole human beings.

Let us hear from you if you, or someone you love needs help. You can contact us at 615-323-2232, The Healing Trust hotline, or by sending me an e-mail at We’ll return your e-mails and calls as quickly as we get them. You can be as anonymous as you choose. We know it’s often hard to make the first call for help. All e-mails and phone calls are confidential and will not be used in any manner publically, or with individuals.

You’ll also find a wide variety of resources and contact information at our website:

Since reading is my avocation, I also recommend the purchase of Conversations with Vii Aboard Papa Being’s Big Waters Your Bus: The Spiritual Journey of Recovery of a Sexually Abused Child. It’s available through  in both print and Kindle editions.

 Phil Leftwich

Monday, May 28, 2012

Unabashed, unadulterated, advertising!


I have 2 new books that are avilable. The first. Conversation with Vii Aboard Papa Being's Big Waters Tour Bus: The Spirituaal Journey of Recovery of a Sexually Abused Child is available through Amazon in both Kindle and print versions. The print cost is $14.95. The Kindle version is $2.99 for now, and if you're a Prime member, it's free for 90 days as a marketing tool.

The second book is Will Henry's Angels, a novel, which is $3.99 through Kindle, and again, free for the next 90 days for Prime members.

I think you'll find them both interesting reads. The first is a work of non-fiction and is co-authored with my friend, Vii Maurice. It traces his recovery from childhood sexual abuse, and is an important work in showing how hope is available for recovery from sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse.

The second is a fun look at some of what haunts U.S. church life, our religious perceptions, spiritual hungers, and life journeys. It's a humorous satire on our culture and what happens when a black velvet painting of Jesus begins crying tears of real blood. It turns the life of the owner, Will Henry, and his little town of Harmong Falls into a state of "disharmony" in their search for answers to life's big questions.

I hope you enjoy the second book, and learn a lot from the first.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Law or Justice

The Trayvon Martin “murder” case has once again raised the age old question of what is “legal” and what is “just?” For some of us who have lived through a lifetime of “unjust” laws we probably have already found an answer to this question for this young man’s killing has helped resurrect the laws of segregation with which many of us grew up in the Jim Crow south. The law was the law back then, but that did not make it just. Thankfully through the actions of President Eisenhower and those who followed him in office of President, the laws were finally changed and segregation was legally abolished.

Many us have continued to question, however, if we have made that much progress on eradicating racism from our society. Racism cannot be changed through laws, though race crimes can be prosecuted. Racism is a crime of the heart. Whether the Trayvon Martin case will even get prosecuted is still in question since it is hard to prosecute a case where an existing law in Florida (and a number of others states) provides broad ambiguity with the “stand your ground” laws that allow for a person who feels they have been threatened to use the power of weapons, such as handguns, to defend themselves.

On the surface such laws seem justifiable, but then there is the principle of letting the police exercise the authority of using violent force if it is necessary. Bad judgment was certainly a factor in this killing. The defendant might have called in this young man’s presence and allowed the police to do their job. Even carrying a weapon as someone serving as a neighborhood watch volunteer begs the question of where our society has moved- and continues to move- around the issue of gun permit rights. The Tennessee legislation will debate, and likely pass, a law that permits one to carry handguns just about anywhere in a vehicle, including where one works and worships. It is easy to joke that we need the Earp brothers making those attending church surrender their firearms before passing into a sanctuary.

This might be funny, and sound ludicrous, but I have personally observed a handgun in a brief case many years ago at a Presbyterian Church Session meeting when carry permits were far more stringent. The person carrying the pistol was an attorney who was in clear violation of state and federal laws! When I expressed my concern he looked at me as though I were crazy and said, “Anyone who would stay in Atlanta after dark should have their head examined!” That statement applied to me because I was always involved in a lot of night meetings at the church, including youth lock-ins. I know there are people who still feel this way. I had to question, even back then, however, who needed his head examined. I understand what drives such fear. Our culture is filled with it. But, did I feel fearful? I did not. Was there a basis for this man’s fear in meeting on church grounds after dark? For him there most certainly was. For me? I never felt threatened, or fearful. I had little reason to.

The killing of Trayvon Martin is rooted in such fear. It has to do with our fear and free-floating anxiety as a culture of those who are deeply different than us in their skin colors, religious beliefs, social and political opinions. Some of these fears are contained within deeply held values that super-cede either law or justice issues. They are inculcated fears that often come out of the violence of abuse and the insidious nature of the abused who become abusers. This abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual, or some combination of all of these. It is far more rampant than most people know, or want to admit. For example, statistically 1 in every 4 young women has been sexually violated in some fashion before they turn 18, whereas, 1 in 6 boys has been sexually abused. Look around you in any setting and one of people nearby you in the same pew, or at the next school desk, or office cubicle has mathematically suffered from abuse according to these figures.

This presents itself as a national tragedy. Is George Zimmerman such a victim of abuse? We probably will never know because the shame of such victims is so deeply buried, or so intense as to rarely be revealed by those who have been so wounded. That’s not because there are no resources for healing. Those are very available and well known resources within the therapeutic community The problem is in not seeking help, and in not knowing it is available.

The website you have entered is about such healing resources. You will find many answers to your questions both personal, or professionally as a therapist within the pages of . We welcome your additions and comments at our blog site and through your e-mails. We are here to serve the needs of the wounded, but most especially those who suffer from sexual abuse, and/or sexual addiction. We are here as a safe place to talk and to find support and wholeness as a human being.

I believe, though I cannot prove it, that speaking of one’s woundedness is more difficult for men than for women. The culture of “manliness” and being macho doesn’t let a male to talk as feely about his abuse with other men. Such men may become closer to talking about their abuse with a female counselor, female friends, a companion, or spouse, though I cannot prove this suspicion either. What I know is that women will talk with other women more readily about their abuses. I’ve witnessed this repeatedly through a lifetime of pastoral ministry. My evidence is broad, deep, and anecdotal because women have sent women to me seeking help as a trained pastoral counselor. I have rarely had an abused male seek help either through his own volition, or through referral. I’ve heard plenty of stories of men dying from AIDS, however, who were referred to me by an AIDS hospice. These stories I know intimately from the tears these mostly gay men shed with me in my counseling office, or that I shed at their funerals. They are proof enough for me that when push comes to shove there are few true atheists left with impending death.

So, the Trayvon Martin case takes on many aspects which call us to probe our own consciences, and our consciousness of the society in which we live. One has to feel some grief for his family unless fear and anger are so consuming as to simply make this a sad indictment on our culture as it’s “all his fault.” And, someone has to feel some sympathy for George Zimmerman even if his was a tragic mistake. What we can realistically say is that a young man is dead from an act of violence. That’s a tragic event that in ways indicts all of us for our silence about cultural violence.

Yes, I’ve read and heard the redundancy of comments of why aren’t we talking about young men who get killed in gang shootings, or people who are innocent victims of drive-by shootings every day. Some of us do have a say about this, but probably not enough of us to make a difference. Sometimes we are afraid to talk about it at because of our cultural denial that we live in a dangerous society that we have allowed to become more and more violent year after year. Some fear that without carrying a handgun that we will be in grave danger. In some parts of most any city, or town, that fear is probably legitimate. But it is we who allow such conditions to become that dangerous from remaining silent. It is we who don’t demand change from our publically elected officials that they make our culture safer. Some of these officials- if not a majority of them- will argue that this is exactly what they are doing by advancing laws that allow far greater freedom to allow anyone who is not a criminal to carry firearms. That has automatically become the by-line of those who say they are protecting my Second Amendment rights.

I am doubtful of this claim as I read that amendment, though this is not my point. My point is about the violence that is being done every hour of every day in our society. The old cliché that “people kill people, not guns,” rings hollow against the abuses within our society. It has always been a poor argument at best. The connecting dots of the abused who have become abusers, of the sexually abused who have become addicted to sex is well documented by vast amounts of research; brain science and therapeutic tracking. This is not a new phenomenon. Are we not to rightfully expect a violent culture when we perpetuate it in such radical fashion? When we continue to allow violence as a weapon of abuse?

Trayvon Martin is the unfortunate victim of a gun tragedy. George Zimmnerman is a victim, also. He probably would not have responded with violence if he had not felt fearful. I live in a neighborhood where we have a neighborhood watch. It is not the first such neighborhood that I have lived in. I feel safe, though we have had a share of robberies, some domestic violence, and even a violent crime or two. It is not wrong to be watchful. Nor is it wrong to use the prompt response time of the police and to take down factual information of a crime being committed. The response time in Florida was rapid. Trayvon Martin would have surely been found inside a gated community. Whether his death was an act of vigilantism, or self-defense will be for courts to decide. More is the pity that it all came to this with a needless death. Two lives are ruined one way or the other. One is lost forever.

Will we remain silently watching and grow more fearful and eventually feel we need a gun? Will we sit back and let more laws be passed that cause more violence in a violent culture? It is in our ancestry as a nation to do so. It seems part of our gene pool as Americans. But must it remain this way? Will we sit still and allow sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual violence to be acted upon others? Abuse of all of these forms is all around us.

The jury is out on these questions. It is out on us.

Phil Leftwich