Unarmed, He Faces Forces of Demons and Death…

Banners have begun going up in Nashville heralding the largest convention the city has ever hosted. In a week’s time, as many as 80,000 members of the National Rifle Association will gather at the brand new Music City Center to celebrate, as many of them would characterize it, their second amendment rights. The Tennessee state legislature, in anticipation of this event, has passed laws to loosen restrictions on guns, including allowing guns in public parks. This event will draw many people known for their rhetoric on both the importance of a well-armed citizenry, and also the importance affirming the United States’ identity as a “Christian nation.”

About a block from the site of the NRA Convention stand Nashville’s two largest service providers dedicated to serving the needs of those struggling with homelessness, including Room In The Inn, where I work. There, a very different story is told about our well-armed society.

  • People die because they lack housing. People who experience homelessness have a life expectancy of about 45-50 years.
  • People are denied work because of criminal histories. No amount of personal growth and change can overcome a background check.
  • People die from medical conditions exacerbated by a lack of insurance. Instead of offering health care as a basic right, it is a privilege for those who can afford it.
  • People who served in war deal with major mental trauma. There is a high rate of homelessness among veterans.
  • People are institutionalized instead of loved. Jail and prison are our largest mental health facilities.

He breaks the bonds of hell dying on the cross…

Those who are homeless are often viewed as being violent. However, the people I have met over the last nine years of working among Nashville’s homeless community are most often themselves the victims. They sit at the bottom of society’s violent heap. They face the consequences of a violent society that arms itself with weapons and denies people life.

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Hundreds of people seek shelter at Nashville’s Room In The Inn on a cold day in February 2015.

The tree of freedom blooms by his empty grave…

The Jesus we meet in scripture, the Jesus whose life we remember this week, offers just the opposite. In the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we meet a God who chooses peace in the face of violence, abundant life in the face of death. So often at Room In The Inn I’ve seen long winter days of struggle turn into dance parties. I’ve seen the power of a handshake diffuse a fight. I’ve seen a depression and trauma worked out on an artist’s canvas. I’ve seen people of all faiths and no faith work together as one. In community, we offer one another hope.

There is so much to overcome. Death is all around. We insulate ourselves with possessions, connections, systems, and yes, even guns. But death is never the end of God’s story.

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Jeff with several participants from Room in the Inn. Photo taken by YAVA Gabby Dannemiller. 

Jeff Moles served as a YAV in Nashville in 2006-2007 at Room in the Inn. Jeff has continued to work at Room in the Inn, currently as the Community Development Coordinator. He also works at Trinity Presbyterian Church as the music director. You may know him from his worship leadership at YAV events.

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