The one positive thing to come out of the Parkland shooting is a renewed willingness to confront the topic of Gun Violence. And I have come across two particularly worth articles treating some of the more infrequently discussed aspects of the problem.
As a vanilla Chrsistian (which is to say not a member of a recognizable denomination) I have long challenged the mainstream wrap-yourself-in-the-american-flag theme in many churches. Jesus was pretty direct in saying that His kingdom was not of this world. Expecting ANY human government to be a Christian government — regardless of other circumstances — is simply not a teaching of Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean that Jesus has no relevance in the conversation about Gun Violence. A great many of his teachings are good for society even if a person is not, themselves, a believer. And one of the logical trains of thought that I fear is too seldom thought about, or talked about is the implications of Jesus’ teachings.
Is is always God’s will
that I survive a
The dialogue about Gun Violence seems to make the assumption that if you are a Christian it is always God’s will for you to survive violence. And yet there are ample examples of ways in which believers in the God of Abraham did not survive their contest with violence.
We don’t hear much talk about Stephen the “first martyr.” I suspect because Stephen gets in the way of contemporary thought. Fear mongers want us to be afraid. Fear mongers want us to support the military. Fear mongers want us to buy more guns, install alarms, take self defense classes — basically, fear mongers want us to spend money on their products.
But the reality of history where it concerns the God of Abraham is that those who follow Him and believe in Him have not always been the victors in battle and wars on this earth. Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness, the Diaspora of the nation, the suffering of the Christian church throughout the past 2000 years give us plenty of examples — all you have to do is read the Bible or consult human recorded history.
But much of the rhetoric coming out of Evangelical churches seems to presuppose that believers will always survive, and if they don’t, they weren’t very good believers! I feel sorry for anyone who has bought into that line of reasoning. But even moreso, I feel sorry for the hundreds of thousands, millions even, of people who have bought into the line of FEAR that many churchgoers of multiple religions and faiths have been subjected to. Fear is a terrific motivator. It motivates to action. It moves money around. It’s great for the bottom line. And once instilled it is very, very difficult to eradicate.
I encourage you to read both of the linked articles above — but particularly the second one. Can America’s Worship of Guns Ever Be Changed? We don’t, as a society, very often link the way in which gun ownership in the U.S. is virtually a religion. Guns provide the same things that religion does: a sense of security in a world gone mad. Whether any or all religions are “the one true” religion or whether one true religion even exists, citizens find themselves just as assured of their survival through gun ownership as they do through believe in a diety. Perhaps even moreso. You can’t be sure that your god is going to be there when you need him/her — but if you have your finger on the trigger you KNOW right where that gun will be, and you can trust in your own training to know what to do in an emergency.
If you think about it, owning a gun is kind of like turning whatever God’s will might be into whatever YOU might want. It’s a deceit; and not a very subtle one at that.
You don’t hear many references to turning your swords into plowshares anymore. The Evangelical church has coopted violence and military might as it’s cause and it really doesn’t matter what Scripture says anymore. Establishments have as their prime directive the continuation of the organization over idealism, and in today’s world of donors and causes it’s important for churches first to see that the mortgage is paid and the clergy’s wages are met before worrying about things like peace and caring for the downtrodden.
When I was in ministry I was perfectly happy in a church that didn’t own it’s own buildling, didn’t have property to be maintained because I wanted our interests to stay focussed on the mission of spreading the gospel — both the one that you read and the one that you see in the lives of believers. I don’t know how megachurches justify their own courses of action — that’s none of my business — but I do know it’s hard to find a New Testament example of Jesus encouraging the setting of your treasures on earth.
I don’t care of you own weapons. That’s a decision to be made by politicians and voters. But I do care about whether Christians (rightly so called or wrongly so-called) think that guns have become their salvation. I think you’re barking up the wrong barrel if you do.