I have not heard a single person of power speak about removing all guns or taking away the right to purchase guns, own guns, or destroy the Second Amendment. This is spin that has gotten way, way, out of control. (I’ll grant that I haven’t heard all of the spin the other way. There may be some people saying we should ban all guns. I’m just saying I haven’t seen it.)
All people are talking about is the need for reform.
Are we so much more concerned about our personal rights to own a firearm that we’ve forgot the most important right of all? The right to life? Of loving and serving each other? The moment we put our own individual rights above the rights of other people we become bullies, villains, monsters. The “good guys” become the “bad guys.”
And, please, don’t spin that old yarn about the best defense against someone with a gun is someone else with a gun. That’s utter rubbish. There are way too many studies proving just the opposite. When there are fewer guns, there are fewer murders and suicides.
When talking with a friend of mine about this, we brought up the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. His argument was that if a few of those people in the movie theatre had been carrying guns, they could have returned fire and stopped the slaughter.
To which I countered, “The guy’s not going to stand in one place.” He said, “But that’s just what he did.”
“That’s because no one was shooting at him!” I replied. “As soon as someone else started shooting, the ‘bad guy’ wouldn’t have stayed stationary. He would have moved. Then, you have gunfire from different places in the theatre. How does a person determine at that point who’s the ‘good guy’ and who’s the ‘bad guy?’ It’s simple. You can’t. People will start shooting in the direction of gunfire. That would potentially lead to more people being killed, not fewer.”
To get to a different but related issue, let me tell you a story - like a little movie. It’s completely fiction. I’m making it up on the spot.
The scene opens with a shot of a lazy little town street. It appears to be fall as the leaves on the trees are filled with vibrant colors. The camera slowly pans to the left and we see a nice looking guy walking down the sidewalk, his hands in his jacket pockets. We follow the man into a diner. After looking around for a bit, he spots a couple he recognizes. He goes over to their booth and, after some awkward small talk, the man pulls a pistol from his jacket, opens fire, and kills the couple. Panic ensues and the gunman runs away.
In the next scene, we find out that the couple who were murdered had a daughter. She was in the bathroom. She returns to find her family murdered. She swears then and there to avenge their deaths (kind of like Bruce Wayne/Batman). She starts training - martial arts, weapons, etc. She bides her time. She follows the killer. She learns his habits. She watches and waits. She sets up what she believes is the appropriate reaction to her family’s deaths. She plays it out over and over again in her head. It has to be timed just right. After all, she doesn’t want innocent people getting hurt.
So, at just the right moment, she captures the guy and starts torturing him - she wants to make him “pay” for what he did to her life. But during the process, the guy explains over and over again that her parents had abducted him when he was walking home from school. They beat him, tortured him, and sexually abused him. For months. And he wasn’t the only one. He could hear the cries of other children. Her parents ruined his life and the life of other people! He was just giving them what they deserved.
Of course, he would say something like that, she says (and we think). He’s just trying to get into her head and get away. She knows that her parents were loving people, they would never do anything like that. They weren’t monsters. He’s the monster who ruined her life!
But this is just a story, right? We know how this works out. The police show up just before she kills him (they had been “keeping tabs on him” since the shootings). They arrest him for the double murder and the whole time he’s screaming that he’s innocent; that they had it coming. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it all before.
The daughter is “cut a break” and not arrested for her crimes. And, like her, we feel that she was justified for her actions. “Justice was served,” we tell ourselves. The “bad guy” got caught and we got to live out a little “vigilante justice” vicariously through the daughter. We tell ourselves that, yep, we would have done the same thing.
Now, we’ve seen this type of story played out in movies and television all the time. It’s pretty obvious who’re the “good guys” and who’re the “bad guys,” right?
But, like a lot of movies are doing these days, there’s an “easter egg” during the final credits - another piece to the story that teases us to come back for the sequel. In this scene, we get a splash page that says something like, “Previously...” The camera pans out to a quiet little neighborhood street where a teenager is obviously walking home from school (he’s wearing a backpack, after all). Then, out of nowhere, this van pulls up next to him, a man jumps out and grabs the kid, putting his hand over the boy’s mouth so no one hears him screaming. The van pulls away and the sleepy little street looks like nothing happened.
Next, there are some disturbing scenes of the kid being beaten and tortured by the couple from the restaurant. We hear the muffled cries of other children in the background. And just as the sexual abuse starts, the scene mercifully fades to black as the camera pulls back from the pupil of the eye of the man in jail for killing the couple, tears streaming down his face.
All of a sudden, we don’t feel so good. The “bad guy” was telling the truth. But, to make ourselves feel better, we tell ourselves things like, “Well, he shouldn’t have taken things into his own hands. He should have gone to the police.”
But there’s a problem. This is a story. We get all of the pertinent information about why the violence occurred. Sure, we might have got the “good guys” and the “bad guys” mixed up (it’s not our fault, that’s the trick of the story-teller), but it all worked out in the end.
But that’s just the point. It doesn’t all work out in the end. Life isn’t a movie. We don’t know the backstory of the lives of others. We don’t know what drove (drives) people to act (or react) the way they do. We simply judge them by their actions and the outcomes of them. And we feel justified when the “obvious bad guy” gets “put down” for his evil crimes. The only reason we feel this way is because all we witness, all we know, is that in the immediate “scene,” the people killed were “innocent.” That is, at that moment of the crime, they weren’t doing anything “wrong.” Therefore, the guy who committed the violence is the “bad guy.”
But, as we’ve seen, things just aren’t that obvious. The world is not black and white, no matter how badly we want it to be. To be truly human, we have to do the hard work of listening. Of treating others the way we wish to be treated. We have to love our neighbor as ourselves. We have to even love our enemies.
All people, regardless of status, gender, sexual preference, religion, geography, color, or creed want the same things - to be loved, to love, to be safe, not to be worried about food and shelter, to live their lives without persecution from the “other.” We all want to live in a world without war, without violence, without prejudice, without fear. We all want peace. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we willing to give up our own selves for the sake of others to make that happen? Regrettably, the answer I keep hearing and seeing in the news, in social media, and in our communities is a resounding, “No!”
There is no quick answer to the gun debate. Scratch that. Yes, there is. We must have more restrictions on the purchasing of weapons. We must have tighter laws on what people purchase and carry. Guns - whether they’re pistols, rifles, shotguns, etc. - are all made for one purpose and one purpose only.
When people train to use weapons they aren’t trained on how to maim or wound something or someone. They’re primarily trained to kill. To end life. Period. That’s it. That’s all weapons are made for. Sure, we can use them in “defense.” But the training is the same - taking the life of someone or something else.
As a culture, we’re so inundated with violence that we think it’s normal. When a person says that he’s a non-violent person, we look at him like he’s from another place and time. We think he’s naive. “That’s not life in the real world, bub. That’s a fantasy world that’ll get you and your loved one’s killed.” I had one guy tell me that a “real man” wouldn’t just stand by and let other’s be attacked. A “real man” would use deadly force to “take out the bad guy.” I’m not naive. But there are other ways of dealing with violent people. The problem is we want the “quick fix.” Sure, we’ll talk about peaceful resolutions, but as soon as things go south, we send in the weaponry.
We have to put away this type of thinking. It’s time. It’s past time. We must put the needs of others before our own. I know many people who would do this for the members of their family. Without hesitation they would gladly give away everything they have if it meant that their loved ones were alright. And that’s they way it should be.
But to move forward, we have to start thinking of our neighbors as our families. We have to start looking at other people as our long, lost relatives. To move forward as a people, as a global human family, we have to be serious about putting peace first.
To get theological for a moment, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a great future:
In the days to come the mountain of [G_d’s] house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to [G_d’s] mountain, to the house of Jacob’s [god] so that [we may be taught G_d’s] ways and we may walk in [G_d’s] paths.” Instruction will come from Zion; [G_d’s] word from Jerusalem. [G_d] will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations. Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war. Come, house of Jacob, let’s walk by [G_d’s] light (Isaiah 2.2-5; amended).
For those of us not in the know, this has been fulfilled. I know it’s shocking, but Jesus fulfilled this picture. At least, part of it. He said,
“Now is the time for judgment of this world. Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out. When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me...The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going. As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.” (John 12.31-32, 35-36).
Furthermore, John was clear that G_d’s Word and Light came through Jesus to Jerusalem and went out from there (John 1; cf. Hebrews 1). The earlier followers of Jesus were told that they were a new city upon a hill and their light would be seen by the world (Matthew 5.14). The people who follow The Way are “the house of Jacob’s god” with Jesus being the foundation (see Ephesians 3.19-20; 1Timothy 3.15).
Lastly, the “nations” in Isaiah are clearly the people we see following The Way of Jesus in the stories found in the book of Acts (see Acts 2, 10, 15, et al.) and the letters we have in the New Testament (see Philippians; Colossians, et al.).
But, as can be seen, there’s still something amiss. There’s still plenty of nations taking up weapons against one another. There’s plenty of war. There’s plenty of violence.
I say this too our shame.
We are the reasons there’s still violence. We have failed.
With every hateful thought that fills our minds, with every harsh word spoken, with every angry glare, and yes, with every punch, slap, kick, jab, fight, stabbing, gunshot, cannon fired, bomb dropped - with all this violence and so much more - we have failed.
The groundwork has already been laid. It is up to us to see the rest of Isaiah’s vision of G_d’s Realm finished. Christ showed us The Way. We have to live it. We can’t expect our world, our families, to change if we continue to act the same. It is up to us to stop the cycle. We have to be better people. We have to be the best of humanity. We have to be brave enough to say, “No more! Not another bullet fired! Not another bomb dropped! Not another life taken!” It is up to us, through G_d’s Spirit, to “beat [our] swords into iron plows and [our] spears into pruning tools.” No one else is going to do it. We have to be the ones, family. In all the stories we have about G_d and creation, we see that G_d works through people to bring about change. G_d has done the first part. The rest - and peace - are up to us.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC