Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christians & Gun Control - Our Responsibility

This will be the most controversial post I have ever attempted to write, as a non-firearm carrying Christian who has grown up amongst firearms. We had four rifles on our living room wall plus a .41 revolver with a 13-inch barrel, all because my dad was a gunsmith and had buds who were gunsmiths.

So I am not afraid of guns, but I certainly respect them and the power they have. You can go hunting, you can go target shooting [always fun] - and you can protect others with them [salutes out to our soldiers and law-enforcement officers].

You can also murder innocents with them.

In superhero genre, the first 'power' that must be given to any vigilante who fights crime is the ability to deal with the bullets from the bad guys. Superman is flat-out invulnerable. Wonder Woman has bullet-bouncing bracelets. Batman ["He Who Does Not Shiv"] just uses his awesome skills to disarm and take down the bad guys before they can even pull the trigger.

OKies, they get one shot..

Spider-man can dodge bullets - heck, even machine gun fire - and Captain America has an indestructible shield made of a fictional "vibranium alloy."

Guns are not used by superheroes. Bows, batarangs and laser vision? Sure! But guns? Only in the dark alleys of pulp-ish, morally ambiguous, fiction are they permitted.

"Yessir, we're a LAW-ABIDING town, here!"
Guns belong to criminals, to thieves, to gangsters. Yes, we have the Punisher, the Comedian and other morally ambiguous, I-don't-mind-killing-the-bad-guy types, but they are simply not mainstream. They are not what mothers want their boys and girls to read.

We do not want to connect heroism and good morals to using lethal weapons. We don't want little Johnny thinking that the solution to fighting evil is shooting them in the face.

That fantasy is for adults only--but it is our fantasy, folks. Before you balk, please count the $$$$ poured into films and video games with protagonists who are well-armed shooters. From Call of Duty and HALO to The Expendables and Die Hard Umpteen, we do have a fantasy of shooting the living crap out of evil, "irredeemably bad" bad guys.

Why so hypocritical? Well, I think the reason is obvious: guns and lethality do not belong in the hearts and minds of children. Adults, who must run the world, realize that there may come a time for force - but let us avoid it as much as possible. Let us live and let live.

But if the evil bastard wants my homeland, my daughter, my wife for his sick pleasure - well, we do have an answer - and we only need to say it once.

I do not have the time to argue with all the policies and deaths in wars all over the world due to guns.

Let us agree we would ALL like to see people live, live in safety and treat others with kindness and respect, if not love. We know that don't happen, all the time, don't we, bunky?

So we will still see little boys play at being soldiers and at being Supermen, and grown men with PTSD weep over the loss of youthful innocence coming back from war.

When you want to be good, you want to fight evil. The problem is, evil men make you suffer for both action and inaction.

We will weep either way: for having to shoot a human being, made in the image of God - or for being unable to stop that human being from shooting others, made in the image of God.

I imagine the road to recovery is easier for those who have had to shoot to save lives than for those who have to simply endure the deaths of their loved ones. They were able to act and save lives. But I could be wrong: that action is optional and the second is eventual. You will lose loved ones to death; it is inevitable. Shooting other human beings is not. I hope no one needs me to explain that statement. If so, you may need a mental health professional's guidance. Like, right away.

So what is a Christian response to bearing arms?
Should they carry guns and be prepared to shoot people? Isn't that totally contradictory to "Loving your enemies?" and "Turning the other cheek?" Did not Jesus say His Kingdom was not of this world, and so we should not take up arms in His Name?

That is the basic pacifist response, used by Mennonites if I remember correctly. Let me go ahead and tip my hand: it is smugly irresponsible self-righteousness.

You end up being a perpetually naive sheep and never a shepherd. No one can come to you for protection or aid in a situation of violence. The self-rightness you feel by being non-violent is really an abdication of a moral responsibility to guard others. Christ is Commander of the Armies of the Lord as well as the Great Shepherd.

Even a sheep dog has fangs and can run down wolves. And let me show you a relevant passage from the Gospel of Luke, and try to do it justice [pardon the pun], because it has bothered theologians for centuries.

Luke 22:31-40, J. B. Phillips translation
24 And then a dispute arose among them as to who should be considered the most important.
25-30 But Jesus said to them, “Among the heathen it is their kings who lord it over them, and their rulers are given the title of ‘benefactors.’ But it must not be so with you! Your greatest man must become like a junior and your leader must be a servant. Who is the greater, the man who sits down to dinner or the man who serves him? Obviously, the man who sits down to dinner—yet I am the one who is the servant among you. But you are the men who have stood by me in all that I have gone through, and as surely as my Father has given me my kingdom, so I give you the right to eat and drink at my table in that kingdom. Yes, you will sit on thrones and rule the twelve tribes of Israel!
The personal warning to Simon
31-32 “Oh Simon, Simon, do you know that Satan has asked to have you all to sift like wheat?—but I have prayed for you that you may not lose your faith. Yes, when you have turned back to me, you must strengthen these brothers of yours.”
33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison or even to die with you!”
34 “I tell you, Peter,” returned Jesus, “before the cock crows today you will deny three times that you know me!”
Jesus tells his disciples that the crisis has arrived
35 Then he continued to tell all, “That time when I sent you out without any purse or wallet or shoes—did you find you needed anything?” “No, not a thing,” they replied.
36-37 “But now,” Jesus continued, “if you have a purse or wallet, take it with you, and if you have no sword, sell your coat and buy one! For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me—‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’. So comes the end of what they wrote about me.”
38 Then the disciples said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”     And Jesus returned, “That is enough.”
39-40 Then he went out of the city and up on to the Mount of Olives, as he had often done before, with the disciples following him. And when he reached his usual place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not have to face temptation!
O.K., if you read all that, you may see the following. Let me show it to you, as this is getting long and I am lazy:

1) The young disciples were all about how AWESOME they were going to be. Jesus sees their immaturity and over-confidence.

2) Jesus has to pray for Peter, who ends up being the only disciple to use a sword when Christ is arrested. Peter ain't right in using the sword, as you recall and Jesus has to heal its unwise use.

3) Jesus warns His boys it will be bad - and everyone should get prepared for evil opposition. They should get a sword, even if they have to sell vital clothing to get one! This is the 1st century equivalent of buying a handgun, no two ways about it.

4) Jesus prays for His men - and tells them to pray that they may not have to "face temptation!" What temptation? The temptation to use force to win their spiritual battles, I think. They are young and eager to fight - but not to "die for others." And I mean "dying" by humble, ego-destroying service that kills your pride, wastes your time, and keeps you under greater authority.

So what do we Christ-followers need to do?

We need to be prepared. We need to be willing to serve and terrifically unwilling to hurt. We need to recognize that evil does exist and if the law gives us the right and responsibility to bear arms, we need to accept that cost and treat it as a sacred right. We need to not let the next generation believe that evil is in an item, but in the hand that is behind the item. [One of my longstanding problems with Lord of the Rings was that the ring itself was 'evil.' Even if that was not Tolkien's intent--Sauron's essence is in it--we tend to make objects morally powerful beyond their means. We blame them all too often.]

I am not as militant as I may sound; I have not bought a firearm in my entire life. I have owned a few, handed down to me. I am a pretty good shot and that is with a severe handicap in vision. I have a good knowledge of firearm safety and was taught by a former Marine to treat every gun as if loaded and able to fire.

I would hate to see the day in which I had to pull a trigger and put a bullet into the body of another human being. I am nearly crying right now as I type this. How horrible that would be.

But what gets me past my emotional response and loathing is my honest God-given responsibility to protect and defend weaker human beings. I once had to kill - by my own hand - a pathetic animal that lay mortally wounded and suffering. I wept as I did what was necessary.

In the same way, we must be ready to bear arms. Not that we should ever want to use them, God forbid such a heart! -but because the day that we should use them may come upon us - and we must not be unprepared.

Jesus did not arm all of His disciples - with two swords He said "It was enough." - and He may have just been cutting their eagerness off by shutting down the conversation [i.e. "Enough of that kind of talk, guys!"] But He did say those who had none should sell what they had to sell and get one, as darker times were about to descend.

Am I saying that we are in the same situation? That we must go and arm ourselves?

Friend, you must ask God for that. I will say, if you are not armed, are you being wise and keeping others in your care safe? Can you be relied upon if someone began harming others in front of you?

I will also add this: three greater tragedies were prevented in these past few years by those who WERE armed and were able to meet the wicked and perverse with the same force they were using on innocents.

From Ann Coulter's Opinion on The Daily Caller: [ http://dailycaller.com/2012/12/19/we-know-how-to-stop-school-shootings/2/ ] we gather these examples:
"In addition to the Portland mall case, here are a few more examples excluded by the Mother Jones methodology:

– Mayan Palace Theater, San Antonio, Texas, this week: Jesus Manuel Garcia shoots at a movie theater, a police car and bystanders from the nearby China Garden restaurant; as he enters the movie theater, guns blazing, an armed off-duty cop shoots Garcia four times, stopping the attack. Total dead: Zero.

– Winnemucca, Nev., 2008: Ernesto Villagomez opens fire in a crowded restaurant; concealed-carry permit-holder shoots him dead. Total dead: Two. (I’m excluding the shooters’ deaths in these examples.)

– Appalachian School of Law, 2002: Crazed immigrant shoots the dean and a professor, then begins shooting students; as he goes for more ammunition, two armed students point their guns at him, allowing a third to tackle him. Total dead: Three.

– Santee, Calif., 2001: Student begins shooting his classmates — as well as the “trained campus supervisor”; an off-duty cop who happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day points his gun at the shooter, holding him until more police arrive. Total dead: Two.

– Pearl High School, Mississippi, 1997: After shooting several people at his high school, student heads for the junior high school; assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieves a .45 pistol from his car and points it at the gunman’s head, ending the murder spree. Total dead: Two.

– Edinboro, Pa., 1998: A student shoots up a junior high school dance being held at a restaurant; restaurant owner pulls out his shotgun and stops the gunman. Total dead: One.

"By contrast, the shootings in gun-free zones invariably result in far higher casualty figures — Sikh temple, Oak Creek, Wis. (six dead); Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. (32 dead); Columbine High School, Columbine, Colo. (12 dead); Amish school, Lancaster County, Pa. (five little girls killed); public school, Craighead County, Ark. (five killed, including four little girls)."

[end of Ann Coulter quote]

What happened? Those who were unprepared lost their lives and their futures due to an all-too-common assumption. That simply saying "No" to wicked souls - by passing some law - is effective in preventing this  brand of cowardice. It is not. We have to be ready to respond.

As the T-shirt said in the mall I frequent:

"The Last Thing
on Earth
I Want to Do
s Hurt You - "

" - But It Is  
On the List."

I think our Lord wants us to keep violence as the last thing a Christ-follower would ever do when facing evil. But because of our baser human natures and the damage one person who is maddened can do, it has to remain on the list.

May God not let us be so tested anytime soon.


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