Dec  2012 16
Unacceptable Losses

Good God, we live in a fearful nation—so fearful that, up until now, every gun massacre has resulted in an acceptable loss of innocent life sacrificed on the altar of gun ownership. The “right” to own a semi-automatic weapon or to use a 30 round clip is justified by a profound fear. Fear of the government, fear of crime, fear of some future enemy—a condition approaching the fear of fear itself. But it is time for those who defend private ownership of semi-automatic weapons to justify how the slaughter in Connecticut is acceptable collateral damage in the war against whatever it is they are fighting. The reigning interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, our laws, the gun lobby, our legislators, our national religion, and the American ethos have conspired to allow an undeclared war on children. Unintended, granted. But very real in its effects.    

Twenty children and seven adults murdered in CT. Ten or more bullets in some bodies. But that sickening, heartbreaking picture—not new in number but fresh and, because of the age of the victims, rising in the public mind to the level of an abomination—will that picture change anyone’s mind this time?   I’m pessimistic that any horror of any scope involving a gun will overcome lawmaker’s fear of the gun lobby and, yes, gun owners. In my lifetime, our nation has witnessed the assassination of one president and the attempted assassination of two more, public executions in our halls of entertainment, on our streets and in our neighborhoods, in our most sacred spaces and in the places (schools) we entrust with our future (our children). If all of these events—and the disheartening litany of tens of thousands of incidents of gun violence in every major urban area—have not created a come to Jesus moment for America and guns, I can’t imagine what will. In fact, that very picture I just painted is used by supporters of more permissive open carry laws: “Yes, the situation is so bad, we all have the right to defend ourselves. We SHOULD all carry guns.”  

There are 300 million guns in public hands. The right to gun ownership is defended with religious, righteous vigor. I believe that, if Congress reversed itself someday and took steps to remove guns from circulation, we would see militias spring up (the kind not anticipated by the writers of the 2nd Amendment) and there would be a war between the government and its citizens. I saw a cartoon recently that pictured a handgun in a pie shell full of apple pie except for the wedge occupied by the gun. The caption: “As American as apple pie.”  

Can we do anything to change the culture in the U.S. which encourages gun ownership and usage? Maybe. Challenging popular theology might be a place Christians could help (I’m limiting my comments to Christians because I don’t know the stances of other religions on guns in America). In the last few days, I’ve read remarks from some Christian leaders to the effect that the CT violence is a consequence of America’s godlessness. These spokespersons link the slaughter of innocents with either taking God out of schools or a secular turn in the U.S. Now, how is it that the most church-going, overtly religious nation in the developed world is being visited with more gun violence than any of the more godless nations because of our sliver of secularism? Why aren’t nations such as France or Canada visited frequently with mass murders? I believe any such punishing god is created in America’s image and bears no resemblance to the God of Jesus of Nazareth. A god who would take out his anger on children for decisions made by adults is not God.  

Christians should assiduously withdraw our support from this war on an enemy in which thousands of citizens annually are acceptable collateral damage; and churches would do well to become better equipped to deal with fear in ways creative rather than violent. In Matthew’s gospel, the birth stories include Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. Matthew puts the Way of Jesus in stark contrast with the Way of Empire. The Sermon on the Mount is the gospel of God’s Empire, not the fear-driven Way of the Big Clip Semi-Automatic Weapon. In the public debate I hope is coming, Christians should highlight the gulf between the two Ways. Remember the movie Witness and the conversation between grandfather and grandson regarding guns? We should be having conversations like this one.

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
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