Archive for June, 2016

The Idolatry of the Gun Culture

June 13, 2016

I wrote the following earlier today and posted it on Facebook. I decided to use this platform as well. At some point, I believe that people of good will need to do whatever it takes to transform the idolatry of the gun culture that has overtaken our country. For better or worse, here are my thoughts today in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre.

In my sermon on Sunday – having heard nothing about the shooting in Orlando either when I wrote or preached the sermon – I mentioned Martin Luther’s definition of the operative “gods” in our lives – our “god” is whatever we look to for meaning, purpose, status, and security. Further I said that the most insidious idolatry in our lives is recasting the God of the Bible into a new god of our own imaginations. We project ourselves onto our conception of “god” and then follow our own creation.

I don’t know all that prompted the killer in Orlando. What I have read thus far today is that his ex-wife left him because he was physically abusive, bipolar, with a terrible temper. He was disgusted by LGBT people. He had EASY access to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle. He created his own version of “god” in alignment with other misguided terroristic men who wreak havoc on the lives of innocents, apologizing for it because of their conception of “god” – a conception that is roundly denied by millions of other Muslims. (In the same way that I denounce the Christian faith of a man who shoots people at a Planned Parenthood facility.)

I look at all of that and the various challenges posed and they seem nearly impossible to address. Except one. EASY access to purchase an AR-15 assault rifle.

What stands in the way of eliminating legal access to assault rifles to anyone but law enforcement? What stands in the way of adding previously investigated people with the potential to commit terroristic acts from the “no you can’t buy a gun” list in the same way as they can be added to the “no you can’t board an airplane” list?

The idolatrous, fanatically religious, notion that guns protect us. And it is a fanatically religious notion in that the facts, real numbers, real life experience, simply do not support it.

Dr. King said that he couldn’t make a man love him but he could see that laws were passed so that he couldn’t lynch him. That is common sense. That is the purpose of government.

If anything can redeem the insanity of Orlando it is this.

  1. To recognize that marginalized people will always be easy targets for hatred. LBGT, and every other minority community, have long suffered, and will continue to suffer, even as they have striven so long to gain a voice, an identity, and claim their civil rights. No one in that club did a damn thing to deserve what happened and that couple in Miami had every right to kiss in public. That’s what people do in Miami! The problem existed ONLY in the shooter’s mind and his failure to process his own thoughts and feelings.
  2. To enact and enforce common sense federal laws that restrict, reduce, and eliminate the on-going proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in our country. Australia and others have done it. We can too. We have to replace common $en$e with common sense.
  3. Religious communities have to continue to name and reject idolatry within our own ranks. As a Christian, I have to give that the “What would Jesus have me do?” test. That begins for me by looking at what Jesus actually did. He didn’t criticize the religion of the woman at the well although his own faith wouldn’t have allowed him to even have a conversation with her. And yes, Peter had a sword when Jesus was arrested. Jesus told Peter to put the sword away and he healed the ear of the man Peter lashed out at. As a follower of Jesus, I am against civilians using weapons to do violence against others. I am against promoting hate, mistrust, and mischaracterization of other religions.

Full disclosure: I have a concealed handgun permit issued by the state of Texas. I got it anticipating a motorcycle trip to Alaska and I was afraid of animals. I bought a handgun. Then I bought another. Because of Canada’s seriously restrictive laws against bringing guns across the border, I left my gun at home.

Even as I took the class to get the permit, I already knew the statistics. If I brought a hand gun into my home the overwhelming facts say that the people most in danger from that gun would be my family or myself.

Then came the slaughter at Sandy Hook and I had enough. I announced to my congregation that I would getting out of the gun culture. I brought my guns to a local gun shop and left them on the counter. The guy behind the counter asked what I was doing and I told him, “I’m not leaving with these. You can do whatever you want with them.”

What did that cost me? Personally it cost me nothing. Kelley was very relieved that we no longer had access to guns. Professionally, I had families leave the church I serve because I am too “liberal.”

I did what I thought Jesus would have me do. I’m doing it here again with post.

As for the people who would leave our congregation because of my response to the tragic deaths of FIFTY people and the wounding of FIFTY+ more, in a culture where such tragedies have become COMMON, so be it. I hate to see and I grieve their leaving.

And should they then find another congregation that blesses the idolatry of gun ownership for purposes other than hunting and target practice, then that just goes to show that Christianity has its own dangerous extremists that need to be exposed and opposed as every other religion.

Christianity is not a religion of blind faith. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind. Seeing reality for what it is in central to Christianity. Facts and actual lived human experience matters to Christianity. “How will this ACTUALLY AFFECT real human lives?” is a question embraced by Christianity.

Only idolatrous fanaticism is based on blind faith, on ignorance and fear, on the quest for power rather than humility and the will to love.

I pray that God leads us – each of us, our elected leadership, our country, people around the world – down right pathways for his name’s sake. That we fear no evil, trusting that God will protect us, and that those chosen to lead us will do the right thing.