Guns in America: A critical test for Christians
Our ingenuity for self-deception is inexhaustible
Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways,
As 2013 unfolds, I am shocked at the polarizing effect of gun control debate. In light of tragedy after tragedy, we still have discussions focusing on political viability, constitutional interpretations, and the prevalence of mental illness. According to the Children's defense fund, 3721 American children die every year due to gun violence. We have an epidemic in the United States that is not only treatable, but more importantly preventable
In a nation where we have more gun dealers than McDonald's and more distributors than gas stations, we need the clarity and the fortitude to admit that we have a gun saturated culture that mythologizes gun violence by covering it with constitutional language and the moralistic trappings of redemptive violence. I do not wish to bemoan the point, but our infatuation with guns and our persistent celebration of gun violence (think movies, media, and our heroes) is not a sign of strength, but of insecurity and sickness.
I want to make a couple points for your consideration in this manner, particularly for those readers who profess to follow Jesus.
1. The Constitution is a secular document and not sacred. Although I have a great deal of respect for the constitution and as a law abiding citizen in America, advocate for the enforcement and implementation of the constitution, I recognize that it is a flawed document and does not come from God or a divine source. For Christians, we must realize that teachings of Jesus are superior to the guidelines and principles of the constitution.
2. The Second Amendment was written to provide for arming state based militias, not individuals with killing machines. The understanding of individuals with the right to bear arms was not the interpretation of the second amendment until 2008 after a 1939 ruling gave some expanded rights beyond militias.
3. The rights conferred and inferred at the time of the constitution can not be considered automatically ethical or natural. At the time of the constitution, citizens could own other individuals. We would later understand that inferred right as unethical and flawed. Just because something was conferred as a right does not make it right. Time and context often have a way of influencing the morality and feasibility of such things.
4. All Rights have responsibilities and limits. For instance, the first amendment gives the freedom of speech but that is framed by the right of the government to censor speech when national security is at risk (for instance, an Army general can not share military strategies publicly as it endangers the public wellbeing). The right to bear arms, even if it is seen as a constitutional right, must have responsibilities.
5. The rationale behind the slogan that guns do not kill people, but people kill people is wrong. The fact is that people with guns are killing people in an epidemic pattern. People are not killing people with knives, clubs, sticks, poisons, or cars with this kind of prevalence. Guns are the tool of choice for killing in America.
I share this because I truly believe that how our society deals with gun violence is of critical importance for our future. If we can not civilly discuss measures of improving our safety and ridding our neighborhoods, schools, malls, movie theaters, and Colleges of potential weapons of mass destruction in the hands of emotionally and mentally stressed individuals, then we demonstrate the ineptitude of our democracy.
We are truly self-deceived as a nation if we ignore our illness and our culture of gun violence. Proof of this is that many among us believe that adding more guns to our streets and neighborhood will make us safer. (Studies have shown that guns in America are 11 times more likely to be used for homicide/suicide than for protection). As follower of Jesus, we are not to envy the violent and to understand our role as peacemakers. That peacemaking role was modeled by Jesus and was not demonstrated through violence. I understand that nearly 2000 years have passed since Jesus uttered his blessing on peacemakers, but his teachings are timeless. He was living in an oppressed society where violence was an everyday realty. He understands what it was like to live under a constant threat of violence and death.
I am asking that if you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus that you take time to study his teachings on violence and consider your role as a peacemaker.
Just keep in mind, that every year that you choose not to act to end gun violence, another 3721 children die.
Its time to be the peacemakers we were destined to be!
I pray that you experience a peace that transcends understanding along with a thirst for righteousness and justice that is the authentic mark of God's people!
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor