Guns, Control, & a Christian Response

Right now in America a debate is going on about gun control, brought on not only by the most recent terrible tragedy in Newtown, but also by years of mass shootings that seem to be increasing in frequency. This is not only a very important issue, but often a very emotional issue for many people. I will admit, I have very strong feelings about this. While it's important not to let emotions cloud judgment, I do affirm that emotions have a very important place in correct judgment. They should be dismissed or just set aside.

Despite my strong emotions, I don't consider myself to be an expert on this subject. I write this post hopefully as a place people might interact with me, share their thoughts, and listen to one another. That might be asking a lot since I haven't written anything on this blog for several years--I would ask for comments or thought because I really want to know why people think the way they do on this. Specifically I'm interested in how Christians approach all of this and why they do it in certain ways.

And now for my perspective.

I have thoughts about specifics, and I'll get to those, but one of my overarching perceptions is in regard to the values behind this whole debate. What is it that we are really fighting for, valuing when we are talking about all of this? What is most important? Is it the value of human life? Or is it the rights of freedom (however you want to interpret that word)? You can talk about the second amendment all you want, but I think it important to acknowledge that the value of human life is more important than any individual right afforded by a political system. You might argue that guns, in and of themselves, are not really the problem and threat to human life, and therefore the issue of rights become important. Or that self-defense is an important protector of human life. And that's fine. I can understand that. Just so long as we all acknowledge that human life is the more important value.

The other main value that strikes me here is control. Not "gun control." Control. What is our response when the innocent are senselessly murdered, as in Newtown? Well, fear is certainly a strong one. Anger. Lament. Many different emotions. But how do we respond to these emotions? Which do we decide to act upon and how? We all have the instinct to protect the things we love, including ourselves. But we have to be willing to admit that we are not in control. That we cannot keep everyone safe, that we can't live our lives constantly in fear of what bad thing might happen. This is no way to live, and in itself degrades the value of human life. I'm not saying we shouldn't do anything. But we must acknowledge that there are limits to what we really can accomplish, especially in a political system as broken and convoluted as ours. Nor should we be inattentive personally with our own families. But there is only so much we can do.

If our response to something as horrible as Newtown is to deck out five year olds with armored backpacks, we miss the point. We cannot respond to the violation of innocence by trying to eliminate innocence in and of itself. This opens up a large topic of innocence itself--whether such a thing is still present or if it is rather just simply naivety. I think this conversation is just as important, if not more important than gun control itself. It is important to recognize the value of vulnerability, of innocence, of grace. These affect the value of human life to very large degree. If we respond in fear and have armed guards in schools, then why not movie theaters, or grocery stores, or intersections? marshal law? Well that's getting in to more specifics. Before we go there, can we agree that removing innocence itself will not protect the "innocent," it will just make us all guilty?

Those are just two of the value issues I see that really affect this whole conversation. When we begin to approach specifics, we all come with different values and upbringings. And of course, we are naturally inclined to think that the values we hold are the correct ones, whether they were informed by our family, our experiences, things we've read, etc. These things generally go very deep inside each of us, and so arguing about specifics rarely seems to reach these places--because we're all looking for whatever we want to affirm what we already think. I don't mean to pretend that I am immune from this myself. I know my views have changed over time, but the emotion within them does make it difficult to hear others well.

So I want to just touch on all of this from a somewhat objective perspective, with a somewhat limited focus. I want to ask how Christians should view and respond to all of this. This makes sense because my faith is very important to me and informs much of what I think about this. That doesn't mean that if you are not a Christian then you can't respond--I just want to begin from here because it is where I begin.

For me, I can't understand at all how anyone can read the Bible, especially the New Testament, and support guns. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Self-defense? Turn the other cheek. I know much more could be said here, and if someone has a biblically based defense of guns from a Christian perspective, please do share it with me. I would love to hear it, because it seems very inconceivable to me.

Many people try to separate the argument--that violence is a separate this from guns themselves. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. That kind of thing. There is some truth to this, of course. Guns don't automatically just shoot people. Of course statistics show that someone owning a gun is at least 4 times more likely to have an accidental shooting than one in self-defense. But what if? what if! the great selling point in America--what if. Millions are made because companies play the percentages and use fear to sell on the basis of what if. I have a 25% chance I'll use my gun for defense. I have a 75% chance I'll accidentally shoot a friend or family member. Guns in the house? really? I know it's not quite as clear cut as that, and everyone says they will be careful with their guns--but that's why they call them accidents.

It is also 7 times more likely that a gun will be used for criminal activity than self-defense. And 11 times more likely it will be used to commit suicide. (Source US National Library of Medicine)

Another argument is about guns for recreation. This is another thing I just can't seem to understand. I have gone out and shot guns for fun before. And it's true, there is something somewhat alluring about it. I'm not convinced this is a positive allure, that it's not tied up in power or some other unhealthy emotion--but that's just me. I'm not saying the government should be able to tell you how you can have fun. But is it really necessary to have that type of recreation when the dangers that come along as side effects are as they are? Are we ok with trading the right to have fun in this way with a few mass shootings every few years? In what possible way are semi-automatic weapons a necessary recreation given their terrible power and damage in their misuse? Can't we instead just go shoot hoops or something?

Self-defense is the argument I can understand the most. I don't agree with it, but I can see the point. The statistical evidence about accidental shootings point to misuse much more than actual defense. It's all about how you frame it. Numbers won't convince most people though. If you want to own a gun to protect yourself, I can understand. It's a violent world. And I'm sure most people would say that if there were no guns then they would be happy. But the reality is there are. I can understand defense.

I do fail to see how a semi-automatic weapon is necessary in that regard though. Unless you are being attacked by an army or somehow red dawn becomes a reality, they really aren't necessary. In the case of protection against an army, like say, the US gov't (speaking of original intent of the 2nd amendment), a semi-automatic rifle will be of no use to you against a military that is 50% of our national budget and 13x the rest of the world's military force combined. The misuse of semi-automatic weapons is far more damaging than these unlikely and completely ineffective responses to unlikely scenarios.

These are all theoretical arguments as well. We all know reality intrudes and enforcement of gun laws is completely inadequate (see these videos from yesterday). There is no perfect answer to the great problem that faces us. Nor would solving this problem really make the world safe again or anything like that. Ultimately, our faith for redemption and security will not be found in gun laws. But it will make a difference in people's lives. Would it have made a difference in Newtown? Who knows. But it might make a difference the next time this happens. Because it does keep happening. And something needs to change. Something is wrong. The experience and the evidence don't justify the status quo.

Well these are just a bunch of thoughts put out there. Again I encourage your comments and thoughts. Please be reasonable and no personal attacks. I want to have positive conversation about this, I really do. And I titled this specifically "a" Christian response, because I recognize that I do not have the final say on that by any means. Neither do you. So tell me something I don't know, I welcome that. But if you're just wanting to grind your ax, you can go over to facebook.


another blog

hey all,

if anyone still reads this, or if it's still in your rss feed even though you never really see it pop up any more.  i haven't been blogging as much.  it's easy to state the obvious.  i have been writing though.  i've been feeling very compelled to write a lot more, and something good is beginning there.  however i don't feel that i need to be sharing most of that writing publically yet.  i am writing in different places (personally) and different projects.  i may still blog on here from time to time, but probably much more infrequently.

we also have something of an experimental blog for our community.  i may be writing on there occassionally, perhaps a bit more often than here.  so check that out if you want to: kcroots.wordpress.com

in peace and hope,


the spiritual discipline of groaning

a friend of mine was sharing with me some about pain.  not so much her pain, but pain in others that she could see.  that got me thinking about the difference with which we see our own pain and the pain in other people.  take a minute to think about that.

if you are in a place of sharing, a place where someone feels free to open up about their pain--maybe just a crack in the door, but through that crack you can see so much, how do you view them?  perhaps you may feel a bit embarrassed at the candor.  perhaps you will feel uncomforable at your inability to respond, to do anything for them or about their pain.  but if you are close, you will most likely want to comfort them somehow.

the problem is that we normally are not very good comforters.  we try to speak words that our friend cannot really hear.  we mumbled cliches and trite phrases that are supposed to mean something significant, whether there be any truth in them or not.  if we are at our best, perhaps we will just sit in silence.  maybe a slight touch--nothing coddling. 

this is certainly a significant thing.  but still so often it feels incomplete.  it lacks. 
now think about those moments when you have been the person in pain, if you've had the good fortune to have people in your life with whom you could crack that door.  or possibly a few well-meaning ones who have even pushed it open themselves a bit.  how do you feel?  if i'm not mistaken, we all to some extent feel a tension between holding our pain and releasing out onto others.  for pain to truly be released in that way it must be shared--the other must feel to a degree that pain as well.  this is a burden we do not always like to put on others, even close friends, because we know it will affect them.  our pride invites us to take it all on ourselves and hold that pain.  but no one can bear the weight of the pain of life and really live.  and yet still we are hesitant to share.

this is perhaps why therapy came about.  a sophisticated and socially acceptable way to dump our feelings out--often by staying within the calm detachment of releasing memories of the mind, which subsequently provide a bit of temporary emotional relief through the secondary effects of intellectual insight.  a "good will hunting" breakdown only occurs after much intellectual banter and dancing, and most often that sort of breakthrough never happens--at least with another person.  rarely does therapy lead to significant, lasting healing.

talking it out.  silence.  perhaps if we are able to let go of our pride enough, there is occasionally a moment of breakdown and a touch of the healing of tears.  but this is a rare and difficult place to come to. 

maybe there would be something to learning how to groan with one another, like my friend suggested.  paul says that the spirit intercedes with us with groans too deep for words.  maybe in those occasions where words too much, and silence is not quite enough, we could somehow learn to groan together and for one another in prayer.  that may sound a little strange, especially as we like to keep things close to the chest.  but if there are times when even the Holy Spirit cannot have words, then maybe it would be something good for us to learn as well.


a poem

Procedure of Divine Love

'Twas my purpose, on a day,
To embark, and sail away.
As I climbed the vessel's side,
Love was sporting in the tide;
"Come," he said, - "ascend - make haste,
Launch into the boundless waste."
Many mariners were there,
Having each his separate care;
They that rowed us held their eyes
Fixed upon the starry skies;
Others steered, or turned the sails,
To receive the shifting gales.
Love, with power divine supplied,
Suddenly my courage tried;
In a moment it was night,
Ship and skies were out of sight;
On the briny wave I lay,
Floating rushes all my stay.
Did I with resentment burn
At this unexpected turn?
Did I wish myself on shore,
Never to forsake it more?
No - "My soul," I cried, "be still;
If I must be lost, I will."
Next he hastened to convey
Both my frail supports away;
Seized my rushes; bade the waves
Yawn into a thousand graves:
Down I went, and sunk as lead,
Ocean closing o'er my head.
Still, however, life was safe;
And I saw him turn and laugh:
"Friend," he cried, "adieu! lie low,
While the wintry storms shall blow;
When the spring has calmed the main,
You shall rise and float again."
Soon I saw him, with dismay,
Spread his plumes, and soar away;
Now I mark his rapid flight;
Now he leaves my aching sight;
He is gone whom I adore,
'Tis in vain to seek him more.
How I trembled then and feared,
When my love had disappeared!
"Wilt thou leave me thus," I cried,
"Whelmed beneath the rolling tide?"
Vain attempt to reach his ear!
Love was gone, and would not hear.
Ah! return, and love me still;
See me subject to your will;
Frown with wrath, or smile with grace,
Only let me see your face!
Evil I have none to fear,
All is good, if you are near.
Yet he leaves me - cruel fate!
Leaves me in my lost estate -
Have I sinned? Oh, say wherein;
Tell me, and forgive my sin!
King, and Lord, whom I adore,
Shall I see your face no more?
Be not angry; I resign,
Henceforth, all my will to thine:
I consent that you depart,
Though your absence breaks my heart;
Go then, and for ever too:
All is right that you will do.
This was just what Love intended;
He was now no more offended;
Soon as I became a child,
Love returned to me and smiled:
Never strife shall more betide
'Twixt the bridegroom and his bride.

--Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717)


10 days

in ten days i will be getting married.

all the preparation has kept me quite busy, along with everything else that already goes on in normal life. i haven't really written much of anything for some time now, but i miss it. ideas are constantly coming up into my head for stories, for blogs, for musings, for poems. and then that little voice that sneaks its whispers in, "don't forget, you are a writer."

it's sounds a little pretentious, i know. especially when you haven't published anything or made a dime off writing. but it's more of an identity thing. no, not identity. that's not the right word. vocation? you're supposed to make money with that too, right? how about that it's in my soul? yeah, i could say that.

there is something in writing that is cathartic to my soul.

you see, writers see the world a little differently. they see things from angles that express a slightly tilted world--one a little off from how you usually see it. they pick up the essence of a "character" in a short conversation with a stranger. they are usually a little strange, perhaps slightly "disturbed" as other people might call it. i like to think i do a pretty good job of hiding it.

so, all that to say, here's to writing again. which begins now, not tomorrow, not after the wedding or after this or after that. start where you are.

ok so back to this marriage thing. today we had our final meeting with the pastors who are marrying us. it was good, mostly going over final details and such, but also praying deeply about all of this. and in one of the prayers a phrase stuck out to me, "knitting our souls together." it stuck out, not because i got a mental image of a giant old man dressed in white clinking knitting needles together while he listens to prayers, but because this is a deep and great mystery. and the picture of knitting together captures a very small piece of that mystery.

i will begin and continue to experience this great mystery of love and union that is so powerful and unique. and i only am coming to that through an engagement of absolute commitment. i am very intrigued by the relationship between mystery and commitment, but i'm saving those thoughts for another venue (where perhaps i'll actually get paid for writing it! oo i know you're curious now, aren't you? i'll let you know, don't worry.)

the thing about knitting together souls souls that is a fitting image rather than say, the melting together of metals (which you don't really hear), is that each one keeps its identity though it is interwoven within the other's. yes the busyness of planning a wedding and craziness of life at certain times can pull you away from who you are and the things you love, but that only for a time.  true and healthy intimacy will always affirm and exalt the other person in who they truly are, and allow them the space to live it without suffocating for personal need/dependency. 

it's the mystery that as you completely and fully give yourself to another person you actually find that you have become more yourself. i feel this is what so many people do not realize when they fear commitment or overlook the significance of marriage by entering into it without their whole selfs. 

and that is where this all ties together (see i did that writer thing).  coming closer to the time of marriage, and i'm sure after actually being married, i will only experience a greater desire and welling up of my soul to write, because that is who i am.  and in my love for heather and her love for me i am compelled to be a better man, to be more fully myself, to live a life that is significant--and a big part of that for me is creating through writing. 

ten days and i will be united with another human being in a way that is indescribable.  and at the same time in ten days i will be more fully myself than i ever have been before.  amen.

did i say ten?  i think it's after midnight now, close enough right?. . . not that i'm eager or anything.




Christoga from Alin Bijan on Vimeo.

ps maybe one of these days i'll return to writing, probably after the wedding.