December 11, 2015

Guns, Terrorism, Racism, Refugees & Jesus [Part 1]

There is so much to say. 

This past year I honestly cannot count the times I sat down to begin writing and was honestly blank or paralyzed from the sheer thought of where to begin. I know if you're a "writer", this isn't supposed to stop you. You just write. Well, I guess I might have to turn in my writer's card (whatever the heck that is).

Where to begin might be the hardest question to answer in the whole mess. Over the last 365 days it’s quite possible to feel like you’re drowning in an ocean of chaos and that the world is coming apart at the seams. If you don’t believe me or don't agree with me, allow me to stir up the pot for just a moment: ISIS, terrorism, Syrian refugees, vetting process, gun rights, gun “violence”, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, Planned Parenthood, “unedited” video, San Bernardino, Chattanooga, Paris, ban on Muslims, 1st Amendment, 2nd Amendment, and on and on and on…. What in the world is happening? (Other than exactly what Jesus and the scriptures told us would happen?)

It’s time for those who live under the banner of Jesus - his name, his cross, his resurrection, and his Kingdom - to begin to examine (or maybe begin reexamining) what that looks like. And it’s time for those who don’t claim to live under that banner, who (hopefully) would at least claim to speak and think on behalf of common sense, to start thinking, talking and acting like it. You’ve heard it said, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” Well, it seems there’s a lot of that going around…even with the lumberjacks. The people who should be the ones leading others to see the bigger picture in all of this seem to be the ones making the view even more difficult. 

The reason I get so frustrated with church signs - the ones out beside the road - is because 9 out of 10 times I don’t think anyone is really deliberating over the questions, “WHO are we speaking to?” and “WHAT is it we’re actually attempting to communicate?” This infection is spreading. What are we to do? Where are we to begin?

For the sake of delaying no further, let’s just start with GUNS. 

I live in Huntsville, Alabama. While the greater metro area of Huntsville is over 400,000 people, the city itself is home to less than 200,000. Redstone Arsenal is located in Huntsville. A US Army base, the Arsenal is home to the Army's Material Command, the Missile Defense Agency, Aviation & Missile Command (yes, that's a real thing), and even a wing of the Department of Defense. There are around 40,000 people working on the Arsenal as I write this. It's about 1/2 mile from my house. And because it's Friday, I fully expect my whole house to shake sometime this afternoon from someone blowing something up. What does any of this have to do with guns?

I lay all of this out to hopefully make it clear: I live in a city with a LOT of guns!

People drink sweet tea, they go to church, and they're packin' heat.

For the folks standing on the left side of the fence, allow me to share with you some of what the folks standing on the right side of the fence (meaning the opposite of LEFT, not the opposite of WRONG) in the midst of our current circumstances are hearing: 

People are not responsible. 
People are not accountable. 
Guns kill people. 
Guns load themselves, fire themselves, and actually kill people. 

Please understand me; I know that's not what (most of) you are saying, but that's what's being heard. And - like it or not - that's what the battle for "gun control" and the headline of "gun violence" is saying. As I said earlier, please follow the logic.

10-15 years ago there was one story after another that read something like this: "SUV kills pedestrian". If you were visiting here from another country, you would have been scared to death. Headlines everywhere telling of SUV's running rampant all over the place, killing people at will. As if no one was driving them. They just backed out of the garage, pulled out of the neighborhood on a death mission, and saw it through. Who on earth would be careless enough to talk this way? I'll tell you. People with an agenda. All the people who wanted SUV's off the road because they were opponents of gas and oil. This was liberal agenda language. And while many want to argue and plead, "Oh, that's not what they were trying to say!", that is most certainly what they were trying to say. This is called propaganda. It's an understanding that words can manipulate and influence, stronger than anything else. And on a sidenote, you might notice that SUV's are no longer killing people (at least not that the media are telling us). Guns have taken their place.

If you are not a gun owner (&) you are overwhelmed with the conviction that something must be done to stop all of this violence, I understand. I stand in that same place. But I stand there with the understanding that 99.89% of the people who own a gun 1) use it responsibly and 2) have a right to own it. I realize it makes some people feel better - and makes them think they are accomplishing something - to simply keep repeating, "We need more gun control" and "Something must be done about gun violence", but this is like saying you're going to beat cancer once and for all with some Neosporin and a Bandaid. It not only won't work, it's not even a remotely effective solution.

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. 

People kill people who are loved by other people who become overwhelmed with grief and simply want to know that something - if at all humanly possible - is going to be done to keep someone else from having to walk through the same pain they have.

Let's move to the other side of the fence for a moment.

People kill people. And of the almost 13,000 people who were murdered in the United States in 2013, over 11,000 of them were killed by someone using a gun. So what those of us standing on the right side of the fence (opposite of left, not opposite of wrong) must come to grips with is that, while guns do not kill people, guns are the weapon of choice by people who kill people. How do we bring this number down? What do we do about psychotic people getting ahold of guns that a Marine would need in a close proximity wartime shootout? Is there something that can be done about 3 terrorists or 2 angry and bitter high school students dressing up in bulletproof vests and ambushing an office building or movie theater or school cafeteria? How are so many people - so many sick, twisted, psychotic, delusional, angry people getting ahold of so many guns? Is there anything that can be done about this without infringing on the rights of the 99.89% who would never consider intentionally harming another human being, much less taking their life?

I don't know. But I do know this...

If both sides don't stop yelling and somehow come to the table, we'll never know.

If you're a gun owner, I believe you might be tempted to be one of those lumberjacks I spoke about earlier. And if you're a gun owner and a Christian, I want to implore you to make sure you're not missing the forest for the trees. If this is first and foremost about your rights, then you're possibly not surrendered to and fighting for the Kingdom of God. Maybe it's becoming more about the Kingdom of Guns. I know we have rights and I believe we ought to protect them, but I also know that Jesus spent an awful lot of time and energy talking about how we actually have to lay our "rights" down at his feet. The Sermon on the Mount - in particular Matthew 5:38-48 - is a manifesto. Jesus is declaring that his followers will live their lives laying down their rights. And we really don't need contextualization here. This freaked as many people out and pissed as many people off then as it does now. Jesus is radical! He rode into town on a donkey, not a white horse. Peter chopped off Malchus's ear and Jesus put it back on. He "did not cling to his rights as God, but instead emptied himself, taking the form of a servant..." (Philippians 2:5-11) If this is first and foremost about your rights, I encourage and exhort you to prayerfully reexamine who it is you're following. 

I believe those who are screaming for gun control would stop yelling so loudly if those screaming for gun rights would step up, step out, and lead the way in asking the tough questions. We've got to get out from behind our side of the fence and somehow sit down at the table. Is that possible? Can anyone stop yelling and finger pointing and politicizing long enough for that to even be a possibility? 

The more we think the solution is to just do away with everyone's rights, the higher and deeper the wall is going to grow to find a real, actual solution. And the harder and tighter we cling to our rights, usually the louder we're going to have to yell to defend them and keep them. That's not just a gun issue. It's a Kingdom issue. Because the Kingdom of God is now living within the people of God. The citizens of heaven are currently residents of earth. We're aliens, foreigners and exiles here (1 Peter 2). Babylon's problems are our problems (Jeremiah 29:1-13). This is a Kingdom issue. What kingdom are we surrendered to and fighting for?

What are your thoughts? 

Not your feelings - your thoughts?

More to come...

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