gun control

Living by the Sword

by Rev. Mindi

American children are nine times more likely to die in gun accidents than children anywhere else in the developed world.

Firearms were the third leading cause of injury related deaths nationwide in 2010.

The CDC reports that 21,175 suicide deaths are by firearms, just over half of all suicide deaths every year.

This year alone, over 62 shootings have taken place at schools, over twelve thousand killed in gun incidents, and almost 25,000 have been injured in gun incidents in the US.

And the list goes on and on and on. These statistics alone, and report after report after report, ought to make us question the plethora of guns in the United States, the attitudes about gun ownership rights and responsibilities, and the overall risk of life when it comes to gun ownership. I know—some of these are criminals with guns. Yes. However, look at the rates of accidental death and injury, especially to children—and we ought to at least question our attitudes about availability of guns.

On Monday, Jerry Falwell, Jr. made the statement that Christians should be arming themselves to shoot Muslims. He later clarified he meant Muslim extremists, but still. “Christians should arm themselves.”

What?

Why in the world should Christians arm themselves? Isn’t this antithetical to the message of the Gospel? To Jesus, the one who saves? Jesus, the one who gave up his own life?

Carol Howard Merritt writes about the reality of domestic violence and murder when guns are present in the home. We all know the church has a history of hiding abuse and covering up domestic violence, persuading women to stay in abusive situations where they are more likely to end up killed by their partner.

Rebecca Sumner writes about a time when she stopped someone with a gun by using her words. And she isn’t the only one—remember this story? It was in 2013 that Antoinette Tuff talked down a shooter in a Georgia school, in an incident where no one lost their life.

Both Carol and Rebecca mention the phrase, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” in their stories. Here’s my story. I know more than one person—who are generally good people, who have been law-abiding citizens for the most part—have, at times, been so angry they pulled a gun on someone who wasn’t armed. Or threatened to pull a gun on someone who angered them. Or talked about going and shooting up someone who had hurt them. Or even pulled out a gun on someone they loved.

Good guys, all with guns, who, if they had their gun with them in that moment, would have become the bad guy. Because it is so much easier to lash out in a fit of rage with an accessible gun. It is so much easier to do something you could never imagine yourself doing if you have a gun. It is so much easier to kill someone, or yourself, if you have access to a gun. And it is nine times more likely that your child will die in this country than anywhere else. So we need to stop saying “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” because more often than not, the good guy will become a bad guy.

Jesus, when met with violence in his arrest, argued against violence. Jesus’ disciples did not carry weapons, even when their lives were at stake.

 Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Matthew 25:51-52

 

How Long Must We Sing This Song?

By Rev. Mindi

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?[1]

O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?[2]

How long, O Lord? How long will we allow another mass shooting to ravage people’s lives and send loved ones into the grave?

How long, O Lord? How long will we say prayers for the victim’s families? How long will we pray for an end to violence? How long will we fold our hands and bow our heads, and do nothing more to change the world we live in?

How long, O Lord? How long will we sacrifice our children for gun ownership?

How long, O Lord, will we blame the mentally ill, among the most vulnerable, without offering health care, support, and the removal of stigma in our society?

How long, O Lord, will we go on allowing this to happen, pointing fingers, without actually making any changes at all?

How long, O Lord, will we allow this to become normal, regular, and acceptable in our society?

How long,

How long must we sing this song?

How long, how long…

‘Cause tonight, we can be as one, tonight…[3]

How long until we are ready to compromise to make change? Or to give up our need to have deadly power over others? What will it take? What more will it cost?

Seriously, how long will we sing this song, and how long will our prayers be empty?

We used to light candles in my church when there was a shooting, for the victims, so we would not forget. I still remember the twenty-eight candles I lit the Friday of the Newtown shooting. But now, there are just too many candles to light, and they have become meaningless.

We’ve all heard the saying, “pray while moving your feet.” I believe it is time to say, “pray while calling your elected official.” Because our prayer without action is meaningless, as faith without works is also dead.[4]

Pray, and register to vote.

Pray, and vote for change.

Pray, and call your elected officials.

Demand that children’s lives matter more than access to unlimited guns and ammunition and military style firearms.

How long? How many more children will die, before we finally say too many have died by gun violence?

 

[1] Psalm 13:1-2, NRSV

[2] Psalm 80:4, NRSV

[3] “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” U2, 1983

[4] James 2:26

 

Death at the Movies

By Dr. Mark Poindexter

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13-15)

Could someone please explain to me when texting during the previews of a movie became a capital offense?  It might be slightly inappropriate, but I would even argue that may not necessarily be true.  As long as a phone is put away before the movie begins, who really cares?  I guarantee you that most of those under 40 don’t really see it as a major problem.  And a lot of us who are 50 plus aren’t too worried about it either.   But the fact that Chad Oulson was texting during the previews to a movie, apparently texting his young daughter’s baby-sister, so infuriated another movie goer, Curtis Reeves, that Reeves shot Oulson to death.   Yes, there was apparently an exchange of words and Oulson may have even thrown some popcorn at Reeves, but again where does any of that come close to being a capital offense with Reeves as judge, jury and executioner.

Gun violence is an epidemic in America.  In the small town in which I live, a father was recently arrested for shooting and killing his son over an argument about a football game.  When I tell people about my trip to Israel and Jordan a few years back, they ask if I was scared to travel in the Middle East.  I answer that question by telling folks that the very day we landed in Jerusalem there was a shooting in the school that is just a quarter mile from the church I serve.  A middle school student shot another student as part of a romantic triangle.  Fortunately, the student did not die – but at least two young lives have been forever affected by this incident.    Any research will quickly show that the number of gun related deaths in America is out of proportion to our western, economic counterparts.        (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/committees/gun_violence/resources/the_u_s_compared_to_other_nations.html)  

For a powerful visual image about the tally of gun deaths in America, I recommend this site: http://guns.periscopic.com/?year=2013.  It illustrates that the 11,419 gun deaths in America in 2013 claimed over 502,000 years of life. 

Look, I know that ever since Cain killed Abel people have been killing each other.  But the number of guns and the easy access to them in America has made that killing so much easier.  You take the gun away from Mr. Reeves and there may have been an argument between him and Mr.  Oulson, but it isn’t nearly as likely that someone would have ended up dead.  One of the saddest parts of this episode is that Mr. Reeves is a retired police captain and Mr. Oulson was a former Navy officer.  Here were two people who had given portions of their life in service to their community and nation, and one ended up dead because he was texting when he wasn’t supposed to and the other guy didn’t like it and had a gun. 

We have to do something as a nation.  Too many lives are ending way too soon.  Too many people who become angry and volatile when things don’t go their way are carrying weapons.  We have to do something.  I think most everyone is probably in agreement that Mr.  Reeves should be held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law and if found guilty serve the appropriate time in jail.  But that doesn’t give Mr. Oulson back his life or his daughter back her daddy.  Again, we need to do something as a nation.  And I think the church has an important role to play in this conversation.

We believe in the church that human life is of inestimable value, for every life is created in the divine and sacred image, and when life is lost, especially violently and needlessly, the heart of God grieves. In the text above, from Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he states that freedom is a wonderful, but dangerous thing.  When freedom becomes more concerned about self than it is about others, it leads to us consuming each other. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said that freedom and liberty, the hallmarks of America society, has to be balanced with responsibility.  And as people die, school children, movie goers, mall shoppers, America has to act responsibly to create a safer, less violent society.

And now, so you know, I am a gun owner.  I own a 16 gauge double barrel shot gun that was handed down to me by my father.  I have taken both my children to target shoot so they might learn proper technique and safety in regard to firearms.  But this I believe, my right to own a firearm isn’t the first concern for me.  The first concern for me, especially as a person of faith, is what can we do as a nation to create a more civil and respectful society.  What are the root causes that underlie our societal violence?  What can we do to address those issues? 

I am asking questions to which I have my own answers and if I could change it all with one great big wand, I would do it in a minute.  But I can’t.  So people with all different sorts of perspectives have to be part of the conversation.  But it has to happen.  Something has to be done.   Every day, 31 people are dying in America at the end of a gun. Some of them are children in school, some of them are shoppers in malls, and some of them are people who simply went to a movie with their wives and got a text from the baby-sitter.  I guess, for me, the right to life trumps everything else and there are a whole lot of folks who have lost that right here in America.

Prayers for our nation.

Liberty University Loosens Guns On Campus Rules To Allow Concealed Carry In Classrooms

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/l...

Post-Electionacalypse

By Rev. Mindi

It’s over. It’s over.

Of course it’s not totally over, but it’s over enough for now.

I was sick of the commercials, sick of the rhetoric, sick of the Facebook status updates.  But yet I stayed up and watched the returns, the projections, the predictions and the announcements. Because this election was incredibly pivotal.

Equal marriage has prevailed, though civil rights should never have been on the ballot to begin with.  But the people have affirmed that marriage should be for all committed couples.  (note: I'm writing this before Minnesota and Washington's returns are in, but hearing that Maine and Maryland have spoken, I'm feeling good about the prospects). Surprisingly, marijuana use was approved of even more than equal marriage in some states—which leads me to believe that this is a lot less about decriminalization for law enforcement’s sake and more that marijuana use has gained greater acceptance.  I still haven’t wrapped my mind around the margins in the votes on marijuana use compared to equal marriage in my mind.  

And yes, our president was re-elected. And the discussion of the electoral college may come up all over again, as it did twelve years ago, but somehow I imagine the fact that Gore won the popular vote will be lost in the discussion.

So where do we go from here, post-electionacalypse?

Where do we go from here on the struggle for equal marriage?  How do we overturn constitutional amendments in other states and get legislation passed at the national level to guarantee the rights of all couples to legal marriage?  How do we take up the call for justice and move on the momentum?

Where do we go from here in the separation of church and state?  We know the violent rhetoric from the right that has become infused with religious jargon will intensify.  How do we continue to speak out for religious freedom?  And how do we claim our space and voice as Christians when others have held such a tight grasp on Jesus and the Bible?  

And finally, where do we go in giving voice to the voiceless?  I think of all the issues that were never addressed in this election: yesterday as people went to the polls, another mass shooting took place.  We have not addressed gun violence and the accessibility of weapons.  We have not spoken up enough about this nor have we demanded that our candidates address it.  While healthcare, mainly “Obamacare” was addressed, there are still so many people who will be without healthcare even after the reforms are put in place.  How do we continue to push for healthcare as a right, and not a privilege for a few?  How do we continue to raise the issue of women’s rights and health as people of faith?  And immigration: how do we continue to work towards equality and justice for all of God's children?

I could go on and on.  I’m glad it’s over, and yet, the work has just begun, Christians. The work has just begun.