Thursday, January 17, 2013

It All Depends on the Questions

I have been intrigued by the debate in our nation since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.  The anxiety since that shooting has rested on guns, but that anxiety is now starting to shift some--although I don't know how much--toward conspiracy theories.  Of course, as I pointed out yesterday, conspiracy theories are more about trusting your sources than they are about anything else.  And I think one of the greatest problems facing our nation today is the lack of a source of information that anyone can trust.

Oh, I know that some folks trust particular sources of information, but I do not think there is one agreed upon source that folks believe they can turn to so that they may get come clarity and understanding about a particular issue.  More than a few times when posting on message boards or on social media, sources are challenged with commentary like, "That's a conservative website or organization.  That's a liberal website or organization."  Never mind what might be said is true--it is the underlying agenda which people point to in their deliberations.  

Now, this might be getting closer to the heart of the matter of trust because I think everyone and every organization has an agenda.  Everyone and every organization has something they are trying to accomplish; however, I'm not so sure everyone and every organization is abundantly clear on what it is they are trying to accomplish.  Let me clarify that statement a little more.  Perhaps some people are clear about what they are trying to accomplish internally, but externally, they are unable or unwilling to articulate it clearly to everyone else.

Let me try to tackle this from the perspective of the questions one tries to answer.  As it is still a hot topic, I will use gun control. 

Depending upon which question one is trying to answer, one will come up with vastly different solutions.  Depending upon what one is trying to accomplish--what vision one has, one will come up with very different approaches to another who is trying to accomplish something quite different. 

How does this play out in a real scenario?  Well, let's deal with a couple of problems and the questions they pose.

Problem #1: Mass shootings. 
Question about #1: How do we prevent mass shootings like Columbine, VA Tech, and Sandy Hook?

If this is the problem being addressed and the question posed, the solutions become easier to come up with.  If I were to address this problem and offer my solution which would prevent, as much as we can, such a thing from happening, it would be thus: a complete ban on all guns except muzzle loaded weapons which could be used for hunting, defense, etc.

Why would I offer this solution for prevention?  Nearly all guns on the market require minimal time to fire and minimal time to reload.  I can load four cartridges into my hunting rifle in fifteen seconds or so.  A gunman who can load this fast can still kill a lot of people in a short period of time.  Similarly, a person with a revolver who has a fast loader can accomplish just as much carnage.  To really and truly minimize the damage of a mass shooter, we would have to restrict firearms to those which take a full minute or so to load.  Hence: muzzle loaders.

Problem #2: Lessening Gun violence
Question about #2: How do we curb gun violence in our nation?

If this is the problem being addressed and the question being posed, there is a much different response beginning with the fact that gun violence has been on the decline since the 1980s.  You might never know that watching television and reading the news, but none-the-less, I assure you, it is correct.  You can easily do a search and find this out at your convenience.  For those who are convinced our society is more violent than at any other time in our history, I hope this is eye opening.

So, if lessening gun violence is the overall goal, perhaps we could say we should do nothing.  It's already falling; however, if we want to precipitate it's decline, then perhaps closing some loopholes on background checks (private sales at gun shows, for instance) would be appropriate.

Problem #3: Saving Lives
Question about #3: How can we prevent murder and save peoples' lives?

If this is the problem being addressed and the question being posed, another response is required.  Given that the murder rate is pretty much the same per capita across the board for industrialized nations, the solution to the problem is much deeper than any sort of weapon control we can impose.  Dealing with murder means we have to address the hearts and minds of people as those who commit murder are often capable of doing so with all sorts of tools. 

Referencing above's point that the murder rate is on the decline and has been for two decades, then perhaps we could say we are already doing something and we simply need to stay on course.

After going through the above process, think about the swirl of debate on this issue in our nation right now.  Which questions are being bandied about?  If you listen to any of the dialogue, you will hear every question and every problem introduced at some point of the discussion.  Of course as our minds process all these different questions, different solutions keep popping up, and we cannot seem to get any clarity on what we are really trying to accomplish.

Here's my two cents: it's about clarity in what we are really trying to accomplish.  I'm not sure we've even asked the questions clearly.  And since we don't have clarity, we're forced to come up with our own answers--and of course, that leads to chaos, debate, anxiety, etc.

But it's not about guns, as I said earlier.  It's about trust.  Who do you trust? 

Is it possible to be clear about what we are trying to accomplish?  Is it possible to be able to articulate what we are trying to do and the questions we are trying to answer?  Is it possible to lay our underlying assumptions on the table and invite people to come and see what we have to offer?  Is it possible to allow folks the freedom to accept or reject what we have to say without trying to strong arm them?  Is it possible to allow them the freedom to accept or reject what we are actually trying to accomplish but at the very least allow them to know what that agenda is?

It all comes down to clarity, I think.  Clarity about what a person and organization is trying to accomplish and the questions they are trying to answer.  Such clarity is often missing in our discussions. 

I hope I might personally work at being clear--with the questions I am trying to solve and what I am trying to accomplish in life and in work.


Gary said...

Let's do a comparison of the United States and Europe:

A very high percentage of Americans consider themselves religious, most Americans are Christian, a high percentage of Americans attend church regularly.

The churches of Europe are empty. Being religious, a devout Christian, is considered ignorant and backwards.

The United States has rampant gun violence. Gun violence in Europe is minimal. The murder rate in Europe is much, much lower than in the United States.

Europe severely restricts private gun ownership. The United States does not.

Is changing hearts for Christ the answer or restricting gun ownership?

Kevin Haug said...


You bring some interesting facts to the table. Our murder rate here is comprable to other industrialized nations in Europe stastically. About 4 percent for us. Just over 1 percent for Europe. That's not too terribly different.

But for argument's sake, we can point to a couple of things.

Based on the logic you present, we can actually go in a couple of directions. You could bring up the gun argument and restrict private gun ownership. Or you could argue we need to restrict Christianity and say that it is the fact that many Americans that are Christian and attend worship that cause the rampant gun violence in our society.

Unfortunately, you have fallen for an old philosophical fallacy: correllation does not translate into causation.

And yes, I still believe changing hearts for Christ is a more effective way of saving lives, ending murder, and addressing the underlying cause of violence: the thirst for power and inability to love those whom one is angry with.

Kathy said...

Kevin & Gary -- (I am not passionate about this issue.) Here is an article from a conservative Catholic perspective. It seems to be against gun control.

Gary said...

But with your thinking, Pastor, the murder rate in the US should be lower because we are more "Christian".

Look at these statistics:

The difference between 4% and 1% may not seem big in percentages but when you calculate the actual numbers for our 300 million population, there sure are alot more dead people than if we were at 1%.

Kevin Haug said...

I noticed, Gary, that you put the word "Christian" in quotes. Perhaps it is because you would agree with me when I say that our nation is hardly Christian in what it does and how it acts?

Perhaps you would agree with me that both the Christian Right and the Christian Left are both misguided in their attempts to instill their brands of Christianity on society?

Perhaps you would agree with me that very few of the Christians who call themselves that don't really follow Jesus' instructions all that well or oftentimes really desire to?

And a better question might be to ask whether or not our society might actually be significantly worse if we didn't have such a high number of people claiming to be Christian?

See, it all depends upon the questions.

And yes, I recognize that when you extrapolate the numbers, the actual number rises. That's why you use the per capita rate to judge and not the whole numbers.

Gary said...

Yes, the numbers don't look as scary if you use per capita. Four deaths out of every 100,000 persons doesn't seem that much more than one death out of every100,000--unless of course one of those 3 people happens to be you or someone you love.

Bottom line: the US has many more mass shootings than western Europe. I certainly hope you will at least agree with that. Look at these statistics:

Kevin Haug said...

And the numbers shouldn't look too scary since the odds are very good that we have a very small chance of getting murdered by gun or other object. Yet, you would never know that by watching television.

Secondly, I agree that the U.S. has more mass shootings than Europe. Those facts don't lie, and if it is our desire to do something about mass shootings, then I think we need to be very clear on that: see question #1 in the original post.

Gary said...

Alright! We agree on something!

Could you agree on these steps to reduce deaths in this country:

-ban all semi-automatic weapons.
-ban all clips/magazines with more than 7-10 rounds.
-background checks for ALL gun purchases.
-3 day waiting period for all gun purchases.
-mentally ill to be reported to a data bank and not allowed to purchase any guns.
-felons not allowed to purchase guns.

Even if these measures reduced deaths due to guns by a few hundred per year, wouldn't it be worth it? These measures don't really infringe that much on gun ownership rights for the majority of law abiding citizens.

Kevin Haug said...

If your overall goal is reducing deaths, then let me deal with these one by one:

1. An "assault" rifle ban. I am not in favor of such a ban. When this weapon is used in only 2% of all gun related deaths, banning it makes as much sense as fighting to get a guard rail installed at a dam which is leaking and threatening to burst. (HU to my friend Darrel for that one.) It might make you feel good, but it fails to address the real problem.

2. Limiting clips to 7-10 cartridges. Sure. Go ahead. I have no issue with this, but I guarantee limiting clips to this capacity will not prevent mass shootings.

3. background checks for all gun purchases. I have no problem with this for the most part; however, I want to know what will happen if I choose to sell my gun to my son or daughter at some time. Does such a thing require a background check? That's the problem with using the word ALL.

4. 3 day waiting period. It's already there for nearly every state with hand guns. I have no problem with this. Why extend it to rifles? Give me a good reason given that in the FBI list, rifles account for only 4-8% of the deaths while handguns account for 90+. Makes no sense to impose such a thing for all guns.

5. Mentally ill data bank. If it can be done without breaking any constitutional guarantees and impinge upon no other freedoms, fine. But which mental illnesses would disqualify a person from purchase? Are you aware of the volumes of such illnesses listed? Which ones are benign and which ones are cause for rejection?

6. Felons banned from purchase. Hello! Gary, as I have said previous, this is already in place.

Since I graciously answered all of your questions, I now pose one myself. Since all of these were already in place in CT--except the mentally ill data bank-- ( and they failed to stop the shooting at Sandy Hook, please give your reasoning as to why such laws would prevent such things and save lives in the rest of the nation.

Gary said...

Thank you for your detailed response. Let me go through some of the points you discussed and then answer your question.

1. Why does anyone need a semi-automatic weapon of any kind? To hunt with? What exactly are you hunting if you need to "mow it down" to kill it? Elephants?? I grew up hunting. Anyone who has to "mow down" his kill is a lousy shot and a sorry-ass excuse for a sportsman. Give the animal at least a running chance!

You need a semi-automatic for defense?? Who exactly do you believe is going to attack your house in rural ________ with mass numbers? The Russian army??

No one needs an automatic weapon for defense unless he is preparing to fight an army or a government (such as his own, which according to Scripture is a sin).

All you need for defense is: a six shooter, shot gun, or hunting rifle.

All one needs for hunting is a hunting rifle and some target practice.

Yes, the mentally ill and criminals are still going to kill people, even in mass shootings. We can't prevent ALL shootings/killings. The goal should be to do things that limit access for these bad people and LIMIT HOW MANY PEOPLE THEY CAN KILL WITHOUT RELOADING!

3. If requiring everyone to have a background check prevents one criminal or nut case from getting a gun, it is worth. I'm sorry your son and daughter would be inconvenienced by a background check to buy their dad's gun, but if one life is saved because of it, I will bet that the majority of Americans will say that it is worth it. (One of your children may have a mental illness and you are not aware of it.
4. The purpose of a three day waiting period is for a "cooling off" period. Example: John Doe just lost custody of his kids to his ex-wife and her new husband, he is devastated, "my life is over", and he decides that he is going to kill them all.
If he wants to buy a gun to do the job (the easiest and most efficient manner to kill them) he will have to wait three days to get the gun, even a rifle. Hopefully after 72 hours he will come to his senses before doing something stupid he will regret.
What hunter has an immediate need to buy a hunting rifle…Right Now! You have to wait a few days to get a driver's license, it won't kill you to wait three days.

(continued below)

Gary said...

(continued from above)

5. So if you’re taking Prozac for mild depression, should you be reported to the government’s "no guns" list. No. But anyone who is diagnosed with paranoia, recurrent delusions, and especially those who express to their doctor or therapist a desire to hurt or kill people, should be on the list.

6. If gun shows are not required to do background checks, how do you know that felons are not buying guns? If Joe Citizen can sell guns out of the back of his car to anyone without requiring a background check on his customers, how do you know that none of them are felons? I doubt that the majority of felons who have guns bought them at Walmart.

Close the loop-holes in the background-check data base!

Finally to your question: The shooter at the school in Conn. used a legally purchased gun, purchased by his mother. How could that tragedy have been prevented?

If he was really intent on killing some little kids...I don't think ANY gun law would have prevented it. Bad people can find guns if they try hard enough.

So the issue is not can we prevent all mass shootings/gun crimes. Not at all! The issue is how can we make guns for "bad people" less easy to get a hold of when they are in a rage and can we limit the damage they can do?

If all semi-automatics and all large capacity clip handguns and rifles had been illegal in this country for the last 20 years, his mother would not have been able to buy one of these weapons. She would have had to buy a regular handgun or a rifle. If this "nut" had only had access to a six-shooter, a hunting rifle, or a shot gun, 26 people would probably not be dead…five or ten people would be dead. Still tragic, but a lot fewer mothers and fathers would be grieving right now.

That's the point. Let's do whatever we can to reduce gun violence and the opportunity for a bad guy to spray a crowd with bullets in a matter of seconds.

Ask any cop, if the guy has to reload, that gives you a chance to jump him.

Common sense, Pastor. Let's use common sense. I do NOT want all guns banned. The majority of Americans like me do not want all guns banned, but let's do what we can to reduce the number of dead Americans each day, each month, each year due to gun violence. Please!

Kevin Haug said...


I've already addressed much of what you said in a previous post. There is no need to rehash those arguments.

I will beg to disagree that if Lanza used a hunting rifle the results would have been different. In all reality, he would have used those two hand guns he was carrying, and the results would have been just as devastating--see Virginia Tech, Cho.

The point I made that you admitted but still didn't concede is that CT alreadey had the laws you mentioned in place. I showed you a link to prove it. Yet, despite the very things you are proposing, it prevented nothing.

If you are serious about preventing mass killings, I believe you have to go down the route of banning all cartridge weapons and return to muzzle loaders. The reload time for those alone will give sufficient time for a person to jump a gunman.

Gary said...

If we passed a ban on automatic weapons tomorrow, the impact won't be felt for several years because there are so many of these weapons already in the community. Any gun regulations are going to take time, in years, to be effective.

But we have to start somewhere.

I would recommend doing this:

1. Ban the sale of all semi-automatic weapons immediately.

2. Ban the sale/manufacture/and importation of bullets for these guns immediately.

3. Ban the sale/manufacture/importation of large magazines/gun clips effective immediately.

4. The Federal govenment should NOT attempt to take away semi-automatic weapons that have been purchased prior to the ban by law-abiding private citizens. THE GOVERNMENT CANNOT COME AND TAKE YOUR GUN AWAY.

5. The Federal government SHOULD offer a compensation for each privately owned semi-automatic weapon that is VOLUNTARILY turned in. Make the compensation very financially attractive: cash, tax-deduction, government bondS, etc. Make it so financially worth while to voluntarily turn in your semi-automatic weapon that only a few persons will be left owning one of these weapons.

5. After the ban, make it a felony for any lawfully owned semi-automatic weapon to be sold to anyone else. The original owner can keep his/her semiautomatic gun for the rest of his/her life, but after his/her death the weapon must be turned into the government for the compensation mentioned above to go, tax-free to the gun-owner's heirs.

I have more ideas but this is enough to start with.

Reducing gun violence is going to take time. It isn't going to happen overnight. There are going to be more mass killings, unfortunately, but hopefully, with time, less and less, with less fatalities.

Kevin Haug said...


Two thoughts:

#1. Where are "all these semi-automatic assault weapons"? Do you actually know how many of these weapons are out there and what percentage of the total number of firearms they make up? I do. When you find out the percentage, you might be surprised.

CNN ran a neat little tidbit this morning. Read it carefully. It echoes many of my thoughts but cites experts in the field:

#2. You said that reducing gun violence is going to take time and that it won't happen overnight. So, how long do you think it's going to take? Years, decades? Will it be a slow decline?

Gary, let this sink in--gun violence is in decline! It's been declining since the 1980's. This is indisputable fact! If it's on a downward trend, slowly but surly marching toward less and less crime, why the need to do something about this huge problem? The problem is going away! And yet, here is this big push to control this massive problem. Do you see the disconnect in the perception versus the reality? (I have my doubts that you do and doubt that you will actually check the numbers. I think you have a picture of reality placed in your head by the media instead of the reality of the crime figures and stats provided by the FBI. You could prove me wrong and acknowledging that I am correct in stating that gun violence has been on such a decline, but I won't hold my breath.)

Gary said...

I agree that overall gun violence is in decline. However, the number of mass killings with guns that spray round after round of bullets in a matter of seconds, is not.

Again I ask, why does any private citizen need a semi-automatic weapon?

I think you want one just because it is your "right" to own a "gun". I doubt the authors of the Constitution invisioned private citizens having assault rifles.

What if someone invents a "gun" that can fire bullets with nuclear material in it causing mass destruction? Just because it is a gun, should every private citizen have a right to own one?

Common sense, my friend. Common sense.

I don't think either one of us is going to convince the other of the error in his thinking. Hopefully, though, our conversation will make others think through the issue (and hopefully come to my way of thinking.) :)

God bless!

Kathy said...

Holy cow! What is it with boys and guns?!

Just read what the Catholic bishops say and accept that. You are wasting so many pixels.

Kevin Haug said...


You've asked why a private citizen needs a semi-automatic assault weapon, and I've answered multiple times: no one needs it. Plain and simple. However, now you are encroaching upon a bigger issue with the difference between needs and wants.

For instance, do I need to drive and own a Ford Mustang GT when I have three kids to tote around? Answer: No. I don't need it. It's an extremely impractical vehicle for me to own. However, I have one and enjoy driving it around.

The vast majority of those who own assault rifles don't need them, but they own them, are responsible with them, and enjoy firing them at target practice or what have you. Who are you to tell them what they can't enjoy such a thing when they are responsbile with what they do?

Secondly, I am glad you mentioned the Founding Fathers and what they may or may not have thought. You are actually treading into pure speculation, but to play the game, let's consider the fact that the best weapon available was the musket. All armies were equipped with them as they were the best available, most powerful firearm on the planet then. Did the Founding Fathers limit the access to the best weapons around? Did they see that ordinary citizens didn't need such weaponry since it was very lethal? Did they believe citizens should be armed instead with long rifles which were more accurate, but took longer to load thereby ensuring safety? Not so much.

And as to inventing such powerful weapons: let us cross that bridge if we ever get there. We more than likely will not. Instead, let's agree on the reality instead of some hypothetical situation(s).

(Hypothetical and reality dealt with in next comment.)

Kevin Haug said...

And so, Gary, allow me to continue in dealing with hypothetical versus reality.

Because of the knee jerk reaction by the U.S. government and people like yourself who have demanded that weapons like the AR-15 be banned, what has happened?

Just a cursory glance at the news will show you that these weapons are flying off the shelves at warp speed. High capacity clips are out of stock in most places. Ammunition is being stock piled by numerous people. Many of these folks would probably never have purchased said weapons in the first place, but they are knee jerking because of the other knee jerking.

Therefore, you and other's desire to reduce the number of these weapons in the public's hands has actually had the opposite effect.

This is reality, my friend. Your efforts have actually increased the number of guns, high capacity clips, and ammunition circulating in society. Congratulations on your well thought out, common sense actions.

(And you wonder why I suggest taking a calm, ordered, knee-jerkless response.)

Kathy said...

"This is reality, my friend. Your efforts have actually increased the number of guns, high capacity clips, and ammunition circulating in society. Congratulations on your well thought out, common sense actions."

Crap. You may be right, Haug. I'm just reading the news. Gun stores are cleaned out.

I think the Mayans were right. Sandy Hook was on Dec. 14. Now the entire country is armed and ready for some sort of combat. I'm moving to the mountains of -- somewhere safe.

Gary said...

Do you believe that the US government, elected by the people, has the right, if it wishes, to define which "arms" are acceptable for citizens to privately own and which "arms" they may not?

Do you believe that the US government, elected by the people, has the right to ban private ownership of nuclear weapons? Shoulder-held rocket launchers? Grenades? Bazookas? Machine guns?

I certainly hope you do. And a machine gun is a gun.

So if the US government, elected by the people, chooses to add semi-automatic weapons to this banned list of "arms", will you abide by that law, and if required, turn in your semi-automatic weapon?

Will you encourage other semi-automatic gun owners to follow the law of the land, and turn in their weapons?

Will you obey the elected government of the United States if the majority of the citizens and their elected representatives choose to ban these weapons?

Or will you resist?

If you defy the elected government of the United States, representing the wishes of the majority of US citizens, and refuse to obey the new law, do you believe that you are sinning by not obeying "Caesar", as Christ commanded?

Kevin Haug said...


You have made a major assumption: I don't own a semi-automatic weapon. I do not want a semi-automatic weapon. I do not need a semi-automatic weapon. I will not buy a semi-automatic weapon.

Your post is off comment and refuses to deal with the blatant reality I put before you. Do you wish to continue to put out meaningless stuff, or do you want to deal with reality--a reality you are helping to shape and form even as it adds millions of weapons and high capacity clips to the public?

Kathy said...

I didn't mean to diss Gary with my comment. I'm not taking sides. I think the people who have bought up all the guns and ammo are probably fanatical, ultra-right-wing, gun-loving nuts. I do not approve of that, either.

Gary said...

No, it's right ON comment.

This is a democracy, and if the majority of the American people choose to ban semi-automatic weapons or any other type of firearm, I hope that you will do your Christian duty and obey the law, and as a pastor and a Christian, encourage others to obey the law.

There is no where in the Bible that gives Christians the right to resist gun regulation.

It may not become law now, but a slim majority of Americans now supports increased gun regulation. As the younger generations become a larger and larger percentage of the electorate, your viewpoint, and that of those who agree with you, are going to become a shrinking minority, just as it is now in presidential elections.

We can debate and argue this issue all we want now, but once it is law, we as Christians must obey it.

Kevin Haug said...


I just read an article which said that 60% of younger folks fully intend to purchase a gun in their lifetimes. Please tell me where this rapidly increasing anti-gun group is at?

And just because a majority of people say that we should do something and that it is legal does not mean it should be followed and done. You, yourself said that abortion isn't a good thing that it is taking a life; however, our laws say that it can be done legally.

Lest I remind you, "We must obey God rather than man."

As you say, the Bible is silent on the issue of gun control. It mentions that "those who live by the sword shall die by the sword." It does not say, "Make the people with swords lay them down and give them up." It does not say, "Force the people with swords to only use knives." It gives people the freedom to choose how they could live and how they could die.

It's not up to you or me to choose for them.

If Congress passes a law banning the use of semi-automatic weapons, limiting the size of clips, and adding waiting periods or what have you, it won't make a difference to me. You see, I am a responsible gun owner. I follow the rules, including that big one about "thou shalt not murder." Yet, it is not me who you have to convince. Convince those who don't follow the rules.

You see, Gary, we arrive at very different conclusions because our focus is different. I focus on the millions of legal gun owners who commit no crimes; whose weapons are not used to commit crimes; and who cause no harm in what they do with their guns. You, instead, seem to be focusing on the very small portion of gun users who abuse having fire arms. Changing perspective and changing what you look at makes a very big difference.

It is your choice to focus on the pathology in the system. No problem. Continue to do so; however, please don't ask me to focus my attention on the pathology. I focus on the system's healthy parts and see what can be done to strengthen them. For when the system's other parts are strong, the pathology is diminished.

Gary said...

It is obvious you live in a rural area and I live in a big city. Maybe we should trade places for a year and see if our perspective changes.

You have beautiful horses, by the way, and the countryside looks incredible. How expensive is land down there? Alot of Californians are moving to Texas to retire. Maybe I should start checking it out.

You all won't mind a gun control supporting, politically moderate Lutheran Californian moving in next door, would you? :)

Kevin Haug said...

Hey Gary,

I did the city thing for three years while attending seminary. I'll take the rurual life any day and twice on Sunday compared to what I went through while trying to live in the urban world, but thanks for the offer.

Land out in my neck of the woods is running for about $10,000 an acre. Not too terribly bad, but more than yours truly can afford.

Of course you would be welcome to relocate out here. Texas has more than a few folks of your persuasion. They are in the minority, but we love 'em and get along with 'em as long as they don't work too hard to change our mentality too much. I have several folks in my congregation who are right with you in your stance on gun control but a whole lot more who are right in line with what I am articulating.

As a pastor, I serve both groups without reservation, and they know where I stand. They also know I'm not going to stop listening to them or start treating them differently because they disagree with me. I try to keep things as open and honest as possible and seek to make the congregation I serve a place where people can believe differently on issues but still congregate together in the name of Christ realizing He's bigger than those issues and gives us common ground to unite upon.

That may be more than you wanted to know, but I gave it anyway. :-) Good luck in your decision making!

Gary said...

You sound like a very compassionate, understanding pastor. God bless you.