Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Guns, God, and Goodness

It was a great wonder to me why the national news media made such a big deal about my home state's new law that allowed properly certified individuals to carry firearms openly instead of concealed.  I mean, this is nothing new in the rest of the U.S.  Texas joins 44 other states in allowing individuals to open carry.  Think about that.  The vast majority of states already allow what Texas just began.  My state is actually behind the curve--and for all of those who think Texas is a gun crazy state, just ask yourself why it is that we were behind nearly everyone else.

But this post is not a defense of open carry or the state of Texas.  There is much more too it, because the facts are undeniable.

There are far too many people in the U.S. who die from gun violence.
There are far too many people in the U.S. who have fire arms who should not have them.
There are far too many people who look for safety behind the sights of a weapon.


There are far many more responsible gun owners than criminals.
There are far many more gun owners who never point a weapon at anyone except for those who threaten them, their families, or their property.
There are many lives that are saved by responsible gun owners.


We have more than a few, good, common sense gun laws on the books that regulate the sale and distribution of fire arms.
We have a good system of background checks for individuals who are looking to purchase.
We do not allow the sale of automatic weapons.


We could have better enforcement of these laws.
We could have better laws which might make things safer.

If you read through that list, I think you will see that the issue is much more complicated than simply saying: "We need to get rid of guns." "The government is coming to take your guns." "We need more guns."

Simplistic views are myopic and really do no one any good.  We need to acknowledge the messiness. Even in my list above, more facts could be added muddying the view even further.  And from facts that paint a muddy picture, it's hard to get a clear sense of what to do.

That being said, let's muddy the waters even more by dealing with an oft repeated phrase:

The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

I am an unapologetic Christian, and Christianity takes a very specific view of humankind.  St. Paul articulated it best in Romans chapter 3:

"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God...No one is righteous..."

Think about that for a minute.  If you are not a Christian, wrap your head around the thought that there is no such thing as a "good guy."

Christianity argues that all are flawed.  All are sinful.  All seek their own wants, desires, and interests--sometimes without even realizing it.  We tend to reside at the center of our own universes, and if we become threatened...if our safety is not assured...

The tendency throughout human history is to strike out.  Remove the threat.  By hook, crook, law, or might, we preserve ourselves.  Add a gun to that equation, and the results can become volatile.

Oh, but lest you think I am going to go down the road and suggest that we need to give up our fire arms...

Remember, governments are made up of sinful people.  Governments themselves are infected with sin and the desire for self-preservation.  Governments are well adept at removing threats, and they have done so numerous times in history.

In fact, the number of U.S. citizens killed by firearms post Civil War pales in comparison to the numbers of people murdered by tyrannical governments who disarmed their populations.  Governments can be just as bad as the people who live in those nations.

I am also no hypocrite because I am not going to preach here on this blog and say that everyone should turn the other cheek as Jesus suggests.  I wouldn't do that if my own family was under threat.  I would unhesitatingly shoot to defend them.

Ideally, the Christian would turn the other cheek.  However, when unmitigated evil begins harming others, does a Christian have an obligation to defend others, even when that defense might be violent?  One of the most famous theologians of the Second World War came to that decision after having once been a pacifist.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer even participated in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler, which eventually cost Bonhoeffer his life.  Violence became an option in the face of horrendous violence and evil.

Which brings us squarely back to the situation of gun violence here in the U.S.

It's messy, for certain.

Having open carry isn't going to solve the problem.
Putting more laws on the book isn't going to solve the problem.
Disarming citizens and only allowing government officials have guns most probably will lead to an even larger death toll (if history has anything to contribute to the situation).

So, what to do?

How do you deal with the fears for security that are inherent in all human beings?
How do you deal with perceived threats to your security?
How do you deal with a heart that sees someone who disagrees with it as an enemy?
How do you deal with a corrupt human nature that seeks its own self-interest?

23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.  27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.  --Romans 3:23-28
You were far off from God, and you were brought near to God not because of your actions but because of Jesus' actions on your behalf.  He became the sacrifice of atonement nullifying your sins.  

If you trust in this action: you have no room to boast because you are a sinner.  You have no right to look down at another as an enemy.  You hate no one.  You also have no need to wonder about your security because you are firmly taken care of by God.  You stand just before Him, and your place with Him is secured.  Your heart is changed because you are not striving to justify yourself or work for your own self-interest.  All has been accomplished, so you can work for God (not for others because that leads to burn out and contempt for those who don't work for others like you do).  

And you are then commanded by Jesus to convert others to this understanding--not by coercion like some in the faith have tried--but by introducing people not to yourself and how good you are, but by introducing them to the God who died for them.

The Christian approach to gun violence and death is not legalism but conversion--which will lead to changed hearts--which will lead to humility--which will lead to people responding with love instead of hatred.

Too often, we look to the quick fixes.  We think simply changing laws will make things better.  It hasn't worked throughout history.  People find a way to manipulate the laws; manipulate the courts; manipulate the process.  The only one who cannot be manipulated is God and His goodness.  

No comments: