Someone asked if I had any Godly thoughts specific to gun control (or lack thereof), not for the sake of debate rather for the sake of drawing folks away from polarizing opinions and toward unity in Jesus?
I responded sarcastically with something like, “Oh sure, that should be easy–the pathway from guns to Jesus is so obvious.” Good idea, but I’ll pass.
And then Sunday morning came. As I was putting the final touches on the message, I couldn’t ignore the need for something to be said about the tragic events of Roseburg, OR where nine innocent people – Lucero Alcaraz, 19; Treven Taylor Anspach, 20; Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18; Quinn Glen Cooper, 18; Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59; Lucas Eibel, 18; Jason Dale Johnson, 34; Lawrence Levine, 67; and Sarena Dawn Moore, 44 – needlessly perished at the hand of a twisted 26-year old gunman.
But what do you say about such a thing?
While no longer surprising, it’s surely tragic and deeply saddening. Daily, innocent people die as a result of unimpeded injustice…like the 19 in the Afghan hospital bombing, or the two brothers that killed five of their own family members this July in Washington, or the AME church in Charleston last June. In a sampling of 10 violent U.S. cities, murders increased by an average rate of 28% to an average of almost 150 murders in those cities last year.
Although guns and mental health issues probably play some role, only the naive conclude that these and/or any number of other contributing factors are exclusively to blame for such often inexplicable acts. Is it possible to pinpoint the core problem? I think so. Can I defend my conclusion? I wish I was smart enough, articulate enough and persuasive enough to defend my position, but I fear I’m not. It’s still probably worth making the point . . . I surely am not the only one to believe it, and others have likely already built the argument. For now, Jesus said it first.
Our problems mostly stem from power struggles.
To some degree and often to a large degree, institutions, organizations, governments, clubs and even families are structured, built and sustained (rarely forthrightly, but nonetheless often) through power. We gain, consolidate, keep and leverage power in many and even creative ways: money, fear, muscle, manipulation, and on and on. Power-leveraging is the most natural and efficient empire/kingdom-building solution on the planet: The one with the biggest “gun” wins.
So what happens with the powerless? What happens to the stepped-on, the marginalized, the used, the used-up, the sick, the elderly, the undefended, the victim? Many are unaware as to what’s going on since the powerful also placate those with whom they use and control. Some just accept their fate and lot in life. A few get fed-up and revolt; they get angry and find a means to power, even if it means their own demise – they conclude, at least I can die with the dignity of having taken a shot at the strongman and I am going out on my own terms.
The oppressed sometimes find a bigger gun.
Everything Jesus taught and exemplified flew in the face of power. He inaugurated a new kingdom; an upside-down dominion; a kingdom only a few would embrace because it requires giving up the power, position and possessions they have sacrificed so much to consolidate.
Jesus ushered in a new way and he gave up everything (including the right and means to have it all) to establish it. He modeled a new hero…one the world never pondered, but who now are our greatest heroes…real and fictional: the one who gives up his life (without fanfare or recognition) for the greater good.
Jesus said [para], “The last shall be first,” “The kingdom of God belongs to the poor in Spirit,” “My power is made perfect in weakness,” “He who loses his life, gains it,” “A kernel of wheat must fall to the ground and die,” “Give up everything,” and on and on. Although his own disciples were confounded by His gospel, he was by no means unclear. It’s fair to say he was redundant.
Jesus dethroned power through humility, and invited anyone to follow Him into the fullest, most satisfying life…knowing the doorway is tight. Like a camel through the eye of a needle.
Jesus said that humility is they way to change the world.
So, why are angry gunman shooting Christians?
Why would the marginalized, the over-powered, the obscure be aiming to hurt and take down the very sort of people that are called to be with them and to help them? (Again, I fear I’m being admittedly simple in my diagnosis here. Possibly naive.) Because we aren’t? Because too many Christians, and particularly the public personification of Christianity, aren’t living the way Jesus called us to live. In too many cases Christians have found a way to have their cake and eat it too. Including yours truly.
I’m often embarrassed by my own standard of living. I’m ashamed of the opportunities I don’t seize to give up and give away to those less fortunate than me. Christians (Western ones particularly) have found our way to our own power and our own kingdom…and then we condemn the rest of the worlds choices and pursuits. It’s sad. Sick actually.
Christians are too often hypocrites.
And there’s nothing worse for the downcast and oppressed than to hear of a group of people who profess to be the same or at least called to come to the aid of those who are, but instead pontificate from our ivory towers. We’re too often like the money changers in the temple. And if Jesus was angry with us, can you blame the ones who are being screwed? They’re crying, “Christian, why aren’t you helping me?!”
Sadly, most of the Christians who are on the wrong end of a gun in the hands of an angry, hurt, sick shooter are the sincere and good Christians, often living lives just as Jesus called them to…that’s why they’re accessible and vulnerable, trusting and welcoming. And so they take the angry bullet of twisted justice. It should’ve been me.
Oh, dear God, forgive me and come near to those who mourn their loved ones lost.