In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt traces the history of European anti-Semitism through its many decades stewing as an ideology that became normative. It was like a dormant ideological virus until the right social catalyst transformed it into genocide: the economic devastation and social upheaval of Eastern Europe after the first World War and then the Great Depression. I’m genuinely concerned that the escalating anti-government rhetoric within the US is functioning similarly as a viral ideology that will turn bloody given the right social catalyst. This question will offend some people, but I think it’s my duty to ask it. If you say you’re collecting guns to protect yourself from government tyranny and you call the current president a tyrant, at what point are you going to start shooting? Continue reading
If I were a non-Christian looking from the outside in, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to think that American Christians’ two highest priorities right now are keeping the government from taking away our guns and stopping gay people from getting married. And I don’t think it would be too far-fetched to assume that Jesus sure must love guns and hate sex. But should these really be our priorities as Christians? And if not, how did they rise to the place of prominence they have? Continue reading
One of my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd songs is “Mr. Saturday Night Special.” The US Senate’s decision to disregard the will of 92% of the US population today regarding mandatory background checks for gun sales makes it apropos to share the lyrics on my blog. I used to blast Lynyrd Skynyrd on my car stereo in tenth grade when I wore cowboy boots and a Texas Ranger belt buckle to school every day. It used to be okay for wannabe redneck teenage kids to listen to Southern rock songs that weren’t in line with the ideological orthodoxy of the NRA. That was before the crazies took over.
A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute has some very interesting statistics on gun ownership and opinions about gun laws according to religious affiliation. 62% of Catholics and 60% of religiously unaffiliated Americans favor tougher gun control laws, while only 35% of evangelicals do. With regard to gun ownership, 32% of Catholic households and 36% of religiously unaffiliated have guns, while 58% of evangelical households do. Now here’s the most interesting stat: 18% of religiously unaffiliated, 14% of Catholics, and 32% of evangelicals think Americans should be allowed to carry concealed weapons into church. What do you think is the basis for these differences? That’s all I’m going to say. You talk.
The 2005 film “Thank You for Smoking” is about a tobacco PR executive who wins a public debate about smoking by sidestepping the health questions and reframing the debate as an issue of consumer choice and individual rights. I wonder what would happen if the gun debate were reframed in the opposite way. Instead of asking whether people should have the right to own semiautomatic rifles with unlimited capacity ammo clips, my question as a pastor is whether it is morally compatible with Christian values to collect guns. Not to have a gun to defend yourself and even carry around the shopping mall with you if you live in Arizona. Not to have a gun to use for hunting (I love it when guys from my church give me venison). But to collect guns. Lots of them. Not ancient muskets to be displayed in cases, but powerful guns that you take to some out of the way place to show off to your friends. Is that morally compatible with Christian values? Continue reading
This photo has been circulating in response to the Connecticut shooting. I don’t disagree that people should know how to use guns safely and read the Bible. Many American Christians think that the word “Biblical” is just a tribal category which refers to people who own guns, love America, and hate public schools. So it would be great for people like that to actually open their Bibles so they can get to know Jesus. This photo offends me because the Bible is serving as a prop. This exactly what the Third Commandment against using the Lord’s name in vain is referring to. Because it has nothing to do with God’s word. It’s a certain kind of white America using God’s word for ideological cover in order to say if we were still in charge, then our kids wouldn’t get shot in school (the slight hiccup of course being that it’s young white men using legally registered guns to do it). I don’t own a gun. I’ve got a lot of friends that do. They’re good people. But please don’t throw guns and Bibles together, because then you confirm the worst stereotype that people have about Christians: that the Bible is what we hide behind while the gun represents who we really are. Jesus deserves better, especially for Christmas.
Whoever made this t-shirt doesn’t fear God. Why? Because it blasphemes God’s name when we use tragedies opportunistically to build political power for ourselves and pretend that we’re doing it in defense of God. Until Christians stop taking their cues from the diaboloi of the outrage industrial complex, then we will look like just another ambulance-chasing special interest tribe focused on getting in our talking points. We are supposed to be the people who offer hope and peace, especially in this season when we remember how the lion of Judah came to the world as Mary’s little lamb. Instead we are know for our angry rants over the greeting we receive from the check-out clerk at the department store. The reason that “holiday” became a secular word is because Christmas stopped being a holy-day when it started getting celebrated in department stores; we should not dare to call our shopping the mass of Christ. People are hurt and scared over what happened in Connecticut; God came to Earth 2000 years ago to do something about that. Now is not the time for talking points. Now is not the time for exalting ourselves and our causes. It is a time to hate sin, starting with our own. And if we really hate our own sin, then our vigilance against our own pride should keep us from hopping up on the soapbox to showcase our piety by condemning others. God gave us a big brother to make His dwelling among us so that we would no longer be children of wrath. If we really wish to honor our annually newborn king, then we must make our hearts into a manger for those around us who are seeking some place of refuge and mercy.
In the wake of the Colorado shooting tragedy, there’s been a lot of talk about why the politicians are not talking about guns. The only thing that President Obama is willing to say concretely is that he is committed to protecting 2nd amendment rights. Over the past twenty years, our politicians have been consistently punished electorally for advocating any sort of gun control, so it’s become a toxic issue that they want to avoid touching at all costs. The NRA has never been in a more powerful position in our society. In this context, what are Christians supposed to say about guns? Certainly plenty of Christians own guns for hunting and protecting their families. Other Christians who believe that Christianity requires a radical commitment to nonviolence would say that guns are always bad and no Christian should own one. I’m not sure exactly where I fall on that spectrum, but I do think that Christians have a responsibility to say something. Continue reading