Gun Control Debates: Our Social Madness and a Spiritual Response

I was deeply saddened by the horrific murders at the Orlando night club, but then I watched with cynicism the gun debates happening again in Congress.

I’m thinking, “noble but useless.”

If Sandy Hook – the murder of 20 little children at their school desks with 6 of their teachers and staff – wasn’t enough to shock us into sensible gun control, then this won’t either.

Making Sense of the Madness

It seems as if our country has gone mad. Give a mentally ill, or ideologically-corrupt young man an assault rifle, or an angry mother a handgun, and what do you think is going to happen? So how do we make sense of it? And more importantly, is there anything we can do about it?

Of course, Orlando and Sandy Hook (and other shootings) are separate, distinct incidents. It’s always dangerous to draw conclusions about gun control from things as different as Adam Lanza’s access to a Bushmaster XM15 rifle (which shot 154 times in 5 minutes), Omar Mateen’s access to a similar assault rifle, the Sig Sauer MCX (which, along with another gun, killed 49 and wounded 53 others), or the Houston mom who boasted of having 10 hand guns and used one to chase and kill her 2 daughters. It seems as if our country has gone mad. Click To Tweet

So the gun debate issues vary, but behind the debates, we do have something in common. Behind the debates we have bucket loads of anger and fear, some of it righteous and most of it reactive.

The Fear that De-Humanizes

Reactive fear and anger de-humanizes us. How does taking a bat to the head of a White Nationalist at a permitted rally prove anything, except that we are more like cornered-animals than human beings made in the image of God. Anger or fear released too long, compounded exponentially by media and competing political values, and aggregated to large groups of people leads to predictable outcomes.  Violence. The violence can be as subtle as the gradual eroding of the middle, as more and more Americans polarize, or as deadly as a person’s twisted or racist hatred.

I’ve been asking myself, why do people need access to assault rifles as a constitutional right? The constitution says we have the right to bear arms. When did arms mean an AK 47? I believe the assault rifle has become symbolic of the helplessness and powerlessness that many people feel.

It’s become the signature for “Take back America.” Give me a gun that doesn’t just kill, but obliterates. Give me a rifle that makes me invincible. What children in school and people in a night club have in common is that they lacked that weapon of choice. The argument goes that if more people in the night club had guns or the teachers were armed, lives would be spared.

The New America

So this is the new America? Armed and dangerous.  It really doesn’t make sense. Arms proliferation doesn’t make sense globally, so why does it nationally? Arms proliferation doesn’t make sense globally, so why does it nationally? Click To Tweet

We are so polarized right now – so full of fear and anger as a prevailing social climate (how else do you explain the rise of Trump over other more qualified Republican candidates?) – that I don’t think gun control debates will get us very far. So, what can I do? What can we do as Christ-followers, besides carrying peace signs and wishing for better days, or joining the crowd and arming ourselves?

To begin with, I was captivated by a comment made by David French, who writes for the Atlantic. He wrote,

“The truly interesting question isn’t whether America is becoming more conservative or more liberal, but whether there is any single significant cultural, religious, or political trend that is pulling this nation together rather than yanking it apart.”

His suggestion is that we need a single significant trend to pull us together, and of course, I honed in on the word ‘religious.’ In fact, I suggest the use of the word ‘spiritual’ as more helpful. His comment inspired me to think beyond debates, which try to lasso our fear and anger into some sort of policy. We do need policies, but those will not be possible if there is no single significant trend to bring us together. Why couldn’t that be spiritual?

Peace is a Strategy

Some might argue that is even a crazier undertaking than a gun control debate. For sure, it does seem that way on the surface. However, I believe God is sovereign. God is a God of love, peace and justice. Christ is in me and in you. The Spirit is everywhere interceding to the throne of grace on our behalf, so really it must be possible. Our most human response would be one of faith and hope, rather than fear.

So, our biggest strategy against anger and fear is to be people of peace.  The early martyrs understood this. It was their peace in the face of overwhelming terror that eventually led to the Christianization of the Roman Empire. So, what if I every morning I got up and prayed, “Spirit, your peace in me”? What if throughout a day I consciously chose peace, rather than my ‘rights’? What if all of us, made that simple choice to embrace God’s way, God’s peaceable kingdom, rather than the world’s way, which always leads to fear and anger.

If I do not have the internal energy and will to put the Slain and Resurrected Lamb at the center of my being and my day, how could I debate anything? The struggle for righteousness and justice comes out of the power of our deep peace. This puts us in service to a consecrated vision of life and community.  This will bring us back to Center.

God is near.


Image via Arnie Bermudez.

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