Politics

The Time to Change Gun Laws is Now

The Time to Change Gun Laws is Now

Guest post by Phil Snider

Gun laws in the United States of America should be changed immediately:

Fact 1: Every year far more innocent people in the U.S. are unintentionally killed by an accident with a gun than are criminals killed by a “good guy with a gun.” [So the self-defense argument doesn’t work unless for some strange reason one wishes to also argue that more deaths by gun violence is preferable to fewer deaths by gun violence.]

Fact 2: Where there are higher rates of gun ownership in the U.S., there are higher rates of gun violence in the U.S. There is a direct and disproportionate correlation between gun ownership and gun fatalities.

Fact 3: Nations with tighter gun restrictions have drastically fewer gun fatalities in comparison to the U.S.

Fact 4: If you say that changing the law is unnecessary because criminals will always find ways to break the law, then you are de facto arguing against the purpose of having any laws.

Fact 5: A person hellbent on acting maliciously can murder far more people with certain types of guns than with, say, a knife. [This seems so obvious to point out, but, for example, there’s a reason it’s wrong to build bombs –> they are designed to kill large quantities of people at once. As are many types of guns.]

Two more facts, from a friend:

A history of violence against women is among the strongest predictors of future violence like murder and mass shootings.

People living with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violent acts than the perpetrators.

Truth: We may think (or feel) that having guns makes us more safe, but that is an illusion. Owning guns makes us far less safe. Nonetheless, our fears have led us to build a golden calf out of guns. But like all idols, they cannot save.

Truth: Our nation is enamored with the myth of redemptive violence, from which we need to be saved.

Truth: If one thinks the founding documents of our country are not subject to revision or contextual and constructive critique, then (1) one has to continue to support some pretty outlandish things, such as the 3/5ths compromise and (2) one doesn’t think it’s possible to progress further or to be open to new insights and perspectives, which is at once both tragic and myopic.

Truth: We have the responsibility to politicize tragedies so they don’t keep happening over and over and over again. Not to do so is to give them our tacit approval, which should be unconscionable.

What are we waiting for?


Phil Snider is an award-winning author, community organizer, pastor, and teacher. In addition to providing religious commentary in various local and national media outlets, including NPR affiliates and nationally-syndicated radio and television programming, his work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, Slate, Fox News and USA Today. Phil’s books include Justice Calls: Sermons of Welcome and AffirmationPreaching After GodThe Hyphenateds, and Toward a Hopeful Future (winner of the 2011 Mayflower Award for best book in church and society).

Image: REUTERS/SERGIO FLORES

Why I Am Unarmed

Why I Am Unarmed

This post originally appeared in The Banner, January 20, 2014

My neighbors were recently mugged at gunpoint not far from where I live in Washington, D.C. A nice evening out for dinner with another couple quickly went awry as two young men pulled a gun on them and demanded their wallets and phones. The four of them hit the ground and did as they were asked. After being accosted in this way, my friends felt rattled. Unsafe. Sad.

Some might say: “If only they’d been carrying a weapon of their own, they might have been able to turn the tables, or at least hold onto their wallets.” A good thought. After all, they say the best defense is a good offense, so why not be ready to take charge in such a situation? An argument could be made that a gun might have helped. The instigators could have been forced to flee out of fear. The potential firepower might have caused panic, and my friends might have been able to take control of the situation.

But it’s also true that bringing a second gun into the picture might have escalated the situation. It is likely that the perpetrators did not plan to use the gun. There’s a good chance that these two young men found themselves in a desperate situation requiring desperate action.

I’m pretty sure this situation would not have been improved by issuing a threat of violence in response to the initial threat of violence. A response in kind, even in self-defense, is exactly what it sounds like: a response in kind.

With these types of incidents happening close to where I live—in an urban setting—some might recommend that I own a weapon. That I protect my family. That I prepare for the worst.

Yet I remain unarmed.

For me, carrying a weapon is in direct conflict with my desire to be a faithful disciple of Jesus. How can I justify responding to violence with more violence when I follow the Prince of Peace? How can I think of carrying a weapon designed solely to kill efficiently if I’m seeking to follow a God who instructs us, “Do not kill”? How can I think of owning a gun when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who hurt us? How can I stock up on ammunition when Romans 12 clearly instructs us to “not repay evil for evil” and to “live at peace with everyone” (vv. 17-18)?

These days there is a lot of conversation about guns and gun rights, particularly in the wake of last year’s Newtown school shooting and the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Many note that it is their constitutional or even God-given right to carry a gun. Some are sure that the answer to the outbreak of violence in our schools, homes, and streets is not fewer guns, but more.

More guns in our schools. More guns in our homes. Moreguns in our neighborhoods.

The argument that we need more guns, and more people trained to use them, boils down to “we can kill before we get killed.” At some level, this argument may be right. This strategy may well be effective—even the most effective. But what kind of society do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?

One response to violence is to admit that we live in a sick society and increase weapon proliferation to deal with the issue. “It’s effective.” “I’ll feel safer.” But do we really want a society in which there are more weapons that can be unleashed on a schoolroom full of unsuspecting children? A society where our children are afraid to walk the streets because there may be a neighborhood watch person following them with a gun?

The more poignant question is this: Do I really want to become someone who has to be trained to kill someone else as the answer to reducing violence? To me, this stems from a lack of imagination and a lack of hope.

I’d rather we work on connecting better with our neighbors, getting involved in our neighborhood schools, and learning the opportunities and challenges we face together.

I’d rather we dealt with mental health issues and make counseling accessible to those who need it.

I’d rather be a person who is trained to love than one who is trained to kill—even in self-defense.

That’s why I am simply not interested in carrying a firearm. In the U.S., the Constitution may grant me such a right. But I follow someone who eschewed his rights to self-defense (and many other things).

Some will point to Jesus endorsing the carrying of swords in Luke 22 and note that even he knew when it was time to arm oneself. Yet when the disciples say, “See, Lord, here are two swords,” Jesus replies, “That’s enough.” Or as another translation puts it: “Enough of that!” The point is notthat he endorses the private right to carry weapons. Rather, the display of two weapons in the face of a contingent of armed Roman soldiers from Pilate makes the point that Jesus and his disciples are not there to act in violence. Jesus notes that he has the power to call down legions of angels to his defense. But he refuses to resort to such violence, even when self-defense might call for it. He says, “My kingdom is not of this world, otherwise my servants would fight.”

When the kingdom of heaven breaks in, there is a refusal to respond to violence with more violence. There is a love that is greater than calling upon our “rights.” There is a forgiveness that can be extended even to those who would put us to death, as Jesus and many of his earliest followers exemplified.

In our society, people have the right to carry or own a gun. But I’m not going to be one of them because my hope for peace outweighs my desire for personal safety. Because my desire to follow Jesus exceeds my desire to defend myself. And because responding to a threat upon my life with an act of love, even if it costs me my life, might be one small piece of God’s kingdom being realized here and now.

There are no easy answers or solutions to the reality of gun violence in our nation and our world.

But should that stop us from dreaming? What if we tried to enact the prophetic dream now, and gave up our obsession with violence? What if we didn’t wait for someone else to beat the pistols into plowshares but set the example ourselves? What’s the worst that could happen?

Ask Jesus.

Holy Ground

Holy Ground

Reflections by Pastor Lee Ann Bryce of First Congregational UCC, Fort Worth, TX. Delivered during a Service of Lament, Healing, and Courage at Amistad Chapel UCC in Cleveland Tuesday. Shared with permission.

 

This is a beautiful church
and we’re grateful to be here,
but I want to talk for a moment about gay bars.
I came out as a lesbian many years ago
and I’ve noticed that at times,
particularly early in our movement for equality
gay bars have been referred to as a sort of necessary evil;
at one time, they were one of the few public places
where LGBTQ people could meet and be in community.
The truth is
long before we were widely welcomed in churches,
we were welcomed in gay bars.

And so to me, gay bars and nightclubs,

many of them at least,
are like churches.
Or at least like churches should be –
places where you are welcomed just as you are.
Continue Reading..

A Revolutionary Love for All People

A Revolutionary Love for All People

I haven’t posted much on the current election, but I really enjoyed these comments from the civil rights advocate and writer, Michelle Alexander. This is an excerpt from a longer recent Facebook post, but this was the part that resonated the most with me:

The conversation that I most want to have right now doesn’t have to do with Bernie or Hillary [or this election]. What I most want to talk about is this: What kind of revolution do we think we want and need? And what, exactly, are we willing to do to bring it to life? 

I am grateful that Bernie Sanders has called for a political revolution, and that millions are responding with energy, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to build a movement that will give our nation a chance at having a real democracy where people actually count more than corporate dollars. But the truth is that the political revolution did not begin with Bernie Sanders and it certainly will not end with him — whether or not he is elected. And it’s also true that we need much more than a political revolution; we also need a moral, cultural, and spiritual revolution — an awakening to the dignity and value of each and every one of us no matter who we are, where we came from, or what we’ve done.  Continue Reading..

The Parable of the Ten Servants

The Parable of the Ten Servants

A new take on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Bryan Berghoef

And he told them this parable:

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten servants who went out to meet their master. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took no weapons nor did they take any means of defense with them. The wise ones, however, took care to bring swords along with their concealed knives. The master was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out: “An intruder! Defend yourselves!” Continue Reading..

Say My Name

Say My Name

Pope Francis is being widely hailed for his historic appearance before a joint session of Congress yesterday. But some are taking him to task for one glaring omission: he didn’t say the name of Jesus.

A professor of moral theology at Calvin Theological Seminary noted the “pope did not find it necessary to name the name of Jesus when he addressed Congress yesterday.” Perhaps an oversight? Like, hey, I’m the vicar of you-know-who on earth. Did I forget to mention him?

Perhaps such an oversight is forgivable, right? I mean, what with all the focus on caring for the poor, embracing the stranger, denouncing violence, caring for creation, and reverencing all human life—in other words, some of the very teachings of Jesus—can we not overlook such a small omission?

Apparently not.

This professor goes on to write: “Now the whole country is talking about the pope and the pope’s politics, but no one is talking about Jesus or the gospel. What a sad day. What a wasted opportunity.” Continue Reading..

Pope Economist

Pope Economist

Guest post by Chris Lubbers

How can anyone take Pope Francis seriously about economics? What does he know about it?! I mean, listen to this “social justice” nonsense from his speech today.

Any economist knows that businesses hire people only if both sides freely agree to the terms of employment.  But the pope argues that employers have an enormous advantage!

“It is not… difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. … In all such disputes, the masters can hold out much longer. …[A] master manufacturer, or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year or two upon the stocks, which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scarce any a year, without employment. In the long run, the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate.”

Then the pope suggests, again contrary to what every economist knows, that our job creators are being selfish and inconsistent in opposition to a minimum wage!

“Our merchants and master manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods, both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits; they are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains; they complain only of those of other people.” Continue Reading..

A Parable for Labor Day

A Parable for Labor Day

A Parable for #LaborDay, by Chris Lubbers

Once upon a time, a billionaire company owner decided to take an extravagant business vacation with some of his friends in politics and finance. To test his lowest-paid employees, he put three of them in charge of parts of the operation. He gave the first new manager $2 million, the second $800,000 and the third $400,000 to improve the company.

“Do well and you shall be rewarded,” he promised.

The managers were given access to private internal documents making explicit the full extent of the business, which profited primarily from political corruption, exploitation and theft. Understanding how the owner’s money was made, the first manager, a quick study, doubled down. He closed two domestic plants and outsourced the work to countries with weak labor laws and no environmental regulations. The second manager decided to cut wages and benefits of the poorest workers. By doing so, each manager increased profits in proportion to the amount he was given.

After reading carefully through the company documents, the third new manager was devastated and struggled about what to do.

When the owner returned from vacation, he called in the three managers to report to him before the executives of the company. The first manager explained his plan and the profit reaped, as did the second.

“Well done, good and loyal workers. You have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Welcome to the good life–“

“Sir,” the third manager interrupted, “You run a cruel and dishonest business, profiting from illegal and inhumane practices. In short, you reap where you have not sown. You haven’t earned anything. I’m returning the money you gave me.”

“How dare you!” screamed the owner. “I’m cruel and dishonest?! I am a job creator! Do you fancy yourself a whistleblower? You’re a traitor! The least you could have done is sent that money to my banker friends to invest! Now, give my money to the first manager!”

Turning to the other employees, the owner announced, “I hope we’ve all learned something from this: the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Now, throw this worthless bum into the dumpster.”


Based on William Herzog’s scholarship on the Gospel According to Matthew 25:14-30.

 


chrislubbersChris Lubbers is a graduate of Calvin College (BA, Philosophy and Math), has an MA in Philosophy from the University of Florida, has done doctoral research at UF in philosophy of language and metaphysics, and is currently ABD. He teaches philosophy at Muskegon Community College. You can find Chris advocating for justice and compassion in Holland, MI, or philosophizing over a pint at Pub Theology.

A Few Christian Objections

A Few Christian Objections

Reflections on the Kim Davis situation by Chris Lubbers

How about I, Jane Christian, refuse to issue a license plate for any car (or a license to any car driver) because of a Christian objection to unnecessary pollution? Sorry. Not on my watch. Efficient public transportation only.

I also refuse to grant a building permit to WalMart, or a Citibank, or a payday lender, because of my Christian objection to exploiting the poor. And no permits supporting any gentrification process. “Blessed are the poor.”

Sorry, you can’t build a prison here either. As a Christian, I object to locking people up when what they need is a home, or a community, or medical help. Continue Reading..

COP 21 and the Politics of Resurrection

COP 21 and the Politics of Resurrection

Guest post by Kyle Meyaard-Schaap

CHANCES ARE PRETTY GOOD that you’ve never heard of COP 21, but don’t despair—you’re not alone. Ask the average American what COP 21 is, and you’ll likely get some combination of blank stares and guesses about new reality shows on FOX (mental note: Google contact information for CEO of FOX).

It’s mostly only nerds like me who have heard of COP 21 and think it matters, but here’s why I think that should change—especially for Jesus-followers.

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