Lesson 9: Guns

Let me report my personal experience with guns. I grew up in northern Pennsylvania, where there was a lot of hunting. I never heard anyone speak of a gun as a defense weapon until I went to divinity school. When working for a church in Bridgeport, CT, I noticed a very fine member had a rifle hanging in full view alongside his front door. When I asked what that was about, he replied it was there in case a dangerous person appeared on his doorstep.

I returned to Pennsylvania for my ministry and found nothing like that until about halfway through my career. Then a friend said he slept with a revolver under his pillow. At about the same time, an extended family in the parish began militia-like training.

Then shortly after I retired about 20 years ago, I had an unsettling conversation about guns while visiting an out-of-town friend. He had gathered a group for dinner in honor of our visit. A great deal of the evening was spent discussing the appropriate gun for a woman to carry.

When I reported the next day that I was uncomfortable with that, my friend was surprised and noted he carried a weapon most of the day. When I asked why, he responded, “I want to be ready when they come down the street.”

At about the same time, two young adults in separate church meetings remarked they thought the government wanted to take away our guns so they could control us.

Of course, I have had other experiences, but these have led me to believe much of the present problem has resulted from fear. People feel they need to defend selves from some vague “them”, some evil that is hidden all around. It does not help when some Christian groups speak of humans being engaged in a cosmic war between good and evil, God and Satan. The implication is we have to be ready to use violence.

In this context, the NRA slogan seems to ring true for many people. The bottom line, from their perspective, is the only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun. They would argue you can try other approaches, but in the end, you must meet force with force, so why waste time?

The problem is this assumes our goal is to eliminate bad people. Just as anger can lead to murder, so fear can lead to genocide.

Christianity believes all are redeemable. Rather than hate/kill the enemy, we are to love them. Love transforms enemies into friends, as Dr. Martin Luther King proclaimed.

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1 Enlightened Reply

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  1. Ira says:

    The big issue now is anger! Most people have never seen “real” anger or rage. Unfortunately we are seeing it now. Do these angry people have a conscience? If people don’t have a normal conscience we won’t be able to hire enough police. These problems have been around for many years and are getting worse. As far a violent language is concerned it has been around for a long time.


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