Saturday, December 15, 2012
Facing Our Violence
Things like the Connecticut shooting shouldn't happen. Elementary children should be safe at school. Teachers should not have to worry about protecting their students from a mad man. Our first response to this tragedy should be a mixture of prayer and lament. Why does God allow such things? Where is justice and compassion and peace in this world? Lord, have mercy!
Yet, if we do not ask what we can do as a nation to end such tragedies, I fear our prayers (mine included) are hallow. It is not politicizing a tragedy to ask how we can keep tragedies like this from happening again. Do you know what is politicizing a tragedy? To disingenuously say that the days preceding a tragedy is not the time for a conversation on the U.S. love affair with guns, to attempt to wait out the grief and pain so that we can yet again do nothing and ask after the next tragedy why nothing has been done. We must have an honest and open debate on gun control in this country.
From a purely civic perspective, is the unfettered right to bear arms worth this? Let's be honest: the framers of the Constitution could not have dreamed of these semi-automatic monstrosities that shoot hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes, whose only seeming purpose is to kill as many people as possible in a short period of time. They also thought there should be well-regulated militias in conjunction with the right to bear these weapons, but that doesn't seem to matter to most. In the end, no one (or almost no one) is looking to take away hunting rifles and shotguns. The question is not whether one has the right to bear arms, but what type. So, you're a staunch supporter of the second amendment. Does a person have the right to own a handgun? semi-automatic weapon? automatic weapon? grenades? missiles? nuclear weapons? These are all arms of one sort or another, but we have decided as a society that no individual needs to own an intercontinental ballistic missile, for example. There is a line of destructive capability past which no individual should be able to go. Most advocates of gun control are not friends of Big Brother looking to rid the world of hunting rifles, but people who think individuals do not need guns capable of firing 50 rounds a minute. They simply draw the line at a different place because the destructive capability of such weapons are too great when weighed against the potential for terrible destruction.
Also, in an age where mental health funding continues to be on the chopping block, shouldn't we at least question why it is easier for most americans to purchase a gun than to get the help they need for mental illness? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1.6 billion dollars have been cut from mental health agency budgets since 2009. People in need of help simply aren't getting it, especially low income patients. People who need help in a just and peaceable society should be able to get it.
Since Thursday, I've had a snippet of the second stanza of Fred Kaan's "For the Healing of the Nations" (#724 in the Blue Hymnal) in my head: "All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned." Maybe it's not realistic; maybe it wouldn't stop the violence, but how can we not at least think of a world without all these implements of war and violence? How do we not wish and work and hope and pray for it?
During Advent, we pray for the coming of God's kingdom, and we are told what that kingdom looks like: no more sorrow, crying, or pain; the lion shall lie down with the lamb; the swords shall be beaten into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks. As a Christian, I believe this is the vision that we try desperately and imperfectly to enact, here and now. I just don't believe the Christian response to tragedy like this is to make sure guns are more readily available, to give into fear and arm ourselves to the teeth. We serve a Prince of Peace; how does this change the way Christians deal with terror and destruction and violence in our world? Does it? Come, Lord Jesus.