Where I grew up there were lots of guns. Most of us guys even had a gun rack in the back window of our trucks — this usually carried a shotgun and some type of rabbit gun or deer rifle. I never had a lot of money for a gun and I was probably more interested in sports and making money than I was in hunting. Still yet, I was fascinated by guns. In short, it’s a very controlled explosion that produces a very powerful, controlled result. My ancestors were even gun makers around the turn of the 20th century. It was even called Forehand Arms. I own a couple of the antiques, along with my .45 pistol.
Later in life, I moved to the area that I now live in. Guns are a way of life here. It’s not uncommon for me to see 3 or 4 guns a day in my place of business. Some of the people I know, including the women, conceal and carry on a regular basis and most everyone has a gun in their car. If you were to visit their homes, they would have at least one gun safe full of rifles and pistols and various guns scattered throughout the house. It was here that I fell in love with hunting and began to accumulate guns. I had one for most occasions, along with a compound bow to hunt deer. Eventually, I burned out on hunting and slowly began to sell them. All this was expedited when I became vegan and stopped hunting all together.
I remember vividly April 20, 1999 when 12 students and 1 teacher were murdered at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado by two students. I didn’t think about it much over the years except that I worried about my kids and I thought about my workplace and wondered if it could happen here. In smaller towns, you tell yourself a lot “that will never happen here.” It’s usually true. But over the years, as other mass shootings kept happening, I not only worried a little more but also wondered if there was a bigger problem out there. Maybe it’s not just a fluke or a coincidence but more of a systemic problem. Like most people, I opted for easy answers and quick fixes. We all played the same game – blame it on video games, terrorists or whatever the demon of the month happened to be. Throw in the occasional religious wacko and you got yourself some genuine confusion. So, what is the solution? We throw up our hands and say “What can you do?”
Mass shootings are now becoming so common that we are tempted to ignore them. “Oh really, another one…hmmm!” When we feel guilty or when we are pressured to think about a solution, it is very common to bunker up and defend whatever gun control position we have. Even though the instigator of the conversation may be trying to stir up a problem-solving brainstorm and possibly is not even talking about guns, we can only muster up the fortitude to defend positions we already have. Today, instead of being defensive, I would like to challenge you to be open and rethink some of the opinions you already have. Don’t worry. If your doctrines or ideas are strong enough, they will hold up. I’m not really that good at convincing people – and, that’s not what I’m trying to do.
Let’s rethink problem-solving. Can you relate to the following statement? “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room.” It sounds like how we sometimes view children, but it was actually was spoken by Socrates over 2000 years ago. Contempt for authority, disrespect for others and tendency to be a tyrant are not just age-old characteristics of children, they are also traits of many adults today, especially when we get on social media. What happens to us? It’s weird!
It is common to malign children, especially if we give them the name Millennial. But, adults have also lost the ability to rationally discuss ideas. We shout, “I’m right, you’re wrong, so shut up and sit down (or go somewhere else)”. It’s embarrassing to discuss ideas with Millennials when the Boomers are trying to shame each other and shout everyone else down that doesn’t agree with their narrow position.
We need to learn a new skill. We need to learn to consider solutions we have never tried before. We need to have the humility to admit we might be wrong and there might be an idea that we have never had before that could change the world. The founders of everything (including the U.S.) were not committed to past ideas. They were committed to whatever would propel them into the future. We need to rediscover that American trait. If you live outside of the States, you can apply this to your own situation – I believe in you. Human beings have to the capacity to imagine change and actually change. We forget that sometimes.
Let’s rethink access. I don’t know the answers to all the questions, but I do know if we ask better questions we will get better answers. I believe it’s okay to drink alcohol in moderation, but I also believe that there are some people that probably shouldn’t. I can’t explain exactly why, but I know it’s true. I don’t want to take away everyone’s alcohol and I don’t want to take away everyone’s guns. I just think there are several kinds of people that should not own them. I also know that every time someone makes that statement that a certain segment of the population shuts down and goes into the “cold dead hand” speech.
What if we put just as much energy into developing ways to control access as we do paying lobbyists to defend our rights? What if we come up with solutions we haven’t yet imagined because we are working together across party lines? Here’s a big one – it’s a mind blower! What if we ask the countries that are already successful at controlling crime and still enjoying hunting and other gun activities how they do it? Isn’t that how we learn most things? Surely there is a way to control access and still preserve some freedom? Wouldn’t that be exciting? I’m almost positive that it is possible.
Let’s rethink compassion. I read a fantastic article today by Glennon Doyle Melton in Reader’s Digest. It’s about a teacher who, since Columbine, has studied her students every week by asking them who they want to sit by. From this simple activity, she learns who is being left out or bullied and she makes efforts to basically pay attention to them. As I understand it, this is major profile of most active shooters – they were loners and people that were ignored and missed by the system, either at home or work.
What if every single one of us searched for the person that is being bullied or left out and spent a little bit of time simply loving them? What if, instead of judging them and piling on, we just simply talked to them or included them in whatever we are doing? What if we took it seriously to love our neighbor and found the most unlovable person and simply game them our time? From what they tell me, that is one of the main things that could prevent mass shootings? So, why are we missing it? Let rethink it.
Let’s rethink self-defense. This last one is a little harder to explain. But, if you have made it this far, you are a trooper and can probably make it through the home stretch. Much of the conversation around guns usually migrates to self-defense. To be clear, I always lock my doors, I have a dog that protects the house and I own a gun. I have no idea what I would do if attacked, I’m just rethinking this area of my life.
One thing that influences me is the person of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to believe what I do, but it impacts me. It is compelling to me that Jesus had an absolutely clear message of non-violence. He said things like “Love your enemies” and “Turn the other cheek” and “Father forgive them” (even when they were crucifying Him on the cross). As I said in a previous article, What God is Like, God is exactly like Jesus, so this becomes even more pressing!
Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by violence; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Ghandi and King and other leaders all stressed the imperative that we never achieve real peace through violence, and especially Christians, should look to God for our ultimate protection. Is it possible that we have misinterpreted our responsibility to protect ourselves? Should we trust God more and worry way less? I think so – I’m trying to figure out how to do this!
I hope it’s clear from my other blogs that I don’t claim to have all the answers. But, one thing I’m clear about that has always been true. If we don’t reconsider things, they will most definitely not change. We are in desperate need of a transition! Many of our churches are dying and living in fear. We need a bold new direction – one that will take some courage – but one that will lead us out of the fog we are in. To do that we need to ask better questions — we need to learn again to discuss things and we need rethink a good many things.
Who’s with me on the journey?