I find it interesting that many who profess such deep love of God wouldn’t trust Him to intervene in a gunfight. Instead they convince themselves that God intended them to carry weapons to protect themselves and their neighbors and to use them on any Ungodly Other who might threaten them or their beliefs. And the Ungodly Other sometimes has that same conviction—that he’s acting on God’s will to destroy some evil. Both suspend their Reason in favor of Faith.
Even if one has sufficient Faith to trust God in a gunfight and they survive, they will credit God for saving them. They won’t have any real explanation for why God chose to favor them at that moment and not some other. Particularly in the event of a mass killing, survivors find in Faith their justification for not being shot when maybe someone in the same room was targeted. The only answer is that it must have been God’s will. We cannot know God’s will unless He’s told us it’s His will and in either case, it doesn’t fall easily under the microscope so much as into the jurisdiction of Faith.
I find myself trying to picture Jesus Christ pulling an automatic pistol from under his white robe and shooting someone he adjudicates as mentally defective because the threat is somehow different or his behavior not quite “normal” (whatever that is). Remember the two-slit experiment in physics that resulted in the concept of a “probability wave’? It seems that our best predictive models cannot really predict the behavior of any “one” photon but only the probable behavior of larger numbers as they create a wave pattern in striking a photo-sensitive screen after passing through the slits. The observer cannot be separated from the observed.
If our citizens are honest with themselves, they would admit some family member or relative has dealt with depression, emotional or mental disturbances that perhaps caused their predictable trajectories to deviate. The stigma attached to seeking help for such unplanned trajectories already prevent too many from getting the help they need and our mental health systems are broken—understaffed and underfunded. Imagine if NRA President Wayne LaPierre had his way and everyone whose trajectory deviates for whatever reason has their personal information in some National Database. It would be even more impossible to get the help these people need, and remember as even-keeled as you may be today, there is no way of knowing what might warp your straight line tomorrow causing unhappy collisions.
If we complicate matters by filling the streets with “good guys with guns” looking to stop the bad guys, it won’t be long before good guys and stopping good guys perceived to be bad guys. And who will decide who is who? Will good guys whose trajectories deviate unexpectedly know they crossed a line, or will they still think they’re the good guys?
Any unusual behavior might make you the target of a good guys with guns protecting the normalcy of their perception of themselves as good guys. We’ve had numerous situations when police used deadly force on people mentally disturbed, who it turned out had no weapon or whose threat was less than first perceived. The most of our police are trained to know when to use deadly force. How many good guys with guns will draw the wrong conclusion and kill the innocent? Will they be able to simply dismiss it by saying we all make mistakes? I try to imagine Jesus saying “Well, I used to tell people to turn the other cheek, but that was before we had automatic pistols.”
My early childhood was defined by conflicting values in our household. My biological father was an abusive man and my mother, sister and I tiptoed around him, trying not to upset him, to call attention to ourselves as we could never predict when we would have to hunker down to survive when he tore the place apart like a twister. Yet he was a good church-going man who raised his voice every Sunday filled with the Holy Ghost—deepening until it broke into shouts of hallelujah amidst Brothers in Fellowship. I went to Sunday School and learned The Bible and was taught how the meek would inherit the earth, how the rich man would have as much chance of going to heaven as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. And I somehow believed Father, Son and Holy Ghost would protect us from the rages of this man of God in righteousness asserting his God-given claim and propriety over his household.
As I grew up, through the existential crisis of adolescence, through the painful angst of finding my own identity, I learned to question the church in order to follow the teachings of Christ. In my experience the Church and Christ had become so twisted together by those at the pulpit that I had to separate them or lose all faith. I chose to hang onto Christ and let go of the Church. I came to believe that all violence is gratuitous—yet any one of us under the right circumstances can succumb to it as the path of least resistance.
Once you commit the violence, you have to justify it, make it acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. The more often we have to justify (make just) those action, the easier it is to commit them again and call them “just.”
It was the Church and not Jesus Christ who came up with the idea of a “just” war. Both my biological father and my stepfather were damaged by war—one perhaps unbalanced by war but embraced by the church, the other losing faith in the church but finding the love of my mother which served him better than any church. One went to church every Sunday and was filled with the Holy Ghost which at home I equated to the almost trance-like rages, and the other never set foot in a church except for a wedding or a funeral yet acted more in keeping with the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. One in jealous rage shot our neighbor who dared help my mother escape his violent nature. One was shot during the war and his scars remained with him and he even had to endure additional surgery as a result of it near the end of his life but he didn’t have keep guns (maybe this is also because of his love of my mother whom you can imagine after what happened didn’t want guns in the house).
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I wonder if it’s not just the issue of gun violence and mental illness that we need to address, but the issue of violence as a means of ending conflict—even when we think it’s justified.