Saturday, January 12, 2013

Responding to Gun Violence: Choose Love

At this point, the so-called “national conversation” has deteriorated to one Zax saying, “Guns are not the problem” and another Zax saying, “Oh yes they are.” (More on Zaxes.)

With all the respect that is due, may we please move on?

Clichés are rarely helpful. So, let’s just agree that 1) No, not all kinds of gun are “the problem,” but some are obviously "a problem," and 2) yes, obviously a gun safely unloaded and locked away won’t kill people, but a person getting it, loading it, pointing it at someone and pulling the trigger might. Okay, so let’s now declare this conversation a “cliché-free zone,” agreed?

Next, my full disclosure that I do not now, nor have I ever owned a gun, much less fired one. All I know about guns I know because of friends who own and use them. One of those friends is Fred Koenig, who has this very helpful perspective to share. Though obviously not a friend, Kathleen Parker’s column of January 11 was also very helpful.

I ran across another helpful piece of information in the Washington Post. Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections has researched mass shootings in the United States, defining a mass shooting as “an incident in which four or more victims are killed publicly with guns within 24 hours.” Part of his work included a list, broken down by decades, of mass shootings in the United States:

: zero
1910s: 2
1920s: 2
1930s: 9
1940s: 8
1950s: 1
1960s: 6
1970s: 13
1980s: 32
1990s: 42
2000s: 28
2010s (three years): 14

All of us, expert and non-expert alike, will form opinions about why there is a spike in these incidents in the last third of the twentieth century. Personally, I believe it comes from a broad desensitization to violence. As weapons technology became more and more destructive and weapons became more and more widely available, attitudes toward violence became less and less horrified and more and more glorified. And furthermore, while I do not believe that our government can completely legislate away gun violence, I see no reason not to try. I value human life more than property rights.

However I have not invested myself as others have in the matters of earthly government. There are those who become irrationally energized over these matters, and it leads to very unhealthy places. I don’t even feel compelled to respond; it’s just not worth it. There is a more excellent way.

Whereas the world is anxious for certainty in uncertain times, God’s people are called to faith. For people of the world, there are a myriad of answers that may or may not lead to certainty. More guns, less guns, security officers, armed janitors, better healthcare for the mentally ill, fewer violent video games … and so it goes. Each of us is entitled to have and share an opinion about our earthly responses to the issues that confront us.

For people of God there is one answer - more love.

It is simple, yet extraordinary. The answer is more love. I’m not talking about a sugary sweet feeling; I’m talking about agape - divine love.

This is a love that recognizes the sacred worth of all God’s creation.

This is a love of which there is no greater, the love that lays down one’s life for another.

This is a love that refuses to allow a single Who down in Whoville to perish.

This is a love with fortitude, a courageous love that shouts down injustice and oppression.

This is an active, vibrant, powerful love that knows no strangers, no outcasts, no enemies.

This is a love that does not conform to this world, that overcomes evil with good, that turns the other cheek every time, that gives without expecting anything in return, that does justice, loves kindness, and walks humbly with God … this is the love that will fix everything.

And finally, it is a love that cannot be legislated, it cannot be demanded or required - it must be freely given. We must choose to love. We already know the answer; it is love. It is not certainty - it is faith. So simple; so extraordinary; so elusive.

We must choose love.

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