Thursday, January 10, 2013
let's talk about guns
I don’t have a clue how the gun debate will shake out. All one has to do is read the comments after any news post about the latest shooting to learn there are intensely polarized and volatile opinions…and rudeness. And then you have the myriad of “lies, damned lies and statistics”, as Twain put it, as both sides parade their best numbers and argue on their behalf.
All tangled up in this is a founding constitution that protects gun rights, an über-violent entertainment-obsessed culture, a broken-down mental healthcare system, and, let’s be honest, a firearms industry flourishing in our free-market society. Wal-Mart is the largest munitions seller in the country—I’m pretty sure it’s not philosophical for them.
But I don’t want to get into the political arguments here. Frankly, I’m not smart enough. And I have no idea what defines a semi-automatic assault weapon.
I just want to talk to my fellow Jesus-followers. The rest of you can stop reading.
I know Americans have rights. I get that. But I want to have a conversation with people who are Kingdom-people before they are Americans. Because in the end, I’m fairly confident when the sheep and goats are separated, my passport won’t mean a lot. Apparently, what matters in that particular instance is answering a few questions: Did you feed Me? Did you clothe Me? Did you visit Me? I’m going to struggle enough with those. And in that particular passage, those are asked before theological correctness.
But there’s more to it at a deeper level. It’s what I would call a “Philippians 2-incarnational Christianity”-issue. It’s when Paul describes Jesus with a cosmic scope and writes:
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever… Philippians 2:6-9 (The Message)
He had all the power, all the privilege, and yet didn’t claim his rights or cling to his advantages. He was God…and let go of it all. That tells me more about Christianity than just about anything. And Paul writes that we are to have that same attitude. Selfless. It’s not about my rights.
That’s difficult for me to hear…and not just about this particular issue. And this isn’t even specifically about pacifism.
I want to go beyond that. When we are ambassadors of another Kingdom, we have to think hard about how we present ourselves and our Kingdom message to a very confused, violent and lost world, a planet under the sway of a malevolent power the Bible personifies as Satan. So my questions are as follows:
Why does it often seem that American evangelical Christians are the first to lobby for no-holds-barred gun rights, and oftentimes the first to vote for war, and yet say we are representatives of the Prince of Peace, the One who said plainly to not return evil for evil and to put away the sword, who never retaliated against violent men, and whose first followers laid down their lives rather that mount a bloody last stand à la Masada? Do we really think Jesus would fight for His right to pack heat? Shouldn’t we at least be the last ones—instead of the first—to jump on the violence-for-violence bandwagon…or at least be just a little more circumspect? Is this really the best Kingdom representation we have to offer? Even if we believe it’s our right as Americans to own whatever firepower we want, is that really a hill Biblical Christians want to die on and be known for?
I understand the nationalistic argument and I get the ramifications. And I could probably have a dog in that fight…if I didn’t have to first think hard about the optics: how do people outside the camp view my Kingdom citizenship? And shouldn’t I think twice about my Kingdom responsibilities before I respond about my American rights? Am I more interested in getting my way, making my point, winning my argument before I truly take the time to be just a little more reflective about how I express the “Jesus in me”?
I’m the only letter they’ll read. So what’s my loudest message?
Please hear me: this isn’t about “taking anyone’s rights away”. This is about being prudent enough to consider what others hear most stridently from us…and our responsibility as Kingdom-citizens before our rights as Americans.
Perhaps those outside of the faith can argue the other points. And believe me: they will.
“The thing you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need will be given to you.” Matthew 6:33 (New Century Version)