God and Guns

Posted on December 30, 2012


I am probably going to offend a lot of people with this column, but as the old saying goes, speak truth to power. And power in this country lies in the people, so here goes people.

On the other hand, I hope I find some sympathetic echoes out there in the readership since I have a message of hope, not despair.

I have heard and read just about everything related to the issue of mass violence and gun control today in America, everything from solutions as zany as arming everyone to taking guns away from all. We plan to turn our schools into little fortresses, hire thousands of psychologists and police professionals to track down, analyze and neutralize every potential psychotic killer in the land, and finger pointing goes on and on.

What I really haven’t heard should be coming from the pulpits of Christian churches across the land. I am not excusing other faith traditions in America, but I write as a Christian, so don’t get smug as you read on.

“Ah, he’s aiming it at Christians, we [fill in the blank: Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc.] aren’t his targets.”

Every religion that has a moral basis needs to examine what is happening in the land from inside their own faith. Mine comes from inside of Christianity, and I hear a deafening silence from the pulpits of America.

I am not condemning all since I have occasionally heard and read about powerful statements from eminent priests, pastors and theologians of the Catholic and Protestant worlds speak with clarity and power to the decline of those Christian standards expressed so clearly in the Bible.

But those Christians are in the minority.

The pulpits of most are silent. They don’t want to rock the boat, offend their parishioners, drive them away, kill the income coming from tithes, alms and offerings, or, God forbid, jeopardize their non-profit status by breaching the wall between Church and State and thus incurring the wrath of the government.

In this last election, I never heard such silence from the pulpit on issues of family, abortion, homosexuality, and the general libertinage of a population which subscribes more to license than obedience to the word of God.

Before you pillory me, let me be very frank here. I too am a sinner, am tempted, have fallen, and picked myself up lots of times. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak Jesus cautioned us, but in today’s world the spirit seems to have vanished into thin air. There is no moral compass, no rock steady set of values and ethics—derived largely from Christian Scripture and the message of Jesus Christ—to serve as the Pole star of our world.

We don’t know where North or South, or East or West, are anymore since we have in many instances abandoned the control that comes from obedience to God’s world and word. We have replaced it with our self-made set of flexible and ever changing rules, largely to accommodate our desires and whims.

The family and the Church where we learned how to curb our flesh have slowly sunk into the background of our modern culture, replaced by a rampant narcissism that champions self over selflessness, me over us, and relative standards over absolute values.

And let me be as frank as possible here as well. At the end of this horrible chute of relativism and selfishness come the shooters and mass murderers, weaned on the pabulum of self-aggrandizement and self-satisfaction, nurtured in a culture where violence and mayhem become the matrix of their development.

We ask ourselves, in great agony, why?

Please don’t move to another possible conclusion: that I am espousing we turn over the governance of our nation to priests and pastors, and create a theocracy, like the mullahs of Iran exercise, or like some Christian kingdoms or governments have occasionally experimented with in the past.

I am very happy living as an American in a world of freedom, opportunity, and plenty, by comparison to many of the peoples on this planet. I think we have devised a wonderful, God-inspired, form of government to allow for both freedom and justice, liberty and equality.

But the Puritans of New England, as great as they were in bequeathing to us the vision and dream and then reality of a Godly people living within God’s will, also burned heretics in Salem and threw Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson out of their colony because they thought a bit differently than they did.

What I am not hearing is that today’s problems, manifested most dramatically by a form of national illness given horrific expression by mass shootings, have come from our abandonment of striving to be in the will of God.

I know this sounds awfully judgmental to some of you, but there is in God’s system of righteousness a justice that will be rendered, both in this life and the next.
The most common form of justice we all know happens in a court of law, at least theoretically, and with justice comes exoneration or punishment.

But there is a higher form of justice in Scripture. We get the term “to be justified” from it, or to be put right with God, which also gives us righteousness. Now, self-righteousness is pretty ugly, but a Godly righteousness is not.

This righteousness is simply following the precepts found in the Bible, including, for example, the Ten Commandments, the teachings of Jesus based so thoroughly in Judaic traditions and rules, and the subsequent interpreters of Jesus’s teachings such as those given voice and letter by the Apostle Paul and other of the Apostles and early Church fathers.

Restore these fundamentals to the pulpits of America. Speak God’s truth, not man’s truth. In doing so, hope will replace despair, understanding will drive out fear, and light will replace anger and darkness.

There are many, many Americans already walking the walk, in so many areas of life. One is gratified to see and hear acts of sacrifice, love, and compassion. Now they need to see and hear their pastors and priests, ministers and elders, deacons and lay leaders step up to the bat, the pulpit, the lectern, and be leaders of a people wanting to find the truth and live by it.

Leaders, by the way, like the ancient prophets calling the old Israelites back from their sinful ways, are not always popular figures. But we need them today like perhaps no other time in history.

Leadership is not about polls, popularity, or pandering to what people think they want. Leadership from the pulpit is speaking the truth. Your God will take care of the consequences.

This column published in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday December 20, 2012