the Empathy List #56: Up in Arms
The Gospel of Guns
Hey friend, Liz here.
How does this keep happening here? That’s the question myself and other Coloradoans are asking this week, in the aftermath of the Boulder, Colorado grocery store mass shooting.
The store where a shooter pulled out his automatic weapon is only a 45-minute drive from my house. (And this wasn’t the only mass shooting this week either, as I’m certain you’ve heard!!)
There are more guns than people in the United States of America. Even our children could claim their own handgun to defend their classrooms, with leftovers to spare. Of course, not every American owns a gun, more like a third of us. But according to 2017 Pew Research Center data analyzed for Christianity Today, white evangelicals, like me, are even more likely to carry: over 41% own a gun. (And that’s saying nothing of those Christians who support the second amendment as a mandate for gun ownership, equating our rights as citizens to a Biblical ideal.)
In evangelical spheres, pro-military and pro-gun and pro-life hold hands in the church pew as favored companions of the religious right. The pro-gun stance jives with Christianity’s hardest edge theologies—“versus” theologies—like the theologies of bad people versus good people, where the righteous live forever in heavenly ecstasies, unlike versus the damned, who smolder eternally in hell.
In considering guns, the black and white thinking intensifies. Yet as Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s chief executive, put it, the second amendment is claimed as a right “granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”
The problem is, who do we mean when we name some righteous and others evil? Who decides, and how, and why?
I believe the Bible answers these questions plainly, and yet it’s easy for us, in perhaps the most armored nation in history, to miss the plot. As Rob Bell put it (yes, the heretic himself):
“If you’re a citizen of the most powerful global military superpower civilization has ever created, there’s a chance you might miss some of [the Bible’s] most central themes.”
In watching debates on various social media platforms this week, my husband remarked to me at the violence of the conversations themselves: “Just try to take my guns from me,” one commenter said, “and see what happens.”
“So you’re going to shoot me with your semi-automatic rifle just to prove that semi-automatic rifles should be available for anyone to use because most gunowners aren’t the maniacs who shoot people?” Yep, no intellectual difficulties there…
I will tell you plainly: I am a meat-eater. I have no qualms about cooking up a venison burger from an elk shot by a friend. And yet semi-automatic weapons are the weapon of choice for mass shooting events (they aren’t the only choice, but the data proves that they’re the most deadly).
Of course, every gun owner isn’t evil or deranged. Placing limits—boundaries—on gun use is, in fact, the role of a just democratic government. Because, of course, some gun owners are the worst of us; we’ve seen that firsthand.
The most important question may not be which weapons to ban or which rights to protect but why, in the first place, our country (and my religion) needs to arm itself so heavily in the first place.
As we near Holy week, the cross looms. The scriptures tell us that soldiers arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion, and in resistance, Peter draws his sword to fight on Jesus’ behalf. Can you feel the desire to protect Jesus in Peter’s actions? He clearly believes himself to be “a good Samaritan,” enacting the will of God. (“Looks like you need a little help, Jesus…”)
But Jesus rejects Peter’s protection, saying, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)
From another gospel account of Jesus’s arrest, his words echo a warning, as Shane Claiborne recounts: “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
Are any of us safe in this world? To be human is to be vulnerable. The hope I hold means that my does not end at the butt of a gun, just as Christ’s did not end on a cross.
Thanks for reading. Warmly, Liz Charlotte Grant
Would you forward this email to a friend? If you like what I’m doing, spread the word!
By yours truly: When my family and I planned to sell a house, and then buy and renovate another, we did not count on 2020 to fight back.
“My husband and I picked the unlucky month of March to sell our house.
…We listed our home on March 5, one week before the president acknowledged the coronavirus as a ‘pandemic.’ Back then, we thought that the virus was thousands of miles away, much like Zika or Ebola—very sad and very distant. How could it reach us across so much ocean?”
The Other Journal | Read more…
If you’ve been following politics lately, you might find yourself wondering... what’s a filibuster, again?
“The reality is, almost all of the ambitious things that Biden wants to do with his presidency… almost none of that is actually possible right now because of the filibuster.
“But… how did we end up in this place where, even though bills in the Senate are supposed to pass with a simple majority of 51 votes that you actually need 60 votes to pass those bills?”
The Post Reports podcast | Listen…
This article answers the paradox of our time:
“If a major point of yoga is quieting the ego and reducing focus on self, why are there so many yoga pose pictures on Instagram?” ;-)
Using the methods of meditational or other spiritual practices can fool us into believing we’re growing, when in reality, we’re engaging in spiritual narcissism.
(BTW, this essay does not discuss not religious narcissism exactly, but Buddhist, Hindu, and meditation spiritual practice, including yoga)
Scientific American | Read more…
Step into the weird world of miniature grocery store scenes.
“Miniatures of all kinds have experienced a pandemic bump. As the virus rages outside, hobbyists can at least flex control of their own little worlds.”
The New York Times | Read more…
How Dolly Parton ascended to secular sainthood.
“Dolly Parton is in the midst of a career revival that has seen her hailed as a kind of secular country-pop saint. And what’s not to love about Dolly?”
Vox | Read more…
Just for fun…
“A body builder chopped up an old lady / I watch it while I text my sister ‘bout her baby…”
(Am I the only one who loves to watch shows about psychopaths and tally up a high body count? Oh, and don’t forget the baking shows.)