The amount of finger pointing and accusations in our country is horrible. There are smart people who live here that I hope would take a few minutes to pull themselves away from the latest geolocation game about cats and try to address this. Anyway I am so disappointed by many friends I read both conservative and liberal, similar to how I felt during election season, that there is little true conversation happening just the public discourse that sure could lead this entire country over a cliff.
I grew up in Baltimore, MD born in 1976. So for the first eleven years I spent my childhood in what was one of the most violent cities in the United States. The reason my family moved out of Baltimore is because my father was shot at in front of our house. Having ducked just as the robber fired the bullet grazed my dad’s knuckles before the kids ran off with his wallet and the twenty bucks in it. To this day I’m not sure what year this took place, what I do know is that my family was not financially able to move immediately. So my father a former U.S. Marine was forced to live in a violent neighborhood where he had been attacked with all of the anger and fear that goes along with that kind of an attack. Yet to my knowledge my father did not go and purchase a gun. In my opinion my father is one of the ‘good’ people who would be a responsible gun owner, but he chose not to have a gun in our house.
After moving out of Baltimore my father realized that I had a very unhealthy perspective of guns as a middle schooler, since all I ever knew in Baltimore was that criminals and friends of mine that were criminals had guns, I had a fear of guns. To address this my dad arranged for me to join a 4-H shooting club that competed in marksmanship competitions. This was an amazing experience, I learned not only how to shoot, but how to assemble and clean a 22 rifle. Also the team president had a large arsenal that he allowed us to shoot, so I have had the opportunity to shoot various assault rifes and hand guns. Needless to say my fear of guns faded as my knowledge grew, it seems I begin to understand a place for them other than in the hands of the violent.
Perhaps I would have become more involved with gun culture but the son of the president of the 4-H Club was not emotionally stable, my father picked up on this clearly and felt like it was too much of a risk to be involved in a club with teenagers and guns. Looking back on what seemed like a small fact to me know, it blows my mind to think about all the gun violence perpetrated by those with mental disabilities and emotional instability. My dad, I believe was ahead of the curve recognizing this risk, frankly he just witness very basic violations of rules for guns that caused him concern. So we left.
Since then I have had very few interactions with guns. During high school and college I had a opportunities to go skeet shooting which I enjoyed…and frankly was pretty good at. And when I lived in Oakland there were a few incidents of gun violence on a street where we lived. During seminary I spent a great deal of time studying social justice and learning about how people of faith live in communities of violence, while there is no one set ethic that governs the lives of the folks, some of their views surprised me.
One family that lived in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, one of the most violent communities in the U.S. before Hurricane Katrina, said that they would not buy a gun because they believed that God would protect them. In sincerity they asked, “How do white Christians that don’t live in violent communities justify owning a gun? Do they not believe God will protect them?” That question made me think. Also it made me realize that while social conservatives claim to be people of faith many of their actions appear to be the least faithful in our society. This is not just a criticism of owning a gun to protect your family, I can understand that, but the use of fear and the doomsday mentality when the suggestion of government imposing on your “god-given” right to own a gun. There is so much fear and thoughtless dialogue going on, my hope is that people of faith will think this through and be gracious in their conversations. My other hope is that the government officials that we pay will take the complexities of this problem in mind and find a way through. There are good responsible people that own guns and it is an unique right in our country to be able to do it.
To me the larger issues our country is facing and it just continues to grow is hopelessness. We live in country that has more to offer than any nation in the history of the world and yet human life is not valued by many and there is a growing apathy toward everything. This hopelessness is pictured for me in the movie Menace II Society, release in 1993 it is clear that the director understood this hopelessness was already present in communities of violence, now our country is waking up to it as even the suburbs are invaded. The problem is not from any of the ten things that the NRA blamed and throwing more people with guns into the mix will not solve the problem. BTW was the NRA volunteering to pay all those people at our schools, oh no we need to put that on the already underfunded education system of our beloved country…again stupid responses. The problems are evil people and our own sinfully complicated heart that creates obstacles to solving real problems because of our dogma.
Back to the movie, just after the main character Cain is shot, he is sitting with his grandfather and the following dialogue is shared,
Now what I want to talk to you two about is the trouble that you’ve been getting into. Boys, the Lord didn’t put you here to be shooting and killing each other. It’s right there in the Bible, Exodus 20:13: ‘”Thou shall not kill.’
Grandpa, I ain’t never killed nobody.
Oh, I doubt that. And Kevin, I’ve heard stories about you.
Sir, I don’t think God really cares too much about us, or he wouldn’t have put us here. I mean, look where we stay at. It’s all fucked – It’s messed up around here.
My grandpops was always coming at us with that religion, and every time it would go in one ear and out the other.
Caine, do you care whether you live or die?
I don’t know.
I’ve also included the clip of the scene from the movie if you are interested. Start with the question, “Do you care whether you live or die?” if so how do you work toward that end both for you and for your neighbor in this world?