I have not specifically spoken to the issue because I know what a sensitive topic it is. I have written and spoken to the issue of violence and what I see as an addiction to some degree of our culture and society and what that says about particular aspects of our faith. I have not spoken of guns in particular not only because it is a sensitive topic but because it is so very political, not that I have been shy about wandering into the political realm, but as a clergy feel it is important to speak of politics in the context of the faith and how I see the two at play.
I woke up with this on my mind and want to take a few moments to ponder the issue. Let me say first I am not against guns. Though I have never understood the appeal of owning a semi-automatic or fully automatic high ammunition capacity military type weapon, I grew up around guns and had many joy filled hours shooting and hunting. My dad and I spent many hours of father and son bonding time hunting and shooting together. I hunted with friends and family and enjoyed the sport of it; mostly with my shotgun hunting pheasants and quail or an occasional rabbit. I enjoyed shooting skeet with my dad and my brother-in-law and the boys. Every now and then dad would get out his little 22 pistol and we would do some target practice or my brother’s 22 single shot rifle.
Somewhere along the way I lost my love of hunting, while it doesn’t have anything to do with guns themselves, it was primarily due to two things. One I have never really enjoyed wild game as a meal, mostly I ate it because I was the one who hunted it and brought it home. That and my ever growing love of nature I have learned I find much more pleasure in seeing the beauty of a pheasant, or listening to a covey of quail take off in flight, or seeing a whitetail deer leap over a fence and simply taking it in as opposed to shooting it.
What does trouble me about the current conversation is the increasing connection I see folks make between guns and the Christian faith. The other day I saw a bumper sticker here in the city, “What Every Home in America Should Have” with the picture of a gun laying on a Bible. I remember saying out loud as I drove behind the person, “Really?” I don’t have a problem with folks having a fire arm in their home if it is properly and safely secured. I certainly do not have an issue with people having Bibles in their homes, more should, I would guess. But to somehow link the two that they would be harmonious and supportive of one another seems rather odd to me at best. Another incident was while searching for images of Jesus on Google for a sermon I was doing I ran across an image of Jesus sitting on a rock holding a military style weapon, I have no words.
We as a people of faith proclaim Jesus as “Prince of Peace,” citing his message of Love God, love neighbor, and love yourselves. We remember his charge to love our enemies and his rebuke of one who was with him that night to, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” and then we promote an image with a gun in his hands. What’s wrong with this picture?
Do I believe we need better control of the high capacity round automatic weapons? Yes. Do I believe we need better background checks and mental health accessibility for those who wish to purchase guns? Yes. Do I believe more access to guns and more guns on the street and in our homes and schools and government buildings will make us safer? No. I believe we need to find ways to make this a more safe and sane country and world. I know there are those who disagree with me and I pray we as a country can have a civil, fruitful and productive conversation about how to achieve better and safer methods of gun ownership. Such is my civil opinion and my politic if you will, it is where I am as a citizen of our great country.
But please, don’t put a gun in the hands of Jesus and the disciples in order to try and make the case for gun laws and the second amendment. I do not believe violence is ever the answer especially when talking about our faith and following the teachings and Way of Jesus. The threat of more violence in response to violence only begets more violence and fear. It is not the Way of truth, life, or love. I continue to pray for the day when swords are beaten into plowshares and spears and made into pruning hooks. I continue to pray for the day when peace will be the rule of the day and we will learn violence and war no more. I continue to pray for a world that is safe and compassionate for us all and especially for our children.
It is one of the many ways I seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.
Rev. Kent H. Little, Senior Pastor
A Reconciling Congregation