Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, in an essay titled Social Aims (1875), “Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” In many ways, Emerson is describing our modern gun control dialogue. We say things but what we are gets in the way so that sometimes, the argument comes down to “You are a liberal” or “You are a conservative”, or “You’re a treehugger” or “You’re a gun nut” and nothing beyond that gets heard.
The vast middle ground of the debate, to name a few: gun-owning liberals, of people who don’t own guns but have nothing against others owning them, and moderate gun-owning conservatives, gets lost. What we are left with is an argument of extremes. Middle ground is not only impossible. It is unthinkable. Even a reasoned response is described as a “knee jerk” reaction. Sensitivity is so heightened that a response does not have to be knee-jerk to be seen as such. More is read into a comment than was ever there. Some things we simply cannot seem to talk about like the rational human beings we claim to be.
Similarly, Abraham Maslow wrote in The Psychology of Science (1966), “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” When it comes to gun control, every tool is seen as a hammer and every point of view begins to look like a nail in the eyes of the recipient. Try as you might, you cannot be heard, because nobody wants to hear you.
The result is that we talk past each other in a ever more heated Babel.
The deadly Colorado shooting at a theater showing the new Batman film illustrates this point perfectly. The gunshots had barely died away when the accusation and recriminations began. Interjecting a note of reasonableness was an exercise in futility. Nothing was heard beyond he words “gun-control” and “gun-rights”: the rest was noise no matter how moderate and sensible. Crosshairs did not have to be aimed anywhere for them to be felt everywhere.
Unfortunately, some of the accusations were anything but moderate. If moderation is ignored, excess is embraced.
The American Family Association, being a hate group, apparently saw it important to hate in response to what happened. We shouldn’t be surprised: it’s what they do, after all. According to Fred Jackson, their news director, if we only feared God more, things like this would never happen.
We have been desensitized to God, apparently, thanks to liberal churches and the media. Never mind there were no lack of atrocities when people were properly terrified of God, especially by the people telling us we should be terrified. They seem to delight in mayhem the most. Nobody likes to kill each other more than the God-fearing. When they’re not killing each other, they’re killing the rest of us.
Quite often, it’s because God tells them to do so.
Jackson’s guest on AFA Today, Jerry Newcombe of Truth in Action Ministries, went after the ACLU, claiming that destroying the public school system by banning the Bible, “You wonder why all these terrible things are happening to us when there is no fear of God.”
Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis at the AFA agrees, complaining that the Supreme Court banned the Ten Commandments in classrooms:
So these black-robed miscreants said we cannot permit potential mass murderers like James Holmes to read or meditate on God’s prohibition “Thou shall not murder” as a part of their education, because someone like him just might be inclined to “venerate and obey” it and not go on a midnight shooting rampage leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake. No, we can’t be having that, now, can we?
This is as tortured a piece of logic as you could ask for, since the ACLU has done no such thing. Nobody has banned Bibles. You can read the Bible in church, you can read it at home, you can read it pretty much anywhere you want including hotel rooms, except while you’re in class when a textbook is supposed to be the only book open in front of you.
Nor did the Supreme Court or anyone else ban the Ten Commandments. They can be taught at home and they can be taught in church. It seems incredible that the “family values” religion is actually saying that public schools are more important than families – or churches. But that seems to be the argument here.
If people aren’t reading the Bible, or don’t know the Ten Commandments, eyes ought to be directed at “Godfearing” parents and pastors for their failures in that regard, not the ACLU, not “black-robed miscreants”, both of which as often as not defend Christians.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the attack was the work of a “very deranged mind.”
The murderer, James Eagan Holmes, according to a neighbor, was very active in his Presbyterian Church.
The ACLU has not stopped anyone from praying in Presbyterian, or any other, churches in America. Neither has the Supreme Court.
In the community there were community standards that reflected biblical principles, whether people knew it or not, the standard in the community was based on Scripture. In that short period of time, roughly forty years, we have seen such a transformation in values in our communities, whether it’s rural or whether it’s big city. I have to think that all of this, whether it’s the Hollywood movies, whether it’s what we see on the internets [sic], whether it’s liberal bias in the media, whether it’s our politicians changing public policy, I think all of those somehow have fit together—and I have to say also churches who are leaving the authority of Scripture and losing their fear of God—all of those things have seem to have come together to give us these kinds of incidents.
Apparently, nobody murdered anybody before forty years ago. Jackson might want to read some old newspapers. Murder is nothing new. Murder by firearm has been around as long as firearms. Before firearms, we murdered each other with other weapons or even our hands. We did it before Christianity and we did it at Christianity’s height. Christianity in decline has nothing to do with it. We’re just better armed these days. You can kill a room full of people a lot more efficiently with an assault rifle than you can with a rock, or with sword, or with a pistol. You can empty a 30-round clip in about 2.5 second with an automatic weapon. The killer in Colorado had a 60-round drum – 60 shots without reloading even without an automatic weapon. He also had 6,000 rounds of ammunition.
Technology also lets us spread specious arguments with lightning speed. So to add insult to injury, Jackson and his co-host, Teddy James, determined that the shooting was God’s judgment. Tired of killing birds, he sent the killer into a theater to murder innocent men, women, and children:
Jackson: I think the sources of this is [sic] multifaceted but I think you can put it all under the heading of rebellion to God, a rejection of the God of the Bible. I think along with an education system that has produced our lawyers, our politicians, more teachers, more professors, all of that sort of thing, is our churches, mainline churches. We’ve been dealing Teddy and I know the AFA Journal has been dealing with denominations that no longer believe in the God of the Bible, they no longer believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation, they teach that God is OK with homosexuality, this is just increasing more and more. It is mankind shaking its fist at the authority of God.
James: And God will not be silent when he’s mocked, and we need to remember that.
Jackson: We are seeing his judgment. You know, some people talk about ‘God’s judgment must be just around the corner,’ we are seeing it.
Which begs the question: who would want to worship this god? He sound like a deranged child who has graduated from pulling the legs off bugs and torturing animals to killing people. And why?
Newcombe claims it’s our fault: “It’s as if we said to God, publicly or in the public arena, ‘get out, You’re not welcome here anymore’ and it’s as if God removed His protection from our land.”
And this lame God we are supposed to fear, of course, listens to mere mortals and does what mere mortals tell him to do.
I think people need a new God. We have enough problems with our gun control debates without interjecting this nonsense.
Fischer goes on to claim that “It’s time to say to the left we’ve tried it your way for the past 60 years and our country is being destroyed before our very eyes.” But it’s not the “left” who killed 12 people in a Colorado theater: it was a church-going white male who owned four weapons.
He complains about drinking from “the poisoned well of secular fundamentalism” but he’s only trying to score points for religious fundamentalism without actually saying anything sensible or relevant about gun violence. If anything, it is religious fundamentalism that is the more deadly, since it’s not atheists who are running around killing people and saying God is telling them to do so.
Meanwhile, we have an NRA that is so powerful that no public debate can get off the ground. With few exceptions, no one in government wants to take on the NRA because they won’t survive the encounter. Even the president won’t take on the NRA. The NRA has somehow made the Second Amendment more powerful and sacrosanct than any other amendment and they maintain that position by feeding on gun owners fears through a steady diet of “they’re going to take your guns and give them to black people” – an old tale never come true that is well in line with the current “they’re going to take your money and give it to black people.”
There is a vast middle ground between “we need to ban all guns” and “we can’t ban any guns”. You wouldn’t know it though. Those are the only arguments people seem able to see. We can no more talk rationally about gun control than we can about religion or politics; as David Rothkopf, CEO and Editor-at-Large of Foreign Policy magazine, wrote in 2011 after Congresswoman Gifford’s shooting, the Second Amendment “has taken on quasi-theological importance for many in the United States.” Gun-control and gun-rights have become matters of belief, not of fact.
It apparently isn’t a point of concern to the NRA that the United States leads the world in firearms deaths, and gun control proponents seem unaware or uncaring that most massacres, like that which occurred in Colorado, are committed with legally purchased firearms. We talk about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals but none of those laws would have stopped James Eagan Holmes from gunning down a theater full of moviegoers since he wasn’t a criminal until he opened fire. Mayors Against Illegal Guns wants to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people but until James Eagan Holmes began shooting, he wasn’t a dangerous person. By all accounts he was a nerdy, likeable science geek who went to church regularly.
It is a sad truth that registering those guns would not have stopped the crime, would not have saved 12 people from being murdered and 58 from being wounded. Perhaps, as Rothkopf said, it’s time to consider the meaning of the Second Amendment factually rather than through the eyes of belief:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
But we no longer have a militia, well-regulated or otherwise. We have a National Guard and they are supplied with weapons. Two-plus centuries on, it’s no longer “BYOG”. If you take away the first part of the sentence, the second part quickly loses its sacred nature. The AFA says people died because we’ve lost our fear of God; more accurately, people died because we insist on misreading the Second Amendment. So let’s re-read it, and decide, based on the fact we no longer have to muster for drill on the village green, what makes sense where gun-control and guns-rights are concerned.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.