Last week my wife and I watched an episode of the TV drama The West Wing from over a decade ago. They were going back and forth about gun control laws, throwing out different statistics, and ultimately did not make any major changes. Another episode dealt with the subject of racial discrimination and prejudice based on ethnic or religious background. I was curious to see what a reboot of that show would look like depicting our current decade. My wife said the media would not go anywhere near it, and she's probably right. Those issues are far too fresh and blatant today... much more so than ten years ago.
I think our country may be ready for a different term than "gun control" but the polarization of our nation around that issue has kept it locked in place. Maybe that has been for the best. I do not know what will help our country be a safer place to live. Carrying a gun only gives you a chance to survive if you can use it well and an see your attacker before they shoot you. It does not help against bombs. It does not stop drunk drivers. It does not stop germ or other biological warfare.
I want to make a statement about faith and violence, but I think it will be helpful to explain where I am coming from first. I personally don't like guns. It's not that they are used to kill people, it is that they are often loud and require a great deal of care and responsibility to keep safe. I saw the movie Home Alone when it came out in the theaters and my twisted mind has come up with plenty of home defense strategies just using basic household supplies and power tools. I do not own a gun for the same reason I do not have a desire to have a big swimming pool in the back yard. All it would take would be one momentary lapse of responsibility for someone too young to know better to end up hurting or killing themselves or someone else, and I'd rather not have that on my conscience.
That being said, I support our military and even tried to join them as a teenager. I may not agree with everything they have ever done, but I understand their role is so much bigger than killing people. I believe, as Ecclesiastes 3:8 says, that there is a time for war, just as there is a time for peace. I don't always understand it and I'm not going to call the shots, but I believe that God is at work in our warzones, the same way He is at work in cancer wards. Sometimes destruction and death come before new life.
That's me. Here's my statement:
I don't think you have to be a pacifist to maintain self-control and faithfulness in the presence of enemies... but I think it helps.
I think this whole 'gun control' thing has more to do with self-defense than guns. Politically, whether in domestic or foreign affairs, we have sometimes used the motto that a good offense is the best defense. In a world where you could only kill one person at a time, that is all well and good, but today, when your money can be stolen remotely from the other side of the world, your food can be poisoned in processing or in transit to your local grocery store, where someone with a virus can infect an entire city before anyone knows what hit them, and all life can be wiped off the face of a continent with a dozen missiles... at this point we are not talking self defense. We are talking about mass murder of ignorant, if not innocent bystanders. Our country did it to Japan, and we were repaid by the threat from Cuba and Russia in the early 60's under President Kennedy. This concept of self-defense changed into a staredown contest where each party tried to intimidate the other by showing off their weapons and threatening to use them. Both parties knew that if either actually did use them, the entire world would face devastation. It was a showdown where the first person to draw would guarantee that everyone lost.
The specific tactics may have changed in the last 50 years, but we can never take back Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the power we saw unleashed there. Judgment day aside, we now know how to end our world ourselves. All we have to do is lose self-control.
Why does it help being a pacifist? I don't speak from experience exactly as I have been a pacifist more by circumstance than by intention. Threats to those I care about might change me pretty quickly, and as I mentioned, I don't need a gun to do damage. I think it might help to forsake violence because that is one foothold the enemy cannot hold against you. If you refuse to even consider violent responses, you are protected from losing control in those ways. It is the same for those who choose not to drink alcohol. Whether they think it is bad or not, they will not ever struggle with alcohol addiction. If you know something could lead you to sin, you don't go anywhere near it. It is not a rule (see yesterdays post about Fair vs Right) it is a choice, and it is a choice you have the ability to make every day.
If you want another perspective, read the life of David in 1-2 Samuel. David killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in battle. He was not a pacifist. When he was face to face with his greatest enemy, King Saul, he refused to kill him. Saul gave the killer of the giant Goliath every reason to defend himself, but every time David chose not to. This is the man who wrote the lines:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ps 23:1–6). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
When it comes to the subject of defense, where do you put your faith?
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
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