the American way – part 2

Truly folks, I thought that yesterday when I posted my ‘letter to the editor’ regarding soaring gun sales in my community, I had tempered my anger and my juices would mellow out.

WRONG!

Today’s Google news feed showed a man packing a military style weapon while ordering a sandwich at his local Subway.  Really??

Maybe he’s skeered that the big Subway salami will wrestle him to the floor and have it’s way with his cute, little ……oops, sorry.  I promised to be a little more spiritual today.

Maybe he’s on his way to a rally for his favorite politician?

Maybe he just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan?

Maybe he’s a spokesperson for Remington?

Naaaaw, I like my 1st thought….he’s a wuss frightened by the Subway salami.

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the American way

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“Turn your ear to me, rescue me quickly.  Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance.” PSALM 31:3 TL

Worldwide, these are difficult times for all of us.  It is interesting to observe what or whom people turn to in times of adversity.  The following is my response submitted to ‘letters to the editor’ to this morning’s local newspaper headline.

Yippee ki-yay, buckeroos. Citrus County residents must be planning for a range war that would make the wild, wild West of yesteryear look like a cake walk at the local church picnic. Today’s Chronicle headline reads, “Local gun store sales soar.”

Surprising? Not at all. This is the American way – solve insecurities, fears, and differences with a gun. I remember an old western movie in which the hero manned 5 guns at one time thus eliminating the band of bad boys who were threatening him. Maybe that’s what fellow Citrus residents envision? Or perhaps they foresee a government intent on confiscating their weapons? Now fellows, I am not the brightest light bulb in the package, but if your government wants your guns, then it will swoop into your neighborhood with more firepower than y’all ever dreamed in your worst nightmares. And guess who is going to be dead? Probably you and I plus a multitude of peaceful neighbors caught up in your cowardly shenanigans.

One of the most obscene bumper stickers which I have seen reads, “God, guns and guts.” Is this the mindset of a nation which boasts a heritage based on teachings of a man advocating peace and compassion for all humanity? We have become myopic, extremely short-sighted regarding diverse cultures and faith walks promoting peaceful co-existence with the world. An outside observer could rightfully believe that many Christian Americans have chosen violence and guns as their God.

The Dalai Lama once said that there are no Muslim terrorists, no Buddhist terrorists, no Christian terrorists. One cannot be a man of violence if one truthfully and faithfully professes to be a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Christian; conversely, one cannot truly be a Muslim, Buddhist or Christian if one promotes violence as the answer to adversity.

Two quotes, from men much wiser than I, have greatly influenced my life’s philosophy:

1) “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”  GILBERT K. CHESTERTON,

2) “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  MOHANDAS GANDHI

God, guns and guts. Really? Will this be America’s legacy? We are all facing severe insecurities regarding food supplies and other available resources. We face financial hardships unknown since the Great Depression. Will your answer be a gun or will it be faith in goodness and mercy?

Do I expect that my words will stop a neighbor from buying a gun, or from using that gun on a desperate man in need of food, or keeping that gun loaded by his bedside, or mistakenly pointing that gun at me?  Hell no!  But, I know that guns do not kill people; therefore, I am not afraid of guns.  Rather, it is angry, insecure, unpredictable people brandishing guns who kill people.  For today’s times I choose to entrust my life 🙏 to a universal force of goodness and mercy that comforts and consoles in all circumstances.  Sorry, 2nd Amendment people, guns do not translate into security and safety in my world.

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those who mourn

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.”CANDLE

“On October 2, 2006, a shooting occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot eight out of ten girls, killing five, before committing suicide in the schoolhouse. The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location.”

Eleven years ago while taking a break from driving, sitting at a Midwest truck-stop, watching TV on my satellite connection, this breaking news story darkened my soul like nothing else in recent memory.  As a young boy I had attended public school with Amish boys and girls, I lived in communities where the clop-clop of Amish buggies passing by was a normal everyday occurrence, my family shopped at the grocery store with Amish families.  Their way of life was fascinating to me.  How could they follow such a simple lifestyle eschewing modern conveniences and still be the happiest people I knew?  I greatly envied their humility and dedication to the community of believers which they chose to follow.

Even today as I write this, my eyes well up with tears.  Innocent schoolgirls gunned down execution style by a madman.  On October 2, 2006 I cried like a baby for several hours.  My driving partner could not console me, my prayers would not stop the tears, the God of my understanding had deserted me.  Five killed.  Others injured.  The young boys who had been herded outside stood by helplessly as their schoolmates inside screamed while shot after shot was fired.

“For the sake of Christ, my God, they were children!  Why?”  That’s all my mind could process until later in the day when the news reported a statement from the Amish elders of that community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, “We forgive the gunman.”

Oh my God!  These simple, peace-loving men and women, having suffered the most horrific of crimes perpetrated against them, immediately turn a most hateful act of violence against innocent children into an opportunity to show the world what Jesus expected of them.  “Forgive him, Father, for he did not know what he was doing.”

Could I have forgiven?  If my little girl was one of those standing in front of the blackboard with her back to the gunman waiting for her turn to be murdered, could I forgive?  Even today, eleven years later,  I don’t know that I could answer that question honestly.  I know what Jesus said, I know what the teachings are, but I am still a man who sometimes feeds on justified anger.  Perhaps I am the one who needs forgiveness.

That day and the days following were a time of continual mourning.  More tears, more questions, less confidence that American society would ever turn from violent rhetoric and behavior.  In time the tears did indeed wash away the sorrow.  A brighter day appeared.

Those who mourn, including me, realize that mourning is another day in the seasons of life just as pain, depression, illness, disappointment, and inadequacy.  Life is an inescapable mingling of sorrow and joy.  Without the times of sorrow we would not recognize joy.  Without the sorrow we would not seek the blessing of a Comforter.

“Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

“Jesus describes those who grieve as feeling the pain of the world.” 

“Saint Ephrem said, ‘Until you have cried, you do not know God.'”

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Jeremy Camp released a video and recording encouraging us to endure the pain and sorrow for there will be a day…….

 

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;  and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God, guns, guts

As a young man growing up in rural Pennsylvania one of the anticipations of the autumn aside from harvest, football, and hay rides was hunting.  It was a time of brotherly camaraderie, enjoying the fall colors in the woods, sipping hot cider on frosty mornings.  We hunted squirrel, rabbit, pheasants, turkey, and deer.  Every kill was taken home, dressed and put into a stew or into the freezer for future use.  Never was the bounty of the land wasted or taken for granted.  Wild game was another crop which the farmer harvested, gave thanks for, and used wisely.

As a young man growing up in rural Pennsylvania we all had at least one shotgun and rifle.  I had a 20 gauge and a 35 caliber, learned to use them safely, and appreciated the trust bestowed in me to hunt with other sportsmen.  I knew of no one who possessed or carried a pistol, revolver or any other small arms except for the local constable.  Absolutely no one in my community had a need for a military style weapon, especially law enforcement.

As a young man growing up in rural Pennsylvania we held a respect for one another that would preclude any actions of violence against our brothers and sisters.  It was not taught, it was not learned.  It was a part of who we were on the day we were born.  We called ourselves pacifists, but even more, we practiced nonviolence.  Pacifism is an attitude or mindset.  Nonviolence is an active pursuit.

Sadly, life in America today isn’t rural Pennsylvania 60 years ago.  Our viewing screens are plastered with the violence we level upon one another; Columbine, NYC, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Dallas, Charleston, and now Las Vegas.  Its an epidemic of violence fueled by fringe ideology with one common denominator: access to high powered, military style weaponry.

Many of those who claim a right to guns are no longer sport hunters who harvest the bounty of the land.  They have become instead proponents of the 2 nd Amendment accumulating enough arms to start a world war in their own backyards and they are supported by the power of the NRA, an association which began as a voice for the rights of hunters.

The perpetrators of the acts of violence which we see on our screens and in the newspapers are usually declared as mentally deranged.  Matters not.  The supporters of NRA claim that their right to possess military style weapons supersedes the rights of fellow Americans and their families to live safely in peaceful neighborhoods, communities, and cities.

In Florida, the state laws favor the gun owner who claims a right to carry at all times.  The illusion is that they want the ability to protect themselves in case of a deranged shooter engaging in a confrontation.  Hey, folks, it’s the OK Corral in your local WalMart, aisle 6.

“Who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy….I dunno, just get the hell out of the crossfire.”

They say it’s for protection.  Guess what?  I feel safer hiking through the nearby woods with the alligators, the water moccasins, the bears, and the occasional homeless guy than I do shopping at my local grocery store.  That’s the depth of moral deprivation into which our society has slid.

Next time you see or hear “God, guns, and guts” think about it.  Give the association of those three words in the same sentence some serious thought.  As the proud proponents of gun rights often proclaim:

“They’ll have to pry my gun out of my dead hands.”  Well, then so be it.  It’s your choice. But, don’t kill me or my loved ones  in the process.

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