Gun Nuts Need to Learn Interpretation Skills 

“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.”

I’ve heard it said that of all the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment is the one that gives no qualifiers. It’s like they wrote it down, intending to come back to it, but didn’t want the trouble. 

Hey Tom, this Amendment is only a sentence, do you think we should expand on it? Maybe tell people what we actually mean here? It might confuse people, no?” 

“Pfft. I think it’s pretty self explanatory, Georgie. Whatta you think, Jim” 

“I’m with you, Tom. Just don’t give Alex one, I don’t think he knows how to use it. He’ll just end up getting shot.”

Thus the groundwork for the Great Debate was laid. 

I am not an expert in constitutional law, nor do I espouse to be. My education is in theology. But considering that the last expert in constitutional law who spoke about the second amendment was considered a sleeper cell terrorist, who wanted to take away everyone’s guns, I don’t think expertise matters much these days anyway🙄. Regardless, where my education helps me in this, is that I was trained in the basic skills of interpretation. Albeit, biblical interpretation, but interpretation nonetheless. Even if you consider the Bible a bunch of myths and fairytales, reading of any kind requires a basic set of skills that allow you to take the words on the page, and understand them within the context for which they were intended.

For instance, when I say that I love a good steak with a twice baked potato, I do not mean that I love them the same way that I love my wife.  Though I use the same word (love), I do not mean it the same way. I do not have romantic feelings, and all that comes along  with them, for a steak. That would be weird. 

To use another example, whenever I say I like a Wendy’s #2, I mean the #2 Combo from the fast food restaurant, not another type of number two from a gal named Wendy … 💩. That would be REALLY weird. 

And thus I say, gun nuts need to learn some interpretation skills. And just for clarity, by gun nuts, I do not mean responsible gun owners. Those are two very different groups of people. (Though I did use it as a title for this blog just to grab your attention 😇.) Most responsible gun owners that I know actually favor enforcing sensible gun safety laws. 1) Background checks. 2) Mental health checks. 3) Banning known criminals and people with terrorist ties. Even they will say that certain people should never own or operate a gun. Ever. And, they will say that if you are going to own one, you better know how to use it safely. You are not in an action movie. You are not Bruce Willis in Die Hard. You are a human being with an instrument of death in your hands. You can kill someone with it. And yes, even “righteous kills” will eat your conscience alive. 

Here’s where I think interpreting the second amendment breaks down: everyone focuses on the final clause–“…the right of the people, to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”–and neglects the first two–“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” Just to use the words of the amendment itself, the point of keeping and bearing arms was to be able to assemble a well trained militia, to secure the free state. In other words, The Founders (as far as I can tell) were not intending for people just to stockpile guns for fun. If you know anything about British history, you know they had a habit of quelling rebellions against the Crown, and then outlawing the possession of arms of any kind. (The Disarmament Act in the wake of the Jacobite Rising of 1745 in Scotland is an example–no guns, no swords, no dirks.) In the wake of the American Revolution, The Founders wanted to make it so that if democracy failed, and our government became a bunch of tyrants again, that the people could realistically rise up against the government, and overthrow it. 

I don’t think it unreasonable to say that both our government and our understanding of the second amendment have drastically changed since then. But annoyingly, the counterpoints never do. Good guy with gun stops bad guy with gun. Criminals will get guns anyway. Bad people will do bad things even without guns. Why do you want to punish responsible gun owners for the sins of those who aren’t? And a monotony of other silly arguments, and caution against boogeymen and spooks and things that go bump in the night. (The guy stealing your stereo may actually just want to hawk it for food to feed his family.)

I, for one, am not trying to take away people’s guns. I personally would rather they all be destroyed. But if you can own and operate one responsibily, or you want to hunt for your food, please do. But please stop treating people whose concern is public safety like a bunch of brainless morons who don’t know what the constitution says. You yourself may be misinterpreting it, and adding meaning to it that was never there. And I doubt you would be favorable of such treatment toward yourself. At the end of the day, shouldn’t the golden rule be more important than the second amendment? Shouldn’t we be more keen to love our neighbor, than we are to shoot them out of suspicion? (That may be a stretch, and I apologize if it is. But I have seen way too many people–gun nuts–jump on soapboxes for scenarios that will never happen.) Emotional arguments and overreactions make for poor policy. 

So I was asked in a thread once, what would I propose for solutions. Because it’s one thing to simply vent our ideologies, or throw out “we just need…” blanket statements. This really only accomplishes us stubbornly cementing our position, good, bad, or ugly. But when we can come to the table with viable option(PLURAL), we might be able to meet in the middle here, and accomplish reasonable changes to our gun policies. 

So here are my suggestions. 

1) A well regulated militia will never be able to stand against a government that can huddle in a bunker, and send a drone to erase that militia with the press of a button, and then spin a story about that militia. Yes, that would have to mean that the soldiers in charge of pressing the button would desire the same outcome, but throughout history, loyalty tends to outweigh morality. It’s called the mob mentality. People who would usually be the most law abiding citizens on their own, start setting cars on fire, and destroying store fronts during riots because “everyone else was doing it.” So the amendment may not even practically function for its intended use. 

2) Enforce the laws that we have in place. Off the top of my head, I cannot remember the numbers, but a majority of gun owners do support background checks, and banning sales to people on terrorist watch lists, and/or with mental illness. But as we saw with the Texas shooting, those laws only work when we actually apply them. (For once, I mildly agree with Paul Ryan. I’m shocked too!!!

4) Make gun laws universal, across all states. The common illustration is Chicago. It’s said that Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the country; however, the surrounding areas are pretty lax. So unless there’s a comprehensive stop and search procedure for all people entering Chicago, people can just buy guns elsewhere, and bring them in. That becomes much more difficult if everyone had the same laws. 

5) The NRA needs to be shut down in some way, because it is clear that they are no longer functioning as they originally did, and they are turning a continually growing national crisis into a partisan issue. Preventing death is about as non-partisan as it gets. But so long as they remain a billion dollar propaganda machine, who can literally buy our politicians, we won’t see change. (Show me a politician who actually cares about their constituents, and I’ll show you a very poor, one-term politician.)

6) Repeal the Dickey Amendment, which would allow for funds to be allocated to the CDC for research into gun violence, and that research be used to form legislation. 

7) Change the narrative about terrorism. Right now, the common misperception is that terrorists are Muslims from countries out there, when the most common people group to commit mass shootings (defined by the FBI as a shooting that involves 4 or more people) is white Christian males who have been born and raised in the US. We realistically are the greatest threat to ourselves. But when we consider the threat to be “out there,” it’s very easy not to change. 

What do you think? 

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An Open Letter to My Republican Representives

You are, no doubt, aware of the shooting that happened in Texas yesterday. Why I am writing, is that last week a brown man drove a truck into a crowd, killing eight, and there was absolutely no hesitation to call it a terrorist attack, to demand immigration reform, and to rescind an immigration program that was passed with bipartisan effort in the 90s. A month ago, as well as yesterday, white men used their second amendment right to kill a combined 84 people, and injure hundreds more, and the narrative is, “This is what people with mental illness do.” (For now, I’m simply going to overlook the insult that is to people with mental health challenges.) 

Our president has spent the last year trying to enforce a ban on immigrants coming from certain Muslim countries, wanting to enforce this ban for a minimum of 90 days. The idea being that Islamic terrorists would pose as legal immigrants, and eventually wreak havoc. In the same timeline as this proposed travel ban, however, we have seen a white man kill three people in Oregon in the name of white supremacy; we have seen a white man kill one, and injure dozens in Charlottesville in the name of white supremacy (and it took a literal act of Congress to get the president to condemn this tragedy); we have seen a white man kill 58 and injure hundreds of others; and we have seen another white man kill 26 yesterday. In other words, all the violence that has been done, with the exception of the attack in New York, has been done by white citizens of the US.

 Terrorists are terrorists, no matter what their country of origin, or their skin color. The narrative needs to be the same for white Americans, as it is for Muslim immigrants. The events of yesterday and in Vegas are acts of domestic terrorism , and they need to be labeled as such. We cannot keep calling acts by people of color “terrorism,” but acts by white people “mental illness.”

 Your job is to make society better. You are not doing that job if you continue to skirt the issue of white domestic terrorism, and gun violence. I realize that the NRA pays you quite a lot of money, and to go against them would mean losing millions in donations; and I realize that calling these acts terrorism means going against your party and the president, but eventually you have to grow a conscience. Because eventually, you’ll run out of Obama Era policies to overturn, and you won’t be able to use him for your fall guy,  and then you’ll have to actually write laws. Why not start now? Call these acts terrorism, and enact changes to gun policy (overturning the Dickey Amendment–feel free to google it–would be a huge start.) Surely, we can all do better. But since you are the ones with the ability to enact changes, you need to be the first people in line to become better. 

Remembering, Yet Not Holding Against: Why Forgiveness is Not Forgetting (But Sorta Kinda Is)

You’re blessed when you show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. (Matthew 5:9 The Message) 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

Before I say anything, let me just confess that everything I am about to say, I suck at. So, I say it from within the belly of the beast, so to say. 

You’re, no doubt, familiar with the phrase, “Forgive and forget.” It’s used by wellmeaning people to simply say, “Let’s not hold our grievances against each other, and move on.” It’s also one of those phrases that gets used by certain Christians as a misinterpretation of Psalm 103. “As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far the Lord has forgiven our sins! What that means, dear friend, is that if you’ve been forgiven, God no longer remembers the sin you committed.” I’m not denying the Lord’s grace here, but the same book that contains Psalm 103, also contains the scene in John where Jesus shows Thomas the scars in His hands, feet, and side. In other words, it’s a safe bet that Jesus does not have divine amnesia when he looks at his wrists, so that when he sees the scars that bare the evidence of what he did to redeem the world, he asks, “Where did those come from?!?!” It’s a much safer bet that Jesus, being all knowing, remembers even the most insignificant sins that he has forgiven. Instead of forgetting them, he is not holding them against us. 

WHAT’S THAT MEAN FOR US? 

Since I dare say that it is impossible for an all knowing God to forget, it’s equally impossible for us mere mortals to forget whatever was done (or not done) to us. Trying to forget is like asking your brain not to function as it was intended. Asking a wounded person to forget what was done is like asking a quadriplegic to forget their paralysis. But in a sense, it is easier to understand the physically wounded more than the emotionally or mentally wounded; however, all three are wounds nonetheless. And some wounds cannot be forgotten. In fact, I’ll go a step further, and say, some wounds need to remembered!!! 

And that can throw some people for a loop. Whatta ya mean remember? That’s not forgiveness! And that’s when it’s wise to remind such commentators that forgetting is not forgiving. And if forgetting is forgiving, then what does that say about the slogan “9/11…Never Forget!”? 

The hardest thing to grasp about forgiveness, is that it does not distinguish between the easy to forgive and the difficult. Regardless of the wound, forgiveness asks the same thing: Don’t hold the wound over the person’s head. To be sure, it does not deny the severity of the wound, it doesn’t make the wound suddenly moral or ethical, and it certainly doesn’t change what has happened. It is admitting that justice is not necessarily what we think it should be. From experience, I can tell you with certainty, if you are looking for a specific kind of justice, in a specific time frame, you will be looking for a very long time for something that may never come. And you may actually risk becoming the very person who wounded you. 

Hence why we must never forget. 

THE PARADOX OF REMEMBERING 

To give credit where it is due, everything I’m about to say comes from Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace. I’ve written about this before. Volf saw his country torn apart by a civil war rooted in religious superiority (My God is better than yours, so you deserve to die!) Words cannot describe the atrocities done during that time — in the name of God, no less. And he warns: Be careful that we do not make the oppressed into oppressers themselves, in the name of getting justice against their oppressors. 

Volf describes the paradox of forgiveness. It is both forgetting and remembering. We “forget” so that we no longer hold a person’s sins against them. But we also remember so that such sins do not happen again. For example, it can be said that a sex offender registry is actually an act of mercy for both the offender and the neighborhood. The ultimate goal is to say to both the neighborhood and the offender, “Remember what this person is capable of. Neighbors, be mindful. Offender, keep yourself in check.” Because forgiveness is also not a guarantee that the forgiven will not then do exactly what they’ve been forgiven of, again. Keeping one’s guard up until trust is earned is not being unforgiving, it’s merciful protection. 

Volf does not use the term “forget” in the same sense as those who would say, “Forgive and forget.” Instead, he is saying, “No, no. What they did actually happened, and is reprehensible. But you may not be the best person to pursue a justice that is also just. Hence why Christians, of all people, can only defer to God for perfect justice. It’s an act of divine mercy, and a trust in that divine mercy to say, “Vengence is thine!”

 (Just for the sake of argument, think about the last thing for which you demanded justice. What was the “crime” committed? And what was your desired solution? For me, the crime was a person driving too slow. And my desired solution was to see the car and its occupants blow up in a raging inferno. So I think it’s safe to say that I am not the best person to decide the fate of the one who has wronged me. And how many times have we seen that even the criminal justice system is incapable of a just justice?) 

It takes much more than a simple blog to get into the nitty gritty of this. Someone will always have a worse wound. There will always be the mystery of how to get there. (This is why I’m thankful for God’s mercy, and that his acceptance is not based on our record. Because, as I said before, I don’t do so well with this. And if he accepted me based on my ability to forgive, he wouldn’t!) 

I honestly cannot tell you how to get from Point A to Point Whatever when it comes to forgiveness. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a step by step process for forgiveness. It’s more like the concept of time in Doctor Who (it’s not linear, but squiggly!) But I can tell you that setting your sights on a specific justice, at a specific time is an absolutely fruitless endeavor. It won’t be enough justice. And it won’t be fast enough. To that end, forgiveness is all up to you, while trusting in God’s mercy. I’ve experienced this first hand. 

A few year ago, a pastor and his elders spiritually and mentally abused me. They attacked my wife and marriage, my reputation, and by the end of it all, my sanity and sense of reality. (Check out the term Gas Lighting.) To this day, they don’t think they did anything wrong, so they have not made any attempt at an apology. To this day, they think I am bitter and angry, and am holding a grudge. (One of them even asked a year later why I was having such a bad year — face, meet palm.) What I want to happen has not happened, and probably never will. So what am I supposed to do? I can sit around, and hope that today will be the day, and shake my fists at the heavens its delay (something I have done). Or I can release myself from the responsibility of getting justice. So I have forgiven them. But I will not forget, because I do not want to be their victim (nobody likes using that term, btw) again. “Forgetting”, yet remembering. 

LAST WORDS

I know how hard forgiveness is. I know the tedious redundancy of having to forgive the same person again, because the scars are all too eager to remind you of the damage done. And as I said way back at the beginning, I suck at it. 

But I have also seen way too many people seeking vengeance this year. I have seen way too much tit for tat retaliation. I have seen way too many people berate a person’s character simply because that person called a leader a “disrespectful” name. I have seen way too many people justify their retaliatory actions, because the offender is “stupid.” It’s not easy. But it is well worth the effort. If for no other reason than the health of your soul. Let’s be peacemakers, instead of retaliators. 

Exposed

“So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” Malachi 3:18

How this passage comforts you depends largely on what “team” you’re on.

If you see this world as full of sinners who hate Yahweh, this passage gives you hope that he will fry those evil people like sausages. No longer will you have to endure the heartache and frustration of people who mock Jesus with their words or actions or even inactions. God will show ’em. And sinners will be exposed for what they truly are. 

If you’re like me, if you’ve seen so much hypocrisy in the church that you want to scream, this verse gives you hope that the fakery will come to an end. Liars and posers will be exposed for what they really are. 

And ironically, even this team has two sides.

One side believing that those who called themselves Christians, but who never obeyed God – antinomian posers – will be exposed. 

And the side I’m on: Those who believe Christian talking heads (celebrities, if you will) will be exposed for their deception. This election season, I officially had to move James Dobson, Franklin Graham, and Jerry Falwell Jr to this list. Coincidently, they each belong to the first group above (those comforted by the thought that sinners will be exposed). They each teach their followers that they must be conservative Republicans. And this past election they unwittingly (though the jury is still out on that) told Christians that they don’t need to trust that gut feeling called their conscience, or that common human decency doesn’t matter, so long as that person runs on a Republican ticket, or is a baby Christian who promises to put conservative judges on the Supreme Court. (Because apparently that is the full extent of “biblical values.”) 

Bringing it back…

The truth is, all  these things will be exposed! 

Real sinners will be seen as they truly are. 

Nominal Christians (people who are Christian by name only) will be exposed. 

Hypocritical leadership will be exposed. 

But also, thankfully, so will genuine believers. So will the peacemakers and mercy seekers. So will the radically gracious. So will the ones who put so much trust in Christ’s righteousness, that they were willing to be branded as heretics. 

We will all be exposed as the people we truly are – good, bad, ugly, or beautiful.