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God, guns and violence

A June 5 Dispatch letter attempted to show that unfettered gun freedom does not compromise faith in God. A June 16 letter praising it added further comments. This critique uses the points of these letters to present an alternative theology for guns.

The first letter starts its anti-gun-control argument with the claim that since guns and violence are not synonyms there is little relationship between these nouns. By definition guns are weapons, which are any device for use in attack or defense. Violence is a swift injurious force. Guns are designed to use explosive force to propel a missile at injurious velocities to maim or kill. For individuals, guns are the most efficient such device, which defines the unique relationship between guns and violence.

But the letter claims, "It doesn't matter what the implement of destruction is." This is illogical. Knives can kill, but someone bent on killing from over 10 yards or intending to kill the maximum number of people in five minutes would not choose a knife over a gun.

The letter's second is point is that gun controls don't help reduce gun violence because of some alleged trends in Australia. My information is that some years ago Australia had a school shooting and introduced new controls. They have had none since, whereas the U.S. has been averaging about one per week. Also, Australia's recent total annual per capita gun-death rate has been about one-tenth of that in the U.S. Both the letter and the NRA have seriously misrepresented these realities.

The first letter's main point is that a decrease in societal faith in God leads to increased gun violence. This is logical, but it follows by this that the U.S. is about the most godless of the 25 most developed democracies of the world. The many wars based largely on religious differences often with both sides praying to the same God for victory do not easily support a proposition that mixing guns with God increases civility.

The fact is that marked differences exist in interpretation of the same sacred texts. Furthermore, the letter's postulate that a primary loss of trust in God, leading to more violence, may be greatly outweighed by a reverse hidden idolatrous "In guns we trust" that displaces authentic "In God We Trust." Opposition to gun control is a more gun-trusting stance.

The second letter adds that we ought to follow the teachings of Jesus, which narrows the God-understanding in question. This is well and good, but it should mean everything Jesus taught: "... make disciples ... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." This includes, "Not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom, but those who do the will of my Father." "Beware of false prophets ... you will know them by their fruits." An important basic biblical "doing" fruit that evidences authentic faith is loving neighbor as self with acts of compassion and justice for the needy knowing that, "to whom much is given, much is required." Wielding weapons is not in this picture.

The second letter also asserts that a lot of people don't want any accountability, but when this gets them into trouble they want to be cared for by government programs. In other words, the irresponsible habits of the poor spill over into making more and more people irresponsible with guns. Whether recognized or not, such no-accountability indictments of the alleged lazy-poor could be straight out of atheist Ayn Rand's "rational selfishness" economic philosophy playbook.

Among many Rand promoters we have current U.S. representatives, senators, and at least one Supreme Court justice. During his newsworthy individual filibuster Sen. Ted Cruz read long and loud from Rand's novel, "Atlas Shrugged." In this book the Rand oath is, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." It follows from this that such unappreciated self-reliant business-leader "makers" should not help the parasitic-lazy "takers." An article in "Christianity Today" a few years ago labeled Rand the "Goddess (idolatrous cause) of the great (2008) recession." Some theologians call such melding of irreligious factors with religion "corrupting syncretism."

Making scapegoats of the poor obscures the following correlations: The U.S. is about the only advanced nation where controlling interests claim government laws cannot reduce gun violence. Yet among these nations the U.S. is in the top categories of per capita gun ownership, gun deaths, and school shootings. Pointing the finger at the poor about "no rules irresponsibility," when the NRA is the "no gun rules" promoter par excellence seems a bit biased.

There are interpretations of the Bible that differ from those represented in these letters. These view Jesus as seeing most of the poor as victims of the rich exploitive religious-political domination systems of his day. Jesus died at the hands of such a system while identifying closely with the poor. In our time the great loss of jobs and home ownership from the 2008 recession was from irresponsible actions of rich financial interests, not laziness of the poor.

Jesus also said: "Put back your sword. Those who draw the sword will die by the sword" and, "The disciple should be like his teacher." Jesus was a non-violent critic of unjust political and economic power. He fed the hungry and healed the sick without regard for outward ethnic or religious boundaries. It follows that a Christian's priority should be to promote reasonable health care access for all, minimal food and shelter for all, a decent wage for anyone who works, compassionate justice for immigrants, care of the earth, less rather than more wealth disparity, and reasonable gun control. Ignoring such things could have negative temporal and eternal consequences.

A well-known Christian hymn proclaims, "Lead on O King eternal ... for not with swords loud clashing nor roll of stirring drums, but deeds of love and mercy, the heavenly kingdom comes." This hymn stanza summarizes a clear alternative biblical interpretation of the relationships of God, guns, and violence.