On the Nature of Humans and Their Guns

I am no great authority, and claim no superior wisdom. I just have thoughts.

“When did our country get like this?”

I have read a couple social media posts like this today, and I can only answer: When human beings began living in it. As long as humans occupy a space, awful acts will happen in that space. This is a perpetual truth, with a veracity that is interdependent of your distaste for it. In other words: It is absolutely true, even if you do not like my saying so.

Whether it is violence against indigenous, blacks, gays, etc. — brains too small to comprehend individuality will overemphasize differences in groups and labels to a potentially dangerous extent. You can certainly see a history of this violence in America, along with acts more random in their targeting as well. I see no reason why it would cease any time soon.

Intellectual honesty

For Americans to claim there is no solution to mass shootings is to ignore the existence of entire countries where they occur at a statistically significantly lower rate. For example, Canada and Australia, combined, had 5 mass shootings in the years 2000 through 2014. If there were less guns, there would be less shootings. That is math, not ideology. Let me address any counterpoints with a single, simple question: In a world with 0 guns, how many shootings would there be?

Of course, in America, yanking guns away from its citizenry is no longer a realistic measure nor a politically attractive message. I just wish those who were so passionate about guns would be honest enough to admit that mass shootings occur because of them. There is plenty of room for great conversation around opinions such as “I believe Americans should have the right to own firearms, but mass shootings are terrible.” I can respect such a view (and basically hold it myself). However, I would remind people that the ideas of gun rights and gun consequences are inseparable: As long as people own guns, some of those people will use them to murder other people. If you believe those people should have the right to own the guns they are using to murder others, at some point you have had to either reconcile this inseparability with yourself or you have ignored it altogether.

I suspect that many “gun nuts” have a fondness for weapons that outweighs their compassion. I wonder if one could be honest, then, and say, “Hey, I do not mind if there are mass shootings. I understand this is an inevitable consequence of humans having guns. I just believe that the benefit I gain from having one myself is greater than such costs incurred elsewhere.” Some probably have, to some extent or another, I guess.

Phrases such as “guns don’t kill people” are meant to instill a sense that guns have no inherent moral standing, that they are merely a tool like a hammer or a screwdriver that is potentially misused for violence by a wielder of ill intent. Consider, though, that the intended function of a gun is to harm. Again, I am not entirely anti-gun; after all, if you need to bring deadly force on a target, a gun can be a very effective option. I suspect that the most staunchly pro-gun advocate would still at least agree with the idea that guns are to be taken seriously, not lightly.

The nature of guns is perfectly suited to the nature of humanity: Both are inevitably destructive.

Anything can be an idol. I do not believe it would be a stretch to say that many Americans worship guns, and/or the country itself. The bizarre juxtaposition that America often has between its militant patriotism and its God-Bless-America Christianity is an odd brew, for sure. I often get the feeling that many Americans would be surprised to learn that the Bible has very little to say about this country, specifically. The sentiment that God should bless America in some special sense is a strange one.

Again: I am not saying America is not a great country full of fantastic things. I am grateful to live here. I have no intentions to move out, no matter who wins the big election. I think it is okay to have a nuanced, admit-its-faults opinion of this country, or often other subjects, rather than immediately kneejerk to one side of a very black-and-white spectrum.

Neither ‘side’ of these debates are ever innocent, after all, as much as they like to act like they are. Seeing people call for Muslims not to be judged as a whole due to the actions of one seem to conveniently forget this sentiment when railing against Christianity, but any Christian who believes a difference in faith makes all of that faith’s members perfect are profoundly unaware of the message of the Word they purport to follow. Lord knows Christians spew plenty of venom following violent events.

Looking ahead

As I have tried to make clear: I can respect responsible gun ownership, I can be fond of America, I just feel a little saddened by some of the thoughts I see expressed out there, too. A world without guns would have a lot less shootings — but I can acknowledge the reality of the complex world we do live in, the one with guns, one that has many different issues intersecting with any particular person or time. Lots of people who are passionate about lots of things may be served well to take a breath and consider their words before lashing out in response to the latest news cycle.

Perhaps I am possibly only adding fuel to the fire by blogging about such issues. I am a cynic, but I also believe people are capable of greatness, I promise. I am imperfect. I do not have supreme answers. But many seem to think that they do, and that is disheartening. I would love to see more people admit that stuff is complicated and they do not know everything. Saddest to me, though, might be my fellow believers who are quicker to jump to the defense of guns than they are to the cause of Christ.

So I have to wonder: As a Christian, what is my proper response to tragedy? There is room for thought and conversation there, as well. There will be other opportunities, for sure.

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“But avoid foolish controversies…” — Titus 3:9.

“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:7.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” — Isaiah 40:8.

“… what does the Lord require of you? Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8.

Three thoughts on the internet and socialization

I think

1) The internet, by enabling instant access to people and information regardless of physical location, has been so monumental in shifting world culture that we have only barely begun to comprehend the extent of its impact.

But

2) There will be cumulative consequences to society as we encourage more and more people to be able to essentially live their lives entirely without face-to-face human contact. As flesh-and-blood beings who exist in a real space and take part in a “complex whole” of populated organization largely built by these empirical interactions, there will inevitably be unforeseen effects.

But!

3) There are surprising ways that the online ecosystem actually enhances moments of personal compassion in ways that the offline cannot [ as readily ]. One example I have considered: Increasingly, you can find Twitter accounts of people who are now deceased. I would have never known of their existence had it not been for the internet, and by browsing their feed, I am offered a much closer look at their life than what would be available in a simple obituary, thus adding to the impact of their absence.

Stuff is complicated, yo.

The Curious Case of Small Children

Kids are generally curious, right? Like, that’s an accepted fact as to how they naturally are? I’m still learning this stuff.

I suppose it makes sense, with an amount of inevitability: Although the world around them does not really change in size, their abilities to comprehend it grow continually, thus lending an increasing sense of scale and pleasant wonder to it all, which serves as self-incentive for further discovery.

As they see more, they want to see even more.

eyes

Seeing this wide-eyed wonder in my 16-month-old daughter, Charlotte, has been awesome. She seems to be so curious in all situations. I got to spend some quality Daddy Time with her recently and, even just in our own backyard, it was a delight to see how she explores the environment around her.

The sandbox is serious business.
The sandbox is serious business.

I didn’t think I’d be fond of this age. The joke with Molly about our kids was always, “Hey, you’re good with little kids, you can have ’em when they’re babies, I’ll come back into their life when they’re about 12 or so.”

Part of it, I think, was simply that I enjoy words — and I thought, if I can’t have a conversation with my child, I won’t be able to form as earnest of a connection.

That was dumb. I have a lot to learn, clearly, because even though Charlotte isn’t quite talking yet (she can sure babble, at least), she expresses herself quite well; not only in her vocalizations, but in her body language, her expressions, even the choices she makes. The same way we all do, I guess.

A partner in crime!
A partner in crime!

 

"A girl and her dog."
“A girl and her dog.”

She’s growing up too fast.

Rather, I guess the rate at which she is growing up is perfectly fine and appropriate, but I wish I could savor these years a bit longer. That’s normal too, right? Every week we notice new steps she is taking developmentally, new things she is trying and enjoying, new syllables she figures out and new ways she can throw a whiny fit.

daddy_time

Seriously, I was anxious about trying to be a father at this age. I was nervous. I still don’t think I’m doing super well, maybe in some areas, but on a simple level, I definitely like it a lot more than I thought I would.

Charlotte is old enough now to approach me with a book, and make it clear that she wants me to read it to her, and climb into my lap when I sit down to do so. And that sort of interaction means the world to me, already.

Little girl, big world.
Little girl, big world.

In a way, I get to be the curious one, the wide-eyed child again, learning an entire universe of New Stuff that other people (hi there, veteran parents) already find very basic. Of course it means a lot to you when your kid says “Daddy!” and wants to spend time with you. Duh.

So, yeah, the time passes too quickly, but I will savor what I can now, and I truly do look forward to future steps taken together.

Parenting is pretty awesome.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
— Matthew 18:3

cute

Songs I Like: Do Not Move by David Crowder Band

This song came to my mind recently. I really like it.

On Sunday, pastor Paul preached on Colossians 3:1-4. He spoke of the journey to live in a Christ-centered fashion, setting our hearts on things above, etc. At one point, he mentioned this idea of having songs in mind, songs that speak truth when you need it.

There are many classic hymns I enjoy, and other songs I could write about, perhaps revisit someday.

But today, I want to talk about Do Not Move.

 

Released in 2005 on the A Collision album (which is a superb experience overall), Do Not Move is a fun little foray into the sometimes-beleaguered Christian rock scene. Stuffed full of crunchy guitar work, synth oddity, and swelling vocals, DNM is a distinctive track — unusual, even. You can appreciate it at face value for its bold sound or consider its words for personal interpretation. In my case, it holds sentimental value as well.

It even has lyrics!

I don’t want to move
And I don’t think I could
I don’t want to move
And I don’t think I should
I don’t want to move
No, I don’t want to move
I don’t want to move
And I don’t think I could

Breathe in deeper now
Breathe in deeper now
Breathe in deeper, breathe in now

The costliest of costs
The deadliest of loss
The wonder of the cross
The breath of life that stops
The hope of heaven bought
The wonder of the cross
The wonder of the cross

Breathe in deeper now (the wonder of the cross)
Breathe in deeper now (the wonder of the cross)
Breathe in deeper (the wonder of the cross)
Breathe in now
I don’t want to move

I like the way the words play with dichotomy: Costly death set against wondrous hope. Think, move. Could, should.

For me, the themes of stillness and breathing bring to mind Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is a good reminder for me.

I first encountered Do Not Move back in my days as a summer camp counselor. We used it for a skit that a handful of us performed as part of the opening ceremonies for the overnight session each week.

My role was the part of a demon. Throughout our performance and its Crowder-fueled cues, my tale was that of a tempter who successfully captured a human soul, only for my evil plot and that of my demonic comrades to be outdone by the overpowering work of Christ, despite our efforts to beat and even kill the illustrious interloper.

Quite a story arc to cast against 326 seconds of background music.

I suppose that sort of raw efficiency fits within the grand tradition of Gospel Presentations Intended for an Audience of Youth, though. I always enjoyed those sorts of plays. Perhaps even excessively, at times: I remember being told one week that it was “a bit much” when I used black face paint to draw upside-down crosses on my cheeks.

If I wish to, I can remember the that stage in these opening notes, in that chapel, in front of a captive audience, trying to bring myself to serve earnestly in that moment, in that ministry. If I am honest, I can recall it pretty darned vividly.

Nowadays, I would just as gladly accept being ministered to, and it is in the day-to-day present labor that this tune can still play a part in my life. My stage is no longer in a summer camp chapel, but in my workplace, my home, and elsewhere, all the while still called to perform, in a way.

Ultimately, however, I am fond of this song simply for its energy, the way it… compels me to move (!). There are plenty of other musical examples available for this motivational purpose, even in the worship arena, but this one has stuck with me especially.

The wonder of the cross.

Gymnastic Jesus

I believe that Jesus encompasses more than we could ever fully discuss.

In my own modest attempts to encapsulate the Almighty, there is one particular tidbit I keep coming back to. If you have known me for long enough, this is likely a bit you have heard before.

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When I was a child, I heard about this idea that Jesus could do anything. I would hear this expressed in classic Bible stories: Jesus can grant sight to a blind man, he can walk on water, he can even raise the dead.

“With God, all things are possible.” This is the verse (Matthew 19:26) they unpack in Veggietales’ Dave and the Giant Pickle. In this segment, Larry the Cucumber is shown to struggle with this thought as he asked, in a way I found unforgettable, “Do you think God would turn me into a chicken?” Why not? God can do anything, yeah?

In an interpersonal sense, we learned that when we pray, Jesus hears us. There was no limit on how many people he could hear, or what languages he understood. This Savior we learned about was an all-powerful, limitless figure.

How could a child, a boy like me, wrap his mind around that grand concept?

… Honestly? Whenever I came across the sentiment of Jesus being able to do anything — I always imagined him doing cartwheels.

No, seriously!

I would visualize myself looking out the living room window and catching a privileged glimpse of Christ performing effortless, flawless cartwheels in our yard.

Why? Because I couldn’t do cartwheels. [ Still can’t, as long as we’re being honest. ] I think there is a lot to be said on the idea that we often measure God against our weaknesses (the Bible may even speak to this as well, hm), but as a kid, that was the illustration I gravitated toward for years to come. Jesus doing cartwheels. Because I couldn’t.

That’s kinda silly, right? Childish, even.

I can’t help but still think, though, I guess, just sorta wonder a little bit, if Jesus will greet me in Paradise with a deft little cartwheel. Can you imagine that? Just for me. Just to  delight me all the more, in a way only he could.

I can see him yelling “ERIC!!!” across a palatial courtyard, with an impropriety only an old friend could muster, before catching my sight and performing that long-awaited divine cartwheel, my Heavenly eyes watering with joy beyond measure before we embrace in a fit of fond laughter.

I mean, I doubt that’s how it works; but, hey, Jesus can do anything.

New blog: Faith, Family, Fun

This is a new personal blog I am starting.

It has been a while since I have had a personal blog, yet I still enjoy writing informal thoughts, so I figure this will be a good space for me to dive into from time to time. I may not even stick around, but I believe this is worth trying.

Faith, Family, Fun: These are my highest values, my most important priorities, in life. This is not to say that my aim was just to form a strict ranking here, no; but, to be clear, I will be writing about my faith in Jesus. I will be writing about my immediate family. And… I will be writing about whatever else I want to, frankly, and that will be fun for me.

I look forward to tinkering with the theme and branding a bit until this feels more like a cozy online home. More so, though, I look forward to trying to place words into meaningful sequences.

I hope you enjoy your visits here.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @FFF_Blog.