Monday, February 4, 2013

P4E.253 Of God, Guns and Country

I have to admit that I'm puzzled, confused and amazed at the response of part of the Christian community with regard to the gun rights issues that have enveloped the country. I can certainly understand the culture of legitimate hunters, who are some of the most serious conservationists, who eat what they kill, who are responsible with their guns and wish to protect their right to keep and use those arms.

What I struggle with is that element of the Christian community that is politically hyperactive, that wraps itself in the American flag, that homogenizes its Christian beliefs with its American patriotism and enters into "battle" with those it perceives are its political enemies. Here are some questions that I think are relevant for that element of the Christian community to answer for themselves:

- Are you more influenced by your belief in Christianity or your American citizenship?
- When it comes to your personal welfare and the protection of your family, in whom or in what are you placing your trust? Is your answer at odds with your Christian belief?
- What is meant in Matthew 5:39 where Jesus says "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
- In the very next verse, Matthew 5:40, Jesus speaks of lawsuits, "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also." Courts of law are non-violent places to work out differences. If Jesus advised against non-violent self-defense, how much more do you think Jesus would be against violent self-defense?
- If guns are weapons of violence and Proverbs 3:31 states, "Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways." what are we to do with that advice?
- If we are actively involved in the promotion of a culture armed with weapons of violence, what do we think God's attitude will be towards us in the light of Psalms 11:5 - "The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates."
- Advising against lawsuits, Paul says, in I Corinthians 6:7, "Why not rather be wronged?" Should the same reasoning not be used with regard to using guns in self-defense? Why not rather be wronged?
- If the argument is, as I often hear, that guns cannot reliably be used to wound, but must be used as lethal weapons; what is your attitude towards the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill"?
- What are we to make of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, where one of Jesus' disciples attempts to defend them by striking out with a sword and Jesus says to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."

I know that our natural inclination is to defend ourselves and our loved ones. But, on the road to enlightenment or salvation are we not to change our ways? To overcome our natural tendencies and replace them with higher ones?

On the issue of gun rights, I think Christians ought best to be on the side of non-violence or remain silent. We simply cannot, in good conscience, side with those who would arm an increasingly sociopathic, dumbed-down, narcissistic, violent culture.

"The key to changing the world and pursuing justice and disarmament is to allow the God of peace to disarm our hearts, make us instruments of peace, and lead us together on the road to peace."
Fr. John Dear

Friday, February 1, 2013

P4E.252 We Must Act Upon What (Little) We Know

Mother Teresa

Recently, I heard a well known radio preacher proclaiming how important it is to know the Bible. According to him, studying Scripture is necessary to to guard against misunderstanding what Scripture says. He implied that our salvation hinges on our understanding of who Christ is and must be correct . He pointed out that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are in error and therefore condemned.

As I listened, I couldn't help as a feeling of exasperation grew over me. The idea that we study Scripture to make sure that we are correct in our definition of Jesus is troubling. Yet, that is the pattern we are being taught. That is what we are told to believe our "salvation" hangs upon. If this were all that defined us as Christians, then the matter has been resolved for centuries. There are several versions of The Apostle's Creed that will do very nicely to define our belief. All one must do then, is recite the Apostle's Creed and all will be well. Nice and tidy. Problem solved. Not!

I know that I've previously harped on the idea of incessantly studying Scripture and wringing out whatever minutiae we can out of it. I've come up with an analogy that I think works.

Suppose Harold studies art. He eats, drinks and thinks art. He reads everything he can about it. He knows the history of art in all the major countries and some of the minor ones. He is well informed and appreciates everything from the paleolithic cave paintings in France and Spain to activist inspired decaying organic media presentations. You can ask Harold any art question about any period and the answer will be on his tongue. His art library is extensive. He delivers lectures and actively recruits others to become interested in art. He dresses the part, walks the walk and talks the talk. Harold knows everyone in the art-world and everyone knows him or wants to know him. We writes a blog and is a critic for White Fungus art magazine (not made up!). He is at every major opening and prides himself on stealing away to the not so major openings at out of the way galleries. Harold knows his art. But, Harold has never put pencil to paper. Never put Crayola to a Lion King coloring book. He has no tools or media. He's never dipped a brush in watercolor, acrylic or oil. He's never put one rock on top of another for aesthetic effect. Not modeled a stick person out of clay; never chipped a flake from a piece of marble.  Is Harold an artist? My answer would be, no. He is not.

In the same way, we cannot call ourselves "little Christs" if we have nothing more than an understanding of a definition. We can study Scripture all day, all night, 24/7 and not change our status to "Believer.". I know that I'm not exaggerating the situation. Most  church pastors are men and we men like to study, research, dissect, exegete, hypothesize, and parse. We men are a mechanical lot and you cannot become proficient in spiritual matters with mechanical means.

"But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

We've taken a perfectly good thing like a relationship with a living Spirit-God and turned it into science. And, damn you, literally, damn you if you don't fall in line with right thinking!

What I'm advocating here is that to embark upon "belief," we must act upon what little we know. If, as Christians, all we know is the "Our Father," then let us not do anything that would sully God's name. Let us be agents of change to bring His kingdom and His will into other's lives in a positive, non-judgmental way (because it's not for us to judge). Let us feed the hungry and forgive those who wrong us. Let us not tempt others to do wrong, and help them when they're in trouble. That's a start! How much studying does it take to change the way we think act and talk? How much does studying get in the way of our changing the way we think act and talk?

I liken this discussion to Jesus' parable of the talents. It's not to be taken literally about money, but about spiritual matters!

"His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' " (Matthew 25:23)

Peace, Kim