Posts Tagged hatred

Paying for the Second Amendment – Rev. Dr. Bill Leonard* – Baptist News Global

Bill Leonard“The United States has 270 million guns and had 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters.” So the New York Times reported on Nov. 8.

Let’s be honest, as a people we are paying for the Second Amendment. The dead are stacking up like cordwood, not simply from mass shootings, as heinous, collective and “normative” as they are, but in the day-to-day local firearm slayings that haunt American communities urban and rural.

In ways we recognize yet try our best to deny, the Second Amendment defines us as a people, a nation where individuals plagued by hatred, mental illness, religious bigotry, gambling losses, family dysfunction or other discernably unoriginal sins utilize Second Amendment-protected arsenals to destroy the lives of innocent, unsuspecting human beings at Bible studies, worship services, country music concerts, night clubs, shopping malls, college campuses and elementary schools. Right now, the list of safe spaces in this country narrows monthly due to gun-related massacres.

The Second Amendment does not create these malicious shooters; rather, it enables them through the proliferation and accessibility of millions of firearms — regulated, yes, but clearly not enough to affect the slaughter. Violent, deranged human beings occupy every nation state in this world. In the United States, however, current interpretations of the Second Amendment give them the means, legally or illegally, to turn this country into a killing field, any place, any time.

We are paying for the Second Amendment, and most of us will probably not outlive this defining element of our national ethos. Firearm obsession, supported or tolerated by the American people, exemplifies our national identity, and we should all own that reality. Indeed, firearm violence has become so routine that barring an immediate political or spiritual Great Awakening, these events demand some form of national triage, collective methods for responding to the consequences of weaponized carnage as an American constant.

The recent bloodbath at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, incarnates the firearm crisis and the need for a shared national response. It is that state’s largest single shooting with 26 congregants killed and 20 wounded by a known criminal who extended a family vendetta into a church at worship. The violation of sacred space is so egregious that the pastor, Frank Pomeroy, whose 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, was among the dead, has announced that the building will be torn down, a new church facility constructed in another location, and a memorial established on the current site.

The sanctuary of that Baptist church in a tiny Texas hamlet off US 87 was violated in the bloodiest of assaults with a semi-automatic weapon that poured forth some 450 rounds. Eight of the dead were children, the youngest being an 18-month-old and a baby still in utero, dying in the belly of its mother who was also gunned down. The church’s own video system, streaming the service to homebound members, now too graphic to be shown, reveals that the butchery, carried out with a Ruger AR-556, took only about seven minutes.

Those facts alone should compel gun owner and non-gun owner alike to cry out in collective pain and determination to respond to the unending national slaughter of the innocents. A growing number of faith communities are now compelled to develop security procedures that include hiring professional agencies, training members as armed “gatekeepers,” or depending on congregational concealed-weapon-carriers prepared to match bullet for bullet, another inevitable recompense for Second Amendment “freedom.”

As mass shootings multiply, I keep thinking that I’ve written enough about this topic. But they continue, world without end. As I finished this particular column, four people, including an elementary school student, were killed and 10 wounded in a California shooting. More children would have died had not the school activated an immediate lock-down. How can any of us be silent?

Bret Stephens won’t be silent. The New York Times commentator finds the situation so dire that it is time “to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the world rightly considers nuts.” Rather, Stephens calls for repeal of the Second Amendment, noting that while “gun ownership should never be outlawed, just as it isn’t in Britain or Australia … it doesn’t need a blanket constitutional protection, either.” He admits revocation is a long shot, but concludes that “most great causes begin as improbable ones.”

Given that wistful proposition, let’s consider another improbable but perhaps viable response to America’s firearm scourge. What about a Second Amendment Reparations Tax, levied on all American households and corporations? If the Second Amendment is essential to American identity, and if additional firearm-related legislation is a long time coming (if ever), then why not create a communal fund to assist those families and institutions devastated by inevitable gun violence? Such a FEMA-administered reparations tax would commit all of us to the task of “binding up the wounds” created by firearm violence. If we can’t affect the laws, the least we can do is help pay for the funerals.

Powerless in the face of Second Amendment-facilitated atrocities, but hoping for additional solutions, we begin by owning the problem and offering a collective source of financial triage to assist those literally caught in the crossfire of a vicious cycle of death that has become the public face of the American nation. Special fund-raisers for specific firearm brutalities remain indispensable, but since it is our Second Amendment, and we’re all vulnerable, we’d all best pay up.

“Bill Leonard was a favorite at the John Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston.

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On Scripture: Prophetic Resistance – Rev. Dr. Eric D. Barreto*

Isaiah 2:1-5

November 21, 2016
Losing an election shouldn’t feel this dire.

Sometimes our preferred candidates win. We celebrate, but then life goes back to normal. Sometimes they lose. We protest. We demand a recount. But eventually we accept the loss. We lick our wounds and begin to think about the next election.

But this was not a normal election. None of what has been happening over the last few weeks is normal. No part of this campaign was as it should be. Not the misogyny. Not the fear of the immigrant and the refugee. Not the mocking of the disabled.

This is not to say that these things are new. They have always been with us. But we have embraced them, voted for them, voiced them in public in a way that seems irretrievable. We can’t put things back the way they were. None of this is as it should be.

Hatred is bubbling up among the cracks of division among us. Ideologies many of us had hoped were dormant in our body politic have returned with a roar. And we can’t be sure what comes next. For some of us, the fear we feel is not just uncertainty, but the realization that our bodies continue to be the object of so much vitriol and scapegoating.

More than anything, however, we have to realize that none of this is as it should be. None of this should be assumed to be typical. None of this is as it should be. We don’t have to accept the creeping and insidious forms of division that are cropping up among us. We don’t have to accept discourses that dehumanize victim and oppressor alike. We don’t have to buy the growing media narrative that we should reconcile our differences without protest and lament and resistance.

We don’t have to accept things as they are and might be. We know this in our bones. But we sometimes need a little bit of help. And here Isaiah steps in to help us voice what we sometimes have trouble describing and believing. We don’t have to accept such brokenness as inevitable. Instead, the prophets dreamed dreams, the prophets saw something beyond our everyday vision, the prophets imagined God’s reign.

In Isaiah 2:1-5, the prophet casts a vision of a world bending around the mountain of God. This mountain of God ascends over every hill, and the peoples of the world turn into streams of water flowing uphill to this highest of peaks. Many peoples will follow those streams to the mountain of God so that they can leave the mountain on a path God has set, a path of righteousness and justice, life and hope. But notice that this is not just a vision of abundant grace; there is also judgment here. Verse 4 notes that God will judge between the nations. That is, God will call injustice what it is; God will repair what we have done wrong. God will set the world right. God does not accept the world as we have inherited it and misshaped it.

And how will God do this? By taking implements of war and violence and transforming them into implements that can turn the soil, making it ready for the promise of new seed. God will take our death dealing artifacts and turn them into tools of agriculture. And the ways of war will be no more because there will be no need for violence nor even the weapons to wage it.

This vision might strike us as naive. Can we ever imagine a world without the implements of war? Can we ever imagine taking our nuclear arsenals and turning them into plowshares? Can we imagine melting the 300 million firearms in America into rakes and spades and shovels? Even the very thought of such vulnerability will send some of us rushing to build higher walls and accumulate even more armaments. Can we even imagine such a world? Can we imagine a world in which violence does not order our every step?

I can’t. Not these days. Not when so many of our neighbors have chosen this political path. Not when the cries of the most vulnerable are dismissed as overreactions. Not when political rhetoric so easily invites the spray-painting of swastikas, the distribution of pamphlets celebrating white supremacy, and so many other incidents we will never see on social media but have nonetheless shattered people and communities alike.

But the prophet still casts this vision all these years later. We will hear his words read in our churches. He will ask us to see what is beyond our seeing. The prophets don’t wish to anesthetize us, to dull our pain and concern with the siren call of a futile dream. No, the prophets wish to energize us with hope, drive us into a broken world with the admittedly fleeting image of the reign of God mirrored in our tears.

This Advent season feels so different than others in the past for many of us. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation and patience. It is a time for us to anticipate the birth of a baby who would turn the world upside down. It is a time for us to see the hopes of the world born in a vulnerable child. But that waiting feels that much more pregnant this time around, the threat over Jesus’ life that much more tangible. It seems that much more unbelievable that a mere baby could do anything to change the world as we see it.

This Advent, we wait once again. We wait to hear that story again, of a child born under the shadow of a mighty empire, of a child who would deliver us from death itself. We wait not just for Christmas morning. We wait for his birth again and again in our lives, for it is among the vulnerable and the scared and the afflicted where we will find the Christ child today.

I fear that we sometimes assume that prophets belong to a dusty past: bearded men writing obscure tales a long time ago. That gets the prophets all wrong. The prophets were people on the ground. The prophets spoke truth to the power. The prophets are not long gone for as long as God’s people have voice, we too can speak in much the same way as the prophets of old did. Their words don’t have to stay in the past. The prophet today is on the front line of a protest demanding justice. The prophet today steps between a bigot’s screams and an immigrant’s victimization. The prophet refuses to acquiesce when some insist that this is all business as usual.

Perhaps the most important role of the prophet is rousing us from our stupor. When we get tired, when we are weary of resisting, when we are told over and over again that this is how things are going to be, the prophet’s call is clear. God has something better for us. Something liberating. Something just. Something transformative.

So listen to the prophets! They have shown us the path. Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see: hear and see how hatred for the stranger is already becoming normalized in our midst. Fight it with all your might. Words easily become anger. Anger easily becomes prejudice. Prejudice easily becomes exclusion. Exclusion easily becomes violence. And violence easily becomes our own undoing. Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

*The Rev. Dr. Eric Barreto is the Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ. This post was published on and is used with permission. Dr. Barreto is a frequent contributor to the On Scripture Project.


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