Beyond the Talking Points: Why I am Not Writing about Guns


There have been two devastating public shootings in the last couple of weeks.  This is according to my Facebook and Twitter feeds which are full of information.  .  .except that they aren’t.  The are full of opinionated talking points vaguely rooted in information.  Be that as it may, there are still some people who don’t think social media has enough opinions about guns.  They actually (and I am not making this up) post things like, “Why is nobody talking about the Planned Parenthood shooting?  We seemed all too willing to talk about Starbucks’ red cups.”  Or this gem, “Why aren’t more of my pastor friends posting about San Bernandino?  They were all over the Paris shootings.”

If they were looking for comments, they got their wish because in minutes they had 100 comments both about gun violence and why we are not talking about gun violence.  I am willing to admit that they might have different (and more silent) Facebook friends but trust me, my feed is full enough of the talk of guns and terrorism and violence.

With that said, I am one of the more cautious ones.  I didn’t post anything about Paris or about San Bernandino or about Colorado Springs.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of opinions about all three but I am choosing to remain silent online for a few reasons.

First, the talking points are tired.  We can repeat them all we want but without further information they are useless except for badgering people to believe what you do.

Second, people are not looking for honest dialogue.  They are looking for victims to publicly annihilate.  I want to contribute meaningfully to public debates.  Free speech and public debate are part of what made and still make our country so great.  But many of us aren’t doing either.  We are looking for people to lynch.  And I don’t want to be lynched or really lynch anybody else.

Third, I all ready wrote about gun violence a couple months back and am still a wee bit proud of that post because it did come together well.  You can read it here.

So there you have it.  I don’t want to repeat tired talking points.  I don’t want to be lynched and I have all ready said my piece.

However, if I were to wade back into this debate, here are some things I might do:

One, I would try to wait for hard data.  The right wants to divert our attention to “mental illness” (except ironically, when it isn’t white people doing the shootings.)  The left wants to talk about gun control and background checks almost to an annoying fault.  But I have not seen much hard data or studies about either.  How many of these criminals would have failed a background check?  How many were diagnosed with a mental illness?  What about mental illness?  Why aren’t more of the “mentally ill” shooting people?  The mentally ill I have known would never do that.  .  .I think.  Did Hitler ever actually make the argument that the mentally ill are violent and is that what led to the Nazis killing thousands of them?  What about terrorism?  What happens when a peaceful adherent to a religion becomes “radicalized?”  Does threatening everything they hold dear contribute to that or the opposite?  We seem to think threatening to kill them is a good way for them not to kill us first.  Does that actually work?  We have no honest answers to these questions, no hard data or studies.  Part of that is because this phenomenon of one a week is pretty recent.  So we should let the researchers do their job before screaming at each other.

Two, and actually last, I would want a conversation that would do something other than form a lynch mob.  Yes, I think our politicians have a little bit of power and should be seeking meaningful legislation and the funding of good programs.  Right now I would just settle for a good group of members from both sides of the aisle agreeing to sit in a room without cameras or reporters to hash out some plan that tows a good line between all the talking points.  A man can dream, right?

The good news is that they are not alone in their power.  I have power and you have power and we can do something too.  I hope that “something” doesn’t start and stop with “buy a gun to put an end to them!” but moves beyond that to adopting the orphans, caring for the oppressed, preaching an end to violence, helping the mentally disabled and doing so much more.

All those things begin with dialog and debate but hopefully our talk leads to action.  After all talk is cheap, but a necessary first step.

But, as I said, I don’t want to be lynched so I am going to ignore the ridiculous talking points and keep posting pictures of my children doing cute things.

Here is one for you now.




Of Racist Guns and Holy Churches


Just yesterday I explained to my wife that I had not posted anything of substance on the blog for awhile because the creative energy that fuels these posts was seemingly gone.

Like most writers and artists I have found that when the creativity is on, it is really on.  Words flow like crazy through my harried mind into my crazy fingers through this makeshift keyboard onto the blank screen of the internet.

But when the creativity is off, it is really off.  It takes every ounce of mental strength to force my fingers to type those words.  During those times, it is excruciatingly difficult to even piece together a decent sermon.

And the last couple of weeks, that has been my life.

But last night, shortly after lamenting about this to my wife, things got turned back on.

My muses this time around were Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore.  I found the former’s words last night about the South Carolina church shooting to be very poignant.  Along with Larry Wilmore and the various comments online, turned my writing juice back on.

The first slew of comments on social media were people asking for a conversation.  This is a rather new phenomenon when it comes to controversial events and topics, as if we are now so suddenly scared to start conversations that we waste our words asking someone else to go first.

Putting that aside, there were still people willing to start conversations.  You can divide those conversations along political lines.  The more conservative want to talk about arming America and the value of nuclear families.  The more liberal want to talk about gun control and racism.

The conservatives, as usual, are only right enough to get to the point of being horribly offensive.  For evidence see Larry Wilmore’s montage of Fox News’ anchors trying to make it sound like the attack was somehow directed against white evangelicalism, not by a white evangelical against black pentecostals.  For the record, it was that montage that really turned my writing juice back on!

So too, the gun control rhetoric is equally alarming.  The idea that if everyone has a gun, no one will fire it certainly sounds good on paper but it has never worked in real life.  The psyche of the criminal mind desires violence and loves retaliation.  This has been well documented.  The shooter in South Carolina would have loved nothing more than to turn a place of prayer into an all out firefight.  And the day firefights break out in churches is the day Satan has won.

But don’t me wrong, as usual the liberals just seem shallow.  The question about where the shooter got his gun is frivolous and misleading.  And as far as gun control, or any type of government control is concerned, I have lost complete faith in our capability to enforce our own laws.  Furthermore you can’t just un-invent guns.  They are out there now and I am not sure how successful we can ever be in reigning them in.  After all, by outlawing marijuana we made it twice as accessible to teens as alcohol.

So too, I am having a horrible difficulty connecting with the more moderate conversation about mental illness.  While it certainly plays a part in all mass shootings, I know several people who struggle with what we call mental disabilities.  They don’t just pull ideas out of nowhere.  They are much like those of us who consider ourselves normal.   Original ideas are as hard, if not harder, to grasp for them as for us.

And as far as the conversation is concerned I believe the mentally disabled are the best mirrors for society.  They reflect and amplify our cultural values in ways the rest of us resist.  As proof, I have known several with mental illnesses who grew up in loving and caring families and communities and who reflect and amplify that love in profound ways.  This is why they are so valuable for us.  It is offensive to suggest that all mentally ill people will just randomly decide to buy guns and kill people.

So instead of talking about where the shooter got his guns, it is more helpful to talk about where the assassin got his ideas.  In what little we know, I see two ideas at work.

The first is the idea that black people are a problem needing to be solved.  We thought this idea was close to being eradicated from our country but recent events have reminded us that it is still there and was just waiting for an opportune moment to resurface.

I have seen where racism was hiding.  I lived in an inner city area, surrounded by a loving community of blacks.  The white people I worked with told me that it was a bad neighborhood.  The black people I worked with told me it was a lovely area where they wanted to live.  That was hidden racism.

So too the cops in the white neighborhoods would see a black man walking down the street, stop, pick him up and take him to the edge of the black county.  They would “graciously” inform him that, “They have help for you over there.”  That was hidden racism.

In a small town a fundamentalist youth pastor has conversations at the dinner table about the safe ways to assassinate our black president without killing any white secret service members in the process.

In the same small town one of the few teenagers who went to church lovingly referred to our President as, “The N&^*#er in the White House.”  He was rewarded with laughs for doing so.

If you want to know where the assassin got the idea that blacks are a problem needing solved, look no further.

The second idea seemed to be that shooting problems is the best way to solve them.  The problem here is not so much the existence of guns but the idea of weapons.  I hesitate to repeat the age old adage but, “If all you own is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.”

And if you buy a gun to solve problems, every problem will look like a target.  This is the dangerous idea being preached at political rallies.  We just need to buy more guns to shoot more bad guys.  But what happens when we can’t figure out who the bad guys are or when we get them wrong?  What happens is what happened in South Carolina on Wednesday night.

Here I agree with the social conservatives to a point.  Ideas seem to come primarily from parents.  For that reason, there is a discussion to be had about good parenting.  If you have parents that teach their kids that black people are a problem and we solve problems with guns, you get mass shootings at faithful churches.

But the solution here is not to litigate and legislate nuclear families because a particular family’s values are more important than the makeup and living arrangements of that family.  A nuclear family that brainstorms ways to assassinate a black President will still raise children full of hatred and violence.  More than father figures, we need good fathers and mothers, parents who reject the ideations of guns and racism while teaching godly love above all else.

We need that love taught and emulated at every level of society.  We need to get rid of these ideas that people are problems and that problems are targets.   In its place we need love to dwell in our churches and in our communities and in our nation.  After all, those who live by the gun die by the gun but those who live by love die by love.

And I would rather die by love.  The victims at Mother Emmanuel AME Church died by love on Wednesday.  That is the way that I would love to go.  They are not only heroes but martyrs in our peace seeking faith.  And they will now receive their robes of white under the altar in our glorious heaven.

As I was running this morning I was thinking about all of these things and what I might write.  As I did, the lines of the wonderful song, “The Love of God” kept coming to mind over and over.  This isn’t just a love that God displays for us.  It is also a love that we are called to embody and display for the world.

So through my tears and in memorium or our most recent martyrs, I post the lyrics below:

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,

When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.