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.