What better way to come back from an unscheduled hiatus than with something that will press the hot button of the day?
The title of this post is taken from “Guns and Ships,” a first-act song from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award winning Hamilton. The Marquis de Lafayette has just returned from France with money and materials necessary for the very rag-tag Continental forces to engage in (what would be) the climactic battle of the American War of Independence. The balance, the characters sing, has shifted in their favor. A greater arsenal must equal victory.
That idea was imprinted upon the psyche of a young, new nation. We have yet to shake it – to our detriment.
It’s not about political parties. It’s not about philosophies regarding the role and function of government. It’s not about what the Second Amendment does or doesn’t mean.
It’s about us operating out of fear and anger.
I have to protect myself. Nothing and nobody is going to get me. They can’t tell me what to do. I know best. This world is scary.
I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t own a gun. While I don’t see the sense in it, I recognize that people have to make that choice on their own. Gun ownership is an issue over which reasonable people can disagree. I am here to implore you to take a step back and consider the frantic rhetoric that crackles through the air – especially if you claim the title “Christian.”
See, I know what it is to wake up and immediately be on the defensive. As soon as my eyes open, my mind begins to wonder what dangers await in the coming hours and attempts to devise plans to keep me safe. When my feet hit the floor, the sense of unease, connected to everything and nothing, pulses through my body. Therapists call this Generalized Anxiety Disorder and there’s nothing rational about it. Of course we must eschew recklessness and keep ourselves safe, i.e. you don’t pick up a rattlesnake for funsies, but there’s a difference between living within logical boundaries and paranoia.
Over the last couple of years I have watched my fellow countrypeople move toward paranoia. Neighbors aren’t simply neighbors anymore; they are potential enemies. Some find it impossible to be in relationship with those who may vote for a different candidate. Everyone is suspicious. Everything is a conspiracy.
Groups like the National Rifle Association fan the spark of fear into full-fledged flames of idiotic anger. Advertisements paint a picture of near civil war, with the “liberals,” whoever they are, out to “take your guns” or “trample your rights.” Their picture appears to be legitimized when some, perhaps well-meaning, perhaps not, call for a ban on all weapons, believing that the Constitution is more flexible than it is. Meanwhile kids get shot at school and cry out, begging the adults in charge to do something, but their voices are drowned out by the sound of large donations spilling into campaign coffers.
Fear and anger grow.
We who say we follow Christ have to get off this crazy train. How can we possibly go out into the world and preach the Good News, as we are commanded to do, if we see everyone around us in terms of friend or foe? If we are obsessed with being “right” in political, temporal terms? If we won’t learn how to listen to those with whom we disagree?
Paul tells us in the famous “Armor of God” passage (Ephesians 6:10-20) to put on the shoes of peace. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are meant to leave footprints of grace. While none of us is perfect, those whom we encounter should have at least some sense of us being different. That there’s something about us at marked contrast with the world at large. More than the things we oppose, more than the things we don’t do. When we come into a room, others should sense the presence of the Holy Spirit.
This is not something we manufacture. This comes about by daily, momently, submitting to His lead. Fact is, He doesn’t lead us to territorialism, tribalism, politicism, or any other -ism you can think of. He doesn’t goad us to anxiety and rage. He doesn’t teach us to see people as obstacles or enemies. The Holy Spirit is the fresh, clean, cool air that untangles the knots in our souls and expands our hearts to love as He does.
This past Sunday my pastor preached on hospitality and how it is so much more than having a nice meal with friends or family. At its root, hospitality is the love of stranger, the willingness to open doors and arms to those who are different – which is exactly what Jesus did.
We have to recognize and accept the role we have played in both creating and furthering divisions in this country. I am under no delusion of utopia. This, right now, is not Eternity. Nothing is as it should be. I am, however, under a strong sense of conviction. We – I – cannot waste time building fortresses, living in echo chambers or believing the lie that one man-made, man-led political party is more “godly” than the other. The world watches us in our pursuit of power and they don’t like what they see.
We can’t blame them for that.
Let’s decide, you and me, today, to remember that people are people. We don’t have to be afraid of or scorn someone because they vote differently, believe differently, dress differently, etc. God loves people, wherever they are in relation to Him, and it’s our job to be about the business of sharing that love. The way we live must align with the words we say, otherwise we truly are blatant hypocrites and can hardly be angry when someone points that out.
In our spheres of influence, however large or small they may be, let’s work to shift the balance toward peace. Toward a living out of “God so loved the world.” Let’s step out from behind our walls and break them down, brick by brick. Let the light shine and the grace flow.
6 thoughts on “And so the Balance Shifts”
We both live in Idaho, which as I’m sure you’re aware, is a very “red” and a very pro-gun, pro-NRA state. Even then, I’m sure my neighbors would be surprised to discover that my Dad was a lifetime member of the NRA, and my brother does a lot of marketing work for them (he was at the big NRA conference in Texas a few weeks back).
You’re right about our revolutionary past being totally ingrained in our cultural psyche. It’s why a lot of people cling so strongly to the Second Amendment.
I was raised around firearms, and though I don’t have the enthusiasm for them my brother has, I’m not opposed to them, either. Whenever social or political action groups try to “demonize” firearms, they just cause all of the pro-gun people to dig their heels in and declare that you’ll never confiscate their firearms short of killing them and “prying them from their cold, dead fingers.”
I suppose if the national/cultural goal is to do away with private firearms ownership, then maybe they should be treated like cigarettes. A generation or two ago, just about everybody smoked. What happened? Social, political, and medical groups got together and mounted a massive anti-tobacco marketing campaign designed to combat the power of the pro-tobacco industry and lobby.
It worked. Sure, people still smoke, but not nearly as many of them, plus all kinds of laws were enacted to restrict where people can smoke. Forty years ago, it was common for people to smoke at their desks at work, to smoke in the lunch room, in restaurants, in airplanes, everywhere. Now, a smoker is lucky to be assigned a small shed fifty feet from the backdoor of the place where they work.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to ban firearms outright, but we certainly do need to take a look at what has changed in our society in the past half-century. When I was young, these so-called “mass shootings” were absolutely unheard of, in spite of the fact that it was actually easier to buy firearms back in the day. The NRA didn’t cause mass shootings and neither did liberal access to firearms. Something has shifted culturally. If we can find out what that was and address the real problem, then I suspect that we would have a world like it was in the 1950s relative to firearms. Lots of people have them, and the vast majority handle them safely.
Younger people don’t remember this and assume that everyone has always been idiots with guns. My Dad probably owned something like 50 firearms when he died. He never shot anyone in his life. Having guns didn’t turn him into a cold blooded killer, and in fact, as a firefighter and rescue worker, he had a profound respect for human life.
So where is the real problem?
I wish I had an answer for your question. I mean, I do – it’s sin. We both know that. The breakdown of the family, loosing of societal structures in general, the rise of video games… I’m not into trying to predict when Christ will come back or anything, but it does make sense to me that we’d see an increase in violence as the clock runs down.
What frustrates me about this, and is the reason for this post, is how many Christ-followers have embraced the “cold dead hands” line you quoted. Own a gun, don’t own a gun, whatever – we should be the people that recognize the problems before anyone else does. Faith and politics are far too intertwined in our country.
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Yes! Yes! Yes!
You’re such a cheerleader, Tara! Love and appreciate your encouragement.
Thank you for these thoughts Marie! Much to think about here. Your reflection on the shoes of peace were very timely for me.
It’s something I think about a lot myself. I’m not a peaceful person by nature. The Lord convicted me about this strongly when I was in my teens (and not really following Him closely at all) and hasn’t let up since.