Monday, February 29, 2016

This isn't going to fly

She whose mind and heart are captured by a finite thing or idea can see only that which enhances her right to serve it and to follow wherever it leads. The free person, on the other hand, is able to see other’s rights and, to at least some degree, “walk in the other’s shoes.” The one who is bound worries about possible limitations on one’s individual rights being compromised in the future while the free person is willing to sacrifice a personal privilege or two in acknowledging the community’s need for public safety in the present. A free man or woman refuses to live only for what is good for me and mine. Albert Einstein got it when he wrote: “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which one has attained liberation from the Self.”—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 152–53

<idle musing>
He's spot on here, but now I see why it will never fly. Our society is so self-absorbed that we wouldn't dream of allowing it. The common good is dead. All for one and that one is I! Give it to me! Now!

Share with someone else? Are you kidding?!

With self-denial being a four letter word, is it no wonder that death to self is an impossible message?

Well, we sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. In this case, 30,000 deaths per year related to gun fire. And, in the political arena we have a self-absorbed megalomaniac as the front-runner. Yep. We reap the whirlwind... Lord, have mercy on us! Deliver us from ourselves!
</idle musing>

Friday, February 26, 2016

Biting and devouring

Christians believe that God calls a person to freedom and stipulates there are no restrictions or restraints whatsoever on one’s call to love. Freedom is directed to the other. “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:13–15).

Biblically speaking, freedom is always removed from getting what one desires right now and is placed in the context of considering what one can do for others, or what one can give to other people. These two perceptions reveal profound differences, not only in how one understands politics in America, but how one interprets the meaning and purpose of life itself.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 152

Defenders of democracy?

I believe Americans demonstrate their ultimate power through ballots, not bullets, and our national genius was found in the free and open exchange of public discourse and debate, not in disparaging our institutions of government or taking up arms to fight duly elected representatives, should you disagree with them.

The most undemocratic or anti-democratic proposition yet put forward by the Gun Empire is that citizens of the United States should be stockpiling guns to protect their freedom from a tyrannical government. That does not make us safe. That does not enhance our security. That does not keep us free. That is not democracy. That is insurrection.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 143

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


The Gun Empire is not a defender of basic American values. Its mantra is that if the government does not agree with its understanding of freedom, then it will have no other recourse than to take down the government with stockpiled guns. Should this sound alarmist, remember that I am quoting from the speeches of leaders in the Gun Empire.

To increase their influence in America, the idols of power and deadly force are reaching out to their most ardent right-wing zealots and promoting suspicion and hostility, not only to the Obama administration, but also to America’s long-established democratic principles and social institutions. When the Gun Empire cries “freedom,” it has in mind preparing for insurrection.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 141

<idle musing>
Question: Why is it that generally the more conservative voter wants a strong military, a weak central government, and the freedom to carry automatic/semiautomatic weapons to defend agains the very military they want to have?

I don't understand it. Please explain it to me, if you can.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

At what cost?

I once had a conversation with a man who loved his guns. I asked, “Don’t you have any concern or compassion for the thirty thousand people who die every year by guns?” He responded: “That’s the price we have to pay for our freedom. Freedom is not free.” Unpacking his creed makes it much clearer for the average citizen to understand: “Thirty thousand Americans must die every year so I can get any gun I want at any time.” He speaks not for himself alone; he speaks for an Empire. That Empire is not worried about convicted felons, the mentally deranged, drug addicts, or terrorists getting hold of lethal weapons. What terrifies them is the one in ten million chance that a small restriction could be placed on any gun in America.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 133

<idle musing>
Can you say idolatry? Or, at the bare minimum, wrong focus? Or self-centeredness?
</idle musing>

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ambrose on violence

There's a great post over at Missio Alliance taking a look at what Ambrose (340–397 AD) thought about violence and Christianity. By all means, read the whole thing; he doesn't offer any easy answers because there aren't any, but he comes down on the side of nonviolence. Here's the final paragraph:
Ambrose reminds us well: God loves all people equally, and we are called to do the same. This central conviction prevents us from finding any easy answers to questions of guns, war, and self-defense. However Christians ultimately settle on these particular issues, we are compelled to constantly return to peace and non-violence as central Christian values that lie at the heart of the Gospel message of a compassionate and self-giving God. These convictions should be protected, and privileged highly, as we make moral judgments; as Ambrose does.
Tolle! Lege! as Augustine (one of Ambroses's converts, by the way) would say.

Let's keep swallowing that camel

Prolonging the reign of absurd laws to uphold the mantra of gun rights exists only in America and requires the blood of the innocent and the most vulnerable. When five persons are hospitalized in the Southwest with e coli found in spinach, the government immediately shuts down the entire spinach industry, putting it under surveillance 24/7 and quarantining suspected farms. When more than 30,000 Americans die by gun fire, Congress reacts to protect guns, along with their institutions, factories, distribution systems, and private sellers which only guarantees there will be more human sacrifices in the days to come.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 132–33

<idle musing>
Isn't that a bit weird? You can sue toy manufacturers, but not gun manufacturers. That's just weird! You can shut down an entire agricultural industry and recall (and destroy!) the entire crop because a few people got sick. But, you can't require a recall of fact, to suggest such a thing is considered un-American and insane.

But that's not idolatry, is it?
</idle musing>

Friday, February 19, 2016

And that about sums it up

Richard Shaull reminds us that when guns are made absolutes, an abstract entity that cannot give life to people takes on an existence of its own and becomes an end in itself. When this takes place concern for what happens to women and men has secondary importance, if it is taken into account at all.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 132

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Murder is a social service?

Among the writings of then-NRA board member Jeff Cooper’s monthly column in Guns and Ammo is his comment on the murder rate in Los Angeles. He wrote, “The consensus is that no more than five to ten people in a hundred who die by gun fire in Los Angeles are any loss to society. These people fight small wars amongst themselves. It would seem a valid social service to keep them well-supplied with ammunition.”

Unfortunately, such statements from prominent members of the NRA’s National Board are not that unusual. “Meet the NRA,” a new addition to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence website, profiles NRA board members and catalogues their statements, opening a Pandora’s box of racism, misogyny, homophobia, anti-immigrant animus, religious bigotry, anti-environmentalism, political corruption, and insurrectionism. If people of faith are concerned about our neighbors, we should take a long look at the values expressed by the members of the NRA Board of Directors who write our nation’s gun laws.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 128

<idle musing>
Words fail me. Murder is a social service? Lord, have mercy on us! Forgive us for our self-centeredness and heal us!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Human sacrifice

Between 82 and 84 Americans, ten of whom are children and youth under eighteen, are killed every day by guns in America and nothing is done to prevent them. Who or what does our nation consider to be of greater value than they? Are they slain for altruistic or benevolent ends like the ancient human sacrfices of Peru? Do their deaths put us in touch with our God? Do they give confidence to our society? Between 82 and 84 persons will die today by gun violence and on and on into unknown tomorrows, because our society does not consider preventing their deaths to be of great value. For many in the Gun Empire, the victims do not merit the most basic protection.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 128

<idle musing>
Especially ironic is that so many who are against any form of gun control claim to be pro-life. Now, I'm pro-life; I think abortion is murder. But I also think war is not a Christian option; I don't believe that violence should be a Christian option—ever.

But to be pro-life means that you need to be pro-life from the womb to the grave. You need to put things in place to nurture the child, not just say, "Abortion is murder, so let's change the laws." That's not pro-life; that's anti-abortion. Pro-life says, "What are the factors that cause people to want an abortion?" And then begins to dismantle those.

Mind you, secular people can get on board that wagon, as well, but it is my contention that Christians are especially able to. We understand that the ways of this world are inimical to God, so we should be ready for obstruction. But we bring those walls down via prayer and prayerful activity steeped in the love of God. And we remember that God loves everyone, not just the person who agrees with us (but that's another rant for another day!).
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Promises of Baal

Idols of power and deadly force have bequeathed to us a different kind of America. In my childhood many Americans never locked their doors, they took walks and sat on their porches at night; children played in their neighborhoods after dark in the city. When I was ten years old my parents often gave me a dollar and my buddies and I, all by ourselves, got on the streetcar and made two transfers so we could go to Briggs Stadium to watch the Detroit Tigers. Those are not society’s norms today. In our inner cities most people stay inside, children do not go out at night or even play near the windows; they are often afraid to go to school. How could it be otherwise when we merely lament our mass shootings, but do nothing substantive to prevent the acquisition of high-capacity guns that make mass-shootings possible, even probable?—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 120

<idle musing>
Similar to the promises of Baal in the book of Hosea...Baal promised fertility and fecundity, overflowing harvests and abundant wine. The results? A devastated land.

Will we ever learn that worshiping false gods always results in destruction?
</idle musing>

Monday, February 15, 2016

Community? Not so much

Rather than offering a vision of community in which we are bound together by our common humanity, reverence for guns teaches two paradoxical emotions: omnipotence and fear. Omnipotence as one feels the thrill of being in charge and able to dominate others, and fear as one begins to suspect enemies or potential enemies who might want to take away one’s new-found power.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 116

<idle musing>
I would suggest it is the perfect idol for American individualism. The self-sufficient individual who can conquer everything all alone. But, then you have to guard it in case somebody else might want it!
</idle musing>

Sunday, February 14, 2016

It stole more than it gave

Saw this last night (via By Faith We Understand)
The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder.—Death, the Prosperity Gospel and Me in the NY Times
<idle musing>
Indeed. The prosperity "gospel" is not good news. It puts humanity back on the throne and once again makes God the servant. How does that differ from what the serpent offered in the garden?

It's an empty promise. Humanity is indeed destined to rule and we are heirs of the promise, but it is under God. It is a cruciform reign—shaped by the cross, self-emptying, not self-directed. It is only as we die to self that we can truly live.

The prosperity gospel says the exact opposite. It reads more like that old beer commercial from the 1970s, "You only go around once in life, so grab all the gusto you can!" (or some such).

Is that the bible you want to live by? Is that the theology you want to stand before God with?

If so, I pity you, for you have missed the true joy of the resurrection. But, you can only experience the resurrection after you've experienced the crucifixion. There is no shortcut. None.

Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, February 12, 2016

That's what idols do...

When guns become idols and life seems too dangerous to be without them, one’s ability to reason, cherish community, love neighbors, and depend on God for security are often surrendered. One does not think about such things as cause and effect or the value of negotiation over confrontation, or forgiveness instead of revenge. Nor does a gun zealot imagine his young child could be so fascinated by his Daddy’s gun collection that he wants to examine them up close, especially the one he keeps in the third drawer of his dresser in the bedroom.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 116

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Utilitarian, neutral tool?

Tom Diaz says the firearm is less a utilitarian tool than an icon, so laden with implicit values its hold over its devotees approaches the mystical. In this context, guns are not simply mechanical devices to be used as means to such ends as self-defense, target competition, or hunting, but function as tribal totems embodying a complex of values that includes manliness (defined in warrior terms), individual liberty (as against the state), self-reliance (as against everyone else), and the administration of preemptory justice by ad hoc personal means (shooting “bad” people).—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 115–16

<idle musing>
What do you think? Is he correct? If your initial response is, "B.S!" then he might have hit the nail on the head...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Transformation—but into what?

An individual who says yes to God is transformed and is blessed with a new way of looking at life, a new understanding of oneself and his world, and he must reorder his attitudes and priorities. A conversion also takes place in the life of one who believes a gun has the power to save and protect. She too becomes a new creation with a new way of looking at life, a new understanding of herself and her world, and she must reorder her attitudes and priorities. She develops a new spirit, which is akin to the idol itself. The new spirit of the idol captures “the new believer.” The gun is only a thing, but it is a thing with a spirit. If one loves mercy, does justice, and wants to walk humbly with God, one grows to be like God. That is God’s promise. Conversely, if one looks to tools of violence for deliverance, one grows to be like those tools. The psalmist’s words ring true: “Those who make idols are like them; so are all who trust in them” (Ps 115:8)—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 114

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Too true

Linguistics comes close to satisfying a definition once proposed for philosophy: the systematic misuse of a technical vocabulary invented for that purpose—Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction, 269 n. 10

Unintended consequences

If your child is invited to play in a neighbor’s home, please, please inquire if they have a gun. If they do, parents must then ask if the gun is locked up. If there is an unlocked gun in your neighbor’s home, it is not safe for your child to play there. You can invite the neighbor’s child to come play in your home. My friend, Carole Price, who told her young son, “Sure, you can go play at the neighbors,” knows firsthand the agony I seek to prevent. She says, “If you think asking your neighbor if there’s a gun in the home is hard? Trust me. Picking out your child’s coffin is worse.”—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 110

Monday, February 08, 2016

Cult of personality

Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. Carnegie’s journey reflected a cultural evolution that reached a tipping point around the turn of the twentieth century, changing forever who we are and whom we admire, how we act at job interviews and what we look for in an employee, how we court our mates and raise our children. America had shifted from what the influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality—and opened up Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover.

In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of “having a good personality” was not widespread until the twentieth.

But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how other perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining. “The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,” Susman famously wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”— Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, page 21

<idle musing>
And we lost a lot! By the way, this book is well worth the read. I won't be excerpting anymore from it, but if you are an introvert you must read this book and if you are an extrovert, you should read this book—if only to realize that anywhere from 30–50% of the population is introverted.
</idle musing>

Friday, February 05, 2016

Ancient Assyrians and their computers

Eisenbrauns has used this (adapted) Assyrian image for many years. I figured I should post it here, what with the sudden popularity of the "Greek computer" image out there...

Ponder this

There is one indisputable fact that must be taken into consideration by leaders in statehouses and in houses of worship. Wherever guns are in abundance, cumulative deaths by those guns will surely follow. There are more guns in America’s Southland than any other section of the country and it is not a coincidence that the South has the highest rates of gun deaths, with New Orleans holding the distinction of being America’s per capita murder capital. As more and more students acquire concealed carry permits, we can with certainty predict there will be more murders and heartbreaking accidents. Concealed carry individuals, just like the rest of us, have their own idiosyncrasies, limitations, and breaking points.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 106

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Controlled fear

Trusting that the most powerful semi-automatic handgun or assault weapon will calm one’s nerves or bring peace of mind is destined to disappoint. Instruments of death are incapable of bestowing peace of mind and security. They provide only a “controlled fear.” Peace of mind and security are spiritual gifts that only God can dispense. They are God’s gifts; God’s alone. We can’t supply them for ourselves.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 104–5

<idle musing>
That's like drinking coffee to relax! It ain't gonna work!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Misplaced trust

When God is trusted there is always more; when an object made with human hands is trusted, there is always less. That’s a dilemma, particularly for the idols of power and deadly force. People place too much trust in them. People expect too much of finite things, human ideas, and ideologies that capture their imaginations and fantasies. In the end, our idols always disappoint us.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 103 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Indeed, as they must. Mere things cannot take the place of the living God!

Along those lines, take a look at Preston Sprinkle's post today. Trickle down economics doesn't work, but trickle down ethics (unfortunately) does. Ideas trickle down more easily than money...

It’s tragic. It’s detestable. It’s a shameful evil that someone would open fire on a crowd and kill dozens of innocent people. But it’s inevitable. It’s inevitable that nationalistic values of retaliation, power, and violence toward our enemies will trickle down and nestle in the hearts of its citizens.

As long as we keep promoting a “we don’t take nothing from no one” narrative, we will have violence. Take away our guns. Fine. But we will still have vengeful, militaristic citizens who will destroy their perceived enemies at every will and whim.

What more need be said?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Keeping the promise

All idols that have ever been placed on a pedestal, literally or figuratively, have the same problem—keeping their promises. Think of all the promises a defensive gun pledges its owner: power, protection, self-confidence, self-determination, security, safety, and control in out-of-control situations. If a gun could keep all these promises, its devotee would be omnipotent and fully in control, just like God, but isn’t that why guns are sold? .\\—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 103

Monday, February 01, 2016

An unholy duo

Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his acceptance speech in 1970 for the Nobel Prize for Literature, said, “Let us not forget that violence does not live alone and is not capable of living alone: it is necessarily interwoven with falsehood. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, and falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle.”—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 


It’s a dead end street to argue why America needs to produce bigger and better guns. It’s un-American not to have new models coming off assembly lines, whether they are from air-conditioners to pickup trucks, to new handguns. The Gun Empire can easily convince gun aficionados that a greater violence is required today to protect our freedoms and give us peace of mind. Regardless of consumerism and of love of the latest gadget, questions about the latest guns should linger.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 95