The Tyranny Of Guns, Glory, And The False God They Represent

It’s been hard to write about my views about gun violence and the Christian support that not enables but encourages it.  It makes me angry.  It fills me with despair.

And it makes me tremendously sad — not just thinking about the first-graders massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary last month, but remembering the half-dozen friends of mine growing up who have been killed by bullets, most of them when we were still children. I didn’t grow up with guns in our house.  In fact, my parents hated guns only a little more than they hated people who owned them.  But guns and guns violence were a part of my life in Tucson, Arizona, during the 60s and 70s, because of how it affected the kids I went to school with, played with, lived near, and sometimes called friends.

Marvin, though, got to grow up.  But as an adult, he was stricken with cancer and undergoing chemo. But he struggled out of bed one night to go to a 7-11 for a Coke.  He had rims on his car that evidently were quite valuable; in his  bathrobe and slippers, a man I’d known since we were five was shot to death in the parking lot because he wouldn’t give up his car.  The first funeral I ever went to was Georgie’s. He was shot and killed in a hunting accident; at 15, he was a year older than I was.  Georgie’s smile is as clear to me now as it was back then; I doubt that his brother Alex ever recovered.  Gary was the brother of a boy I was determined to marry when in first grade; John was the half-brother of the man I still, after more than 40 years, refer to as my “other brother,” not related biologically but every bit a member of my family, every bit as much my brother. 

I was still in elementary school when Pam’s dad got drunk and shot her; if she’s alive now, she’s probably still on crutches after her spinal cord was severed.  The year before, Martha accidentally got shot in the leg by a careless adult.  What happened to her was a little too weird to make her a hero and way too scary to allow us to continue to  not like her.

We were just in second grade.

And a few times every year, the neighbors’ son would run to our house screaming that his daddy had the gun out again.  My dad would call the police, they’d talk him out of hurting anyone, they’d leave, and a couple of months later, it would happen again.  They lived next door to us; it was the house two doors down that was sprayed with gunfire once because of the politics of the man, my father’s close friend, who lived there with his wife and two children.  And we all knew the drunk guy on the house on the corner down the street from my not-so-tidy culdesac had an arsenal in his home, a point cemented in our memory when his son nearly shot his hand off while cleaning one of his handguns. 

Curtis was in high school when he went out in the desert because there were too many losses and too few victories in his young life, a decision that immediately became the conclusion — because he had a gun with him.

I’ve known so many people whose lives were ended or horribly altered by the careless use of guns and the even more reckless gun culture of a violent Southwestern town wracked as much by explosive growth and demographic upheaval as by poverty, drugs, and violence. All of them would still be alive, or still be whole in body and possibly in spirit, if there were no guns in their homes or no guns available to those who shot them when they left their own homes.  Yes, they could have been stabbed.  Poisoned, I suppose, or just beaten up.  But guns bring with them a fierce finality.  That’s what they’re made for, and that, or the threat of a violent, fierce final end, is exactly why they exist.  The NRA doesn’t agitate, in its bloated, obscene braying, for the right to bear weapons that shoot rubber bullets or dense beanbags.  They covet the kill shot, the ability to stop someone — we call it “dead in their tracks,” and we mean it — by use of a handgun, pistol, hunting rifle, or high clip-count magazined assault rifles.  With silencers, please, and armor-piercing, internally-exploding bullets.

There is no “Christian virtue” to owning guns.  There is no Second Amendment promise that you can buy and shoot anything the gun manufacturers make.  And there is no effort on the part of the federal government to take all of your guns.  Tyrants prefer an unarmed populace; paranoids and fear-mongers see tyrants all around them — just as they see a violent street thug in every unarmed young Black man, every suspect Latino immigrant, and every down-on-his-luck, rough-around-the-edges man on the street. 

If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.  If you cling to your guns, every encounter, every new bit of information, every change in the political or cultural winds, is a threat that could require, with provocation unknown and unquantified, the discharge of firepower.  Your firepower, your guns, your ammunition — because when you’ve convinced yourself that you need a gun to protect you from Those You Do Not Know, you see them all around you.  It’s a tragic, horrible way for the gun-idolator to live, especially when the Church is far more likely to see him not as a focus of evangelistic concern, but a brother-in-arms and co-belligerent in the fight against tyranny, whether from the Feds or from the scruffy-looking kid down the street. 

Christians who hunt aren’t trusting in their guns to help them find, make, or keep their way in the world.  Even those Christ-followers who have a shotgun or pistol for protection in their homes aren’t necessarily given over to blind allegiance to the false promise of power and patriotism that guns too often represent.  But they aren’t the ones who holler and bellow about tyranny at every turn, hoping for civil upheaval while they cravenly pretend to fear it.  They aren’t the men who strap on their snub-nosed revolvers or Glocks for a stroll around town, presumably because the penis they carry with them isn’t visible, legally, to sufficiently prove their toughness.  And they sure as hell aren’t the ones who pretend to mourn for the children of Sandy Hook and intone that “now isn’t the time” to talk about gun laws — as they immediately begin to bash liberals, socialists, pacifists, and limp-wristed poofters for their calls to take action against the violent, gun-saturated culture that is 21st-century America.

Those Christian gun zealots who worry that a socialist, secular government might try to take “In God We Trust” off of our coins or take “One nation under God” out of our Pledge of Allegiance needn’t worry.  They themselves have announced, clear as a Liberty bell, that they trust not in God.  They have shown ours to be a nation in rebellion against the God of the Gospel.  They’ve done the work they fear the secularists are doing.

And damned if they haven’t done it very well indeed.

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