Worship, Weapons, and Worthless Words

“Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.” (Proverbs 26:18-19 NLT)

It just keeps happening.

Today in Sutherland Springs Texas a gunmen opened fire in a local church killing at least 26 people and wounding dozens more. Calling this act of violence a tragedy is an understatement. Words cannot express the amount of anguish and grief that this small community must be feeling.

Even from a distance I find myself enraged, disappointed, sad, but most of all I feel convicted.

I am convicted because if the words of the proverb above are true then the insincerity and/or absence of my words about the culture of gun violence in our country is and should be considered as damaging as the weapons so often used to end the lives of innocent people.

According to this very poignant proverb, people who continue to rehearse and rehash inconsistent, inconsiderate, and inappropriate language regarding the violence we witnessed today are to be considered equally culpable for the culture of violence we helped to create and curate.

The words of this powerful proverb stung my soul just enough to make me more sensitive to the system that silences the victims of senseless gun violence because as a society we keep lying to ourselves and our friends only to say that “we were just joking.”

In this section of this 26th chapter of proverbs the writer so eloquently points to the tension between social responsibility and meaningless speech. Like Jesus in his inaugural sermon in the temple, I hear the writer speaking from antiquity that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The essence of his claim is that people who say things that they have no intention on following through with are as dangerous and deadly as the ones who use weapons to harm others.

I do not own a gun. I grew up exposed to guns and I have even been exposed to the impact of gun violence in the city that I grew up in. I am not opposed to guns or to people having a right to legally own a gun, but as we continue to watch waves of gun violence and mass shootings wash over our country like the spread of a viral infection, we must be willing to have the courage to take the conversation further.

Laws don’t change hearts. I get it. That’s the argument, but I don’t think anyone has ever expected a law to change a heart. We know that people who don’t follow the law will get their hands on guns, but can we have the courage to admit that most if not all the mass shootings we are witnessing have been done with guns that were purchased legally? It’s true, laws do not change hearts but laws do however have a way of changing habits and making it harder for those wishing to do harm to be able to do so using guns.

As a pastor, no one understands the argument of evil more than I do. It exists. It is real. It is a problem. What happened today is the work of pure evil. An entire community lost loved ones. A fellow pastor has to bury 26 members of his church one of which is his own daughter. Nothing can explain this heinous act except for the presence and power of evil but ending the conversation there just isn’t helping with the problem of gun violence and mass shootings. We must move past being sad and toward solving this crisis together.

With that in mind I have some honest questions.

Is it possible to have a meaningful and important conversation about the very credible fear of losing more lives without it being tethered to the fear of many of losing their rights? Can we talk about this problem not as a political issue but as a moral one? Can our outrage and our outcry be accompanied by a passion to become more outspoken about how outdated our views of gun control just might be?

As for me I have been convicted about my complicity in this issue because I have remained silent for far too long. Silence is not always golden and to continue to remain silent because “now is not the time to talk about it” seems to me to more rapidly becoming an unacceptable response. Saying we will talk about it later and never following through and never making changes or never taking a critical look at how we can do better for our communities and our children is “Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon…”

I am convicted. I feel complicit. I am concerned that we have slowly and subtly developed a worship of weapons and a right to bear arms and it continually overrides our willful pursuit to protect the lives of innocent people who also have a right to life and a right to bear the image of the creator without the constant fear of being assassinated both by the weapons of madmen and the reckless words of misleading ones.

I don’t have the answers, but I do believe that to continue to say we will talk about it later and never do it is not the answer. We can do better. We must do better. We have no choice because as long as we keep lying to ourselves and each other we remain just as damaging to our communities as those who pull the trigger.

“Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.” (Proverbs 26:18-19 NLT)


 

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