Churches need to have a serious talk about guns.
If one bothers to look there is more information coming out about the church shooting in North Wales last Sunday. Most of the information in this latest article I already knew from sources one step removed from the actual shooting. I haven’t shared it because I hadn’t spoken to the acutal witnesses, which made my information nothing more than hearsay 1.
It’s no longer hearsay. The altercation happened over a church member who refused to leave a reserved seating area. Reportedly it was mostly calmed down until another member attempted “…to defuse the situation by showing a gun… 2” A fight broke out and that second church member, Mark Storms, committed homicide 3. It took several days, but the Montgomery County District attorney has considered the case and decided to press charges for both voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. The charge is a just one. Mr. Storms didn’t head to worship that morning looking to kill someone, but he willingly inserted himself into a situation where he ended up willfully taking a life.
He really was trying to help. He saw an unruly person and decided to take action. The problem is he’d swallowed a lie. A lie which I’m seeing far too many Christians embrace with joy and celebration. I won’t say this is not Mr. Storms’ “fault.” Clearly he was the agent of causation in this tragedy. But I will say he is also victim of the gun fetish culture espoused by people like the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and Liberty University’s President Jerry Falwell Jr. Strong cultural forces, which have fed the Evangelical tradition a steady diet of fear and mistrust and anger, can be difficult for people to resist. When important people are telling you having a handgun is a big part of the solution to personal security, and the only people you see countering that argument are those you’ve been told to identify as “the enemy” 4, it becomes easier to toss caution to the wind and say, “You know, they’ve got a point.”
You might be thinking, “He’s not a victim, he should have known better!” To tell you the truth, I can’t stand that argument. All it really means is, “If that person thought like me they would have known better.” The problem is, given the nature of the gun fetish culture, it was only a matter of time until something like this happened with someone who didn’t know better 5.
Look, I don’t care if someone wants to own a gun. When I was growing up, a number of my grandfather’s friends were hunters and for them a gun wasn’t an object of worship, it was a tool – and a tool you treated with extreme caution and respect 6. But a handgun is a fundamental different tool from a hunting rifle. It has no other function but to drop another human being to the ground in a pool of their own blood. And in Pennsylvania there is no mandatory instruction required to carry a concealed weapon 7. Think about all the training police go through in order to be able to identify threats and respond appropriately. Consider also all the the times officers have completely botched that assessment even with their training. At the very least, individuals who want to carry such a weapon should be required to train at regular intervals, and with an intensity which matches that of police training.
But still the gun fetish culture declares their gospel, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” It also screams out it’s creed, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But how in good conscience can we encourage people to take up a tool whose only purpose is destruction, and then tell them the tool isn’t really a factor in a violent encounter? This madness must stop. It certainly must stop at the threshold of the sanctuary – which is literally a different kingdom than the United States 8.
Christ followers need to speak about this not as political issue but as a theological one. We Christians worship “the Lamb who was slain.” How should that affect our understanding of power, strength, authority, and weakness? We Christians are given the “ministry of reconciliation.” How should that impact the way we deal both with each other and “outsiders?” When Jesus stood accused before worldly authority he didn’t fight and strive for his own power – he went to the cross. How should our Lord’s behavior govern our actions in this world? This is the type of conversation we need to have. And having it, or not having it, will have real repercussions in our culture.
Pray for Mark Storms and others who, like him, swallowed a lie about the source of real power and moral authority. Through this lie he put both himself and others in harm’s way, and ended up taking a life. All because he wanted to help solve a conflict and had somehow been taught a gun was a good first option as a solution.
Lord, have mercy.
- So, really, the opposite of cable news networks. ↩
- That quote is from the article linked above. ↩
- “Homicide” is not the crime, but the action. There are legally justified homicides which are not subject to prosecution, but even when legally justified it remains “homicide.” ↩
- Also known as “liberals.” Or, “lib-turds” among the presumptively clever. ↩
- In a location other than Florida, that is. ↩
- I remember when the NRA was about firearms safety first and foremost. Shooting the .22 rifles followed an intense progression of postures – from lying down all the way up to standing. You could not progress until you scored both proficiency in accuracy and responsibility in use. The NRA created those guidelines. Nowadays all I see from the NRA is fear and mistrust, and a lust to acquire an arsenal. ↩
- This blows my mind. ↩
- Worship is the mystical transport into the throne room seen found in Revelation. When we worship we are standing in the Kingdom of Heaven. I wish pastors would teach this more. ↩