A gun rack in the manger?

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”
-Matthew 10:1, 5A, 6-8

With no plan to post today, some things came up during my prayers earlier, so I am going to put them out here for you. There are lots of readers, but few commenters. That’s fine, I don’t blog for comments, but I am curious what you think and always grateful to see that someone has written something. You all know what I think, I want to know what you think.

During my prayer, I was very aware of how anxious I am right now. The violence of the world has many of us on edge. How I’d like to present myself as cool, calm, and collected, but honestly, I feel extremely shaky. To be clear about this, it is not the incoming violence that I am afraid of. Really – seriously – not at all. There is no fear in my heart from potential acts of terrorism, not one. Maybe it is because of my life, I feel like I have stared enough evil in the eye for several lifetimes – and I think that gives me a certain perspective. As the old  Sondheim song “I’m Still Here” goes:

“Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all
And, my dear, I’m still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here”

What then am I afraid of? I am afraid of our responses to all the violence around us. Afraid? No, honestly – I am terrified. What have we become? For those among us who claim to be following Christ, I think that we are doing a completely, and I do not use this word lightly, sh*tty job. And we are getting worse.

So here we are in Advent, and instead of Advent peace and waiting, we have cries all around saying that we should arm ourselves and be ready. This is absurd to me, completely absurd. Let’s take this a step further and look at ourselves as Christians who may see what is commonly called “pro-life” as the Cardinal Bernadin (of blessed memory) model of “the seamless garment.” All life is connected and all life is worth dignity and respect. ALL. LIFE. ALL. Sorry, I do not mean to shout, but I get very frustrated about the parsing of what lives are worthy. That’s another post though, back to today.

respect-life-2015-469x346So if we are followers of Christ, how is it better to take up arms in order to be “ready?” Ready for who? Ready for what? Yesterday I had a conversation with someone and the notion of an armed citizenry walking around with their guns struck as both as patently absurd – and extremely dangerous.

Returning to Advent, back to waiting, back to creating room in our hearts for the coming Christ I can’t help but say – will you prepare your nativity so that it includes a gun rack? Seriously, I cannot for the life of me reconcile the idea that arming ourselves keeps us safer. You want to hunt? Go ahead. Guns for target shooting at a range for sport? Have a great time. But an armed household? I’m lost here, help me. Do not understand.

So what on earth, now that I have ranted, does any of this have to do with today’s Gospel? Let’s take a look again…

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Jesus gives his disciples authority to over unclean spirits, to cure every disease and illness. OK, got that. Then Jesus sends them out to find the lost sheep. OK, got that. Cure, raise, cleanse, drive out. Got it.

gun_80So what is the problem? Well – I’m not sure how responding to violence with violence fits in with this message. And no, I’m not talking about the response of first responders at this moment, I am talking about you and me packing heat, “just in case” and making decisions to use said “heat” on our own. I’m having visions of road rage, parking lot power plays, and someone grabbing the last early morning doorbuster sales going sour because of the easily availability of a gun. I’m worried that people will start shooting others because they think that person’s faith is a filthy cult and that they must be a danger. I’m worried for mentally ill people at either end of the firearm. I’m just worried.

As we approach the celebration of enfleshment of God, coming as a helpless infant and becoming a man who dies violently – how do we respond? I am really struggling with the fear within me. And yet I know that the only way forth for me is in the hope of Christ.

IMG_2529We are a people in darkness and we know that we have, we do, and we will see a great light. Can we please lay down our arms and go about the real work that we have been given? I’m so anxious, but I’m trying not to be. How can I be this anxious when I see what I have “given without cost.” Today, may I go and “give without cost” to all whom I encounter. Will you join me in Christ? Because I cannot bear the thought of the gun rack in the manger, and please – I cannot do this alone.

This post is dedicated to the children of Sandy Hook, holy innocents for whom we did so little. I am so sorry that we failed you and continue to do so by more shooting, more guns, more fighting and more death. Forgive us, dear children. Forgive us, Lord.

sandy-hook-child-victim-collage(I am not kidding about what you think. Please respond in the comments. All comments must be approved, so feel free to write one that you do not want approved, but say that up front – I really just want to know. I hope that people speak up. Forgive typos etc, this was really written and posted quickly.)

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17 thoughts on “A gun rack in the manger?

  1. “For the deepening of faith
    in those who have it…
    for the gift of faith
    for those who seek it…
    for the strengthening of faith
    in those who doubt…
    for any whose faith
    is shaken or broken…
    for stronger faith
    that leads us to act…
    for the harmony and unity
    of people of different faiths…

    God, give us:
    the faith we need to help us live,
    the faith we need to help us love,
    the faith we need to help us believe,
    the faith we need to give us hope,
    the faith we need to act with justice…
    the faith we need to speak your word of truth…

    Give us faith that leads us
    to share what we have in serving the poor;
    to work for a harvest of justice and peace;
    to restore the beauty of your creation…

    God, give us faith in you
    and in our neighbors
    and in ourselves…”

    Amen.

    No matter what is going on,
    Two things to remember:

    God is with us,
    He (not me) is in control!

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  2. I am reading “A Child in Winter” by Caryll Houselander for Advent, and the meditation for last night struck me as quite relevant. She notes that when Joesph found out Mary was pregnant, Mary didn’t explain. It was the continued love between them that brought healing. “Explanations even of what can be explained seldom heal-and there is so much that cannot be explained… Explanations, words, at this stage, may only wound, but love will be a bridge over which at last, in God’s time, we shall cross to a better understanding.” If there are times when even words fail to heal, then how much more should we refrain from any chance of physical violence and further injury?

    The vulnerability is difficult. It requires hope for both ourselves and for others, and we as a society have not been very good at holding out hope for others.

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  3. Fran, I hear what you are saying. I fear guns in the hands of everyday people more than I fear terrorists. Are we to become those we fear? If I look at someone the wrong way will I get shot? Is this what we want to teach our children? Is this really the way we want to live? Will this really help in any way? I see it as resulting in more ‘accidental’ deaths than in lives saved. Anyway scary times we live in. Still we have to continue to be people of hope and as Fr. Pat recently said “points of light in the darkness.”

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  4. I get your angst. I, too, feel anxious. However, we are called to go out into the world in Christ’s love, not arm ourselves and protect ourselves from others. It seems to me that this focus on self protection results in people isolating themselves from others instead of opening our arms to others. I don’t have an answer, mental musings. Thank you for your blog.

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  5. I am right there with you. Trying not to focus on the horror. I fear we have come to the brink of our destruction. People are already armed “just in case”. We have a shooting or 2 and maybe a knifing nearly every day here in Rochester. Many of my friends and relatives are former or current military and would take great offense to my views, but I still feel I need to share your beautiful blog. Hurting their feelings in the least of my worries at this point. Thanks, Fran!

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  6. My gut feelings about the violence recently has been telling me that gun control is not enough. We do need a certain amount of gun regulation, perhaps amount of ammo and types of guns we can purchase, but until we address the underlying causes of our culture of violence and reaction to it we will not as a people change. I am not talking about ISIS, Syria, France. I am talking about the U.S.

    As a nation we have our rugged individualism, them-against-us mentality, tendency to react to violence with violence among other attributes. When this nation was founded the reasons included freedom to practice one’s religion without fear of retribution from the State. There were other rights written into the constitution to insure the rights of the individual and individual states would not be trambled upon. Some of these may be open to reinterpretation today.

    Until we come to grips as to who we are as a nation today, both looking to the past to see whether those past fears and the ideals that came out of that situation (oppressed) still serve us, and looking towards the future to see what we want to become as a people we will be locked in this downward spiral of fear and violence with our own nation.

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  7. Reread this fine post a few times, Fran. Even before reading your post I’ve been thinking about fear and how I don’t feel fearful…or do I? Now I’m thinking that my Jewish upbringing has a lot (everything?) to do with my bizarre equanimity in the presence of all this violence. For better or for worse — it just is whatever it is — I was raised to know that violence, especially anchored in or directed against religions is a reality. I don’t think I’m unique among a generation of Jews raised to know that it’s only a matter of time that “they” will come for “us.” Being baptized Christian has done little, if anything, to mitigate that core belief.

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  8. I read your posts frequently….so thanks for your thoughts and reflections…inspiring!
    We have had over 300 “mass murders” this year alone…sick people killing innocence.
    And we seem to be paralyzed -as a society- to doing anything to prevent these terrible
    shootings. I believe there are plenty of things we can do to protect our daily lives….
    practical, simple, steps to control guns from getting into the wrong hands. Nothing is perfect,
    but we can at least demand from Washington to act positively rather than continue to play
    politics as usual. And, honestly, all these murders have nothing to do with our Muslim brothers/sisters…..they are the new ‘scapegoats’ for a society that doesn’t want to deal with
    the its own illness/issues.
    In Todays scripture Christ is sending OUT his disciples — US! — to heal the world in suffering.
    The more I read todays reading, the more it hit me as being so relevant for todays world…
    our USA society. Thanks for sharing again!

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  9. This year do Mercy…..
    Could the Lord be planning to visit His world in a new (old) way this year of Mercy? Because I think only God, in His Mercy, can change our hearts of stone into fonts of Mercy.
    How often does Jesus tell us “Be not afraid” “Be anxious for nothing.”
    What to do instead?
    1. Trust God to save us
    2. offer up our own hearts and lives to be channel of His Mercy
    3. act as He prompts us to

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  10. I’ve been meditating about the word “retaliation”. It seems to me that ALL violence is intended by the perpetrator as retaliatory. NO ONE ever thinks “I started it!”

    …which makes me consider that we may need to give up the concept of the Ultimately Retaliatory God. “Vengence is mine: I will repay” saith the LORD. As long as God is conceived of as the Great Score-Settler, we will NEVER be free of violence. And that, more EVEN than any given weapon of retaliation (as necessary as it is to control them MUCH more effectively than we’re doing now!!!), is The Real Problem.

    Of course, Jesus said this: “turn and offer them the other [cheek]”. But people, even (esp!) US Christians, put more stock in the Retaliatory God (then believe they ought to “go and do likewise”). Just my 2c.

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  11. I am deeply grateful for all of the comments. I dashed this off and then went off to teach all day, then to mass, and then to eat. I was reading the comments on my phone as I approved them during the day, and I was very moved by all of your responses and willingness to speak up.

    We do have a problem with violence and I think we have a problem with people feeling like they can settle their own differences, and that is a little scary to me. You all remind me of the greater hope to which I must cling, that we all must cling to – Jesus.

    Thank you and peace.

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  12. I am working on a blog post very similar to yours – very fearful not of terrorists but the reactions to them. And struggling so with so much of this driven by Christians. I’ve never been very vocal about my faith, I mean, I’m kind of embarrassed to be a Christian given the image out there. But I want to take back what that really means. I want the insanity to stop or to at least stop drawing God into it. I was at a sporting good store this evening searching for flannel lined jeans. There was a huge gun section at the store. And as I looked at all the people picking up and trying out rifles and hand guns I was wondering, are you looking for a hunting rifle or target practice gun or…

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  13. I am reading this in Australia where much tighter gun laws were introduced after a terrible mass shooting almost 20 years ago. There was an immediate drop in gun violence. As Rosemary says above there is definitely a need to address the underlying causes of violence but the first step to saving lives is to make it more difficult to react with deadly force. The ease of pulling out a gun doesn’t allow time for a cool decision. You won’t prevent all deaths, you can kill someone with a rock if you really want to, but with a gun there is a distancing from the action. So it becomes easier because you are not as intimately involved. Anything that makes it harder to hurt someone else (especially in revenge or panic) is a good move. From the other side of the world it is hard to see that the liberal American laws benefit anyone except the gun manufacturers. And keep up the great work with your posts Fran, your work is much appreciated!

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  15. Thank you for this post even if I am seeing it a day late. I an especially grateful that you posted the pictures of the dear children that died at Sandy Hook. They brought tears, as well they should.

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  16. Thank you for your profound comments and for challenging me to reflect harder on what is going on in our society and to do my share to introduce the viewpoint of God loves all and that means you.

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