taking the words of Jesus seriously

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live – Deuteronomy 30:19-20

We forget – or deny – that God alone has authority over life and death (1 Samuel 2:6-8). But we do our best to usurp those powers.

One of the many ironies of our convulsive and conflicted conversation about guns is the near-religious fixation on guns and what they mean – and do – to us.

To say that our love of guns is irrational would be an understatement beyond human, international and historic comprehension.

Consider how we talk about it; “Do you believe in gun control? Well, do you?”

That’s what one of my students said, quite harshly I might add, to another student. It was one of those ‘introduction to college’ type classes required for beginning college students.

But we weren’t talking about guns, or even laws. We were talking about being responsible, not only for our actions, but also for the consequences of our actions.

But this student who took offense at even the imagined ‘control’ of guns (and dropped the class about a week later) made me realize that the issue quite possibly was never guns or their ‘control’ but a deliberate, almost distraught confusion bordering on delirium.

I grew up around guns. I went hunting with my dad many times. I never heard him speak of gun ‘rights’ – but he spoke often of the responsibility of gun use and ownership.

Related: Bulls**t National Grieving by Kent Annan

I am not afraid of guns and I don’t worship them. (I also love the Constitution – but with the full acknowledgment that the composition, interpretation and application is, as always, human and not divine).

There was a time when I could easily have joined and supported the NRA – but that was back when NRA stood for the National RIFLE Association, a hunting advocacy group, not an advocacy group for assault weapons, bazookas and rocket launchers, or even pistols.

There is one major area of agreement I have with many pro-gun apologists; guns are not so different from other dangerous or potentially dangerous objects we all use almost every day.

I hear otherwise rational people slip into a gun-fueled daze as they spout preposterous justifications for having essentially no rules regarding lethal weapons.

All of us, for example, recognize that cars can be dangerous, but have you ever heard anyone say “cars don’t kill people, people kill people”.

Of course not. It is a ridiculous statement that no one would mean seriously.

But make guns the subject of that sentence and then we hear, and find it almost reasonable, all the time.

Related: What Would Jesus Say to the NRA? by Shane Claiborne

The self-cancelling logic is the same; just the subject is different.

But if we were talking about cars, no one would exclaim about ‘car control’ – not because it would be so cumbersome and oppressive; but because it is so obvious.

Doesn’t everyone, to some degree, want a ‘safe’ car?

Isn’t it obvious that a vehicle that is in such a state of disrepair that it is a threat to the driver, passengers, pedestrians and those in other vehicles should be kept off the roads?

Doesn’t every state (and nation) have fairly strict laws which govern the condition and operation of vehicles on public roads?

Doesn’t every state have age and competency requirements, testing, and training to acquire a driver’s license?

To make driving safe, we require both the vehicle and driver to be prepared, capable and reliable.

And don’t we all agree that they should?

Cars have crumple zones, air bags, seatbelts and many other features to make them safer. And the typical car of today is vastly safer than the typical car of a generation ago. And car manufacturers fought virtually every advance in the development of these safety features.

Also by Morf: The Rage of Moloch – An Old Testament god thriving on our Children

Cars, and drivers, are far safer now, not because the government passed laws or manufacturers wanted to change, but because enough people insisted that changes be made.

The gun companies (like the car companies) don’t care about our safety or security – in fact they know that the more insecure we are, the more guns we will buy.

I believe in ‘gun control’ the same way I believe in ‘car control’; I don’t always like speed limits, (and I, and many others don’t always follow them) but I’d feel far less safe without them.

I don’t always like safety regulations, inspections, insurance or renewing my driver’s license, but if it keeps me, my children or anyone’s children safe, I’m glad to do it.

But the NRA proposal to keep our children safe is ludicrous beyond words. Does anyone really imagine that parents – or children – would feel ‘safer’ with armed guards in every school hallway? The NRA would gleefully hold every child in America hostage to their ideology.

We could call this crazy, but it’s even worse; it’s crazy with a purpose. And it’s particularly ironic that the NRA used to have a very clear purpose.

The NRA used to be a hunting advocacy group – their focus was on rifles. They knew that no one would use a hand gun for hunting – just as no one now would use an automatic weapon for hunting.

The NRA has lost its focus, its purpose and its identity. If they returned to their original purpose of the responsible use of weapons for hunting or sharp-shooting, many of us who don’t use weapons could still support the work of the NRA.

And we would all feel safer.

Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

About The Author


Faith is not a formula. And I wouldn't even use the word 'relationship' - and probably not the metaphor of 'a journey'. The older I get, the more it seems that faith is a process - a determined focus on listening to the eternal, sifting out the noise and distractions and becoming closer with each breath and each word, to the fullness - and emptiness - of the pulse, hand and purpose of our Creator, which, ultimately brings us where we belong. I'm a teacher and writer, which really means that I am a listener and I share what I see and hear.

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