Gun Idolatry

The love of bearing arms has become a dangerous obsession.   Dangerous because it eclipses the ideals of peace and justice.

In 1990, the Presbyterian Church USA at its national meeting stated: “The religious community must also take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse”

26 years later, we still haven’t heeded this warning.  Instead, society goes on developing a gun culture forming a religious cult.   Former NRA Executive Vice President Warren Cassidy points out that “[t]he base of the National Rifle Association believes so strongly it’s more a religion.”

But, it is not just the NRA that follows these cult traditions.  Every day people use language that reflects gun ideology.  We “bring out the big guns” when faced with a large challenge.  We applaud people who “shoot from the hip,” and let them “call the shots.”  It seems owning and carrying guns has spawned obsession and dangerous ideology.  

The Bible reminds us that “You shall not worship other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them” (2 Kings 17:35).

But, in the name of safety,  people are normalizing openly brandish guns.  Many states permit openly bearing weapons in workplaces, schools, stores, churches, and bars.  We have taken our love of the gun to a new level.  We bear our guns as they are sacred.  This will backfire.

When our weapons are more important than the people and values they are supposed to protect we have turned them into objects of worship…into false idols.  That something scripture is rather clear on.  Multiple verses of the Bible chastise people for worshiping something beyond their faith.  Today we can add to the list of idols:  the Golden Calf, Amon, Baal to include assault rifles, hand guns, semi-automatics, etc.

I have expressed the apocalyptic realities of gun violence in our society before but let me recap: around 30,000 people a year die from shootings a year in the US.  

30,000 people is:

Imagine the cemetery this idolatry has created.

We must hear the prophetic call to change our understanding of what motivates the need to irresponsibility hold to our rights while ignoring our responsibilities.    

We must uphold our values of justice and peace over our fear and our idolatry.  

Post-Truth Bears No Fruit

A society that upholds the values of justice, freedom, equality, or peace does not take truth for granted.  

There are so many “blessings” we take for granted simply naming the over some turkey and dressing once a year.  Truth is not a blessing any of us can risk taking for granted.  

Something else I had taken for granted in the last year is “fact.”  My social media outlets were inundated with articles.  I took for granted that these articles would hold to ethical standards.  I took for granted that they would be somewhat based in reality.  I took the truth for granted.  

I confess my sins of sharing articles that I did not check their information.  I confess that I was not skeptical enough and most likely shared lies.  Worse, I am not the only one.  Even worse, there are even those who make a profit selling fake news.  The misrepresentation of truth has become an epidemic.

This epidemic has spawned the Oxford Dictionary to make the word “post-truth” 2016 Word of the year.  

 

Are we a “post-truth” society?  Not if we are to uphold our most important values.

 Jesus did not demand blind faith.  In fact, he invited us to question things, even to the point that he was not immune to skepticism.  John the Baptist questioned Jesus.  In response, Jesus sent messengers to John to ease his skepticism.  “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matt 11: 4-5).   These miracles were incredible and Jesus knew they would require fact checking.  

Today, we don’t always have the luxury of first-hand accounts or direct information.  We have to look at our news with skeptical eyes.  But how do we know truth when we see it?  By its fruit.

“Be aware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits.”  (Matt 7:15-20).  

That means looking at the ground an article is planted in.  Looking at the article with a critical eye.  Professor Zimdars at Merrimack college has taken on this issue.  She has made a list of ways to assess media articles to help and made a list of websites with ulterior motives beyond fact or truth.  

Beyond that, I am taking part in a pledge to be impeccable with my writing, speaking and social media usage:  

  • I pledge, in my writing, my speaking, and my use of social media to strive to fact-check every source twice before I quote or pass it on, using reliable fact-checking resources such as factcheck.org or snopes.com that list their own resources on their websites.
  • Bearing in mind that statistics are often blatantly manipulated, I will do my best to avoid using intentionally biased or misleading numbers.
  • When I am able to identify a fake news source, I will make an effort to contact that source and register my strong objection. I will expose fake news sites without passing on their untruthful information.
  • I pledge to do this to the best of my ability because a “post-fact” and/or “post-truth“ nation is no nation at all.

I make this pledge whole-heartedly.  I encourage my fellow bloggers, speakers, writers, or anyone else in the public sphere to do the same because I want to make sure that we plant the right ground to bear good fruit.  

UPDATE:  This exact pledge was the idea of Susan Thistlewaite together with the input of her Public Theology Class at Chicago Theological Seminary.  I am honored to a part of this class and to sign this pledge.  Won’t you join us?

To sing the pledge look here.