Quick Tips on School Shooting Debate

With all the talk currently going on about last week’s school shooting in Florida, I think it’s important for Christians to use the Scriptures and the truth to inform our points of view. In my admittedly limited experience professing Christians sound a lot like the NRA when discussing this topic rather than Jesus followers. My goal in writing this post is simply to lay down some ideas for us Christians to consider to help us approach this topic redemptively rather than politically. They are as much a reminder for me as they are for anyone else who reads them.

In terms of a factual article covering the nuance and challenges of this debate and its solutions, I commend Ari Schulman’s work here.

Tips for the Christian:

  • Remember that people on all sides of this issue are probably partially right and partially wrong. This side of heaven we will not be 100% right on much of anything so approach this topic with humility.
  • Ask yourself whether your passion on this issue is matched by your passion for reaching lost people (Luke 19:10) and serving others (Mark 10:45). If not, it is probably time for some repentance.
  • Most people are coming to this issue out of anger or fear, not reason. While statistics should absolutely inform the debate, we need to try to use them sparingly and in context.  Using stats from neutral sources can lovingly paint a more accurate picture of the situation that invites further conversation.
  • The 2nd amendment is not God. God is God. While the right to keep and bear arms was important enough for the founding fathers to put ahead of critical things like unreasonable search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment, let’s not cling to it as if we owe it our loyalty.
  • This issue has a lot of similarities to the arguments around systemic racism. One side prefers to look at specific instances, and the other side likes to only talk about the big picture. Explaining why a particular new approach would not have stopped a particular mass shooting does not prefer others in honor (Rom 12:10) if they are expressing concerns over the big picture trajectory of the issue.

Charitably engaging people with different views on gun control can open the door to discussing truths about sin, brokenness, redemption, and hope.

  • Spend as much time reading the opinions of those who likely disagree with you as you spend finding information supporting the position you currently hold.
  • Understand that within the church there are different points of view on this topic. Loving your brothers and sisters in Christ means making an effort to understand how they arrived at different conclusions than you have.
  • Charitably engaging people with different views on gun control can open the door to discussing truths about sin, brokenness, redemption, and hope.
  • It may be time to listen for some logical inconsistencies in the NRA’s talking points. If we think background checks are wise in 90% of gun sales, what is so special about the other 10%? If someone is old enough to serve in the military but never has, does that really mean they should be able to buy para-military style weapons? Certainly develop a rationale to support these ideas but don’t assume NRA talking points are sufficient to persuade anyone who isn’t already in their camp. They haven’t yet.
  • We owe those with whom we interact on this topic the honor of thinking through the best arguments for their point of view. We should be able to articulate their concerns as well as they do. Would armed security officers really make a difference? (It didn’t last week.) Are AR15s going to hold back a tyrannical government with tanks and fighter planes? We can refute arguments without being dismissive or condescending. Keep in mind that Jesus often cited his opponents’ positions while exposing their errors. (e.g. Luke 4:23-27, Matt 15:5, etc.)
  • It’s important to appreciate the good intentions and fair logic of those who take a more liberal view on the issue of guns. Christians should be the first to commend the commendable. Paul said he became all things to all men in order that he might win some, and part of that means that we are the ones who are expected to change.
  • Consider whether a tweet or FB meme about this topic oversimplifies the it or shuts down dialogue rather than encourage it.

Public policy matters, and we should not give in on what we believe the right public policy is for the sake of being nice to people who may disagree with us. That is peace-faking, not peacemaking. But we should always keep the main thing the main thing, and that isn’t gun control. It is seeing broken people whose hope is in something other than Jesus see their need for Him and put their trust in Him.

Putting things in their place

In my last post, I commented on a quote from Corrie Ten Boom to urge Christians to consider the ways in which they were devoting large segments of their lives to things that may be okay on their own but have grown too significant. I’m sure there are hundreds of good things that we could let become ultimate things if we are not careful. This is why Solomon gave the stern warning, “Above all else guard your heart, for from it flows the wellsprings of life.” (Prov 4:23) Jesus echoed this idea when he said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21)

What follows are some practical tips to help diagnose whether this could be true of you. Could you be, as Corrie Ten Boom said, rearranging pictures in a house that is burning down with people inside?

Get out more: Conservative evangelicals are generally a white middle/upper class bunch and it is possible and even probable that most will avoid being challenged with seriously struggling people in their context. The middle and upper classes have the means to hide or drown their struggles so unless you do something differently, you can live your whole life thinking everyone is pretty much okay. This is true in the church as much as among unbelievers, and is the basic definition of the Christian bubble. I think it’s even more powerful in the “good churches” that tout themselves as better than the others because of (mostly correct) doctrinal distinctions, but have the boomerang effect of shaming struggling people into silence.

Get out more effectively: Once you decide you may be affected by the Christian bubble, come up with a plan. You don’t have to sell everything and move into our neighborhood to start coming out of the bubble (but you are welcome to do that). The Bible is clear that people around you are hurting and if you simply engage them on a more than superficial level you will begin to see it. This means you may have to say no to some of your “Christian” stuff or personal time but it’s really the only way you’re going to do it.

Read the Bible differently: One thing that God used to motivate us was simply reading the Bible to look for God’s attitude toward struggling people. God spends a lot of time talking about people exploited by leaders, and many of those groups continue to exist today. God does care about widowed, orphaned, materially poor, shamed, outcast, and lonely people differently and his promises to them reflect their actual condition. It could be that you are God’s

Ask different questions: If you’re going to do #3, you’re going to have to ask different questions. Rather than reading Matthew 25 and explaining why it doesn’t apply to you, you will need to ask how it does apply to you. When you read about God’s care for widows, you will need to ask whether obedience and love demand you get to know a widow on more than a surface level and start caring for her. As you struggle through Leviticus in your annual reading plan and get to 19:34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and kyou shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God, you will have to ask yourself whether you know strangers in your context and how you will mirror God’s love and mercy toward them. You can’t just assume someone else is doing it because for the most part, they aren’t.

Stop comparing yourself to others: This one came back to the front of our minds recently when my wife and daughter read the biography of Keith Green. It’s easy to think of the progress you make as monumental when you compare yourself to people whose eyes are not yet open to this need. Keith Green is an encouragement, but he is not the standard. Jesus, who left heaven and perfect fellowship in the trinity and constant, pure praise of angels to die for people who would reject him is the standard. Christian literally means “little Christ” so we should always be evaluating our lives relative to his example and nobody else’s.

Leave the Republican party behind: I saved this one for last because it will offend the most people. GOP does not stand for God’s Own Party. It does not represent Christianity well, and given its current standard bearer the trajectory is getting worse. I think Wayne Grudem is right when in his book Politics (which was excellent) he said the traditional GOP party platforms were more in line with the Scriptures about 75% of the time when compared to Democrat positions, but that doesn’t mean we walk in line with the GOP no matter what. The American political process tends to favor extremists in the primary system which means you’re never going to find a 75% Republican who lines up with the Bible well on everything. Marco Rubio, a 93% Republican, got run out of the presidential race because he wasn’t Republican enough. We need to be a people that engages politics on the basis of our Christian witness rather than political affiliation. Much harm has been done by people professing to be Christians blindly posting stuff on social media by right wind websites without doing any fact checking. If these stories end up to be false, and many of them are, we are bearing false witness.

Of course it’s a Muslim ban

After spending a couple days on Facebook listening to really silly arguments about how President Trump’s moratorium is not a ban on Muslims I felt like I might try to add some common sense.

  1. The President is fully within his rights to issue this order. He may end it early or extend it at his sole discretion.
  2. He has consistently said the order is about protecting Americans from terrorism.
  3. He has consistently said the terrorism threat is from Islamic Extremists.
  4. According to the CIA World Fact Book, about 98% of those living in the countries covered by the ban are Muslims. If you exclude Syria, it’s 99%.

Objection: It’s not a Muslim ban because non-Muslims from those countries are also affected.

I use the old math, but I think 98% is a pretty big number. If I told you that I spent 7 hours and 50 minutes playing video games and 10 minutes checking email from work, the natural conclusion you would make is that I took the day off. You would be right. This is really not even close.

Objection: Obama did the same thing in 2011 and nobody called it a Muslim Ban.

Nobody called what President Obama did in 2011 a Muslim ban, because it’s not the same thing. After arresting two Iraqis on terror charges who had ties to terrorism in Iraq, the Obama administration slowed down the visa process for Iraqis. There was never a shutdown, and no person seeking a visa was ultimately denied one. This is different because of the scope of the ban, the amateurish way it was implemented, and the fact that there is no actual cause or trigger to do it other than a campaign promise.

Objection: He’s not targeting Muslims

The hypocrisy in this one is really amazing to me. The whole campaign, Trump said his opponent wasn’t worthy of being Commander in Chief because she wouldn’t even name the enemy. Trump repeatedly named his Public Enemy #1 as Islamic extremists not only in extemporaneous speeches but in written communication that was presumably thought out. Here’s what he published after his infamous Muslim ban speech.

“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”

I would expect him to at least respect the intelligence of the public enough to admit that he’s just doing what he promised to do in the election cycle. If he was intellectually honest he would not have stopped at the seven nations and would have included places like Saudi Arabia, home of Osama bin Ladin and the vast majority of the 9/11 terrorists.

My friend Kevin Carson has posted a helpful article on how Christians ought to think about the ban and if you are interested you can read it here.