Sunday, January 6, 2013

We are at war?

In the wake of the Newtown, CT shooting, there have been many, many opinions that have surfaced.  This is most likely frustrating for many, and they would possibly wish for people to stop talking about the issue altogether.  And in the days that followed the shooting, when some called for action this upset others.  But everything happens for a reason, and events call us to action.  When a light-bulb burns out in your house, you are called to an appropriate action.  When your car breaks down, you are called to an appropriate action.  And when society breaks down, you are called to an appropriate action.

Let's examine some of the analyses and proposed causes of the problem:

God has been pushed out of Schools (see here for an elegant contention to this argument)

Not enough guns in schools

Teacher's unions

Not enough manly men in schools and too many womenfolk in schools

Too many children in schools

Mental illness and self-esteem movement

Autism / Asperger's syndrome


Video Games

Fisher Price Toys


The media!

LIBOR Scandal and the Hunger Games movie

Jon Stewart (side note: when his show returns, I hope for a hilarious reply from him)

The OBAMA Regime Brainwashed him!

Abortion pills

Gay Marriage


Schools teach "junk about evolution" and "how to be a homo"

The 1968 Democratic Convention

Now, some of these are obviously (should be, at least) insane.  And it should be noted that I feel some of these may have a point - such as the reasoning that video games have become too violent.  That might be a discussion we need to have, to some extent or other.  But why is it that so many people seem to want to distract us from any direct reasoning towards the obvious sources of the problem?  It is very, very hard for me to make a connection between some of the "reasons" people have offered and the actions that occurred at Newtown, CT.  So how can we come up with a solution to this problem?  Yes, this is a complex issue, and the answer will not be simple.  But why is it that so many reasonable people simply will not touch the GLARINGLY OBVIOUS?  I'd like to offer my opinion (yeah, I'm so closed about it, I know) and my proposals (the latter of which I recognize are not complete), and as being a Christian is a large part of my life and a source of identity, this will include some Christian perspective.  But let's start with the most glaringly obvious problem and the simplest solution:

As in the example I provided in the beginning of this post - if your light-bulb burns out, you get to the direct source of your problem, and you replace it!  So, DUH, why are so many people so afraid to talk about gun control?  Yeah, if you take away "their" guns, they can still kill.  With, say, a car.  But in order to get a car, you need a license, which needs to be renewed periodically.  And in order to get this license you need to go through the proper education, and you need to take a written test proving your knowledge in the subject, and you need to take a physical driving exam as well, proving that you are competent.   And every so often you need to take your car in to get it inspected to make sure it is still in proper condition.  And if you are involved in certain illegal activities, or if you develop certain medical conditions, you lose your license and need to go through the process of proving you are competent all over again.  So why don't we go through a similar process for guns?  Cars don't just kill people - they get us from point A to point B.  They serve a purpose.  The only purpose of a gun is to kill.  So why are guns regulated less strictly than cars?  (Hint: there i$ an an$wer to that que$tion.)

Now as I said, I recognize this is a more complex issue - as in my "light-bulb" analogy, if your light-bulb burns out repeatedly in a short span of time, there may be a deeper issue.  But you still replace the bulb, right?  But what else is a problem here?  Let's stay with the direct approach for a minute here - the shooter in the Newtown incident, it seems, had mental issues, so....

Mental Health
Yeah, we need to make mental health care more easily available.  We need to treat mental health issues as if they were of the same importance as other forms of health issues, and health insurance ought to pay for mental health care with the same sense of urgency and importance as they do for other health issues.  We need to make education on the subject of mental health more readily available to parents who may have children with mental health issues.  And we need to figure out how to be more sensitive and remove the stigmas that hold people with mental traumas back from coming out and admitting their problems and asking for help.

Ok, I've given two very direct proposals to the problem.  And I said that the issue was complex, so what else do I think is contributing to this problem?

The Newtown CT shooting, and proposed solutions to it have been hashed and re-hashed so many times that my readers might be wondering why I'm even bothering to chime in.  I, myself, did not intend to write any of my own opinions (it was easier to just link to other people's articles when they said things that resonated with me - there was an abundance of them).  That was until I saw a link on a friend's Facebook to a Christian blogger who seemed to believe that the reason for the shooting was spiritual warfare aimed at banishing Christianity from our culture.  When I saw him using the phrase "we are at war", combined with the sense that he was blaming culture for the shooting, it just didn't sit right with me.  Over the past few years I have come to believe that there is a war on Christianity, and that the reason it has been so successful is that there are too many Christians fighting on the wrong side of that war - I believe the problem is not that culture is trying to banish Christianity, but that Christians are fighting an ugly battle to call more attention to themselves and their piety and in so doing are banishing themselves. 

Ok, let me unpack that - what is a Christian?  A Christian is a follower of Christ - a person who seeks to emulate Christ.  What does that mean?  Jesus gave us a good definition, himself, in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  When I hear Christians talking about the war on Christianity, somehow it doesn't sound right in context with this statement.  Somehow, I think we stopped furthering Christ and started fighting a war that is actually damaging our own cause.  As we've given in to fear, we've lost sight of love.  Jesus said to love "as I have loved you" - he gave us a perfect example of how to be a Christian in his own life.  He showed us how he wants us to live when he reached out to the marginalized in his day.  Jesus began his ministry in love - he met people's needs.  And then, after he had earned the right to speak to them this way, he preached.  Too often we preach first and never ask how we can meet needs.  Too often, we fight to make sure our voice is heard above all others, never realizing that if you follow Jesus' example and meet the needs of those around you, you won't need to fight to be heard: they might just ask you why you are doing the things you do.

I believe that in today's political culture, we have an epidemic of fear.  So many ridiculous conspiracy theories have popped up in the last few years that I think people have started to become used to this type of rhetoric, and to accept the fear before ever questioning it.  And perhaps one of the best examples of the ugliness of this paranoia is the very same group that promotes gun ownership (each word goes to a different article) - and this group actually profits every time there is a shooting in our nation!  Fear gives birth to more fear, and the epidemic only grows.  And it is a sickness that results in devastating symptoms - when we allow fear to take root in our hearts, that fear begins to justify irrational paths in our minds.  We begin to manufacture reasons as to why our fears are rational, and we protect this line of reasoning at all costs. 

There is a term in psychology known as cognitive dissonance - a theory proposed by Leon Festinger in 1954 to describe “the feeling of psychological discomfort produced by the combined presence of two thoughts that do not follow from one another. Festinger proposed that the greater the discomfort, the greater the desire to reduce the dissonance of the two cognitive elements” (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 1999).  Before the Newtown shootings occurred, the NRA preached fear of the government taking away their constituents' guns, even when the gun control laws have actually relaxed over recent years, and yet they kept preaching their fearful prophecies and profited big time.  And now that deadly shootings are becoming a rampant occurrence in our society, rather than face the uncomfortable truth that the push to make destructive weapons more available to people, and filling those people with fear may have caused this situation, more twisted conspiracy theories are surfacing in order to reduce the discomfort.

Believe me, this is not the only example of cognitive dissonance (each word goes to a different article, and that's just skimming the surface) in today's discourse.  Fear has infected our nation like a cancer, and what really bothers me is how it has infected the church.  Logic has been discarded for ideology, and love has been traded in for fear and hatred.  Idols have been made in the form of guns and rich people, and McCarthyist style witch hunts have been conducted to distract us from the real problems our nation faces.  And I pray for our nation, and especially for the church, that we would turn from fear and battle it with love.  Yes - we are at war.  But the reason we are losing is that we are trying to fight this war with conventional means, rather than following the radical example of Jesus who fought his battles with love.

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