Family

December 12 2013
29

1.

Jerome was a Counselor-in-Training after years of coming to camp as a camper. He was fifteen and always smiling, bright white teeth standing out against his dark skin. He laughed a lot, too. He laughed the day I yelled at him for diving headfirst from the dock into the shallow lake. At twenty years old, I was the head lifeguard. I felt a wave of panic as I waited for him to resurface. As soon as he did my panic was replaced with fury; the last thing I needed was a CiT modeling dangerous behavior. I started to holler but couldn’t sustain my anger. He laughed and laughed and laughed as he apologized profusely and swore he wouldn’t do it again.

He was so joyous, so young, so beautiful, so classically invincible.

 

2

From “Our Moloch,” by Garry Wills:

“We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?”

 

3.

During orientation we had to try out the full rotation of camp activities. I balked at the riflery range – one of the most popular activities the camp offered. I don’t believe in guns, I explained. I was raised not to trust so much as a water pistol, let alone a real weapon that shoots real bullets. I quibbled with some of the staff. I couldn’t understand why we promoted interest in guns at all, especially since our campers were almost entirely residents of troubled urban neighborhoods. The argument: gun safety was a valuable lesson for the campers.

I didn’t have to shoot the gun, but I did. I don’t remember why; I’m sure I could have managed conscientious objector status at my summer camp counselor job. Maybe I wanted to see what it was like to pull the trigger, just that once. After a brief safety lesson, I pointed the rifle in the direction of the target and took my shots.

I had excellent aim. And the accuracy of my shots only made me feel sicker about it. I immediately regretted the decision to shoulder that ugly weapon at all, let alone well.

 

4.

Gun Religion

“Gun Religion” by A.E. Kieran. Used by permission of the Creative Action Network.

 

5.

Jerome was shot and killed on the street about a year after I screeched at him that he was going to break his neck diving into shallow water. The teenage kid who shot him had also been a camper, the older brother of one of the girls I’d had in my cabin.

 

6.

I hate guns.

I hate the assault rifle Adam Lanza carried into Sandy Hook Elementary School. I hate every single bullet that pierced the flesh of every single one of the 1,883 people who have been shot in Chicago this year (as of 11/1). I hate all the guns that were fired on accident, killing the very children they were kept on hand to protect.

God damn guns is what I want to say, and I mean this in the truest sense of the phrase. I would rejoice to witness every single firearm to ever emerge from a weapons assembly line thrown into an everlasting Lake of Fire. Truly, I cannot imagine that there is a place for guns in the new Creation. If there is no more mourning nor crying nor pain, that must mean there are no more triggers.

 

7.

How long, O Lord?

 

 

 

 

 

29 comments

  1. Each morning, when I wake up, one of the first things I do is check the news to see not if, but how many people have been shot in my city of Chicago. Last year, on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, I had to fill out application forms for my daughter to enter public school. The weight of gun violence is heavy on me – unrelenting.

    Thank you for this piece and for being an encouragement to me.

    Reply
    • I echo Brenna’s words.

      Reply
    • I don’t mind guns any more than I mind swords or knives.

      God damn sin. That’s what I want to say. God’s creation was never meant to harm each other. We are living in a system that is broken – where God’s creation has turned against what we were meant for. I’m not sure there can be right words when it comes to topics like this, only anger and grief and fear. But, the worst word to be said is silence. Writing on s subject like this is no easy task, but for the sake of so many emotions and for the sake of this broken system that we are living in, I’m thankful that you wrote something. Thanks.

      Reply
      • Thank you for your words. Yes to all of it – it’s just that guns kill so many more people than swords and knives these days.

        Reply
      • Laura Haught

        I completely agree with you Clayton. Sadly people are using guns for the wrong reasons, but there are still killings with knives. I don’t think anyone is going to stop the violence in this world.

        Reply
    • Unrelenting, indeed.

      Thanks for responding, and caring as you do.

      Reply
  2. How long, O Lord? Our hearts cry out. I hate guns, too.

    Reply
  3. Lord, have mercy. I’m with you, Katherine. Well done.

    Reply
  4. If all guns disappeared maybe that would be ok, but as a hunter who has been out with a gun nearly every day this week, and as the fellow Christian that I am I respectfully disagree with your title. If guns were outlawed the outlaws would still have them, and we would not. Crime would run rampant as it does in the cities and schools where guns are outlawed. If a teacher had had a gun at Sandy Hook the violence could have stopped at the door.

    I mourn your loss with you. Indeed, guns are a powerful tool for good and for evil. I mourn your loss with you and still disagree. My guns are not my religion, though I hold my right to bear arms close to me. My guns are not my security; my God is. But as with every tool I try to use these things as God has instructed. “Go, kill, and eat.” I understand that what I have to say is controversial and will not probably be well accepted within this place. I mean no disrespect to you, or those who disagree.
    In love,
    Your Sister in Christ

    Reply
    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Veronicah Rose. I did not think your response was disrespectful at all.

      I recognize that the role of guns in hunting is quite different than guns used for violence. This is one area where I struggle; I’ve written elsewhere that hunting is surely more ethical than the inhumane conditions of the meat industries.

      And yet this piece is not about a legislative gun ban but a pondering of the place of guns in the New Creation. I’ve been thinking about the vision of a peaceable kingdom from Isaiah, since those texts are often read during Advent. Even guns that are used for hunting seem unlikely to have a place in the Kingdom of God – if the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and the child play over the adder’s den, surely we would neither “Go, kill, and eat.”

      Thanks again.

      Reply
  5. It is time:
    http://www.mjbarkl.com/repeal.htm
    –mike

    Reply
  6. For somebody calling herself a Christian, a lot of hate is coming out of her soul.

    Maybe it is time to revisit your beliefs.

    Reply
    • I do not believe it is contrary to the Christian faith to hate objects that are used to murder and kill. The scriptures bear witness to God’s hatred for sin. See Proverbs 6:16-19 for an example.

      Proverbs 6:16-19
      There are six things that the Lord hates,
      seven that are an abomination to him:
      haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
      and hands that shed innocent blood,
      a heart that devises wicked plans,
      feet that hurry to run to evil,
      a lying witness who testifies falsely,
      and one who sows discord in a family.

      Reply
      • Objects do not sin. Objects do not posses a soul. You do not blame the wine for the drunk who sinned but the drunk himself for sinning.
        You accuse of us Idolatry but you are obsessed and hateful of the alleged idol.

        Reply
        • Chris McArdle

          Yet we regulate wine both by who can drink it and where one may do so. Why is it obsessive or hateful to propose regulating guns, which are far more efficient and quick in the dangers they pose to human life?

          Reply
      • Laura Haught

        I am a Christian as well but if a gun is used for self defense, how is that killing an innocent life? I am meaning if they are threatening to kill you, or rob your house? I honestly don’t think I could kill anyone unless absolutly in need of protection. No I don’t have a gun, I don’t want it in my house but it has saved many lives from those who wrongfully entered. I was so heartbroken about Sandy Hook, and all of those lives lost, the brave teachers who protected as many kids as they could. There are people who are sick in the head and crack. I like a good amount of these comments on both sides.

        Reply
  7. Heidi

    As a fellow minister, follower of Jesus, and befuddled Christian, thank you. This is a powerful witness and prophetic word sister. Bless you.

    Reply
  8. Gun control is such a mind bender for me. I was raised on wild game, my father and husban hunt. I would rather eat meat from an animal that lived a full life in nature, than the mass grocery store farming of inhumane living conditions, hormones, gmo feed and antibiotics.

    I appreciate this article. Especially lately.

    I was shot in 1980 by racist serial killer, Joseph Paul Franklin, who was recently executed. We spoke before his execution and I forgave what he did to me. After our conversation I wished that mental health care was as easy to obtain as a gun in our country. Lack of mental health and a gun are lethal and too common in our country.

    I have a hard time understanding how anyone can be against gun reform. The current system is incredibly flawed and encourages ripple effects of violence and dehumanization that keeps victims in the cycle of incarceration and desperate circumstances.

    Thanks for your thoughtful article.

    Reply
  9. Don

    Hate can blind you. Please consider this analysis of the right and duty of self defense:

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2012/09/25/christians-the-second-amendment-and-the-duty-of-self-defense/

    Reply
  10. How sad that you blame objects and not acts. I suppose in your mind it is better to be murdered by a thug using a fist, a knife, or a rock than by a thug with a gun.
    No tool in the history of the world has made it more possible for a smaller, weaker victim to fight back against a stronger, determined aggressor with less chance of being harmed in their resistance. It’s not a magic talisman- you still need to know what you are doing. But this stupid and, quite honestly, evil objection you express toward gun safety training would be like you demanding that kids not be taught to swim or even touch water, and then acting surprised when kids drown needlessly.

    Reply
  11. So if you hate my guns so much, how do you feel about me? I carry a gun almost every day. Or do you hide behind the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” dodge as if my desire to protect the life God gave me constitutes some sort of sin?

    I’ll echo what Miguel said. Objects have no soul, no free will. They cannot be sinful as they have no free will. It seems to me that you wish to blame the inanimate object because you refuse to place blame for sin directly on the sinner. When you displace blame to the gun you treat human beings as if they are incapable of rational thought and correct moral behavior.

    When I say that this is odd behavior for a minister, I am merely being politely understated.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer M-K

    Thank you for your brave witness and truth telling. You speak from your gut–a place that has known sorrow and loss from the barrel of a gun. I agree that in heaven, there will be no guns, no need for guns. May we pray with our Savior: “on earth as it is in heaven.”

    Reply
  13. Chris McArdle

    Katherine, thank you so much for this difficult and necessary message. Anyone who thinks you’re actually blaming guns for the evils they facilitate clearly isn’t interested in admitting the deeper truths you touch upon–such as our broken, human inclination to perpetrate violence upon each other. The problem is that guns make killing far too easy for them to be regulated at current levels. I think it is entirely consistent for a culture that claims to value life to endorse and welcome stricter controls on gun access, use, and ownership.

    Reply
  14. Katherine, as a fellow pastor, I honor you for your bold witness, and join you in prayer and solidarity in this cause. I believe the Prince of Peace stands with you as well, in your prophetic condemnation of these tools of expedient killing.

    It is telling to me that none of your detractors are attempting to engage your core theological argument: that there will be no guns in God’s redeemed world, what Dr. King called the Beloved Community. The question for all who would be faithful today is, how shall we live? What paradigm shall we embrace, one that lays its ultimate security in violence, or in Christ? Shall we order our lives towards God’s future, or commit our hearts elsewhere?

    Good, Godly people will disagree on how we ought to live in the meantime. But surely we can agree on the ultimate destination, and the eternal freedom from violence there – and, accordingly, the tools of violence.

    God bless us all.

    Reply
    • “It is telling to me that none of your detractors are attempting to engage your core theological argument”

      As the kids say nowadays: Challenge Accepted.
      http://gunfreezone.net/wordpress/index.php/2013/12/18/a-note-to-katherine-willis-pershey-gun-owners-are-like-catholics-part-2/

      I am not a priest/pastor/rabbi/etc. just a regular guy. But I don’t think Christ spent too much time blaming objects in his life.

      Reply
      • Respectfully, you are not engaging the theological core either, my friend. You are making the dubious point that if Jesus never condemned a weapon in his day, he must be fine with guns in America today. I think that’s debatable, but that also misses the broader point: that guns (and crosses, and whips, and other instruments of torture and death), have no place in God’s redeemed world. Put simply, these tools befit our fallen world, our fallen natures. They are not instruments of the kingdom of God.

        In your defense of guns under Jesus, you compare them to the cross that killed him, the whip that tortured him. I agree, that is an apt comparison…one which, in my view, ought to give Christians pause as to the motivations of their heart when they pick up any of these weapons.

        Peace be with you, Miguel.

        Reply
        • Do you really think that Jesus would tell you to stand still and allow someone to murder you or your family when there is a simple, easy to operate tool that you could use to defend your life and the lives of your family?

          We live in the fallen world. We don’t live in the “Kingdom of Heaven.” And anyone who suggests I should hasten my own meeting with Jesus by failing to protect and defend my life and the lives of my family needs to get his head examined.

          Reply

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