Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love and Fear

I'm not sure about you, but I'm feeling plenty upset and uneasy these days as I read about all the spiraling gun sales in the United States. Honestly, in an area like I live in, Brookings S.D., where crime is relatively modest, why are 8 people a day applying for concealed weapons permits?

So we read the other day about a shooting in Brookings, where an argument between a young man and his girlfriend's father, escalated to the point where the guy goes to the bedroom, grabs a handgun and proceeds to threaten and shoot the other. How many arguments in my community will escalate to new levels with more handguns?

Or for heavens sake, isn't it plainly ironic that on "Gun Appreciation Day" in America, 5 people were shot at 3 different gun shows?

Or what about the young men fooling around in Pierre S.D. that left one of them dead and the shooter changed forever. How many new gun sales will mean adolescents, just fooling around, will end up in the morgue?

Or I wish some of these proponents of more guns in schools or on college campuses would have to sit with those surviving a friend's suicide, because they were depressed (more common than the common cold) and couldn't face life anymore. Then, too, a gun was handy.

Or let them explain the 15 year old in Houston who was upset with his mother so he got a gun and let it express his feelings, killing her, then three siblings, then his father, and prepared to kill many more till a friend convinced him to talk to someone at church. All of this because he was upset with his mother, feeling suicidal, and had access to an assault weapon and several other guns belonging to his father. 

The story goes, his father wouldn't let him play violent video games, but he did. How many 15 year olds get angry with their mother and disobey their father? How many kids play violent video games, without consequences for the good guys or seeing what really happens with dead people, and are unable to truly distinguish fantasy from reality? So let's all have guns and violent video games around the house?

Or let these proponents of guns for all, like befalls pastors and counselors, try comforting the bereaved or the frightened, because of a multiple killing in the community. I suppose they would comfort people by explaining how they will fight for more guns for everyone. 

God help us!

I've been thinking a lot about this rush for guns lately. Perhaps because it's high on the national agenda; perhaps because the shooting incidents are coming at us in news stories daily; perhaps because I've always believed there were alternatives to violence and the human impulses that drive it.

One of those human impulses is fear. People are afraid. So they buy guns and if they become fearful enough, of life, of others, of authority, they use them. Sometimes, instead of always associating weapons with warriors and those who are courageous, we should recognize the face of cowardice and fear. People are afraid of life and what it brings, of truly living it. People are afraid of other people. People are afraid of those who exercise authority over them and sometimes want to strike back at a boss, a supervisor, a teacher, a politician.

The increase of fear in our land coincides with a decrease in spiritual conviction and practice. Fearlessness is only possible with a grounding in confidence, trusting in a higher power and the ultimate might of right. As Gandhi claimed, "Fear of man argues want of faith in God. Only he trusts to his physical strength who has no faith or very little faith in God's omnipresence." And again, "When God is our protector and companion, why or whom  shall we fear, however fierce be the storm, however deep the darkness."

Gandhi's point of view is repeated by the first letter of John in the New Testament, "There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love." This is the same passage where the writer gives us the most simple yet comprehensive definition of God in all Scripture, "God is love."

Or we might listen to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who we say we honor but seldom follow. "I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. 'And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.' " 

Carl Kline

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