That’s the expression one of my Facebook friends, and former high school classmate, used to describe and referred to the shooter in Las Vegas last week. I commented that we have far too many of them and that lone crazed gunman seem to be endemic to American history. We have an unnatural love affair with weapons, the more destructive and easier to use the better. This madman was not happy that his rifle was a semi-automatic. He bought a conversion kit to turn it into an automatic rifle. That’s why he could kill so many people in such a short time before taking his own life. It is apparent that this man put very little value on human life, both the lives of others as well as his own.
My friend Dan responded with the usual “gun control does not work because criminals will always be able to get guns.” I totally agree with that sentiment. I said, in my original comment, that we needed to make some drastic changes in the hearts and minds of humans. Apparently, Dan missed the point. So, I responded to his comment about gun control not being effective.
I quoted Scripture: “love one another as I have loved you.” Those were, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus’ final words to his disciples prior to his ascension into happened. I am not going to argue whether Jesus ever existed, ever ascended to have been, or ever said these words. The point is that most Americans, and that (as far as I’m aware) includes Dan, consider themselves Christians. They believe that Jesus really did exist, that he really ascended to heaven, and that he really said those words. So, let’s assume for this discussion that all those things are true.
Christians are mandated by Jesus Christ himself as quoted in the Gospels to love everyone as if they were their neighbor. If you love your neighbor, you do not rob them, rape them, or murder them. To quote Scripture again, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Do you want your neighbor to rob you? Rape you? Murder you? I think not. I certainly don’t want my neighbors doing that to me and I have no intention of doing it to them. However, it appears that there are a lot of people in this country who have no problem committing robbery, rape, or murder. Why is that if we are all supposedly “good Christians?”
As I talk about on my Christian heresy blog, there was an influential Christian leader in the second century who argued that the God that Jesus called Father, the God of the New Testament, is not the same God that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David called Lord. The God of the Old Testament is a God who demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth… And a life for a life. Jesus said that God wants us to turn the other cheek and not exact revenge. “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword,” telling words that Jesus said to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. Soldiers, either Roman or Temple soldiers, had come to arrest Jesus. In an attempt to rescue Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. Jesus put the ear back in place and healed it as he said those telling words. It is unfortunate and, in my opinion, extremely hypocritical of Christians to condone and/or practice violence against each other or anyone else for that matter. That is one reason I find Pres. Trump’s exchanges with the leader of North Korea so disturbing. To me, threatening to obliterate a country, even one like North Korea, is extremely Unchristian. Donald Trump claims he is a Christian. Well, I suggest he start acting like one. And that goes for all Americans who claim they are Christians.
Someone else on my Facebook friends list, raised the question as to whether the Las Vegas shooter had perhaps recently converted to Islam because ISIS allegedly claimed indirect responsibility for the shootings. Just because someone claims they are responsible for an action, either good or bad, does not mean they are really responsible. ISIS can claim whatever they want to, but that doesn’t mean squat. It is possible that they are taking credit for the Las Vegas shootings as a “public city stunt,” which would allow them to recruit more “lone crazed gunmen.” As far as the shooters possible conversion to Islam, I can certainly see why Tim said that. However, we should not condemn every Muslim for the action of a small fanatical minority of Muslims. To do so smacks of discrimination. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have been targeted in my life for bullying and abuse as a child solely because I was an immigrant from Germany and whose father was from Bulgaria. In 1952, when we came to this country as immigrants, Bulgaria was part of the Soviets. Anti-communism was rampant in this country thanks to Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunt. The fact that my father left Bulgaria because of the Communists never crossed most people’s minds. My father fled for his life. He saw his best friend hung by his ankle from a tree in a park in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, and then machine-gunned. My father felt he would meet the same fate if he stayed.
Anyway, enough of getting off on a tangent. Let’s return to the original topic.
Violence, especially gun violence, is part of the warp and we’ve of American culture. Americans love war movies. Americans love Westerns. Americans love gangster movies. All are full of gun violence. That gun violence has even carried over into our video/computer games: think Call of Duty. Some of these games even allow you to put your real self, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, into the game. They want your experience to be as “realistic” as possible. Is that really a good idea? I play video/computer games myself, some of which can be described as “violent”. The violence though is based in fantasy and makes very little attempt to be “realistic.” You fight monsters and other fantastic creatures. When was the last time you saw an elf or an orc or even a dwarf such as the ones in Tolkien’s stories?
My point is that Americans tend to want to resolve disagreements in some macho manner to prove that they are “real men.” It is this chauvinistic need to dominate another person that is at the heart of violence against women, homosexuals, transsexuals, racial minorities, ethnic minorities, and religious minorities. Jesus, I am sure, is ashamed of us. Why do you think he has not returned? Would you want to return to a world of violence if you are an advocate of nonviolence?
It is time for the human race to grow up. Yes, science says we are members of the animal kingdom and that our violent behavior is purely our animal instincts coming to the forefront. That may be true. If we had remained true to our animal instincts throughout evolution, though, we would still be living in trees, eating raw meat, and spending most of our lives running from predators. It is the fact that we have developed culture that we have been able to overcome, more or less, our animal instincts. It is this cultural drive to be something more than an animal that has led to all the wonderful changes in our physiology that has separated us from other animals. How many animals do you know who can express abstract concepts in a language that millions if not billions of other humans can understand? We need to continue to push the envelope of evolution by further overcoming our animal instinct, especially our need for violence.
Gun control laws, no matter how restrictive, will not end this need for violence. What is needed is for humans to learn that we are all neighbors. We need to learn to interact civilly and humanely. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said that he had come not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. Jeremiah, and Old Testament prophet and quite the anachronism to the rest of the prophets, preached a theology of the heart. We cannot expect God to love us if we do not love ourselves and each other. When we learn to do that, there will be no need for gun control laws because we will have fulfilled the law.
Peace and love!