Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough!

As a Christian, I am well aware of the power of prayer. It is referenced in scripture over and over. In one particular passage in Matthew 17, Jesus says to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." Even on the night of his arrest, Jesus knelt in the garden and prayed for the strength he would need to carry out his father's will. If the Son of God felt the need to pray, we certainly have no excuse for failing to do so.

But prayer alone is not enough. It must be followed up with action. James, in his Epistle, makes the best case for this argument.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James was not discounting the importance of prayer; nor was he saying that our salvation had to be earned. What he was saying is that we must live out our faith through our actions. Indeed, it is those very actions that define the quality of our faith in the eyes of God. In Matthew 25, Jesus admonishes those who are miserly with their inheritance when he says, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Ever since the mass shooting in Las Vegas, I have heard Republican after Republican utter the following phrase: "My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this senseless tragedy." Sometimes they write "our thoughts and prayers," as if somehow turning it into a plural statement gives it more authority.

But to those who were affected by this "senseless" tragedy, parsing the difference is academic. A loved one has been violently taken from them, never to return. There is one less father, mother, uncle, aunt, sibling, child, or friend to love and grow old with. Thoughts and prayers do little to alleviate the pain and suffering that will take months, if not years, to heal. To pay lip service, as these politicians do, only adds insult to injury.

I have heard every single rationalization from opponents of gun-control from the sublime to the ridiculous. My favorite is that knives can kill people too, so why don't we have knife control. I have two comebacks to that convoluted logic: One, I can still use a knife for cutting the food on my plate; there is only one purpose for owning a gun, and that is to kill people. Two, "When a 64-year old white man kills 58 people and wounds 500 more in 15 minutes from 1200 feet with a knife, I will absolutely call for knife control. Until then, you've made the world's shittiest point." I lifted the latter from someone on Facebook, hence the quotations.

But shitty or not, that, and other arguments just like it, are what lobbyists like the NRA and the vast majority of Republicans continue to dish out. Here's one of my favorites: Guns don't kill people, people kill people. I agree, so let's at least keep guns out of the reach of those people who might use them to kill, like the mentally ill. Sorry, we can't do that. That would go against the Second Amendment.

So obsessed are they with protecting the rights of gun owners, the GOP is currently considering a bill that would allow the sale of silencers. Can you imagine how many more rounds of ammunition Stephen Paddock could've gotten off if no one had been able to hear where the shots were coming from? The death toll that night might well have been twice as high as it was.

I keep coming back to a piece I wrote shortly after the Newtown massacre. The problem, as I saw it, wasn't just a lack of regulation, it was the Second Amendment itself.
How many more must needlessly die to defend a strict interpretation of an amendment that, if you read it closely and honestly, seems to be referring to a "well regulated militia" not an absolute right?
Throughout most of the country's history, gun ownership was NOT considered an absolute right. In 1939, the Supreme Court in United States v. Miller ruled unanimously that "the Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have 'some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.'" That decision was upheld in 1980 in Lewis v. United States, and until the Heller decision in 2008 it was the law of the land.

For the last nine years, the gun nuts have had their way: first, by successfully framing the question of gun safety as an attack on the Constitution; secondly, by effectively killing any attempt at imposing restrictions on the sale of guns. When the mentally ill can legally buy firearms and silencers may soon become available to the public, the train has jumped the track.

So what are we to do? Well, first off, we should get up off our knees. We've prayed and prayed and nothing has changed. The problem here is not a lack of will on the part of God, but a lack of will on ours. Divine intervention isn't likely to occur, so it is up to us.

Secondly, we need to reframe the whole debate on guns by exposing the plot of a small, but powerful, group of men who are perfectly fine with allowing this country to be turned into a shooting gallery for their own political and monetary gains. They have subverted the original intent of the Second Amendment. The only way to defeat them is by going back to what the framers intended. Simply calling for tougher, more "reasonable" restrictions on gun sales will not solve the problem; indeed it plays right into the NRA's hands.

Let's look at two "reasonable" restrictions that some on the Left would like to see implemented: keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and outlawing the bump stock, which allowed Paddock to turn his semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones. The former would not have stopped him from legally purchasing guns because he was not mentally ill, or at least he was never treated for any mental illness that we know of; and even if the latter had been law, he still could've killed a lot of people that night. All the bump stock did was make it easier for him to keep firing his weapons.

And therein lies the stumbling block for gun-control advocates. Reasonable measures, as it turns out, not only don't prevent these tragedies from happening, they help opponents of gun control by making the case for them that the Left's real agenda isn't about safety, it's about the taking away of personal liberty. It's an argument they consistently keep winning over and over again.

Look, I have been critical of the Left's unwillingness to compromise on a wide range of issues from healthcare to tax reform to college tuition. In my opinion, it's cost Democrats chances at building support with moderate voters. But there are some causes - like global warming - which couldn't be more black and white. Our future as a species depends on us drastically reducing CO2 emissions, and quickly. Trust me, it doesn't get any more black and white than extinction.

Gun control is every bit the black and white issue that global warming is, and it demands the same all-out war that climate scientists have waged on behalf of the environment. Half measures will not work. The Left must pull out all the stops and educate the public on what the Second Amendment actually says, not what the NRA would like people to think it says.

For instance, most people, when you bring up the Amendment, don't even know that the first part of it deals directly with a "well-regulated militia." Any objective reading of it must conclude that the intent of the Founders was to protect the rights of those militia men to own and possess guns for the "security" of the nation. If, as the NRA maintains, the Amendment was intended to guarantee the right of all people to own and possess guns, why bother to include the militias at all? We are, after all, talking about learned men who were brilliant and light years ahead of their time. They chose their words carefully. It is inconceivable to me that they would leave something this important to chance.

The thing is, I don't believe they did. I think they fully expected us to use our common sense and arrive at the same conclusion they made over 200 years ago. We haven't had any need for militias since the formation of a free-standing army, so basically, we don't really need the Second Amendment. It's about as relevant now as the Eighteenth was when it was finally repealed in 1933.

Now I fully realize this will be a difficult case to make, especially in a country that is as in love with its guns as ours. No other nation on Earth has a history that celebrates gun ownership in such a manner. Even among people who support "common-sense" gun regulation, a majority still believe that the right to own a gun is sacrosanct. If the specter of 20 children being shot to death in a school hasn't changed their minds, it is doubtful anything can.

But that is no excuse for not trying. As a Christian, my faith teaches me that God is far more interested with our character than our comfort. It's high time we started doing some character building, good people. To simply throw up our hands in disgust while so many of our brothers and sisters pay the ultimate price betrays the very scripture we claim to hold dear. At the one-year anniversary of Newtown, I wrote the following in a letter to the children who were slaughtered:
It is not enough just to honor your memory with a moment of silence. Silence has been our problem all along. If we are truly interested in honoring your memory, we must shout out at the tops of our lungs that we are tired of burying our children like this. This madness must end.
Another word for madness is insanity. And the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

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