Did I Ever Once Pray?

I am trying to remember if I ever once prayed for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing.

I know I prayed — and fervently — that the FBI would get the right person or persons. The only thing worse than being a victim of one of these things would be to be accused of it and not have done it.

I wanted the right people to get got.

I think I prayed before the execution of one of the perpetrators. I remember I was upset about the idea of them strapping him down and killing him like he was an animal in a slaughter house. I never confused him with an animal. I always knew he was human and that what he had done was a specifically human act.

I did not want him executed. But once he was dead, I was glad that I would never have to hear any of his comments or words again. I was glad his ashes were scattered. I did not want him to have a grave where people would go and take photos of each other standing beside his marker. I wanted him forgot.

But … did I ever pray for his soul? I think I did, on the day of his execution. But I’m honestly not sure.

I’ve never prayed for it since then. I can tell you that.

I spent far too much time back then, thinking about the perpetrators of this mass murder. It was so premeditated. They planned it and worked toward it for months, robbing for money and resources that they stockpiled until they had enough to build a bomb. This was beyond deliberate. It was something these men worked toward the way better people work toward college degrees or buying their first home. It was a long-term goal for them.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around that. I could not fathom that someone would get up in the morning and go to work building a bomb to kill other people and that they could do it for months. Why would anyone think this was a good idea?

Then, one day, I realized that I would never understand and that I didn’t need to understand. 

I can’t understand Beethoven, either. But for different reasons. I hear the Fifth Symphony and I know that he heard it before he ever wrote a note. He heard all of the instruments in his mind. He heard them individually and together simultaneously. He heard it and he wrote it down with musical notes on a piece of paper so that we could hear it too.

How did he do that? How can anyone do what Beethoven did? I don’t understand because I do not have the talent to fly that high.

Conversely, I don’t understand these cold-blooded killers because I can’t bend down that low. You have to squeeze yourself into a painfully small box to think like these murderers do. You have to amputate large parts of your soul and psyche to shrink it down to something small enough to even begin to comprehend why and how they could decide that doing something like this was a worthy project.

Every time one of these things happens, we are inundated with comments from people who tell us that the killer seemed like one of us. But of course, that’s not true. They’re not like us, at least not in the only thing about them that matters to the rest of us; their murderous desires. The “normal Joe” mass murderer is an ironic viewpoint perpetrated on the rest of us to titillate and engage us. It is not true.

I don’t know and I don’t care why and how they are different. That’s the job of FBI profilers and others with a calling and a dedication that I don’t have.

I suppose, after I write this, I’m going to have to pray for the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s not going to be easy. I will first have to dig them out from the box where I put them long ago.

The one labeled “Trash.”


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Should You Bring Your Guns to Church?

I voted against  a bill to allow clergy to carry firearms while conducting church services about 9 months ago.

My reason?

The bill gave me the creeps.

I know that sounds like a poor way to make a decision about legislation, and I have to admit it wasn’t one of the most deeply-considered votes I’ve cast, but the bill took me by surprise. I was unaware of it until the Floor Leader introduced the author so he could bring it up for a vote on the House floor.

You have to make decisions in that ready-set-vote fashion a lot of the time. Those are the times when it’s not good to try to over-think in a rush. Quickie analysis is often stupid analysis. I’ve found that my first impulse may not be always the one I would chose after I think it over, but it more often is than not. So, when I’m pushed, I go with what my gut and my considerable legislative experience tell me.

I voted against the bill for the simple reason that the idea of preachers packing heat during church services gave me the creeps.

It appears that this bill was the harbinger of things to come. A number of states have introduced and passed legislation that allows parishioners to bring their guns to church, and the number appears to be growing. Proponents of these measures say that 70 people were “violently killed on faith-based property” during church services last year.

I have no idea if they were killed by crazies bursting into churches and shooting people or by rapist/murderers breaking in and attacking church secretaries or what. That information would make  a difference in how I vote on these things in the future.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I think about all these ideas except to say that they are treating the symptom and not the disease. The reason for the senseless violence we are seeing lies, not in inanimate objects, but in ourselves.

I never thought about these things until the Oklahoma City Bombing, but I’ve thought about them quite a lot since then. I still don’t have any quick-fix, short-term solutions for what we are experiencing at the hands of these violent young men. However, I do think the long-term solution is much harder than we want to admit and that this is part of the reason why we reach out for quick fixes involving weapons instead of  more long-term solutions that deal with the people who weld them.

A Baptist Press article about the pistol-packin’ congregants say in part:

NASHVILLE (BP) — As gun control takes high priority on Capitol Hill, state legislatures increasingly are allowing concealed guns in our most sacred place, the church, either for personal protection or for worshippers designated as church security personnel.

Arkansas, on Feb. 4, became the eighth state to pass legislation allowing concealed guns specifically in churches. In a lopsided bipartisan vote, state legislators voted to allow each church to decide whether individuals with concealed carry permits could take guns in church for personal protection.

“A person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security,” the Arkansas Church Protection Act reads, deeming such an option “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety” because “personal security is increasingly important.”

Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming also have laws allowing concealed guns specifically in churches, with varied stipulations, including the possession of a proper permit, training, church approval and congregational awareness, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Additionally, about 20 other states allow guns in churches because of “right to carry” laws, but have not specifically focused on churches in legislation. (Read more here.)

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