Powers and Principalities: The Gun as Idol

I am increasingly convinced that idolatry is a category that Christianity needs to recover.  As long as it remains ignored, a central tenet of Christianity, that an essential aspect of Jesus’s work was to unmask the powers and principalities that order the logic of this world, remains opaque to us.  And as long as this remains opaque, we will continue to worship those powers and principalities.  The suggestion that this is hyperbole and mythology has no purchase with me.  The blood these tyrants drink is real.

The logic of sacrifice that is shattered by the Cross is precisely the logic at work here.  As the letter to the Hebrews rightly notes, this logic is one of ever-increasing offerings.  The only answer when they don’t work is to sacrifice more.  Christ’s once and for all sacrifice is the wrench in this demonic machine.  Its ritual re-presentation, a community meal, quite the antithesis of his bloody death even while it captures the heart of its meaning, stands in stark contrast to the repeated blood offerings demanded by the gods of this world.

Last month, we looked at sacrifices to Mammon.  But Jesus says “Blessed are the poor.”

Today, Gary Wills contemplates the altar of Moloch:

[The gun’s] power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

Adoration of Moloch permeates the country, imposing a hushed silence as he works his will. One cannot question his rites, even as the blood is gushing through the idol’s teeth. The White House spokesman invokes the silence of traditional in religious ceremony. “It is not the time” to question Moloch. No time is the right for showing disrespect for Moloch.

But Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Was Jesus being hyperbolic when he told us not to worry about tomorrow?  Or was he warning us how our perceived needs for material goods and personal security can become so pathological that, in the end, our shopping will make us all bankrupt and our self-defense will get us all killed?


Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto and Hanrahan Scholar-in-Residence at St. Mark’s College in Vancouver. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one.

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  • Jordan

    Thank you very much Brett for this well considered post. I live about 35 km (20 mi) from Newtown. This corner of New England is usually known for its dairies and the fall foilage, not the horror which has taken place. I say the following with trepidation, but I believe it must be said.

    Garry Wills’ startling comparison of gun proliferation in the United States to a collective national sacrifice at the altar of Moloch is so very apt. It is said that parents who sacrificed their infants to Moloch could not shed a tear at the immolation of their child unless the sacrifice were for naught. I have read the online thoughts of not a few gun owners, proud NRA members even. Every one of these owners’ thought does not strike me as sociopathic. Almost all gun owners, I suspect, do genuinely sorrow at what has happened in Newtown and in similar incidences across America. They fear for their relatives and friends. Yet, the very last act not a few would want to do is surrender any arms, even arms whose only value is to kill human beings swifly, such as assault rifles. To lay down arms would be the tear shed, the recognition that the Moloch of virtually unrestricted gun proliferation no longer can protect them.

    To lay down arms and renounce Moloch is perhaps not a moral step quite a few are ready to take. Moloch thrives because many Americans have tied their self-identity and body sovereignty to the gun through the perception of fear, just as devotees of ancient Moloch sacrificed their children perhaps because they could think of no other way to ameliorate desperation and hunger.

    The holy innocents of Newtown feared no one man named Herod. We are all Herod and all weeping Rachel unless Americans limit arms to only what is needed to sustain through hunting and provide personal security from assault, not military munitions. It is time for the American people to shed that tear.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova Morning’s Minion

    Channeling Cardinal Tagle: “How many innocent children have been sacrificed to the false god called the second amendment”?

    • Julia Smucker

      Did Tagle say that? My respect for him just went up another notch or several.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova Morning’s Minion

        He didn’t say that exactly. But he did say this: “How many people have exchanged the true God for idols like profit, prestige, pleasure and control? Those who worship false gods also dedicate their lives to them. In reality these false gods are self-interests.

        To keep these false gods, their worshipers sacrifice other people’s lives and the earth. It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of “progress”? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?”

  • bill bannon

    Guns are the main problem in the US for our ghetto youth killings which are stretched out over the months each year and do not receive anywhere’s near the empathy Newtown is receiving from the whole world. But I think ironically mental illness combined with youth alienation is more of the problem in these mass murders in schools. McVeigh killed 19 children inter alia with a bomb…no gun needed. Most Mafia gangsters kill less people in a lifetime than these loner mass murderers do in a day…and mafia people worship the gun.
    The guns are a part of it but radically alienated young males are a bigger part. Timothy McVeigh killed a total 168 people and injured 800 without a gun at all. But he was radically alienated. Switzerland has guns in a high percent of homes due to militia obligations but Switzerland is homogenous ethnically and feels like family…ergo they do not have our murder rate. Serbian prison inmates have knives for cutting food in their prison cells (unthinkable in the US) because Serbia is homogenous ethnically and feels like family.
    The Pope’s private guard carry Sig Sauer pistols just as this boy did in Newtown…but they don’t run off and kill kindergartners. Our ethnically heterogenous nature…plus guns…plus freedom from mandated mental health care laws plus violent videos etc. are pieces of a matrix that makes these things recur here and not in homogenous countries. Remove only the guns without removing the other pieces…and we’ll be back to McVeigh who was more deadly than all the school gun people.

  • http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/ Rodak

    A legal gun, a legal rifle, once fallen into the hands of a person who has lost his soul to dark powers beyond his control, is every bit as lethal as an illegal gun. Police need guns. Soldiers need guns. Despite the desire of many American males to play Davey Crockett in the woods, nobody really needs to hunt. I have no sympathy for the hunters and their lobbyists. How many children die annually due to firearms purchased for hunting, or for “home protection?” Enough is enough. The statistics tell it all. The country is possessed by a madness. Call it Moloch. Or call it Satan. It has to be faced honestly and it has to be addressed realistically.

  • Marv

    There is a public outcry our President weeps when one man with mental problem kills 20+ innocent people with a gun.

    Where is the outcry when that same President goes back to the Oval Office and orders over 300 unmanned drone attacks which in Pakistan alone have resulted in up to 3200 deaths with up to 800 of those civilian and up to 178 of those are children.

    Where is the outcry when Madeline Albright engages in this exchange on 60 Minutes:

    Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.
    –60 Minutes (5/12/96)

    Yes the deaths of 20 children at the hands of Mr. Lanza are tragic but the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children at the hands of Presidents Bush (1 and 2), Clinton and Obama are even more tragic. Their hypocracy and double standard (and that of their supporters) is disgusting.

    • Brian Martin

      amen

  • dominic1955

    If you really want to quit sacrificing at the “altar of Moloch” then start banning cleaning chemicals, 5 gal. buckets and backyard pools. If we want to feel all self-righteous, why not really get to the roots of our commercialist greed and our individualist selfishness and get rid of our person altar and idol-the car? Inconvenient? Well, then obviously we don’t believe enough.

    The largest school killing happened a long time ago and didn’t involve a gun. There is evil in the world, you cannot legislate that away. Get rid of guns you primarily do an injustice to the law abiding. While we are at it, let’s just all live in padded rooms. Who wants to, go ahead and ban guns for yourselves. It won’t do much of anything, but I supposed you can pat yourselves on the back and feel morally superior to us. Bravo.

    I’m suprised that the shrill hysterics and hand-wringing aren’t near as bad as I thought they were going to be. Blame guns-yep, that’s the problem. Justify it with smug self-rightousness. Somebody do something!

    • dominic1955

      Also, these sorts of responses lead one to ponder who really has set up the fetish. The fetish only has the “power” given to it, after all. I notice that its usually folks wholly ignorant of guns, their history, their use etc. that make them a fetish to be held in stupefyingly terrible awe, the kind of mouth-breathing enthrallment only troglodytes like me are supposed to exhibit. As we (hopefully) know, anything can be an idol. Money can be an idol…or just something we use to get through life. Alchohol can be an idol to the one enslaved by addiction…or just a social lubricant and merriment enabler. Everything in moderation, abusus non tollit usum, et cetera.

      Check out a few facts on the matter-

      http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

      I’d personally really appreciate it that if banning guns is just a cathartic excercise for some to try to make them feel better about the outbursts of evil in the world that they’d consider a different excercise (breathing into a brown bag, smelling salts, excercise, herbal tea, etc.). Those would all be much less drastic and divisive than trying to disenfranchise your fellow citizens. Thanks.

      • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

        Dominic – Please. I speak as a hunter and gun owner, ok?

        Are you saying you know nothing of the loony conspiracy theories and paranoia that are a commonplace of the gun culture in the USA?

        • dominic1955

          I know of lots of conspiracy theories in “gun culture” and many other circles. Things like the NWO is run by Skull and Crossbones/Jews/Freemasons/etc. ad nauseam, the U.N. is part of this, etc. etc. etc. I wouldn’t say that is part of the ethos of all or even most gun owners. We all have concerns, legitimized by knee-jerk reactions but none of us have to resort to appealing to the evil machinations of the NWO.

          What does that have to do with what I’ve said? The fetish in those cases are the impending sense of doom from above on account of shadowy figures pulling the strings behind the stage and the common man being largely unable to do anything about it.

    • trellis smith

      The only post justifying itself with smug self righteousness is your own of do nothingness.

      • dominic1955

        There is nothing to do but pray. Running around Chicken Little style accomplishes grand squat.

        When the dust settles and people chill out, we probably should look into having a serious discussion about mental illness, the mental health field, and the pall of disgrace that still hangs around seeking treatment and/or help for mental issues.

        • trellis smith

          Again I don’t see an irresponsible chicken little response but at last an appropriate more hopeful one where the discussion begins right here, right now. A do nothing but pray approach is that of an ostrich head in the sand to continue the fowl metaphor. We know a lot already and have failed to act. I have no absolutist position and fully understand a multi prong approach, but an ideological stance cannot blind us to the facts and its relevant solutions. That may include requiring armed security at schools, as repellant as that may be to my ideology or a ban on multi shot magazines as may be repellant to you.
          I’ll leave you with one fact: In the 18 years before the gun laws, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, while during the 11 years after the gun law reforms, there were none.

        • dominic1955

          I agree, an ideological stance should not blind us to the facts and relevant solutions. Did you read that journal article I posted? You really should.

          Generally when governments restrict firearm ownership so much, mass shootings and killings to the tune of thousands or millions result. Folks will probably say that’s just the paranoia Matt was referencing, and I suppose that was said many times over. If you had told the peoples of Germany and Russia only a few years before their evil totalitarian dictatorships set up shop of the mass murder and evils that were to befall them in the very near future, I’m sure they would have looked at you like you had two heads.

          When any of us start to be willing to trade our freedoms (and no, they are not just selfish, individualist perks) for “security” falsely so-called, we should not be shocked when we end up with neither.

  • http://rosenzweigshmuesn.blogspot.com/ danielimburgia

    Guns don’t kill people, bad theology kills people?

    Like gun control legislation, because of all the passion surrounding recent events maybe some will think that now is not the time to talk about “bad theology.” But if not now when is the right time, how many children have to be put at risk before we act to protect them? So I want to start a conversation about how to engage “bad theology.” Theology is like a gun, it makes no difference till it does, then it makes all the difference that counts. Like a gun, when you need theology most it seems to fail you. One is as likely to be hurt or destroyed by bad theology as helped or saved by good theology. Most bad theology starts in the home, and many of those children hurt by bad theology, are hurt by a parent or relative. Like using guns, using theology, even at home, requires no special license, training, knowledge, or practice. But as much as I would like to save all the people harmed or killed, I don’t think there is any way to regulate theology sufficiently in this country that wouldn’t cause an even greater harm. Yet bad theology is responsible, in part, for the death of thousands of innocent people every year, mostly children. There are responsible users of theology of course, and some of them try to challenge and correct the bad use of theology, yet despite their best efforts bad theology seems to be increasing. Every year producers, collectors, purveyors, and voyeurs of bad theology meet at conventions and trade shows all around this country and distribute theology without any oversight into the hands of un-professionals without any way to track what they intend to do with the theology they acquire. Even worse, bad theology is in some ways more dangerous than guns; guns can only take a physical life once, but bad theology threatens to kill your soul as well, and most at risk is the soul of the bad theologian. The U.S. constitution gives americans the right to do theology without interference by the state, even the right to use, promote, sell, demonstrably dangerous theology. Indeed, the state itself, as we know it, is sustained by really bad theology. But of the few places one can avoid the overt practice of theology, american public schools, some zealous proponents of theology are working feverishly to impose theology on teachers and students. No amount of security can make a school completely safe from bad theology, but we must try and maintain schools as secure, theology-free zones. Children are first the children of God, we shouldn’t kill them, any of them, their bodies or their souls (that’s an example of good theology). Obliged.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs

      @daniellimburgia,

      If that was all tongue in cheek, well then it was pretty funny. If that was all serious, then, no offense, but you sound like a crazyperson.

      • danielimburgia

        @PPF, Over the last week I have heard powerful, prominent, intelligent, pastors, theologians, people whose opinions are respected by millions of people, people reckoned to be quite sane say things that amounted to ‘God let those kids in Newtown be killed because the Almighty couldn’t pass through the liberal anti-god force field erected around public schools’). So count me proudly among the bat-sh%#t crazy brother. There’s nothing tongue and cheek about calling the theology of…say George Bush for example, (which is/was shared by around 50% of americans) despicable, heretical, and murderously dangerous. I would rather that George B had stuck with cocaine, whiskey , and whores, and never asked Jesus into his heart and maybe some tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani children would still be alive. Blessings and obliged.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/category/brett-salkeld/ brettsalkeld

          I, too, had wondered exactly which angle your original post was coming from. This clears things up.

          Yes, the suggestion that we can blame this on taking prayer out of schools, or some other oversimplified we kicked God out of the culture rant, is terrible theology, of which many Christians, it seems, need to be disabused.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/barefootandpregnant/2012/12/how-not-to-respond.html

      • danielimburgia

        @ Brettsalked +@PPF, Brett, there was no reply box below your comment so I’m replying down here. Your blog post is a much better and less oblique of way saying something similar to me. What can I say, I’m a poet/artist not an intellectual or theologian. @PPF see Brett’s excellent response on his blog (of course, just because Brett and I agree on some things, doesn’t mean I’m not a crazy person). Blessings and obliged.

  • Kerberos

    Idolatry is probably universal. Nice to see this sin of all sins being recognised for what it is. Now if only the clergy would do likewise…

  • Jordan

    re: dominic1955 [December 17, 2012 8:07 pm]: Dominic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer resisted the evils of the Nazi state not with a rifle. He laid down his life when he answered his Savior’s call and emphatically denied evil by imitating Christ’s eternal-life-restoring atonement.

    Few are willing to take up Bonhoeffer’s awesome rejection of abject evil with sacrifice of the self. Most of us shudder before the possibility of martyrdom. Yet what could be more Christian than the rejection of the collection of arms for its own sake as if an arsenal insulates the self with the illusion of absolute human freedom and safety? To turn to Christ, drop the sword, and take up the vulnerability of the plowshare has been one of the most difficult and ongoing processes in my life.

    • http://giftofself.blogspot.com/ Joshua B

      Well said, Jordan.

    • dominic1955

      That is good for him, one should be able to decide what their call is in a particular situation.

      We’ve always considered it legitimate to defend yourself, we’ve always considered it legitimate to enjoy your own property. As to insulation and illusions, there is no point in playing psychological projections pissing match.

      However, back to the first point-that is for you to decide for yourself alone. Hand and feet, eyes and ears-its all good for the body, no? Just like when a man or woman takes vows of religion, to forsake spouse, children, property, autonomy, etc. for the sake of following Christ closer-it is something that is not commanded for all to that same degree. The legitimate enjoyment of domestic life is not contrary to the evangelical counsels, and the legitimate enjoyment of firearms is not contrary to peace.

      • dominic1955

        As an aside, I usually do not listen to the local “shock jock” (I don’t even know if that’s applicable anymore how jaded we are) radio personages. Their show is vulgar, they act like perpetual adolescents, and they are simple-mindedly liberal/progressive in their outlook. Today, they thought the listening audience needed a harangue on the “idiocy” of the NRA and why no one needs “clips” that hold more than 10 rounds and on and on. In the next breath, they are making a Rockwell-esque yarn of Ron Jeremy and Larry Flint like they are dear cousins and some guy that runs a whorehouse in Vegas is like the kind neighbor down the street. This is what I see in these discussions in the more general sphere-stock ignorance, arrogance, phobia and moral decrepitude. Its not just the “shock jocks”, I’ve been seeing this response constantly on social media, the news, op-ed pieces, etc. etc. What is really wrong here? Self-government demands, what was it again? Oh, yes-virtue! Any society demands virtue. Ban all the guns you want, nothing is really going to change until we turn hearts to what is true and good.

        As an gun enthusiast myself (obviously) I am also disappointed in the response of the usual suspects. Diane Feinstein wants to reintroduce her asinine “assault weapons” ban, the one based on scary parts. She always distinguished herself in her “show and tell” of how these evil guns with their “banana clips” and “extra high powered baby killing ammunition” are this big threat to society while she tries sticking an M1 Carbine mag into an AK and sweeping the crowd of useful idiot “journalists” with this thing-finger on the trigger. More ignorance and stupidity-but from people who can actually legislate!

        • trellis smith

          @dominic1955.”When any of us start to be willing to trade our freedoms (and no, they are not just selfish, individualist perks) for “security” falsely so-called, we should not be shocked when we end up with neither.”
          But isn’t this exactly what those with a gun fetish are doing? What type of free society does one really have when we live terrorized by the possibility of a not only the deranged shooting multiple rounds into schools or movie theaters but in some neighborhoods and byways drive by shootings are a daily occurrence which adds up to a mortality beyond the losses of our military conflicts.

          And WTF is a “gun enthusiast”? Again I can understand the necessary evil not so much as legitimate self defense but to defend and protect the innocent. To hold a gun in your hand and feel its power to destroy and be enthusiastic about it is if not evil then a really bad case of penis envy.
          As for assault weapons we have plenty examples of the stunts which have been massacres and so it seems to me you are falling back into an absolutist position unwilling even to seek to lessen the lethality of these attacks.

          Our fallback absolutist position as Christians to which you concur,apparently without any irony, must be in the form of a realization that ultimately our security lies only within the divine not with our guns, our missiles, tanks, drones or warheads. Individually we must disarm ourselves and hear the angel voices to “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy…For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”

        • dominic1955

          Those with a gun fetish…are you speaking about people like yourself? Maybe I’ve spoken with too many statists over the years, but this post seems to drip with that irrationalist fear I spoke of earlier. I apologize if this isn’t the case and I am just reading into it.

          You see, I don’t go around terrorized by much of anything. Actually, I pretty much just try to live a good life and roll with the punches. Actually I have a much better chance dying in my drive to or from work than getting shot by a looney or anyone. As to your little quip about mortality rates, are you serious? I suppose more people have died in drive by shootings and such than died in our little run in with those pirates from Tripoli back in the early 1800’s but otherwise, not so much. Tone down the hysteria. Back home in my little town, we didn’t worry about any of this stuff-and we’re awash in guns. I constantly roamed the countryside with an old military bolt action strapped to my back and guess what? It wasn’t because of “fear”. It only makes sense to take reasonable precautions (there were mountain lions out there) but what I usually did was target shoot.

          Hmm…why “TF” am I talking to a wall I sometimes ask myself in these discussions, but dum spiro spero. You must be from the city, no? Do yourself a favor and Google something like Schutzenfest. I know its going to be hard to let go of your bigoted pre-conceived notions of gun owners as evil or having “penis envy” (Look that term up too, while you are at it), but there is more to them than “destruction”. Legitimate fun can be had, and people like me collect them. There is no reason for me to give you a “legitimate reason” why I do so. Why do you do half the stuff you do on a daily basis? Would you like to have someone decide if all that is worthwhile?

          Seek to lessen the lethality of such attacks, seems to me that if some concerned citizen had a gun, they can do something about it. Long, long ago people figured out that people do awful things to each other. The way we’ve dealt with it was to defend ourselves-individually or socially. Limiting cosmetic features on guns is just a statist way to look good to an emotionalist populace.

          http://www.keepandbeararms.com/information/XcIBViewItem.asp?ID=399

          Like I said in another post, none of what you quoted from the Bible is in contradiction to what I’ve said. If you would like to be a pacifist, then more power to you. However, once your personal pacifist convictions morph into misdirected collectivist powergrabs, don’t be suprised if folks are not too keen on that.

    • http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com Rodak

      @ Jordan —

      Bravo!

      • trellis smith

        As to statistics I was quoting from Mayor Bloomberg who was referring to a totality of gun violence deaths not just drivebys. So to be clear:

        Gun violence is uniquely an American public health problem compared to other industrialized countries. The rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 individuals in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom is 0.1, 0.5, and 0.03, respectively. In the U.S., the overall rate is 2.98. In some cities, the rates are five to ten times that number. The fatality rate in Los Angeles is 9.2, in Miami it’s 23.7 and in Detroit the rate is a staggering 35.9 deaths per 100,000 residents. According to data assembled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIJP), about 85 people in the U.S. are killed everyday in firearm-related incidents.( compared to 93 automotive fatalities/year) The most recent available NCIJP data thus identified more than 31,000 firearm-related deaths in the U.S., including 17,000 from suicide and 13,000 from homicide.

        Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Among 15–24 year olds, homicide is the leading cause of death among blacks and the second leading cause of death for Hispanics. Homicide ranks second for Asian/Pacific Islanders ages 15–19 years and is the third leading cause of death for American Indians/Alaska Natives between the ages of 15–24 years. There are substantial racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in rates of serious youth violence such as homicide. For each homicide among youth aged 10–24, there may be as many as 1,000 nonfatal violent assaults.
        Recently in the United States, overall homicide levels have fluctuated minimally. However, those involving young people, particularly young black males, have been on the rise. From 2002 to 2007, homicides involving black male juveniles as victims rose by 31% and as perpetrators by 43%.7

        Public policy and laws must be enacted rationally with an effective goal but there is nothing wrong in initiating action from the emotionalism of the grief of the slaughter of the innocents. Indeed it is the only time we are sufficiently awake to take action. To label that as liberal hysteria only opens one to the charge of indifferent callousness that admits no action at all. And in response to that the rhetoric should be amped up rather than toned down.

        For the record I am not a pacifist though i would not intentionally take another life to save my own. I live in a small western mountain town similarly populated with hunters and gun owners who i do not disparage and who do not for the most part indulge in Red Dawn fantasies and in varying degrees believe in rational controls. I have however encountered “enthusiasts” and absolutists there, more than I care to know whose pathological attachment to their guns can be so described as a fetish. To me all you offer is a false dichotomy as no one is remotely suggesting a collectivist power grab of firearms or a desire to pry Charlton Heston’s gun from his cold dead hands.

        Still on this issue, by the example of Jesus, the burden of proof of discipleship still lies with those who ” trust God but keep the powder dry”.
        I’ll leave you in possession of the field.

        • dominic1955

          Here’s some more stats for your reading pleasure.

          http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

          One point on your numbers, when it comes to suicides and inner city violence-how, praytell, is that your average gun owner’s fault? Someone wants to off themselves, if they don’t have a gun they’ll just do it some other way. Gang crimes in the inner city, again, not my problem if folks are hell-bent on not figuring out how to live. Chicago has some of the most fascistic gun laws in the country and a horrendous murder rate. If the inner city were all moral, law abding people (and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plenty of good people there) they wouldn’t be shooting eachother up. I presently live in a city-no shots in my neighborhood and no its not exclusive or gated. Practically all of it goes on in the “ghetto”-also where all sorts of problems run rampant. Why is it that the folks in my neighborhood don’t shoot each other up? Its not that we lack guns-we probably have more.

          “Public policy and laws must be enacted rationally with an effective goal but there is nothing wrong in initiating action from the emotionalism of the grief of the slaughter of the innocents.”

          How, praytell, are you going to bring rationality out of rank emotionalism? The imams of crazy liberal land are already doing their damnedest to show what fools they are, calling on Wayne LaPierre et al. to be killed and that the NRA is somehow to blame for this. What wonderful logic! If the NRA (and gun owners at large) are to blame for this, homosexuals are to blame for male on male child rape.

          Also, very basic concept, you never do ANYTHING all hopped up on passions. Why are sins mitigated (to some degree) on account of passions? Well, they TAKE AWAY rationality.

          “Indeed it is the only time we are sufficiently awake to take action.”

          See above.

          “To label that as liberal hysteria only opens one to the charge of indifferent callousness that admits no action at all.”

          I’m not in middle school anymore so I could care less what some of the other kids say.

          “And in response to that the rhetoric should be amped up rather than toned down.”

          Der Reichstagsbrand.

          Hmm…small western mountain town. Transplant or grew up there?

          “To me all you offer is a false dichotomy as no one is remotely suggesting a collectivist power grab of firearms or a desire to pry Charlton Heston’s gun from his cold dead hands.”

          Even useful idiots are not stupid enough to lay it out like that. Its done piecemeal, boiling the frog, starting with “reasonable” regulations like the previously mentioned “assault weapons” ban.

  • Brian Martin

    Jordan, it is all well and good to make a martyr of oneself. However, if someone tries to harm my family, I will sadly use whatever force is necessary to defend my wife and daughters.
    Trellis, your scorn and derision aimed at people who enjoy firearms is mindnumbing in it’s simplicity. You lump all gun owners together as mindless neanderthals with “penis envy”.
    How is that any different from my stating that all African Americans are murderous thugs because my buddy was shot by a member of the Crips? Of me diciding all priests are closet pedophiles because a few priests are?
    I hold a gun in my hand and I think of the targets I can shoot. I tried hunting and I don’t like killing things, and I simply cannot imagine shooting a person…except perhaps if my family was being harmed…but I love shooting firearms, from so called assault weapons to muzzle loaders.
    The fact is, history is full of people killing each other and even groups of others, long before firearms were invented.
    Banning guns does not solve a bloody thing…other than some emotional response on the part of some well meaning people.
    As an aside, I find it humorous how often we find out that the vocal elite who want to take away the guns of the common man often either have a permit for themselves or have armed guards.

    • trellis smith

      Mr. Martin,
      Please read my post (which may appear above yours) which may clarify my position which is more closely related to your own. Yet even in my original post i was not referring to “all” gun owners. I do disagree that banning firearms doesn’t solve anything as the evidence contradicts you, however a total ban is not my position But to adopt a defeatist or absolutist attitude regarding gun controls and gun violence involves a complicity akin to the clerical culture complicity and coverup in pedophile crimes. There is a systemic sin that adheres to both.

      • Brian Martin

        Thank you, and yes, we are much closer in thinking than i first thought.
        However, I stand by my statement regarding banning guns…or even high capacity magazines….I can find no evidence that the Assault Weapons Ban that expired had any significant impact on the number of school shootings.. In the years of the ban 1994-2004 there were around 280 school fatalities from shootings (including suicide) in the years following the expiration of the ban, (and I counted all the incidents from 2004, because i was too lazy to see what month it expired) there have been 94 school fatalities (including Suicides) While I am smart enough to know there are other variables, at the very least, it suggests that the ban had little effect. The worst school attack that I can find in US history occurred long before so call assault weapons existed, and took place in Michigan…Bath Township, and involved explosives.
        As fo gun violence in general, it seems disingenuous to lump it all together.
        I also have seen a list of incidents at schools which were stopped because of the presence of an armed civilian or off duty police officer.
        Yes, it’s time for a meaningful conversation, but it should be a conversation about a society that worships at the altar of death, from it’s abortion on demand to it’s willingness to use military might, to it’s entertainment industry that glorifies violence, to parents who allow little kids to play mindlessly violent video games and watch violent movies…
        A country that will not adequately fund the treatment of the mentally ill, or address the desperate economic issues in inner cities that encourage the growth of illegal markets for drugs and firearms….so no, banning guns, or high capacity magazines does not seem to me to be anything short of a hysterical action designed to feel good.

        • Brian Martin

          Also, the largest mass killing in US history involved box cutters and airplanes.

  • Jordan

    re: dominic1955 [December 18, 2012 7:49 pm]: I’m not quite sure what you mean by the term “statist”. You’ve often used this word here on VN, but without actually defining the term as you understand it. One could say that socialism or even social-democracy is no more statist than Dominionism. Is the opposition of statism anarchy?

    Dominic, you have written in the post I have referenced, “Long, long ago people figured out that people do awful things to each other. The way we’ve dealt with it was to defend ourselves-individually or socially.” Yet, those who support gun control and the even more limited group of Christian pacifists do not fail to recognize the danger inherent in the reality that evil persons, the mentally ill, and criminals in society possess weapons. Instead, one might say that the “gun-skeptical” do believe that the expontential proliferation of guns in American society can serve no end other than a cyclical repetition of mass violence in society. The general availability of large capacity clips and semi-automatic rifles speaks of a society which cannot act in commonweal or a society which has lost a sense of polity. Gun proliferation, then, not only speaks of a profound distrust in many forms of government, but also the atomization of the population into individuals entangled in a perpetual mutual suspicion.

    Is autarchy “freedom”? Or, are possessions and the desire for materiel protection a metaphorical servitude which excludes charity? Didache 3.5 (Kirsopp Lake, Apostolic Fathers, Loeb):

    “My child, be not a liar, for lying leads to theft, nor a lover of money, nor vain-glorious, for from all these things are thefts engendered.” (my emphasis)

    The Greek for “nor a lover of money”, μηδὲ φιλάργυρος, contains multiple meanings. One meaning for φιλάργυρος is greed, but another is avarice or miserliness. The procurement of a handgun for self-defense or for the singular purpose of hunting is different than the brandishing of arms as a symbol of status and also as a cache against the perceived physical threat of others. Not one meaning of φιλάργυρος refers to the construction of a state (unless one wishes to consider the Didachist’s liturgical community as a political being).

    • dominic1955

      When I use the term “statist” I mean it in its more totalitarian or headed-towards-totalitarianism incarnations. The way of looking to the government as a sort of temporal savior to solve the ills of society is “statist”, especially the more secularist it is. When people are willing to hand over their responsibility to the State, that is statism.

      “Instead, one might say that the “gun-skeptical” do believe that the expontential proliferation of guns in American society can serve no end other than a cyclical repetition of mass violence in society.”

      The FBI estimates there are about 200 million guns in private hands in this country. I really doubt the vast majority of them “can serve no end other than a cyclical repetition of mass violence.” Mine are being good, at least…

      “The general availability of large capacity clips…”

      Sorry, I know this is going to come off pedantic but you are refering to magazines. A “clip” in reference to a gun is a piece of metal that holds generally 3-10 rounds to be stripped off the clip into the magazine (ala Mauser) or to be put into the magazine en-bloc (ala Mannlicher). Pet peeve of mine, but usually a good canary on what a person knows of guns.

      “…and semi-automatic rifles speaks of a society which cannot act in commonweal or a society which has lost a sense of polity.”

      Semi-automatic rifles and pistols have been available for over 100 years. Before 1934, practically anyone could buy any fully automatic weapon they wanted. Up until the mid 1960s or so, it wasn’t hard to get your hands on war trophy machineguns. They used to “deactivate” them by doing stuff like throwing the magazine overboard when troops were shipping off back home. Granted there certainly were problems, but I think we had our act together as a society back then than we do now.

      “Gun proliferation, then, not only speaks of a profound distrust in many forms of government…”

      Our Founding Fathers had the good sense that people shouldn’t just sheepishly “trust” the government. Then again, they probably never invisioned the bloated bureaucracy we have now anyway. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. There is a reason we haven’t turned into a totalitarian mess-Americans do not sheepishly trust government to take care of them, to hold there hand from cradle to grave.

      “…but also the atomization of the population into individuals entangled in a perpetual mutual suspicion.”

      That, or maybe people had a more internal sense of solidarity at one time. I know this is just personal experience, but back home we left our house doors unlocked, we left our keys in our cars and we knew our neighbors-and we were awash in guns, including the ones with all the “naughty bits”.

      • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

        When I use the term “statist” I mean it in its more totalitarian or headed-towards-totalitarianism incarnations.

        When righties use the word “statist” they usually are referring to the government stepping in to relieve suffering and prevent exploitation, particularly the suffering and exploitation that became commonplace in the wake of the industrial revolution. Plus, I think you’re just throwing “totalitarianism” in there to try and draw a line from social-democratic-type policies to Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. It’s one of the more ridiculous tropes of the American right.

        Our Founding Fathers had the good sense that people shouldn’t just sheepishly “trust” the government. Then again, they probably never envisioned the bloated bureaucracy we have now anyway. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. There is a reason we haven’t turned into a totalitarian mess-Americans do not sheepishly trust government to take care of them, to hold [their] hand from cradle to grave.

        Dominic, we don’t live in a world that much resembles the world of 1789. New citizens and new circumstances require new laws; if you don’t like citizens using their government to solve the systemic problems created by industrialization, then either come up with solutions that will be as comprehensive, swift and certain as our government solutions, or else tell us in detail how you plan to replace industrial civilization.

        • dominic1955

          You might think it ridiculous, but this (‘social-democratic’ or Soviet style ‘assistance’) is not really the government’s business. This was supposed to be a free country, not a nanny state. As such, the less intrusive the government is, the better. Besides, the more vituous a people is, the less of any sort of need for a government to step in.

          There is nothing new under the sun, it is quite irrelevant that this isn’t 1789. We have (maybe had) a principled state set up, and one of those principles wasn’t to solve world peace or hunger or “systemic problems” set up by industrialization.

          What a silly demand, there is no need for “solutions” to anything from the government. We sure as hell do not need some liberal bureaucrats telling people what they should or shouldn’t own or that they need to pay said bureaucrats more money to sink into their moronic programs. Here’s one for you, if you love soft socialism so much than move to Canada or Mexico.

          • Julia Smucker

            Dominic, you are setting up a false dichotomy. Let’s get one thing clear: extreme individualism and extreme statism are both tyrannical. (The Church certainly knows this; just read any of the social encyclicals.) In other times and places it has been otherwise, but individualism is the greater danger in the current state of the American Experiment. And both political parties are beholden to it, which is why the same principle of individual rights (understood as unrestricted autonomy to do whatever one chooses) is invoked to defend the easing of restrictions on both gun ownership and abortion.

            I hasten to add that I do see some statist overtones creeping into the Democratic party line, in reaction to the extreme anti-government line among Republicans under Tea Party sway. As I’ve said before, the reaction is understandable but is also an overcorrection. Having inherited a deep suspicion of state power from my Anabaptist ancestors (and with Servant of God Dorothy Day looking over my shoulder along with them), I bristle when I hear Democrats start to talk as if the government must be all things to all people.

            This is where polarization has gotten us: an all-or-nothing approach to government. Church teaching offers us an antidote to this dichotomy, if we will only take it seriously.

          • Julia Smucker

            And as I recall, Dominic, you didn’t seem to have a problem with using state power to execute heretics. Is that what you call an unintrusive government?

          • http://populisthope.blogspot.com Matt Talbot

            You might think it ridiculous, but this (‘social-democratic’ or Soviet style ‘assistance’) is not really the government’s business.

            Again with the communism thing, Dominic. The choices aren’t 1. The Government does nothing to address any problems resulting from industrialization, or 2. Soviet Communism.

            This was supposed to be a free country, not a nanny state. As such, the less intrusive the government is, the better. Besides, the more virtuous a people is, the less of any sort of need for a government to step in.

            And lefties are supposedly the utopians?? While I agree that a world without sin would be wonderful, a world with sin in it needs some means of restraining human wickedness.

            You can’t disagree with this in principle. Suppose I’m a very rich explosives manufacturer, the biggest in the country, and I am in the habit of building my explosives factories next to elementary schools that serve poor children because they are a source of cheap labor. Every few years, my profits take a minor hit when Things Go Terribly Wrong at one of these factories and obliterates a bunch of children. Other than coming to me as an individual and asking nicely that I stop endangering children, what is to be done?

            There is nothing new under the sun, it is quite irrelevant that this isn’t 1789. We have (maybe had) a principled state set up, and one of those principles wasn’t to solve world peace or hunger or “systemic problems” set up by industrialization.

            So, nothing should have been done about child labor, the poisoning of our water supplies by heavy industry, the destabilizing effects of too much wealth concentration, and so on??

            What a silly demand, there is no need for “solutions” to anything from the government. We sure as hell do not need some liberal bureaucrats telling people what they should or shouldn’t own or that they need to pay said bureaucrats more money to sink into their moronic programs. Here’s one for you, if you love soft socialism so much than move to Canada or Mexico.

            …and again with the “Anything Other Than Extreme Laissez Faire Is Communism” thing. The Extremes are: 1. The Government doing absolutely nothing (see the desolate, wooden writing of Ayn Rand) and 2. The Government doing absolutely everything (see long, boring Brezhnev speeches from the 1970s.) The great, big, wide, diverse land between these two extremes has lots and lots and lots of stuff in it that is not evil.

  • Agellius

    I consider this is stretch. Obviously it was not self-defense that got those kids killed; it appears to have been mental illness. Self-defense might have saved them from getting killed.

    But I’m not sure what you think the goal is. What would ceasing to worship guns mean to you? To ban them outright? Or some lesser restriction like banning large magazines? Well, suppose we did that. Then, “only” 6 or 7 children might have been killed instead of 26; unless the perpetrator had two guns, in which case it might have been “only” 15. Would we not then hear about how outrageous it is that a gun should hold 8 rounds? And that people should own more than one gun? Should we not limit gun ownership to one single-shot, bolt-action weapon per household?

    I would also point out that in the Rwanda genocide, over half a million people were killed, the vast majority with machetes. Was the root cause of those murders the worship of the machete? On 9/11, was the root cause the worship of airplane projectiles? Was Tim McVeigh a bomb-worshipper?

    Finally, more people are killed annually in car accidents than by guns. Is our refusal to ban cars an indication that we worship them?

    • trellis smith

      If the mass paranoid psychosis as in Rwanda breaks out here i doubt anybody would be left standing. Automotive fatalities are barely greater than gun deaths but more importantly due to to safety regulations and controls the rate is at its lowest in 50 years and dropping,
      As to non gun mass killings regulations and controls were put in place to at least attempt to circumvent these horrors.
      What seems quite a stretch is your attempt to advance an argument of reductio ad absurdum.

      • dominic1955

        That’s not the point. Hundreds of thousands were killed in Rwanda, mostly with machetes and clubs (or guns, in the hands of government troops and supporters mind you). Was it “fetish-ization” of weapons that caused those deaths or something else?

        You can be killed in a car even if you are doing everything right. When I’m at the range, about the last thing on my mind is the remote possibility that one of the old guns I’m shooting is going to blow up and kill me. Its a possibility, but extremely remote. I cannot say the same about getting in the car and driving. While still fairly remote, its much more likely to happen.

        “As to non gun mass killings regulations and controls were put in place to at least attempt to circumvent these horrors.”

        Have you ever bought a gun? Its not a free for all. Its about the only thing I can think of that involves so many hoops to jump through just to purchase. The only guns you can buy without much problem at all are antiques.

      • Agellius

        Trellis writes, “If the mass paranoid psychosis as in Rwanda breaks out here i doubt anybody would be left standing.”

        Which might explain why genocide has not been tried here. Had those Tutsis been armed, would 500,000 of them have been killed?

        However that’s admittedly a side issue. My point is just that calling it idolatry is a non sequitur. People have a strong feeling and opinion that the point of the Second Amendment is to prevent government tyranny. (Now that I think of it, maybe the genocide thing is not a side issue.) Most people accept as a reasonable restriction, not allowing private ownership of bazookas and fully automatic weapons like M-16s. But if they are only to be allowed to own single-shot, bolt-action rifles (no semi-automatics or handguns, is what they suspect is the real goal of the gun control people), what defense is that against a government that has turned against its people?

        Here, I guess, is where Brett’s idolatry argument comes in: People should be willing to give up the ability to defend themselves against a potentially tyrannical government. Take the chance of being defenseless against the government rather than allow the occasional murder of large numbers of people by suicidal nutcases (or of your family by home invaders or whatever).

        It’s a reasonable argument, though again, I think calling it “idolatry” is a stretch. But a reasonable argument is all it is. It’s not an unassailable conclusion that no guns is better than guns. Brett may consider it the height of paranoia to believe our government could ever become tyrannical, resulting in large numbers of people being killed or interned, due to people lacking any way of defending themselves. But can a reasonable argument be made that our government has never become tyrannical because of all the guns out there? Or do we just assume that our government is tyranny-proof, and would remain so even with a completely unarmed populace?

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  • dominic1955

    Julia,

    Yes, I’m well aware of extreme individualism and extreme communalism are both tyrannical and I’ve read all the “social encyclicals” from Rerum Novarum on. I don’t know if I’d agree that individualism is the problem, at least politically. In this society, built as it is on Enlightenment ideas of government and religious liberty, we need a good degree of traditional individualism-I mind my business and you mind yours and this contributes to the common good. We all back then-Catholics, Protestants, and general non-religious but WASPy generally agree on moral issues and so there is no problem with “Merry Christmas” and spanking your kids. That model was not anti-communal, far from it.

    The problem seems to be today that when people say that today what they really mean is, you mind your business when it involves you but any enormity I want is my business AND must be accepted, respected and approved by you too or we are going to make you. This might be theological “individualism” (if I may make up terms) but its very groupthink oriented and tribalistic-thus neither individualistic (removing the beam first) or communalistic (looking out for the true commonweal) in the proper sense. It is individualistic in the sense that it tries to relativise morality (I do what I think is right-but with no deference to any objective standard) but I have a hard time imagining my rugged “inidividualist” ancestors thinking like this. The evil individualism you speak of only became possible when it was possible to go soft in society-practically no one dies early, you rarely have to work up a sweat, and intellectual pursuits are increasingly rarely pursued. Its a mindset akin to masturbation.

    Lastly, as to the issue of the State executing heretics-that is the State in Ideal-World. Yes, if we had a government with people formed and nutured in the right mindsets, philosophies, theologies, etc. and a hegemony in matters religious, then yes it can be an option. The point was, the Church wasn’t wrong in principle.

    However, the U.S. gov’t and all of its bureaucracy of soft-headed liberals, politico hacks and apparatchiks I wouldn’t trust with taking care of a can of play-doh, let alone with who lives and dies or gets committed to the looney-bin or what boom sticks I get.

    Human nature being what it is, and Christendom and its associated world view and culture being a far distant memory, we need less government and less people put above to tell us what to do. More importantly, we need a virtuous citizenry-at least virtuous in the sense that the FF’s were but more the better. I really think the people get the leaders they deserve-both governmental and ecclesiastical. Its really a pickle though, and there are no fast and furious answers to it.

  • dominic1955

    Matt,

    Think about this for a second, this is a combox and I can hardly be expected to write a tome within it. Give me a little credit! I know very well the two options are not laissez faire Capitalism and Communism-nor are there just two options. A government supposedly by and for the people need to trust them a little more.

    Another point-both ways we cannot expect to legislate change and yes, I am well aware of a need of some authority in society. The State and the Church are the two perfect (philosophically) societies. Even at one time when some degree of commonsense reigned, regulations are needed. Finding that proper balance is the problem and as I said above to Julia, less is more in a society such as ours in the state we are in.

    However, the State does have a God-given authority. As such, when they legislate-it is given a certain moral import. That which is legal is also moral, or so some think. St. Thomas Aquinas also said that not everything immoral needed to be made illegal. For instance, some things, like abortion, should not be dealt with by the federal government other than to strike down the Supreme Court legislation from the bench on the matter and say it does not have the blessing of the State. There is no need to install telescreens all over so that the Thoughcrime police can descend on anyone contemplating such an action though.

    What you say is true, there is a whole lot between those extreme extremes you mention that is not evil, but there is also a lot that is.

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