Worshiping the Gun God is Killing Us: A Reflection on the Sutherland Springs Massacre
“This could have been my church.”
How many people whispered this to themselves, their spouses, their friends, after seeing the news of the gun-murder rampage at Sutherland Springs, Texas?
As Christians, we must to say: This is my church.
The same way we should have said after Sandy Hook: This is my school and these are our children.
After Las Vegas: This is the concert I attended, and these are my fellow citizens.
The pathological cycle
After every gun massacre we should have been protesting in the offices of our legislators, at the offices of the NRA, at every gun-and-pawn-shop, at the entrance of every gun show. But instead, we do exactly what the GunGod wants us to do: cower, toss off trite “thoughts and prayers,” and buy more guns. Feed the beast at any cost. It is a pathological cycle, and it is literally killing us.
We worship the GunGod in this country.
Worship may be defined as anything to which human beings devote their sacrifice, allegiance, finances, time and heart. Thus, the gun is an almighty god to which we bow in the United States.
The religion of the gun
The gun has been imbued with the divine qualities of omnipresence and omnipotence. The gun has become so ubiquitous, it appears everywhere. Guns permeate our television shows, movies, video games, and toy store aisles. Gun shows are like old-fashioned church tent-revivals touting a religion that will “save” its adherents. The gun industry is a billion-dollar machine that spreads a gospel of salvation, profiting mightily by convincing the public to own as many guns as they do Bibles, if not more. The NRA is the royal priesthood to which all politicians must defer and pledge their allegiance. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, “the right to bear arms,” has been twisted to become a psychotic dogma that demands sacrifice.
“Call a thing what it is”
Martin Luther encouraged people to “call a thing what it is.” So from a theological standpoint, we must take the mask off the gun to reveal it for what it truly is: evil. And I say this as a former hunter who used to go into the woods every fall and spring to kill animals with a shotgun or rifle. But as a parent, and as a citizen who has watched one too many sacrifices at the altar of the firearm, I have had to renounce the gun for myself and my children.
I don’t have the political or financial clout to take on the NRA priesthood or the politicians beholden to the organization’s campaign donations. I don’t have the cultural clout or societal standing to organize mass protests and topple the idol of the gun. All I have is my writing, my broken heart, my anger, and Internet access. And prayer. As I spent yet another night-after-a-gun-massacre in a restless mix of prayer and nightmare, I awoke convinced that I needed to speak out on this issue about guns yet again from a theological and biblical perspective. [See “On the 8th Day, God Created Guns: A Reading from the Gun Bible.” And “315 Today – A Poem about Gun Violence.”]
The sacrifice that the GunGod requires
We have been fooled by the satanic gun-worshiping priesthood into believing that the only way to appease the angry and demanding GunGod is by accepting that our children and fellow citizens must be sacrificed. We unquestioningly engage in the ritual practice of collecting more and more guns and giving unfettered access to all who would devote their money and their heart to the GunGod. To question the doctrine of the NRA is to be accused of heresy in the form of being “unpatriotic.” But, in fact, the more guns we produce and sell, the more people – including children – will die from guns. How is it patriotic to be content with gun-massacres of one’s fellow citizens for the sake of misplaced faith in a murderous deity?
This GunGod cares nothing about our children, and convinces us to justify this lack of care by repeating the bogus mantra: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”
Let’s be very clear: GUNS KILL PEOPLE!
I have held a gun. I have fired it. When I was a hunter, I used it to kill, to take the life of another being. There is something about the gun that imbues the holder with a sense of almost god-like power over another – the power to give and take life. If I do not pull the trigger, I have spared your life. If I pull it, I can take your life instantly. Some may argue that any weapon can give that sense of power. But let’s face it – few of the mass killings that have happened in our country were committed with swords, knives or cross bows. It was guns, plain and simple. Guns kill people. That’s why they were invented, and that’s what they are designed to do.
The final solution
But we have allowed ourselves to become convinced that the sacrifice of our citizens – including children – is simply the price that must be paid to the GunGod. The GunGod is the only one who will provide. “The gun is my shepherd, I shall not want,” [from Jeff Hood’s provocative gun-hermeneutic of scripture, Apostasy: Guns, God, and Sutherland.] The gun is the answer to all of our fears, the release for all of our anger. Is the teenager’s music too loud? Shoot him. Is he wearing a hoodie that makes you feel threatened? Shoot him. Are you angry at the politician? At the ones who have mistreated you? The women who have spurned you? The family member or neighbor or motorist who piss you off? The answer is the gun, always the gun. It is the final solution.
It is past time for clergy, theologians, and people of faith to take a united stand against this idolatry of the gun, tear down the altars, and protect our citizens. That would be the Christian thing to do. That would be the patriotic thing to do.
To learn more about how you can help end gun violence, check out these links:
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015).
Read Leah’s other pieces about gun violence: