The national motto of the US should be “shooting problems away.” It is our practice on all levels of our society. We have a culture of death and nihilism. The culture centers on one piece of technology – the gun. Presidents have learned to increase their popularity they should do some sort of military action. Policing requires more agencies with military style weapons. Ordinary citizens believe they are justified in shooting someone else over any felt disrespect. “Going postal” was once the threat when a person was experiencing trouble at work. Perhaps, instead our motto should be “I am justified.”
The US is not a failed state. If one of the qualifications for the state is to have a monopoly on violence, then the US has failed in this. The examples of disorganized violence that is witnessed has deep roots. The second deepest is that by law certain people must always be kept in check. It is a belief so strongly held that George Zimmer decided he had to keep one of “these guys” from “getting away with it.” Two killers in Georgia supposed a jogger had no business in their area. Keeping certain people away and confined connects to an even greater failure.
We are in a failed state of being human. By and large we have in practice renounced our own humanity in order to make ourselves into gods that decide who should live and who should not. We are not very good at it because the justification is based on our own whims. I am justified in my act of violence because I am the good guy. It is circular reasoning. Many who ask others to “choose life,” have chosen death for every person that is different or disagrees.
Shooting As A Solution
Recently a known neo-Nazi activist killed himself by accident. He shot himself. Some people celebrated. I never had any contact with the man. I never experienced his bad behavior toward other people. But I could not celebrate his death even if I had. I don’t see shooting someone as the way to solve a problem. I can’t see his death as a solution to the problem of hate.
Let us consider the idea that a good guy with a gun counters a bad guy with one. A lot of churches are employing armed security guards. Church members (especially men) think they should attend church armed. Why? Because they have fantasies of heroism? Or are they afraid? How exactly do they view themselves? These questions are the kind we ask for therapeutic purposes.
I have experienced problematic people disrupting church services. Each time I handled them in a non-violent way. None of them saw fit to bring guns to start killing us as problems. But what if someone did? What would I do? The latter question is truly a hypothetical one. I know what I would like to do. I do not know what I would do. It is possible I could overreact. Conspiracy thinking demonstrates this problem.
Shooting Because Of Lies
The “pizzagate” incident illustrates this point. An armed man arrives intending to free non-existent hostages from the non-existent basement of the very real restaurant with real patrons. What is the man doing there? He believed that great evil was happening. He saw no other option than to take matters into his own hands. A conspiracy among the powers that be was causing the evil. He decided to act the hero.
Unfortunately, he was fooled. Thankfully, he was foiled. The apparent lie was discovered. But the man acted on an even bigger lie. Walter Wink called it “the myth of redemptive violence.” When people believe the only solution is a violent one, they are more likely to act. Violent acts do not require patient investigation or questions of any kind. Obsessed people find the act of violence convenient. The other reason is the fetish for the gun. The old proverb holds true, “if your favorite tool is a hammer all the problems look like nails.”
Truly permanent solutions such as death should not be the result of lies. Communities cannot be held together by lies. But the paranoia that is always the sublevel of US political discourse is always based on lies or false presumptions.
The Dangerous Mix
Christianity has only one God who once was personified in a human being to show us how to be human. Christians often reject that vision as unrealistic. Why? There are many who think of themselves as knowing and realistic when they are materialistic. There are others who do not realize what Jacques Ellul discussed as the ideology of technology. Our machines – tools and weapons – must always be bigger, more efficient, and dominant. Humans lose their humanity to such machines if they are not careful. Guns become the tools to solve problems between people. Events do not occur unless they are recorded on camera. Tales shown on screen become more real than facts.
The New Human
History is replete with attempts to remake humanity. All of these attempts fail while some fail miserably. Christianity is an attempt to restore humanity by reconnecting us to the underlying reality. This new human is actually older than we know. We claim our humanity from myths and ideologies that de-value human life. We critique any theology that undervalues humanity too. The new human practices love for its own sake.
The story of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest is about Joash, a formerly good King of Judah, who turns from the ways of his God. Zechariah is stoned to death in the Temple courtyard. His dying words are “May the Lord see this and call you to account.” (2 Chronicles 24:22) A similar incident happening much later is the story of Stephen the first Christian martyr who is stoned outside the city. His dying words were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) I want to think I would follow his example. But I am afraid I would sound more like Zechariah. In any case, I will do my best not to be one casting the stones.