So, what is the “sacred” in our American civil religion? The sacred, in the history of religions, is that which is set apart, safeguarded, made holy. We become silent in its presence and even genuflect when we come near. Humans, in this sense, are homo religiosus — something is always absolute, forbidden, only whispered and never crossed.
This question came to mind after the Las Vegas murders. A man, with no previous record of criminality, with no apparent motive, with an arsenal in his hotel room and a legal mechanism to make his rifles nearly-automatic, opened fire on a group of Americans, enjoying the most American thing one can, a country-music concert.
One would imagine that in response to this horror, a political cry would go out for immediate gun control. But no, our president, Donald Trump, earlier this week blithely said, “another day” to talk about gun control. The president’s spokeswoman added that it was “not the time to talk about gun control.” The loud and strange talk for much of the week from some members of Congress was that this is not the time to talk about these issues, even as they contemplated legalizing gun silencers.
The sacred demands silence. It demands distance. The gun is the sacred in American culture. We can’t touch it. Even a hint of gun control, after the Las Vegas massacre, will drive sales of semi-automatic rifles. Don’t even think about controlling our desire for the gun.
Yes, the gun is our sacred. And the sacred, in all religions, always demands a sacrifice.
We are making the sacrifice in America, repeatedly. There is an irrational aspect to any religion, to any sacred. We don’t really know why it demands a sacrifice.
The same is true for our sacred, the gun. Does anybody really know why we don’t have better gun control that has been proven to prevent these atrocities?
No, no one really knows. Because the gun is sacred. And a small group of priests — the National Rifle Association — guards and protects this sacred with everything it has.
As Charlton Heston once said as he held up a rifle, “From my cold, dead hands.”
Our high priests are powerful, and they demand the ultimate sacrifice: the blood of our citizens, us, the ones who pay the price, who make the ultimate sacrifice for our sacred.
If you are now saying, “This is madness,” good. I call on us all to become heretics to this American religion. It has caused unequaled pain, sorrow and suffering to so many of us. It is time we rise up and go into the temple of the NRA and turn over the tables and demand a new sacred. The safety of our people, our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, to go to a concert without fear that a nearly-automatic weapon might mow them down.
So, my fellow Americans, rise up and become heretics for peace, I pray.