America’s Needed 1-2 Punch.

America’s Needed 1-2 Punch. March 23, 2021

I’m hurting today. I’m a Christian living in the United States. There are many Americans who think of that as being a natural fit and that this should be the expected default – they wish that all Americans were Christians. As a progressive Christian, I don’t think that everyone needs to be or should be a Christian, and I think that those who claim to be Christians should in fact be Christians.

A common technique of conservative evangelical street preachers is to “Hit ‘em with ‘The 1-2 Punch’: convict people of their sin, then offer them repentance through the saving grace of the Gospel.” Turnabout being fair play, I’m going to take my gloves off and fight fire with fire to use this against those who impose that unwelcome tactic on the rest of us.

Punch ONE.  YOU SUCK. That’s right. You Suck. You’re apostate, adulterous, back-sliders. You mainstream American Christians who think that God & Guns go together and should be part of American culture. Let me tell you what American culture is. It’s a Moloch culture that sacrifices children to the idol of unregulated guns. You care about fetuses – which aren’t persons neither theologically nor legally – but you don’t give a damn about the lives of actual children who have been born. You’re opposed to universal health care, you’re opposed to increasing the minimum wage, you’re opposed to welfare programs, SNAP, and food assistance; and you’re opposed to expanding maternity and paternity leaves for workers. Again, YOU SUCK. YOUR WAY LEADS TO HELL! Repent!

American culture is less than 5% of the world’s population using 20% of the world’s natural resources. American culture is less than 5% of the world’s population having over 25% of the world’s COVID-19 cases and deaths. American culture is having a military budget obscenely equal that of the next 10 nations in the world – combined; and having 800 military bases around the globe defending an unsustainable empire and unjust and exploitive way of life. And American culture is having black folk (13.5% of our population) being disproportionately, pulled over, arrested, harmed and killed by the police – comprising 34% of Americans behind bars. With current trends, black American males born today will have a greater than 1 in 4 chance of going to prison. To the extent that you complain about black athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, and to the extent you loathe the Black Lives Matter movement – YOU SUCK. YOUR WAY LEADS TO HELL! Repent!

America is hardly “a Christian nation.

You mainstream American Christians (evangelicals) statistically tend to support capital punishment and oppose gun control. And you supported the decidedly unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite what you think about yourselves –  You’re pro-death! Indeed, many of your churches hold fundraiser raffles with semi-auto rifles as prizes. Some of your churches even blasphemously bless guns,

and allow parishioners to pack heat when they come to worship. Again, YOU SUCK! YOUR WAY LEADS TO HELL! Repent!  You are completely rejecting the way, teaching, and example of Jesus! You are people of FEAR not faith. And don’t even try me with that “but Jesus said to get swords” hogwash.

Ever since the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in 1979 (a female shooter) and the  Columbine High School shooting in 1999, our nation has done NOTHING substantial to meaningfully reduce the number of mass shootings that take place in public places. President Trump did the least he could do – enacting a ban on bump stocks after the Las Vegas massacre. And a few states have passed laws limiting the size of magazine clips that can be used in semi-automatic rifles. But that’s about it. The common denominator in most all of these mass shootings is semi-automatic rifles, most frequently, the A.R.15 – a weapon that was designed for the U.S. military and whose designer didn’t want in civilian hands. In truth, many American mainstream Christians consider the school-kids and other citizens who die in mass shootings – to be “acceptable losses” to maintain their loyalty to their idolatrous devotion and commitment to their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. Pro-tip: The 2nd Amendment is neither an “inalienable” nor a “God-given right” – not even according to our nation’s charter documents. You don’t have the liberty to own a nuclear weapon or a Stinger missile launcher, and you don’t have a sacred right to own a military/combat grade semi-automatic firearm. More on that soon.

*Moment of personal privilege:  Yesterday’s shooting in Boulder hits close to home. Very. I was a resident of Boulder for 14 years. The grocery store where the mass shooting took place is the store that my son and I frequented about once a week from his 7th- 12th grade years – mere blocks from where his mother used to live. 10 people have died. I’m grateful that Boulder schools are on spring break because many high school kids typically hang out at that store after school. My son was friends since middle-school with the 20 year old grocery worker who was shot.*

It troubles me that someone came from outside of Boulder to cause havoc to the Boulder community. It would also trouble me if someone within the Boulder community caused that trouble. What troubles me more is that anyone from any location has such easy access to semi-automatic rifles in this country.

The NRA posted a tweet just one week prior to the shooting in Boulder yesterday, obscenely celebrating their “victory” that they were able to muscle the Colorado Legislature into enacting a law preventing cities in that state to enact bans on AR15 rifles – the very weapon used in the massacre in that grocery store in Boulder just a few days later. Deplorable. The NRA is anti-Christ and so are those who support them and are beholden to them. Again, YOU SUCK! YOUR WAYS LEAD TO HELL! Repent!   (update 3/25/20: we’ve learned that the shooter used a similar looking weapon; i.e. another combat grade firearm – a  Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic pistol fitted with an arm-brace.)

And don’t try me with the “well, most gun violence in America are homicides, many committed by black young men against other young black men.” Yes, we’re never going to be able to prevent all murders, but we really can do something about reducing the number and lethality of mass shootings. Conservatives have been wielding this tired trope “but what about all of the black on black murders?” to seek to quash any meaningful progress in reducing mass murders. Just stop it. (And, there are a whole HOST of things that we can be doing to reduce the black on black murder rate, but guess what? You won’t like ANY OF THEM as you’ll dismiss such helpful measures and policies as “socialist.”  Just admit it. You don’t really care about black folk. YOU SUCK.)

At a minimum we need to re-implement the assault weapons ban that our nation had in place for 10 years that expired without renewal a few years back. I’m in favor of expanding the ban to include all semi-automatic rifles (and combat grade pistols such as the Ruger AR-556) including those used by hunters. There’s no real difference aside from how they look. Australia and New Zealand are among the many nations that have bans on semi-automatic rifles and their hunters do just fine with lever action or bolt action rifles.

But let’s be clear, the shooting in Boulder wasn’t “the 2nd instance” in the past week (most folks think of Atlanta), there have been SEVEN mass shootings in the U.S. over the past 7 days. The Covid pandemic is waning and we’re tragically returning to our old normal – a dysfunctional normal of nearly 1 mass shooting each day of the year in the U.S.

When the Covid pandemic hit last year, many Americans responded with another pandemic – a weapons buying binge. And more weapons led to more gun deaths:

Three million more guns sold between March and June than predicted by past averages, surging again after summer protests against police violence. Then, as election tensions ratcheted up, another surge. In October alone, 2 million guns were sold, a 67% increase over October 2019, according to the FBI. This past January, sales totaled 2 million, an 80% year-over-year record. Buyers aimed for protection but, ironically, this hope has backfired. By November, the total number of gun homicides in 2020 already exceeded the year-end total for each of the past four years. Mass shootings showed an alarming increase: 50% over 2019. The number of fatal gun-related accidents also surged and children were shot and killed in greater numbers in 2020. In a dozen cities, homicides rose by 50% or more; according to a veteran criminologist, “It is very likely that these increases are larger than any on record.”

Clearly, what’s needed are sensible gun control regulations and most Americans are in favor of increased regulations. Here are some thoughts I offer to help get a needed conversation going:

All law abiding, responsible, mentally sound gun owners are law abiding, responsible, and mentally sound – until the days that they aren’t.

That said, people with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than be perpetrators. This is more of a gun control matter.

Fellow Americans, look, the current official interpretation of the second amendment is not as sacred as you or the lives of your loved ones and fellow citizens. There were nearly as many mass shootings in 2019 as there were days that year. This cannot be our normal. I invite us to think further about gun control. It seems many hear that term and assume an “all or nothing” situation. Not at all. Nations such as Australia and others still allow hunters to have firearms designed for hunting. However, they got rid of most all other firearms via a national gun buyback program.

Within the realm of gun control, there are sensible measures that really warrant our consideration such as: Having each firearm that a person owns have its own unique insurance policy. Having people who own firearms be registered, tested, and have a license to own and operate the firearm.  Not allowing the manufacturer or sale of bump stocks or trigger mods that effectively turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. Discontinuing the legal sale of automatic weapons. Not allowing persons to purchase or own semi-automatic pistols or semi-automatic rifles until they are 25 years of age. Encouraging more hunters to use bolt or lever action rifles instead of lazily being dependent on semi-automatic weapons. Requiring trigger locks or certain forms of securing weapons in households where people 17 years or younger are present. And helping people realize that households that have firearms in them are actually less safe than those without them. People are far more likely to be harmed by, or have their loved ones be harmed by, the guns that they own than they ever are to use them against bad guys.

The fatalities caused by firearms are exceeding those of automobiles in many states because we have these sorts of sensible measures in place for automobiles and how they are operated but we do not have them in place for firearms. We’d also do well to require all thefts of guns to be reported to authorities.

On the mental health front, we can do more to reduce the stigma of mental health issues. One out of four Americans will have a mental health issue at some point in your lifetime. It is within the realm of actual normal. We can be increasing funding for mental health care workers and treatment centers across the country. We have a woefully low ratio of mental health workers per capita compared to other nations. We can also move toward embracing universal healthcare that includes mental health coverage. And again, people with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than they are to be perpetrators of it.

And, on a different front, we need do to help more of our citizenry be empowered with skills needed to function and thrive in society such as, knowing and expressing our feelings in healthy ways. Increasing familiarity of nonviolent communication. Increasing competency and healthy conflict management and resolution.

Punch TWO: Because I am a professional within the spiritual world, I advocate increasing people’s awareness of the Divine – the divine within them and within all others. To encourage people to be people of faith and not people of fear -and to act accordingly. Encouraging familiarity of practices such as meditation and centering prayer – practices to help people remember who and Whose they really are – we are expressions of Divine Love and loving each other is the way of salvation not fearing and killing each other, not pursuing self-protection via guns, but by living lives of compassion, loving-kindness, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, restorative justice – love.

I pray for the repentance of those who call themselves Christians but whose views and votes are currently pro-death.  I will be lighting a candle on my altar each of the next 10 nights holding the people of Boulder in prayer, and every Sunday night there after until our nation repents and finally enacts policies to meaningfully reduce mass shootings.

From a wider view, a bit pulled back from my obvious passion about and care for the recent trauma to my friends in Boulder, I’d like to offer an insight that I think may warrant our consideration. Our nation’s birth was traumatic. We are a nation born of violence. Our formation as a nation was a result of massive violence – terroristically killing fellow children of God in the form of British soldiers and native Americans. We accelerated our infancy by engaging in the violence of enslaving Africans to work our fields and do the heavy lifting. Our nation’s toddler years were that of a Civil War – involving massive killing – often brother killing brother, and cousin killing cousin. Our adolescent United States has been at war for most every year of our existence. Why? I submit it is because we have yet to address our profound wounding of gaining our independence through the killing of children of God – because we didn’t like a tax rate. Abomination! Blasphemy! If we’d done as Canada did, and just waited things out, we’d have our independence and universal health care too.

The truth is our nation is operating from wound. We haven’t healed our initial trauma and we echo, propagate, and cause more trauma as a result. I highly recommend that we read “My Grandmother’s Hands” by Resmaa Menakem as a starting place in this venture for needed personal – and I suggest, collective – healing.

I offer This Video and the post trauma techniques within it for my friends in the Boulder community the day after the horrible active violence that took place in your community yesterday (originally created at the end of the Trump era). It may also be helpful to the people of Atlanta, Asian Americans, and the people of the next communities to experience the trauma of a mass shooting.    ..Odds are, another one took place today.

XX ~ Roger

Rev. Roger Wolsey is a certified Spiritual Director, United Methodist pastor, and serves on the Board of Directors of ProgressiveChristianity.Org. He is a contributing writer for the Progressing Spirit newsletter, and author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity  
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