Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things December 19, 2012

Jo Hilder: “Evil, Mental Illness, and the Responsibility of the Free”

In Australia, since a certified mentally ill young millionaire went on a killing spree in Tasmania in 1996, we have comparatively strict gun controls. This means for us now when the mentally ill, or the criminally disturbed, or the simply very angry in our community are provoked by their inner voices or their emotions, to act out, the worst they can usually do is brandish a very sharp knife, or a very hard fist. Several mental health support workers a year in Australia are hurt by their clients in acts of violence involving knives and fists, and a few over the past few years have been killed. But our gun controls mean there are fewer guns available for mental health clients to point at people. This is a very good thing.

If the U.S.A. intends to improve mental health services without also improving gun controls, all that’s likely to be produced is a spate of gun-related deaths against mental health workers. Improving mental health services is only half the picture. The other half is making sure the availability of those weapons capable of causing immediate and widespread catastrophic loss of life is severely limited.

Tim Perry: “‘Where Was God?’ and Other Wrong Questions”

I think many of us are afraid to talk to God about this tragedy and would rather talk about [God] (Where was God?) or talk about more mundane things instead (gun control; mental health). Talking to God about this horror is risky. To ask, “How long, O Lord?” is to walk the knife-edge of faith that separates believing Alyosha Karamazov from his unbelieving brother Ivan. It forces us to give full consideration to Ivan’s complaint against God – if the blessings of heaven require the suffering of just one child, then he wants none of God’s heaven. And to let that complaint out, to utter it even, is to risk – risk the shallowness of our own faith, risk really entering into the pain of others, risk really looking into the face of evil.

Alise Wright: “Immanuel”

We need to remember that violence against children doesn’t only happen in schools. God’s presence didn’t stop thousands of children from being molested in churches. God’s presence didn’t stop a child from being called an “evil little thing” for having a different opinion from a Christian leader. God’s presence didn’t stop a pastor from suggesting violence against children who don’t conform to gender norms.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that violence against children is pervasive, and is just as likely in places where children are taught Bible lessons as they are where children are taught the three R’s.

Scott Paeth: “Murdered Children Deserve to Have a Future”

At the heart of my faith is belief in a God for whom murders like the one in Sandy Hook are not the end of the story, a God who stands in solidarity with the victims of violence, who became incarnate in a human being and suffered every sorrow of human life, and whose death revealed the rotten core of the cycle of violence that sustains our civilization.

The God I worship is one who will not let the murder of innocents be the last word, but who promises to bring justice to the victims and justification to the perpetrator. In the end, despite all of my doubts, I am a Christian because I believe that murdered children deserve a future; and I believe that we are entitled to hope for one on their behalf. Without hope for the victims, there is no hope at all.

Katie Grimes: “A Church That Does Body Counts”

If you want to know whom a given community or society considers to be human, look at whom they mourn. For example, in the United States until very recently, an African-American or Mexican-American person who was lynched by a white mob was not mourned in public. Such a death didn’t really “count” as the death of a human being; in fact, such deaths were often not even counted as deaths at all–it has only been through the painstaking work of historians that we have even begun to have a public record of how many persons of color were lynched in this country during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is almost as though there is an inverse relationship between mournability and disposability. This is certainly why as Army General Tommy Franks said, when it comes to Iraqi and Afghans, “we don’t do body counts.”

… It seems to me as though Christians should not only remember the “victims of history,” who are often those whom history forgets, but also that we should mourn them. The church should do body counts. When we do, we will be a church in which all bodies count.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    As someone who doesn’t know if gods exist or not, I wonder why more Christians don’t at least consider the deist solution to the supposed “problem of evil,” where the god is simply indifferent to humanity.

    You seem not to understand the fundamental premise of Christianity.

  • The_L1985

     [i]”As someone who doesn’t know if gods exist or not, I wonder why more
    Christians don’t at least consider the deist solution to the supposed
    “problem of evil,” where the god is simply indifferent to humanity.”[/i]

    Because the Bible constantly portrays a deity who guides, punishes, rewards, and cares about the people of Israel.  “Is there evil in the world and the LORD hath not done it” and so forth.

    I believe more in the sort of “justice” seen in Terry Pratchett’s [i]Mort[/i], where people have the sort of afterlife that their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) leads them to believe–but unlike the Discworld death, I have a sneaking suspicion that not everyone ends up at [i]precisely[/i] the final destination they suspect, if their religion has more than one possibility based on deeds in life.

  • The_L1985

     I’m not a big fan of Michael Moore, but I’ve long suspected he was on to something with that.  The places where people are most gung-ho about guns do tend to be the more racist parts of the country (though they’d never admit to it).

  • The_L1985

     That’s why I don’t think too much about the reincarnation argument.  The possibility of future lives doesn’t affect my current life all that much, and it’s rather hard to make restitution for something you may or may not have done in a past life that can’t be proven and makes you look rather odd if you try to explain it.  Better to behave as if you have ONE chance, and don’t screw it up.  If you have another chance waiting, all well and good, but that’s no excuse to screw up the life you’re living NOW, is it? :)

  • The_L1985

     But how BIG was that net increase, compared to the overall number of homicides, and how LONG did the increase last, before the trend changed?

  • Carstonio

    Because the Bible constantly portrays a deity who guides, punishes, rewards, and cares about the people of Israel.

    That assumes that the book is authoritative or should be treated as such, and that seems to be the common denominator between believers who see the book as inspired by their god and those who seek it as spoken by their god. I’m attempting to put myself in the mindset of someone with no preconceptions about any religion’s scripture, with the person expected to evaluate all the different ideas about gods.

  • fredgiblet

    The peak was 20% higher (roughly 360 vs. roughly 300).  The upwards motion lasted 6 years, then after the peak it dropped rapidly.  It ended 2007 well below the expected trend line.

  • fredgiblet

    I just found the raw numbers, 381 in ’01-’02 vs 319 in ’96-’97.

  • hidden_urchin

    The real question is whether or not the fluctuations were significant at a value of at least p = 0.05. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’m attempting to put myself in the mindset of someone with no preconceptions about any religion’s scripture, with the person expected to evaluate all the different ideas about gods.

    You asked why Christians don’t think God is indifferent. Whatever their views about the bible, Christians have made some sort of decision about Jesus.

    The concept of the incarnation doesn’t square with an indifferent God.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    The real question is why fredgiblet is so invested in apologetics for weapons mass murder.

    No, really, let’s pretend that there is a legitimate disagreement about the evidence and that the claims of NRA propagandists are not entirely driven by their foregone conclusion. Let’s pretend the evidence is unclear.

    What possible reason is there to justify civilians owning semi-automatic and military style weapons?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Look, people, don’t quibble with the apologist as if there is some validity to what he is saying but is missing the shades of grey. That’s way too generous.

    Australia’s firearm-related homicide rate, per 100,000:
    1996   0.57
    1997  0.43
    1998  0.30
    1999  0.26
    2000 0.30
    2001  0.24

    This is not what we call an upward trend.

    Ah, but the apologist says that the TOTAL homicide rate went up for 6 years after gun control was introduced, then went down for unrelated reasons.

    Have yourselves a look at the first graph on this page ( and tell me where you see a 6-year long upward trend, cos I can’t find it.

    Then read this paper ( and note the bit where they say the decline in gun deaths was not offset by an increase in homicides due to knife injuries.

    Seriously man, you are putting effort into making yourself look stupid in defense of keeping weapons of mass murder on the street. You appeared on this blog, as if from nowhere, to do so in the immediate aftermath of a bunch of people being shot many times each in a primary school. What the hell? You heard that some kids and school teachers were massacred so you thought “quick–I better make stupid arguments on the internet lest people start to think that maybe civilians don’t really need assault rifles”? I really hope the NRA are giving you some kickbacks, cos if you’re doing this for free–what the hell is wrong with you?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Hey, I found the answer to your question about the aims of the 1996 gun control laws. They were, in fact, aimed at preventing mass shooting incidents. In the decade prior we’d had 121 people die in 11 spree killings. Port Arthur was the biggest and the last straw.

    The fact that we’ve seen a decline in overall homicide, gun homicide specifically,and firearm suicides since then has been a happy bonus.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess there haven’t been any mass shootings in Australia since that gun ban went into effect.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    There have not. The only occasions where 3 or more people have been killed in one incident have been a few domestic cases and family murder/suicides.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So Fred Giblet is even more full of shit than I thought. Good to know.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    While I’m here and people are discussing Australian stats, a couple of important notes:

    1. We have been undergoing rapid population growth, which means it is even more important than usual to look at rates alongside raw numbers.

    2. Homicide is a low-incident phenomenon: less than 300 per year for all causes. So fluctuations in the numbers are particularly susceptible to one-off events with multiple victims. For example, the peak in total number of homicide victims was in 1999. That year included the Snowtown murders (11 victims of a serial killer were discovered) and 2 murder-suicides that took the lives of 1o children and 2 adults . In 2000, 15 people died in a fire at a backpackers hotel, which was classified as manslaughter due to criminal negligence.

    These cases accounted for more than 5% of the year-on-year variation. None of them would have been prevented by some Rambo with a gun.

  • hidden_urchin

    What possible reason is there to justify civilians owning semi-automatic and military style weapons?

    I, uh, actually have a semi-automatic .22.  (I inherited my grandfather’s gun collection and that was one of them. I’m planning to get rid of it at the next police department buy-back.)

    My answer to your question, however, in the case of a functional weapon and not one that is permanently disabled as part of a collection, is “none.” 

    Hunting should not require a semi-automatic weapon and/or high capacity magazine.  If you need such things to bring down game then you need to either improve your marksmanship or you need lessons in judgement.*

    Home defense should not require a semi-automatic weapon and/or high capacity magazine.  Any gun should serve equally well as a deterrant should you be concerned about a home invasion.

    Target shooting should not require a semi-automatic weapon and/or high capacity magazine.  Yes, it may be fun and feel powerful but is your entertainment really worth lives?

    Here’s the reason for such weapons and/or ammunition: paranoia.  Whether you fear government goons coming to take your guns or your neighbors looking for help after the collapse of civilization, the purpose of the gun is the same.  It’s to be used against other people.

    *Using the general “you” here.

  • Incidentally, is there any truth to the urban legend I’ve seen circulated by pro-gun owners that buybacks and amnesties are OMGBAD because the guns become no longer traceable and HALP HALP WHAT IF SOMEONE DOESN’T GET CONVICTED OF A CRIME ZOMG.

    I am obviously parodying with snark, but the basic line of argument should be clear: I believe they are trotting out something specious as a way to devalue the effectiveness of gun buybacks because somehow nobody thinks to – gee – record the serial numbers first?????

  • hidden_urchin

    Such a story not only acts to devalue gun buy-backs but also plays off of already familiar narratives: the first is that the government is out to take your guns and the second is that the government can’t be trusted with anything.  From there it isn’t too big a leap to weave these themes into a story where the government gives you a small sum for your guns to keep you happy and then does nefarious and evil things with them because the government is an evil entity held at bay only by the fear of the power of the American Patriot and his guns.

    In reality, gun buy-backs around here are run by the police departments and those people have a much greater incentive to get them out of circulation than pretty much anyone else.  Each gun they take out of a home or off of the street is one fewer that they have to worry about encountering.

    Incidentally, the reason I am waiting until the next buy-back to decollect some of my guns is because the police department is the only organization I actually trust to see to it the weapons are destroyed. 

  • I wonder how stories about buybacks accidentally destroying weapons that could be used as evidence in a criminal trial come about, anyway. Surely there’s a chain of custody that can be used to prove who had the weapon last and what it looked like.

  • hidden_urchin

    Yeah, there is, but a conspiracy is more fun and it might be more of a “this could happen” as opposed to being inspired by reality. 

    I think, though, that in some cases evidence is not held indefinitely but is eventually destroyed when certain lengths of time have been passed or other conditions have been met.  It’s possible this process is being drawn into the narrative as well to lend it a feeling of legitimacy.

    It’s also possible they’re talking about Those People who commit crimes with guns and then use the buy-backs to get rid of the gun.  Everything I’ve read about gun buy-back programs, however, suggests that the department does at least check guns against registries of stolen weapons and, I would suspect, they would check them against any open cases as well.  Just because they don’t ask questions about where you got it, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid. 

    They also catalog them before destroying them so there is a record of their existence.

  • Well, it’s not that implausible. Just because someone is supposed to keep records doesn’t mean that they actually do, and just because someone keeps records or physical evidence doesn’t mean that the evidence can’t be lost or damaged — look at all those rape kits destroyed by a leaking roof in Texas back in 2002. If you move a million units of anything — guns, packages, glass bottles, pencil erasers around once, the odds that nothing bad will happen to any one of them are astronomical.

    None of that is a meaningful argument against buybacks though, since procedures can be put in place to limit that.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    (The press goon couldn’t even frame to answer the question. His poor
    mind couldn’t accept the fact that it might matter to a journalist if
    the candidate’s statements were in diametrical opposition to plain and
    simple facts. He kept saying something like “you have to understand his
    committment to a pro-life worldview”, and the reporter kept saying “Yes,
    but he told a bald-faced lie.“)

    So that’s what this ‘journalism’ stuff I keep hearing about looks like.  Sure wish we had some of that…

  • Consumer Unit 5012


    Looks like 2002 was an anomalous outlier on an otherwise downward murder rate trend, which is why fredgiblet keeps harping on it.