Part 2: Some Trust in Chariots, Some in Horses, Some in Semi-Automatics.
Right now, there is approximately 1 gun to every man, woman and child in America. That is an astounding number. We are a remarkably well-armed nation.*
That’s especially impressive/confusing when you consider that we are also the richest nation in the world. We have the best trained military and police force in the world. We have roads, bridges and sewers. We have telephones and an emergency response service. Our police force is civilian-based, and not known worldwide for corruption, nor is our justice system. We haven’t been invaded in quite a while, nor have we had a recent civil war.
In fact, we haven’t had a military action on our soil in quite a while, nor have we had a significant breakdown in infrastructure that led to widespread looting and chaos, and deployment of troops against civilians.
It is actually fairly boring here right now, civil unrest-wise; even the murder rate has been dropping for the past several years.
Also, according to many reputable sources, Red Dawn was made up.
And all of this leads to the question– when you buy a gun, when you buy an AR-15, the best selling weapon in the nation, that can shoot 6 rounds a second, what, precisely, are you afraid of? When you take a gun into a Starbucks, into a bar, into a church, into a school, when you insist that you need to keep guns around small children because that’s the only way they can be safe, what is it that are you afraid of?**
It is this question of fear that is theologically central. Because we are people who believe in God, a God who repeats over and over that there is one God, and no other, and believing in God means restricting yourself to that one particular god, and putting all your faith, trust, and eggs in that particular divine basket. (See Exodus 20:2, for starters). You don’t get to hedge your bets. You don’t get backups. Trust is trust.
When Moses is talking to God at the Red Sea, and sees the Egyptians approaching, he does not shrewdly arm the Israelites “just in case” the whole parting the Sea thing fails. He does not assemble them into a fighting force. (I doubt it would have worked, anyway.) He tells them “Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and see the deliverance of the Lord. For the Egyptians that you see today, you will never see again. The Lord your God will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14).
Trust! Don’t be afraid! God is with you, and God is enough.
When Jesus is sending forth the seventy apostles to preach, teach and heal, he doesn’t sugar-coat the danger to the volunteers. Many people won’t like you, he offers. You will annoy many whom you speak to. (Jesus! Unrecognized master of the understatement.) In fact, he continues, some of you will be dragged before courts and killed because of me. (Excellent at recruiting speeches, also, was Jesus.)
And so, for this journey, for this riskiest of ventures, you should pack…. nothing. No protection, no extra tunic, no additional money. No weapon. They are to preach to everyone, be kind to everyone, spread the gospel to everyone, and not to worry about those who won’t receive it, only wipe off their dust (Luke 9,10). Rely exclusively on the kindness of strangers, and the grace of God.
Trust in God. God is with you, and whatever happens, that is enough.
Again and again. Throughout the scriptures, this is what we hear. Trust in God and God alone, and that will be enough. Now, at no point is the danger of the world whitewashed either– the Bible is very violent, and lots of people die in lots of horrible ways. But over and over we hear that the best way, the only faithful way to deal with the unfathomable nature of this world, is to trust in God alone for ultimate security. And nothing else. (“He who lives by the sword” and all that.)
So it says something quite profound and disturbing about us if we, on the one hand, profess faith in the Christ who taught us to carry nothing on our journey, save a trust in the grace of God, and at the same time, function in the world as if nothing but a trusty gun will save us.
Either we trust in God or we don’t.
Either we have decided to live by the sword (and take the consequences thereof) or we have decided to trust in God.
And if we are people of faith, then we should put our living where our professing is.
* This according to gunpolicy.org, a nonpartisan site from the University of Australia. There are roughly 88.8 guns owned privately per 100 people in the US, as of 2007. Not counting military weapons. (According to all evidence, firearm sales skyrocketed in the years since 2007, so consider this ratio increased.)
**Related to this, but not, is the issue of the crisis of an increasingly insane definition of masculinity. And if you’ve seen the ads that Bushmaster ran to advertise the AR-15, you’ll understand. We need to have a discussion allowing men to be men, in ways that don’t revolve around violence, subjugation, and killing stuff. I’m not sure I feel called to take this on at the moment, but it’s a discussion that needs having.