Killing is a Dead Issue … January 2, 2013

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jon with gun to head

I want to have a mature understanding–with a childlike application.

There you go. That is the power of faith–to possess wisdom but not use it against yourself and others, but instead, apply it in such a way that you are as harmless as a dove.

That’s also what I feel about violence. Let’s get several things straight–children don’t play with guns. Children are taught that guns are not cool. And children are instructed that life has value in all its forms.

A quick story. When I was eleven years old I went to church camp and the grown-up in our cabin who was watching over us brought a hand gun.  He pretended to hide it, but brandished it once or twice–enough so that we were horribly curious, being of that age and immaturity. When one of the boys asked him why he brought the gun, he said is was just in case we run into snakes or bears. Here’s the problem with that–there are no snakes or bears in Central Ohio, and secondly, he left the gun under his pillow when we went out to where there might be snakes or bears, and a quick run back to the cabin would have been impractical.

People who own guns in America are not using them to protect themselves. They would have to be packing heat everyday when they walked down the street–which in most communities is illegal. So if you found yourself in a bank robbery, it would not do you much good to have a gun locked in your safe at home. Even if you had a burglar break into your home in the middle of the night, by the time you got your safe open and your gun out, most of the damage would be done and you would possibly be the only armed person in your home, since most burglars don’t carry weapons because if they get caught, it levies a much higher sentence.

So what is the purpose of all this gun craze? It isn’t the Old West. We don’t have holsters hanging from our waist dangling a Smith and Wesson. The only reason to own a gun is to impress or intimidate.

Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My camp counselor brought his gun to camp to make the kids think he was cool. Actually, it scared me–especially when he would yell at us for not making up our beds. I always wondered if he was going to grab the gun and take care of the problem once and for all.It was intimidating. That’s why we came up with the statement, “If somebody put a gun to my head…” This is not a pleasant greeting. It is intimidation. It’s trying to impress. It’s what we tell our children NOT to do.

For instance, we do not suggest that the solution to bullying in our public schools is to make sure that everybody bullies. We attack the bullies for bullying instead of giving everybody mean things to say to each other to even the score on bullying.

The answer to gun violence in this country, and to crime, is not to arm the populace. The answer is to teach people to disarm situations without killing someone.

I do not think that guns should be illegal. I just believe they need to stop being cool. Just as cigarettes had their heyday, were revealed as being dangerous and relegated to a lesser position in our society, so it should be with the necessary evil of firearms.

A young minister told me he bought a snub-nosed revolver. He was so proud. I bit my lip. His revelation concerning his purchase brought great interest from congregation members–perhaps more focus than he gets from preaching the Golden Rule. He puffed up. He was impressing people.

I shook my head and walked away. I have no judgment for my brother, but I am on a quest this year to be more childlike in my faith, and as I told you–children don’t play with guns. Children shouldn’t think guns are cool. And children should value life … in all its forms.

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May… June 20, 2012

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“May we pursue this with vigor?”

“It may happen…”

“Maybe…”

One of the great, unique aspects of the Christian faith is the assertion that we all are “to become as little children.” Other philosophies and religions tend to relegate those who have young spirits, bodies and minds to a secondary status until they are granted the approval of maturity. Jesus asked us to reverse that process–to escape the austerity of being “grown-up” and maintain a childlike simplicity. But what is that?

A spiritual, childlike heart is the blessing of continuing to believe even when that particular energy is not always bearing fruit. It is having the maturity to know that the absence of belief–the subtraction of “may” from our lives–does not make us more intelligent or productive, but rather, renders us jaded and cynical. Jaded and cynical people end up stymied in their own fear of failure and lethargy over being disappointed.

There is a third silence that we have to avoid–it is silent doubt.

As I travel this country, I encounter an overwhelming reticence that can only be explained as doubt, which has taken root and removed all of our sensation that “something good may happen.” I don’t know–maybe it’s just a brattiness inside us that doesn’t want to chase down dreams unless we’re guaranteed that they’re going to work. We should know that nothing works all the time. In my mind, the presence of disappointment is the confirmation of God. If life continued to give great benefit to some and detriment to others, I could hardly consider it to be an act of love, and therefore an acknowledgment of God. Balance lies in the fact that good and evil, dark and light, and sunshine and rain are equally distributed to all.

But if we don’t believe that, a doubt enters our soul which is kept silent in order to maintain the integrity of being part of a religious idea. Sitting in a church, I often hear the silent screams of those around me, pleading: “Are we really going to sing one more hymn? Why?” “Will this be over soon?” “I don’t know half the people in this room and I don’t really care to get to know them.” “What does that communion bread and wine really mean anyway?” “If I have to listen to one more Old Testament scripture with unpronounceable names and locations, I think I’ll go crazy.”

But instead of giving voice to these doubts–that they may not believe inGod the Father, maker of heaven and earth”–they maintain silence in an imitation of reverence. That is why Jesus describes a frustrated people, who “praise me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Silent doubt has brought progress in this country to a screeching halt, as we continue to go through the motions of repetition without having any internal confidence that ideas will work or perseverance will win the day. We just don’t believe any more–but saying that out loud is too frightening; yet living with it may be too painful.

The most famous doubter in all of history was named Thomas. But the reason he is granted a status of acceptability is that rather than keeping his feelings to himself, he admitted that he had questions about the validity of the statements that were being shared around him. He said he didn’t believe that Jesus was risen from the dead. Dare I say, there are people in the church and even in the ministry who don’t believe that either, but they would never speak it aloud because to do so would make them seem out of the loop and heretical.

But not Thomas. If he was going to have a doubt, he was going to live it out so it could either be confirmed or disproven. Because of that, Thomas remained as one of the twelve disciples and was able to encounter the resurrected Christ.

Doubt is killing us–not because we have it, but because we mask it with pretense. A silent doubt has taken away our ability to believe in what may be God’s will, what may be a better direction, what may be fruitful and certainly what may need to be done to progress us as people.

If we don’t reveal this silent doubt and tap into faith by realizing that belief is not a guarantee for success, but rather, a door open to possibility, we will continue to go through the motions without any of the personal payoff.

May. We have stalled the vehicle of our own better natures by allowing a silent doubt to steal from us the childlike simplicity of merely continuing to wish, no matter what the results.

There are two things that are certain: (1) life will continue; and (2) life is just better when we believe.

Belief does not guarantee us prosperity, but silent doubt robs us of any tools to excavate it. So if we’re going to have a real sense of the return to a “may” mentality in our spiritual environment, we need to be willing to uncork our doubts and allow them to breathe. There is nothing wrong with wondering why things are the way they are, as long as you don’t pretend that we are doomed to remain impotent.

Just as silent prejudice keeps us from embracing one another and silent surrender takes away the strength to pursue excellence, silent doubt drains our faith and childlike simplicity–which is the only way to actually enter the Kingdom of God. And since the Kingdom of God is within us, we’ve actually closed the door to our own internal potential.

We need to be careful. We are desperately teetering on the brink of having a form of Godliness while denying the power of it. There is only one thing worse than spiritual oblivion and the sensation of being lost, and that is masquerading as part of the sheep, only to end up with the goats.

   

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