Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jesus and Gun Control

Some 17 years ago, I was a member of an advisory board for a congressman (I’m not trying to impress; it lasted for about a year and then stopped meeting). There were 10 or 12 of us, and we had one thing in common – we were Christians.

For one meeting, there was going to be one item on the agenda – a recent vote by the congressman that suggested he was in favor of gun control. He wasn’t at all, but there were a lot of people on that board convinced that he had gone to Washington and gotten brainwashed.

Most of the board members were angry, No, that isn’t correct. They were livid. Apoplectic. Spewing forth fire and brimstone. One of those members usually carried a small Bible in one pocket and the U.S. Constitution in the other, and he did that day. He whipped out his Constitution and read the Second Amendment to all of us. And then stared the congressman down. He was the most overt, but most of the board was right there with him.

Except for two members. One, a lawyer, said he often went to sleep at night hearing gunfire in the neighborhood to the north of his, and something needed to be done.

Icy silence.

Then I said I was actually glad the congressman had voted the way he did, because my then 11-year-old son had been in downtown area of our little St. Louis suburb, and directly across the street from a murder of an antique store owner. He had been riding his bike with friends, and he missed the murder by all of two minutes. (And then the killers had fled the scene and ran two blocks to our large city park, which is exactly where my son and his friends had gone on their bikes.)

If looks could have killed, I would have been a dead person. The woman sitting on my left deliberately moved her chair several inches away, as if to avoid contamination. The lawyer who had spoken before me, sitting on my right, smiled and said, “Good thing no one’s packing today or we’d be dead men.”

“Don’t be so sure,” commented one of the people sitting with us. That was a joke. I hope.

That was the day I learned that Jesus supported the Second Amendment and probably packed an AK-47.

The board I was on was not so much a Christian board as it was an extremely conservative board. But politics and faith were conflated.

Michael Spencer, in Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, has a drum roll of all the ways we “culturize” Jesus – to fit our politics (right or left), our lifestyles, our buying habits, our stand on education, and even our religious views , what we believe about worship and church success, and theologies. We bend him to our will, almost as if we start with what we want anyway and make Jesus conform to it.

So what do we do? Where do we look to find the real Jesus?

Here’s what Spencer says in Chapter 6, “Jesus or Vinegar:”

“To understand Jesus and the god who comes to us in Jesus, we have to come to terms with the truth that Jesus is absolutely singular and unique. No matter how much research we might do, we can’t define him. He is remarkably exclusive compared to the phony versions of Jesus running loose in our culture.”

(Nancy Rosback at Bend the Page has been leading us in a discussion of Mere Churchianity. Check her place for the various links.)


Anonymous said...

oh, that was a goodstory. it is a good example of how we tend to want to shape Jesus into our own desires.

i am thinking of all the times i have done this in a major way and in all the little ways every day.

not only changing my perception of myself, but, realizing that i can not shape Jesus, but, it is the other way around.

Michael said...

When I was growing up I thought Jesus would have hit home runs and played shortstop. I tried to validate what I was doing because I knew He would want to.

I was at the book store last night and I actually had this book in the cart and at the last moment I put it back. I get bummed out that I have not read it every time you and Nancy discuss it.

Anonymous said...

Holy smokes, Glynn, this is a great post. Oops - just saw the pun there. Purely unintentional, I assure you.

This idea of "culturizing" Jesus. That is exactly what's been bothering me the last 10 years. That's what it is. We've got it backwards. Or, maybe Jesus doesn't even care that much about our culture and political opinions. As the author says, He is absolutely separate and exclusive. But that makes life a little more challenging, wouldn't you say? We've got to do a little more thinking before hopping on a bandwagon.

Maureen said...

Read this quickly earlier and came back to read it again and comment.

I don't think you could have provided a better example of Spencer's point. This bending to our will can play out in ways that have nothing to do with living out God's teachings, and the consequences can be so harmful.

That must have been a truly awful board meeting.

JofIndia said...

Thank you for your very interesting post.
From outside of the USA, we recognise the right to bear arms is entirely a matter for you to decide. But we just don't get its political association with Christianity - especially in light of Jesus' urging us to turn the other cheek.
Your posting casts light on the issue and challenges me to explore many of my own assumptions about the "Christian response". Thank you.

Fatha Frank said...

Great post, and great example. You could have used any other political issue and it would've sounded the same. Sadly it goes beyond politics and into how we shop, what we wear, what movies we watch and music we listen to all thinking we have Jesus' stamp of approval. It continues to the point of worshiping the Christian culture instead of Jesus himself. It's sad to see it come to this, but that seems to be the case in America today. Grateul for Michael standing up against it, and grateful for you sharing your experience that we can learn from.

SimplyDarlene said...

This chapter has me all in knots. Again. Both sides. I see both sides. Maybe even three sides.

I was stalked. I was assaulted. My husband bought me a pistol. I met the Lord. Now do I give someone my gun so I fit into Spencer's un-molded mold? What about my pepper spray?

Like I told Nancy, I have some more sorting to do before much more writing...

On a different note, did you get "Radical" yet? I find them to be interesting buddies.