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Time to Boot the Violent, Fraudulent, Treacherous NRA

By July 25, 2016 32 Comments

by Jeff Munroe
Brian Keepers is away today.  Jeff Munroe, a former regular at The Twelve, is our guest today.  Jeff is the Vice President of Operations and Development at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.

In Donald Trump’s Presidential nomination acceptance speech, he spoke about the injustice caused when our political system has “sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash.” I spoke right back to my TV, saying, “Amen! Start with the National Rifle Association.”

The time has come to break the stranglehold the NRA has on Congress and begin to undo the damage they have done to the United States. I know the Bible says “judge not,” but since Dante says the seventh level of hell is for the violent, the eighth level for the fraudulent, and the ninth for the treacherous, I wonder how God is going to sort this all out for the NRA.

The NRA sees the world in binary fashion. You are either pro-gun or anti-gun, pro-Second Amendment or anti-Second Amendment, pro-America or anti-America. There isn’t room for nuance. As Trump would say, that’s a yuuuuge problem.

I don’t want to take away people’s hunting rifles and, even though I believe the impulse is misguided, I am not lobbying to take away people’s ability to own handguns for personal protection. I cannot understand, however, why we don’t insist the right to bear arms doesn’t mean the right to own assault weapons or armor piercing ammunition, or the right of people identified as terror risks to own weapons, nor can I understand why the Centers for Disease Control is prohibited by an act of Congress from doing research into gun violence as a public health problem.

Recent events displayed the hypocrisy of the NRA in all its pathetic glory. In Minnesota, Philando Castile was shot by a police officer because he had told the police officer he was armed and the police officer overreacted when Castile moved. What has the NRA said about this? Nothing. Now just reimagine the scenario for a moment. Imagine Castile was white, and imagine the officer was not local law enforcement but federal. Imagine a white man legally carrying a weapon shot and killed by an overreacting ATF or FBI agent. The NRA’s outrage would be overwhelming. But when it comes to the right of black citizens to bear arms, the NRA doesn’t have a thing to say. Cynical me believes much of the NRA’s psychological hold comes from white people’s fear of an armed black citizenry.

What did the NRA have to say about the shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge? What can they say? They have fought for the “right” for average people to have access to military style weapons and ammunition. The question needs to be asked, “Whom are they arming themselves to fight?” I don’t think the weapons are for the random elk or stray Muslim that may wander into the back yard. The answer has to be to fight others similarly armed. And who is that? Law enforcement and our own military. (See Ammon Bundy and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for an illustration.)

Every society has its extremes. We’ve decided to allow ours to arm themselves with military weapons. Why?
What is it going to take to have an intelligent conversation about those words found in the Second Amendment of the Constitution that the NRA “protects”? Our nation is the strange, violent peer of only two other countries – Mexico and Guatemala – that have the right to bear arms embedded in a constitution. Because of those words and the NRA’s simplistic, literalist interpretation of them, there are 88 guns for every 100 people in the United States. For a comparison look to Israel – if any country needs a “well-regulated militia” for its security it is Israel – but in Israel there are 7.3 guns for every 100 people.

Literalism kills. Those who read the Bible or Quran literally have killed over and over. Those who read the Constitution simplistically are doing the same thing. It’s time to apply a smidge of common sense and hermeneutical sophistication to the Constitution and state the obvious fact that the Framers never imagined weapons like we have today. As centuries pass, it’s okay to say some words were meant for another time and place. (The other option is to embrace literalism fully and allow everyone unlimited access to every weapon known in the 1780s.)

I’m all for kicking out those who have sold out to a corporate lobbyist for cash. Let’s start by not electing those controlled by the NRA.

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of the Reformed Journal. 


  • Kevin Caspersen says:

    I’m really not sure where to begin with my comments to this article but I am going to try.
    First off you state ” I am not lobbying to take away people’s ability to own handguns for personal protection” and “I don’t want to take away people’s hunting rifles and, even though I believe the impulse is misguided” so I am going to take a crack at this one and assume to believe that what you want to ban is the evil AR-15. FBI homicide statistics actually show that handguns actually are involved in way more homicides than rifles(this includes AR-15’s). So if you want to reduce homicides by firearms, you would possibly do better by going after handguns than rifles. In 2013 alone, 5782 homicides involved handguns versus 285 by rifles. In fact knives were involved in more homicides than rifles, so while we are at it lets ban them as well. Also hands, feet and fists were involved in 687 homicides in 2013, we should also ban them as well.

    Secondly, you state that the NRA was silent on the Philando Castile shooting when in fact it was not, I would surely be glad to post the release but essentially it said that they would wait for more information to come out with the facts of the case and make a more detailed statement.

    Thirdly, you state ” But when it comes to the right of black citizens to bear arms, the NRA doesn’t have a thing to say.” When in fact the NRA has a wonderful spokesmen by the name of Colion Noir, a black man and lawyer, who speaks directly for the NRA. So they do have something to say and its coming directly from a black man!

    Also stated, “It’s time to apply a smidge of common sense and hermeneutical sophistication to the Constitution and state the obvious fact that the Framers never imagined weapons like we have today” this would also apply to the Internet. Could the framers have imagined the internet? Should we make things like the internet illegal just because the framers couldn’t imagine it and not have free speech on the internet?

    And lastly, “The other option is to embrace literalism fully and allow everyone unlimited access to every weapon known in the 1780s”, again I propose we do the same to the 1st amendment and only have printing presses used in the 1780’s.

  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    I share Mr. Munroe’s disdain for selective outrage over the loss of life. This is especially true for Christians. We can expect as much from a secular organization such as the NRA, but we should expect better from Christians. I also think that having one’s politics determine which organizations are deemed worthy of protest is kind of disgusting.

    In that light, I eagerly await Mr. Munroe’s scathing column advising us to only elect politicians who are not controlled by Planned Parenthood or NARAL. You see, Planned Parenthood doesn’t just promote conditions under which others of free will can carry out violence. Planned Parenthood actually carries out the violence themselves, and they make a tidy profit doing it. They especially like to target blacks and black communities, which I suppose is a holdover (or a feature) from their racist founder who loved eugenics. Of course that basically rules out one whole political party, given that their party platform is an homage to the right to kill your child which is somehow construed from a right to privacy. In that case, I guess non-literalism kills, to tune of more than one million lives snuffed out in the womb in the U.S. per year. Because of course we can see that no such literal right is enshrined in the constitution, but it serves well those who would serve the god of sexual liberation to create such a right. A savage society? You bet. And to think, all that violence is conducted without one gun. And some of that violence is subsidized by tax dollars.

    Of course speaking out on this topic won’t win you many points with the social justice warrior crowd who would rather follow the latest twitter hashtag or join with the latest lynch mob. Shoot, some Christians have been so sucked in by worldly philosophies that they believe themselves the uniform judge of man, assigning blame in certain shootings before investigations occur and spreading partial versions and gossip as truth. Seems as though Scripture says something about bearing false witness, but if “hands up, don’t shoot” fits your social justice narrative, to heck with Scripture.

    That lack of popularity of the reality of abortion is probably the reason that organizations such as the CRC Office of Social Justice can rarely be bothered to speak of the topic at all. They certainly don’t bother to advocate for specific legislation. No, they are two busy making grand moral pronouncements on the latest energy bill or immigration bill. Go search their Twitter feed sometime and see just how much they value unborn life compared to other topics. I bet their mentions of immigration outpace abortion by at least 100 to 1. Whose life is more innocent than the life of an unborn child? Whose life is more dependent than that of an unborn child? Who is losing their life at the greatest rates?

    Mr. Munroe, you are absolutely correct: selective outrage over the loss of life says something about our priorities and allegiances. The question I have for you is this: will you apply this critique to yourself?

  • Ted Pawlicki says:

    If Jeff Munroe truly desired an intelligent conversation then he would not have begun with blatant lies about those who hold opinions different from his own. The NRA is not a racist organization. The NRA supports the 2nd Amendment rights of Americans of all races, colors, and creeds. The NRA’s psychological hold is not due to racist fears. Jeff Munroe’s lies about the NRA and it’s members is nothing more than an ignorant smear intended to demonized those who disagree with him. Such a low level of debate should be beneath him. Intelligent and reasonable conversations begin with mutual respect, not with prejudice libels about those one disagrees with.

  • Why do we as a country regulate our drivers licenses more diligently than our guns?

    • Eric Van Dyken says:

      Hi Karen,

      I suspect that we regulate drivers licenses because vehicles are very dangerous, and would be more so if not for training and licensing. In 2015 more than 38,000 people in the US lost their lives in traffic accidents, and more than 4.4 million people were injured. Those numbers are higher than the number of deaths from firearms, even including death suicide with a firearm, with makes up a large percentage of those deaths. We sometimes forget, that vehicles can in some ways be considered a large weapon, and many people “weaponize” them further by driving in an impaired condition. In 2014 there were more than 1.1 million arrests for driving impaired by alcohol or drugs. Statistics like this help us understand that there are many more vehicle owners using their vehicle dangerously than there are gun owners using their gun dangerously.

      Interestingly, I did not undergo a background check for my drivers license or my motorcycle license, but I have undergone a background check for each gun I have purchased. I also received a drivers permit at age fifteen and license at age sixteen, but could not buy a gun or ammunition until I turned eighteen. There are of course also many laws about how, where, and when I can fire a gun. Each year, countless millions of rounds of ammunition are fired legally and ethically by responsible gun owners. Lack of training for gun owners in not really the problem in gun deaths, since a very low number of gun deaths is by accident. Rather, gun deaths occur when there is a profound lack of respect for life, either one’s own life or the life of another. Gun training, licensing, or registration will not change the heart of a person intent on taking a life and will not alter the circumstances that brought them to that point.

      Perhaps as a society we should spend more time thinking about root causes rather than distracting ourselves with political arguments and political posturing while misrepresenting the problem. Notice carefully that every “common sense” gun regulation change posed by a certain political party has really no chance of having any significant on the problem. Gun opponents spend most of their time talking about scary looking guns which are rarely used in firearms killings. Bans on them have been done before, with no perceivable effect.

      We might do better to ask ourselves as a society why so many of our young men are intent on killing. What is it about our society that the devalues human life so much? Why do so many feel so hopeless that they take their own life? How do we fashion a society that builds up strong family units instead of breaking them down, leading to aimless young men with little guidance, too little structure, and no moral compass? Those are the drivers of gun violence in the US. Violence by firearm is a symptom. We would be much better to begin to ask hard questions about the sociological and religious causes of a love for violence and a lack of respect for human life. I see very little of that conversation nationally, and it is disappointing that this author falls into the same trap.

  • Robert Ryan says:

    No civilian has been able to own assault rifles since they were banned in 1936. This article’s argument is superfluous and reveals a “yuuuuge” rate of illiteracy concerning gun laws and guns on the part of its author and the editor that let it get this far. Calling a semi-automatic rifle which is mechanically/functionally identical to the hand guns that you’re okay with, is simply misguided and misguiding name-calling, and unproductive.

  • Roger Nelson says:

    Columns are meant to stimulate conversation and spark thought. By those standards Mr. Munroe has done good work here. His writing is provocative and colorful. (See the Dante reference.)

    I am wondering if Mr. Van Dyken, Mr. Pawlicki, or Mr. Caspersen can see any scenario in which limits on hand guns or semi-automatic rifles would be acceptable or helpful for the common good? Is there any gun legislation which might lead to less gun violence or loss of life? I have no doubt that a change of heart is called for; I have no doubt that the loss of life through abortion is an abomination; I have no doubt that lives are lost through drunk driving, knife fights, and fisticuffs; I am wondering if there are any acceptable boundaries for the type of guns and ammunition that are available to the public.

    It seems to me that the NRA rallies against threats to gun access, but I am not beholding to the NRA, I am beholding to Christ, and therefore I am wondering if you see in Christ or in scripture any light (wisdom) or any call for sacrifice with regard to guns? Is there anything distinctive about a Christian approach to gun access?

    • Eric Van Dyken says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments and questions. I see some overlap in your two posts, so I will try to respond to most of your questions in this response.

      I would think that for the Christian, an article would have a higher standard than simply stimulating conversation and thought. Hopefully, for the Christian and article is also honest, accurate, and ethically/morally consistent. To that extent, I can’t share your enthusiasm for Mr. Munroe’s article. Which is a higher directive for Christians: Honesty or Conversation Stimulation? Take, for instance, Mr. Munroe’s assertion that NRA said nothing about the death of Philando Castile. That is not true, and if Mr. Munroe wanted to be truthful he could have easily discovered that with a quick google search. In fact they said that the incident was troubling and that they would withhold judgment until the investigation was done, which is something that Mr. Munroe would do well to emulate.

      For sake of context, I am not an NRA member. I also am not at all beholden to the NRA. I do not share their perspective on any number of particular matters and I don’t care for their approach or rhetoric at times. However, to make the NRA the fall guy for our societal problems is laughable and distracting.

      To the extent that controls on firearms can reasonably be expected to have a significant positive effect, I think there is reason to consider the merits. Mainly what we see happening nationally is not any sort of promotion of limits that have any significant positive effect.

      The reason that I brought up abortion was not offer a distraction, but to play on the very theme and premise of Mr. Munroe’s article, namely the “pathetic glory” of the hypocrisy of the NRA. Putting aside for a moment that Mr. Munroe is dishonest in establishing this so-called hypocrisy of the NRA, when you apply his standard to himself, he exposes his own blinding hypocrisy. Insert something about log and speck here. This article is political pandering masquerading as Christian thought.

      As to the question “What if all the followers of Christ refused own guns?” , I think that would be an absolutely meaningless gesture. A distinctly Christian approach to any tool (and a gun is simply a tool) is to use it in a way that is consistent with love for God and fellow man. I don’t find that concept and more helpful than Christians all giving up their cars or refusing to take vacations because they might have a car accident and kill someone on the road. Say that tomorrow I melt down my guns and never hunt or target shoot with my kids again. What have I accomplished for my neighbor?

      My main concern is that gun control talk is mainly a distraction from deeper and more meaningful talks about other areas of public policy and societal structure and culture that are much more determinative when it comes to violence in all of its forms. Gun violence is not the problem. Why always the focus on gun violence? Does it matter to God how a life was murdered?

  • Jan says:

    I read Jeff’s piece and was ready to write “bravo.” When I went on to read the other comments, I realize how divided we are. We need to carry on this conversation –somehow. How will that happen. We are all convinced we are right.

    • Eric Van Dyken says:

      Jump on in, Jan. I think there are some of us trying to have a discussion right here in the comments section. I’d love to hear your perspective.

      • Jan says:

        This does not feel like a discussion. It feels like a rant.

        • Eric Van Dyken says:

          I’m not sure what your definition of a rant is, but I fail to see how critique and reasoned arguments can be equated with rant. To the extent that you find this discussion unhelpful, you are wise not to engage further. However, you did say that “we need to have this conversation”. I’d still like for you to be part of this little corner of the conversation. It feels to me like you have some things you’d like to say.

  • Roger Nelson says:

    Mr. Munroe offers a provocative and colorful post. I appreciate that he raises these questions in this forum.

    I am wondering if Mr. Casperen, Mr. Pawlicki, and Mr. Van Dyken can help me understand if there any new legislative limits on guns or ammunition that would be acceptable. Clearly there are too many deaths by drunk driving, knife fights, and fisticuffs, but does that rule out the possibility of any new guidelines for gun ownership? While the lives lost in abortions are an abomination, and while a change of the human heart is essential for all humanity, does that preclude any boundaries for access to types of guns or ammunitions? Are there any acceptable limitations?

    I am not beholding to the NRA; I am beholding to Jesus Christ. So, I am also wondering if there is any light (wisdom) in following Christ with regard to firearms. I live in Chicagoland, in the last 30 years more than 20,000 people have been murdered, the vast majority by handguns. This in a city with some strictest gun laws in the country. New gun laws don’t necessarily bring desired results. It is also worth noting that Chicago is surrounded by counties and states where gun purchase is remarkably easy. There is a group of pastors in Chicago who are wondering and praying about an expression of public witness that asks, “What if all the followers of Christ refused to own guns?” I don’t have a good answer for them. I know we have the right, but what if we’re called to that sacrifice? Too foolish?

    • Ted Pawlicki says:

      Mr. Nelson I am wondering if you admit that firearm ownership is not the cause of the high murder rate in Chicago? You must be aware that there are cities of comparable size where guns are even easier to get and the murder rate is much lower? You must be aware that the rate of firearm ownership is uncorrelated with the murder rates in the US? Surely you understand that violent crime is a function of poverty and other social stress? These facts are undeniable to anyone the the most rudimentary understanding of social sciences and statistics. I’m just wondering if you anti-gun people are even willing to face basic facts? Of course the members of the NRA want to see violent crime reduced. No one disagrees with that. It’s simply that the methods you suggest do not jive with reality. Your approach makes as much sense as reducing access to matches as a way to reduce smoking. As a start, are you even willing to admit basic facts?

    • Ted Pawlicki says:

      Just so you know I am genuine. I did my own statistical analysis based on the wiki data. Gun murders are not correlated (or actually slightly negatively correlated) with gun ownership rates. I’m not a gun nut, but I just believe in a common sense rational approach to problems – that’s all. You can crunch the numbers yourself if you don’t believe me, but the data doesn’t lie.

      here is a graphic showing the data
      (please note – even if you remove the outlying point – Washington DC – it does not change the conclusion – the data is uncorrelated – no link exists)

      which you can verify that this is taken from US Census and FBI data which can be found at

      Please understand – we all agree that violent crime is a problem.
      The issue is that you have no rational basis in fact or evidence to believe that the solution you propose (reducing access to firearms) will at all help the problem you are concerned about.

      So, I’m just wondering before we begin the discussion – can you face facts?

    • Ted Pawlicki says:

      On a lighter note. It’s true that there are about 35,000 firearm related deaths every year. It’s also true that there are about 400,000 deaths due to preventable medical errors every year. (Strange how we don’t see Jeff Munroe or groups of Chicago pastors peeing their pants about that?). Maybe we need more stringent background checks on those doctors and nurses? Would you suggest we further limit access to med schools? 😉

  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    Hi Ted,

    I’m not sure that the phrase “peeing their pants” as a descriptor of the efforts of the Chicago pastors is helpful in this conversation.

    • Ted Pawlicki says:

      Eric – Well I don’t believe that Jeff Munroe’s hateful lies accusing NRA members of racism is helpful, either, but it seems that is the level of debate he desires?

      • Eric Van Dyken says:

        Hi Ted,

        To the extent that you have critiques of Mr. Munroe’s approach, I think that is fair. I’m not sure that it is helpful for you to reduce yourself to responding in kind. I would submit that the Christian approach is not to say that someone else’s approach is poor, so my response is justified at the same level. I would encourage you to avoid that line of reasoning. Thanks for your consideration.

        • Ted Pawlicki says:

          Eric – You are correct of course. My reference to Jeff Munroe “peeing his pants” was an attempt at humor which was too crude for this forum. It was intended as an illustration of an emotional response to a problem that is dramatic but has no effect in solving the problem. It seemed a better reference than saying that they are “practicing voodoo” – (useless superstitious ritual). The underlying point was that when faced with a problem some people desire to take actions that will actually solve the problem while others are content with useless emotional gestures.

          Regardless, your point is valid and I will strive for less colorful word pictures in the future.

        • Ted Pawlicki says:

          Eric – I can’t help but wonder if the reason it is easier for you to be philosophical and high minded about the level of discourse is because it is not your honor that Jeff Munroe is besmirching with his lies and false accusations? If he were bearing false witness against your character instead of against an abstract group of people that you are unfamiliar with, then you might deem stronger language more appropriate.

          • Eric Van Dyken says:

            Hi Ted,

            I’m not trying to be philosophical or high-minded, merely Christian. I don’t have a problem with strong language if it is appropriate. I have in a previous comment noted that I believe this article amounts to political pandering. I think that characterization is warranted and is fairly strong language. I think you will find that my comments above are not necessary characterized as mild

            Certainly people will have different ideas about what rhetoric is acceptable and what rhetoric is unacceptable or demeaning, degrading, ungracious, or what have you. I thought the phrase you used crossed a line and I thought you might appreciate the opportunity to reflect on that, which you did and I appreciate it.

            There is no doubt that the more personally a comment hits me, the more I will be prone to respond in anger. I am certainly not above the need to be corrected, and I have lived to regret the rhetoric that I have used at times. In this case, I don’t believe it to be accurate that the NRA and its members are to me “an abstract group of people [I am] unfamiliar with.” Just because I am not a member does not mean that I am not quite familiar with the organization. I happen to know many people who are members – they are not an abstraction to me.

            To conclude: Strong language? Yes. Unloving language? No. How to judge unloving language? Not always easy. I will continue to seek to guard my heart against responding in an unloving fashion in this and other forums. May we as Christians always spur each other onward toward acts (and words) of love, even when strong language is warranted to correct error.

            Thanks for your input.

  • Roger Nelson says:

    Thank you for your considered responses. I apologize for the double post. The first one didn’t seem to show up so I wrote something similar later, and then they both appeared.

    I am not sure where I claimed to be one of those “anti-gun people.” Neither was I asking questions purely for the sake of provocation. I am genuinely curious. Given all of the hard data at your disposal, given the argument that gun ownership doesn’t contribute to murder rates, given that guns are only “tools”…. I ask again: Are there any limits to guns or ammunitions, or any new legislation with regard to back ground checks, training, etc, that would be acceptable? Or, is any boundary an infringement on freedom, or some sort of logical fallacy because it addresses the wrong problem?

    To point to a familiar argument: traffic fatalities declined with laws for seat belts and air bags. Is it possible that fatalities due to guns might decline if there were new safety technologies or training requirements in place? And if you can humor me…. if that is true then what would be the problem with those sorts of limitations? There are limitations (I don’t think convicted felons can purchase guns?) are there any other limitations that would be acceptable? Are there any limitations to the size, strength, and functionality of guns that would be acceptable? Are there any parameters for training before ownership that would acceptable?

    Can you help me imagine any limitations that might reduce death by guns?

    I believe Mr. Munroe is right about the NRA blocking the CDC from studying gun violence. I appreciate Mr. Pawlicki’s research and conclusions; I would welcome more in-depth study and analysis by the CDC. Help me understand how that is a threat to gun ownership, etc?

    I think the pastors in Chicago would be surprised to learn that their prayers about ways to address gun violence is equated with “peeing their pants.” As I understand it, besides addressing issues of the heart, poverty, social stress and dislocation, etc, they are also wondering if there is some witness to the way of God in this world that might call for the sacrifice of guns. The long history of Christian pacifists would be surprised to learn that there lives are “absolutely meaningless gestures.” One might even wonder if Christ on the cross was just a foolish gesture?

    But that is just angular rhetorical play that’s easy to dismiss. I am primarily interested in clear answers to the questions at the top. Thank you….

    • Ted Pawlicki says:

      Mr. Nelson – Given my understanding of the data and fact I do believe that placing further constraints on lawful firearm ownership is a logical fallacy because it addresses the wrong problem. I would agree that training and safety requirement might help to slightly reduce the 600 or so accidental firearm deaths each year, but that number is getting close to the number of people who die from lightning strikes. Firearms are fairly simple mechanical devices. It is hard to imagine any sensible manufacturing restrictions.

      The way I can help you imagine reducing the number of gun related murders is to address the root causes of violent crime – poverty and social breakdown. Clergy lead efforts to promote dialogue between local law enforcement and African American communities could help reduce racial tensions and violent crime.

      Certainly the heartfelt prayers of the Chicago pastors are efficacious, but that is not what you referred to in your post. My comment about them “peeing their pants” did not refer to their heartfelt prayers as you disingenuously attempt to imply that it did. Rather it referred to what seems to be a dramatic but pointless sacrificial public action (not a prayer), that of a pledge : “What if all the followers of Christ refused to own guns?” While my analogy was crude the underlying point still seems valid. Sacrificing a live chicken to the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza would likely have as much effect as the pledge you proposed (although, then you would have to deal with the PETA people). I don’t believe that dramatic public ‘sacrifices’ are part of Christianity. Didn’t that go out of style when the 2nd Temple burned?

      The CDC does not study crime. It studies biological diseases. Having the CDC study crime seems a political gesture. No biologist believes that firearms are a biological disease.

      Finally, I would say that Christ dying on the cross was not a foolish gesture, but this does not mean that foolish gestures do not exist. As Carl Sagan said : “the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. ” Similarly, the fact that Christ’s sacrifice was effective does not imply that all sacrifices are efficacious. (You should kind of know this?)



  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    HI Roger,

    I find your latest response less than helpful for several reasons. First, it seems as though you have read past a number of responses to your questions, while acting as is nothing has been said. Second, the end of your response is utterly hyperbolic and misrepresents what others have said. It seems hard to believe that you desire to have an honest interaction when you end by insinuating that I said that the lives of a long line of Christian pacifists are absolutely meaningless gestures. Of course I said or insinuated nothing of the sort, but rather responded directly to one narrow scenario that you proposed. Then to end by with a vague accusation that my reasoning would/could lead one to believe the Christ’s sacrifice was a meaningless gesture is just beyond the pale. If you want a serious conversation, perhaps start by accurately and honestly depicting what others have said and not engaging in degrading hyperbole.

  • Roger Nelson says:

    Thank you for the clear answers. If I missed those answers earlier, I appreciate your willingness to restate them.

    While asking for clarity I appear to have clouded the waters.

    There is a group of pastors in Chicago who work tirelessly on the front lines of issues of poverty, race, social dislocation, etc. They are also asking if there is anything more that that they can do to address the problem of gun violence. They are wondering and praying about that. One idea is some manner of public art/protest that asks: What if Christians put down their guns? What if Christians sacrificed gun ownership as a form of witness? Is there a way to demonstrate swords being beat into plowshares? Is there a way to manifest a different way of being in a culture that is saturated with guns? (“Saturated” is hyperbole.)

    As I understand it these pastors recognize that this action would be seen as a meaningless gesture, etc… but they hope/pray that it would give others pause, probably think it crazy, but also make some space for a different vision, even if just for a moment.
    And, as I understand it these pastors are wrestling with the witness of the long line of Christian pacifists who understood their obedience to Christ to mean not taking up arms.

    As I thought about their work I misconstrued your comments. I apologize. As I thought about their work I was reminded how Paul says that the cross was a public witness that the world viewed as foolishness.

    I had those ideas in my head. I am sorry that I misunderstood and misconstrued your comments.

    This will be my last post. Thank you for responding to my comments. May God bless….

    • Ted Pawlicki says:

      Mr. Nelson,

      You have been most patient. I am wondering if you could help me understand a difficulty that I have when approaching this issue? In my earlier post, when I wrote “there are about 35,000 firearm related deaths every year. It’s also true that there are about 400,000 deaths due to preventable medical errors every year”, I was expressing a real concern.

      I admit that I may be a bit of a rationalist cynic, but here goes. Please try not to take offense.

      If the Chicago Pastors you mention really cared about human life and people suffering, then
      wouldn’t they choose to address the bigger problem, rather than the smaller problem? There
      are so many larger problems that many more people suffer and die from. Why choose the gun
      issue when there are many other problems killing over ten times the amount of people in thier
      community? A cynic like myself observes that the gun issue is a “hot” and “sexy” issue that is in
      the media and generates conflict. Do the pastors you mention really want to alleviate human
      suffering, or do they want to champion an issue that puts them in the limelight? The gun issue
      is also a “political identity” issue. Coming out with an anti-gun “witness” seems like a way to
      affirm their left/liberal identity and affirm their personal affinity groups. If they really wanted
      to alleviate human suffering wouldn’t an issue with a neutral political stance or one with
      common ground? I feel bad calling into question the motives of such people, but I hope
      you can understand how these questions trouble a rationalist like myself.

      If you could provide any insight that might help me better understand the motives of
      these pastors or others like them, I would greatly appreciate it. Currently, I’m afraid
      it looks to me like they have a political position which they are wrapping in a guise
      of Christianity. We all have political opinions, but it seems unwise to conflate out
      political positions with our Christianity.



      • Roger Nelson says:

        Mr. Pawlicki,
        I am new to this kind of on line discussion. Getting back to you tonight is the best I could do. Sorry for the delay. Please do not read it as dismissal, etc. I’ll give a run at an answer….

        In July something like 65 people were murdered in Chicago and two hundred some were shot. Every day there is a new tragic shooting. Kids, cops, women, etc. The murder rate was higher during the late 80s and 90s due to crack cocaine, but those killings were buried on the back pages. Today we have daily video images and round the clock news, so certainly there is some part of the response that is rooted in the immediacy of the moment. The daily accounting of gun violence grinds you down.

        I think that the causes of gun violence are a tightly wound tangled knot. The threads are drugs, joblessness, housing, education, health care, policing practices, anomie, access to cheap guns, etc. Every one of these city pastors is working at addressing these issues in a way to faithfully proclaim the love of God in Christ. They are each pulling at some of the threads: invested in drug rehab ministries, fair accessible housing practices, education, Christian day schools, preaching the gospel in word and sacrament, health clinics, ex-con jobs programs, etc. There is nothing sexy or politically liberal or seeking the limelight in that work.

        However, you can only do so many funerals where you bury another kid from your youth group, or the son of a grandmother you’ve known and loved for thirty years, or a friend caught in the crossfire of gangbangers shooting at each other and you also simply want the guns to be put down. They are not simply nuetral tools. They are weapons designed to kill and maim. When you sit at the funerals and hear people plead again and again that the killings have to stop…. there is something in you that also wants to pay attention to the weapons. There is one more thread that you can pull on. You want to address not just to the root causes, but the weapons as well.

        So, a group of pastors who have prayed about this week in and week out for years, also wonder if there isn’t some way to call for Christians to put down their guns, as a sacrifice, as a way of taking up a cross, as a way of pointing to a different way of being in this world, as a way of following Christ. Trust me they know that it is foolish and that it won’t have much impact, but it grows out of desire to be faithful to gospel and not out of some liberal leaning or identity politics. They are wondering if there is a way to highlight guns in the same way that others have highlighted abortion clinics, strip clubs, and casinos, etc.

        I find the reference to deaths by medical mistake to be less than convicting. By design doctors are trying to save lives, they have studies, resources, and multimillion dollar efforts at limiting medical failures. They are trained for years so that they can minimize human error. The number of people who die and suffer is also higher because of the sheer volume of people interacting with health care professionals. There is something here are about intention. (See Hippocratic Oath….)

        My guess is the pastors would love to address medical malpractice when the purchase of a gun includes years of education and there are well funded studies and multimillion dollar efforts at limiting death by guns.

        I am not trying to convince you of anything. I am simply reporting what I know and what’ve seen and heard. I hope you can appreciate some part of this…. It is done out of a prayerful desire to follow the way of Christ in this world. Again. I hope this is my last post. 😉
        Peace to you.

        • Ted Pawlicki says:

          Mr. Nelson,

          Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

          If you have the time, please consider this picture of a billboard that I pass each day on my way to work.

          It reads “60% of the homicides in Rochester are because of disputes, retaliation, or saving face”.

          I believe that these are issues that Christianity can address. Love and compassion can help resolve
          disputes. Forgiveness can prevent retaliation. Dignity before God can lessen the need to
          save face before people. I believe that a lot of NRA members would love to work on addressing
          those issues.

          If someone puts a firearm in your hand it does not cause murder to spring up in your heart.
          I’m pretty sure you know this. You admit yourself that “they know that it is foolish and that it
          won’t have much impact,” why take actions that don’t address the problem? You say that
          ” it grows out of desire to be faithful to gospel”, but how? Jesus spoke about forgiveness,
          not about gun ownership. The gospel is about forgiveness, not gun laws.

          I understand the sense of desperation – the need to do something, anything –
          but is this wise? It seems little more than blaming and scapegoating firearm owners.
          You know that the lawful ownership of firearms is not the problem (if you can read
          a graph). The sub-text of a pledge not to own guns is that the violence is the
          source of the problem. I don’t see how throwing the fuel of blame on the fire of controversy
          doesn’t just make things worse?


  • Jason Lief says:

    Though I do not consider myself a “conservative” I have good friends who claim that label. They are very thoughtful on issues like this, holding to a belief that people and communities have it in them to figure these things out. They see caring for the environment as a conservative issue, they see the issue of gun control as a pro-life issue (along with abortion) and therefore a conservative issue. They see the support of small businesses and livable wages as a conservative issue (and a pro-life issue). Could it be that stricter gun control laws are needed in large urban areas, while in rural areas, where guns have always been an important part of the way of life, it’s not as needed? What if we took a very conservative approach and legalized drugs–ending the failed war on drugs by the government? Would the legalization of drugs, and the drying up of the money connected to the illegal drug market help eliminate the violence and illegal gun trafficking that is a big part of the problem in Chicago? (By the way – there are conservative republican congresspeople thoughtfully advocating for this.) The problem with both liberals and conservatives, and the reason it is impossible to have healthy conversation on these issues, is both sides are immediately driven by ideology and not by a desire to find solutions. I actually think there is a third way forward on issues like this. Maybe there are articles that need to be written in the broader context of what it means to be pro-life? That would make an excellent issue of Perspectives…

    • Ted Pawlicki says:

      Jason –

      I don’t consider myself a “conservative” but I have been given that label by some.
      [I have an odd experience. I work at a university, and I’m a member of a suburban
      reformed church. My work colleagues think of me as an arch-conservative while
      people in my church consider me an ultra-liberal post-modernist.]

      I agree with your insight regarding the root causes of violence in urban America. The
      failed war on drugs is a component of this. Much of our current urban and racial unrest
      can be directly traced to misguided policy dating back to the Clinton administration.
      The “get tough” approach has directly led to the wholesale destruction of communities
      in urban areas and is primarily responsible for the systematic racism we see today.
      The misguided approach to both crime and poverty has caused most of the social
      disorder we see today. The symptom of the social fragmentation is violent crime.
      My only point is that we should treat the underlying disease, not the symptom.

      The history and dynamics of this problem is better explained in the following article

      [Please don’t take this as an election thing – while the Clintons are most directly responsible
      for this misguided policyin the 1994 crime bill there were a lot of people on both sides who
      supported it and made it happen. The point isn’t to assess blame. The point is to understand the problem.]

      You are correct, of course, in your observation that : “the reason it is impossible to have
      healthy conversation on these issues, is both sides are immediately driven by ideology and
      not by a desire to find solution”. I would say that it isn’t even ideology but identity. Many
      liberals and conservatives don’t really know what the ideology of their side is about. All they
      know is that they support their own group and hate the other group.

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