Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Prayers, preachers and packin': Is this the vision of Christ?

Louisiana not only has liberal gun laws, but it's a place where you can take a gun to church. So while a high school in Washington state bemoans the violence of another school shooting, what does it mean when faith-talking conservatives praise gun-toting laws for Sunday worship protection?

Louisiana passed a law allowing guns in church several years ago. It did so as it has a popular foundation of support from a state where Second Amendment rights are as critical to the culture as are the Ten Commandments. Governor Bobby Jindal, whom few may know well outside Louisiana, outside of television images about the oil spill along the coast, advocated, supported and signed the bill into law.

The Ten Commandments, however, were modified by the words of Jesus Christ.  One might wonder when weapons are forged for violent response in places known as God's house rather than the rational and peaceful ways the ways of Christ proclaimed.

In the Old West gunslingers were supposed to check their guns at the door.  These days guns may be hidden from view, then taken into church without worrying about being checked by anyone.

And while guns are celebrated by the National Rifle Association, and are being taken to church, mental health experts remind us it is the verbal atmosphere of praising guns that allows violence to breed. Perhaps in that sense it isn't guns themselves. Instead it's the constant barrage from apologists who take extreme positions when it comes to guns.  Automatic rifles are seen as the best for hunting deer.  Those who argue about any type of restriction for guns are mocked even as multitudes of gun-lovers, and their lobbyists, continue to assert that it isn't guns who kill but people.
This reporter conducted a survey of preachers in Natchitoches, Louisiana five years ago.  The survey found that most of the ministers contacted across Protestant groups either collected or just owned guns.  The Catholic Church in the main part of the city responded to the survey by stating that at no time did the priest in charge have a gun on the premises.

The violence of the gun remains a symbol of Western expansion, part of the symbolic takeover of the country, a country whose land was wrested from Native Americans as the expansion grew particularly great after the Louisiana Purchase.. Settlements developed with gun protection in Arizona and Oregon, where the Lewis and Clark trail ended.

The gun is glorified in stories, and by the media, and its rights are consistently upheld at election time, even as school shootings continue every year and as the number of guns in the United States continues to grow.  This is true in spite of the fact that in the small towns of Oregon, in the 1940's and 50's when hunting for deer was particularly an activity involving men whose families ate the meat brought home.  And in a town like La Grande, Oregon where almost every man had a rifle locked up and where every man's son was taught to hunt with their fathers, no school shooting was front page news.  Guns are as American as apple pie, but they were not talked about for defense but for hunting game.

In the wake of Washington State's misery, as the most recent example of a school shooting, it is likely, sadly too, that the gun-owning politicians will likely condemn the violence as an isolated thing and continue advocacy of guns even within the church. Oregon will continue to display its gun shops proudly on main thoroughfare and offer gun shows alongside car shows as entertainment.
The saddest commentary of all in the public pronouncements of guns is that in the place where Jesus is to dwell as the head of the church, the gun can go to the altar in the pocket of the
supplicant while on knees bended in prayer. It is a symbol of the violence available anywhere, in a shopping mall, at a school, and even in a church where parishioners brandish weapons with pride as they pray for protection---or to shoot straight.