.

Praise the Lord...Pass the Ammunition?

Is gun violence a spiritual issue?

It was a patriotic song written in 1942 by Frank Loesser in response to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.  “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” was apparently uttered by a chaplain on the U. S. S. New Orleans.  Whether it was said by a chaplain or not is debatable.  Someone said it and heard it and wrote a song about it to support the war effort.

Religion and violence.  They don’t have to be linked, but often they are.  Many have made the case that all religions should be eradicated from a civilized society because they only breed war and destruction.

It’s naïve to suggest that we can remove faith, devotion, belief, and myth from the psyche and human experience.  A case can be made that we are by nature religious creatures always searching for meaning; we have a deep desire to be devoted to someone or something larger than ourselves.  We need a God or gods to worship.  Even atheists have their gods.

The Reformed theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) said the human mind is a factory of idols. He was right. We always create images or things or personas to worship (often not worthy of our devotion).  Look at our fascination with shows such as American Idol or our enthrallment with celebrities or the Baltimore mania/adoration/idolatrous obsession with the Ravens - this is not to judge, but simply an observation (as a Ravens fan).

It’s the nonchalant way we easily connect religion and violence that concerns me most, especially when it comes to the national conversation around gun violence and gun control.  For some, having a gun or protecting the rights to own a gun has become a kind of idol demanding obeisance and religious zeal from its followers. Gary Wills recently made this case in a provocative column.  He writes, “…the fact that the gun is a reverenced god can be seen in its manifold and apparently resistless powers.”

Some say gun control is a political issue.  Others say it’s a mental health issue.  Others, still, say it’s a health care issue.  I agree with James E. Atwood who suggests that it’s essentially a spiritual issue.  In his recent book America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé (Cascade Books, 2012), Atwood asks an important question, posed directly to religious communities, specifically to Christians: “Many people of faith dare with some frequency, to call this a ‘Christian nation.’ Polls continue to show most Americans hold some religious faith, with Christianity claimed most often.  How then does our self-identification as followers of the Prince of Peace relate to what can at least minimally be called a fascination with violence?”*

That’s my point.  Why as a nation is the United States so violent?  Why are Americans so fascinated with violence?  Movies. Video games. Television.  Sports.  Are our lives in American society so boring, so shallow, so meaningless that we have to turn to violence to be entertained?  The majority of Americans say they believe in God, but what God? Who is this God?  

I’ll even go out on a limb here and raise a pointed question to the Christian community: have our theological claims about what took place through the violence of a cross – and Jesus’ crucifixion was violent – somehow made us numb to the violence that surrounds us on a daily basis?  In other words, some Christians think redemption is only possible through violence, through suffering, namely Christ’s.  Has the cross as a symbol of human brutality and violence toward God somehow, unwittingly, justified violence, somehow made it “holy”? If not holy, then at least acceptable?  Has our toleration for violence within Christian theology made us numb to the amount of violence in our society, leaving us emotionally frozen to the next shooting?  I wonder.

Religion doesn’t have to be violent.  True religion is rooted in love and compassion and reconciliation and the celebration of life – affirming the inherent value of each individual.  

Whether one is religious or not, whether one is a theist or atheist, we need to be aware of our idols.  The reason idols were considered dangerous in the Hebrew (and later Christian) scriptures was because the Israelites knew that we become what we worship.  Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) made a similar point:  “That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our life and our character.  Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”  What are we as a society worshipping?  What are we becoming?

*On Sunday, February 17, 5:00 p.m.,the Reverend James Atwood will be speaking at Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church, 4640 Edmondson Avenue, Baltimore, MD, 21229. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Native February 17, 2013 at 04:40 AM
"How then does our self-identification as followers of the Prince of Peace relate to what can at least minimally be called a fascination with violence?” You are confusing those who espouse violence (criminals, gangs, etc.), with those who have love of country. The patriots among us consider the God-given civil rights as worth sacrificing for. We don't glorify violence or idolize violence in the media. I agree with you that gun violence does have the underlying current of idolatry, but to suggest the majority of American firearms owners are anything other then patriotic is wrong.
Mary Ann February 17, 2013 at 06:58 PM
I've struggled with this since yesterday. Non-glib responses don't fly off a keyboard as quickly. The language in every psalm in the daily lectionary for the last couple of weeks has been very retributive; all kinds of injury heaped upon one's enemies. To the point that I want to give this (recommended) resource up! I have had enemies, I have seen enemies to my children (often in Christian settings). I don't wish violence or calamity on any of these people - even if they considered themselves justified. What is in a person's eyes as they focus down the end of that barrel? Nothing that loves. Nothing that will bring about good. There's an essay on the backburner of my mind, titled something like "I wish Jesus would have had a gun"; sadly, too many who would read it wouldn't understand Swiftian sarcasm.
Sanchez February 17, 2013 at 09:04 PM
As the statistics show, those who have some type of license to carry or to buy or purchase legally, are the most likely to not use that firearm in the commission of a crime. Those who go through the hoops of getting a license, ie: fingerprinting, background check, expense and time, will not do something that would then remove all that cost and work. I have yet to EVER meet a person who purchased a firearm with ill intent in doing so. I would wage most like me could say the same thing.
Steve February 18, 2013 at 01:22 AM
LOL "As the statistics show, those who have some type of license to carry or to buy or purchase legally, are the most likely to not use that firearm in the commission of a crime." Which statistics? Your nose is growing again JoeBlob!
Sanchez February 18, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Take your choice of sources Steve/Frank/Fifi, They will all say the same thing. See, no matter what source I provide you will deny it.
Sanchez February 18, 2013 at 04:48 PM
http://hawaiiccw.com/gun-myths/concealed-carry-myths/people-permits-commit-crimes/ Fact: The results for the first 30 states that passed “shall-issue” laws for concealed carry permits are similar. Fact: In Texas, citizens with concealed carry permits are 14 times less likely to commit a crime. They are also five times less likely to commit a violent crime. Fact: People with concealed carry permits are:301 • 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for violent offenses than the general public • 13.5 times less likely to be arrested for non-violent offenses than the general public Fact: Even gun control organizations agree it is a non-problem, as in Texas – “because there haven’t been Wild West shootouts in the streets”. Fact: Of 14,000 CCW licensees in Oregon, only 4 (0.03%) were convicted of the criminal (not necessarily violent) use or possession of a firearm. Fact: In Florida, a state that has allowed concealed carry since late 1987, you are twice as likely to be attacked by an alligator as by a person with a concealed carry permit. Flame away Flamer!
Sanchez February 18, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Well resourced for those who are interested in facts and not pablum form the hoplophobes. * Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States during 2008. Of these, about 10,886 or 67% were committed with firearms.[11] * A 1993 nationwide survey of 4,977 households found that over the previous five years, at least 0.5% of households had members who had used a gun for defense during a situation in which they thought someone "almost certainly would have been killed" if they "had not used a gun for protection." Applied to the U.S. population, this amounts to 162,000 such incidents per year. This figure excludes all "military service, police work, or work as a security guard."[12] * Based on survey data from the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 5,340,000 violent crimes were committed in the United States during 2008. These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders.[13] [14] [15] Of these, about 436,000 or 8% were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun.[16] * Based on survey data from a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology,[17] U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year.[18]
Sanchez February 18, 2013 at 04:57 PM
* A 1993 nationwide survey of 4,977 households found that over the previous five years, at least 3.5% of households had members who had used a gun "for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere." Applied to the U.S. population, this amounts to 1,029,615 such incidents per year. This figure excludes all "military service, police work, or work as a security guard."[19] * A 1994 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Americans use guns to frighten away intruders who are breaking into their homes about 498,000 times per year.[20] * A 1982 survey of male felons in 11 state prisons dispersed across the U.S. found:[21] • 34% had been "scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim" • 40% had decided not to commit a crime because they "knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun" • 69% personally knew other criminals who had been "scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim"[22] http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp
rc February 18, 2013 at 07:03 PM
While the American Declaration of Independence stated principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" have an assumed counterbalance of Judeo-Christian temperance, the issue of the second amendment within the Constitution is not one of a spiritual matter but one based on the carnal element of self-reliance and self-preservation. This article making a very general and dubious observation that Americans, more pointedly Christian Americans, relish violence, guns, or conflict deemphasizes secular Americas’ inalienable rights, our respect for independence, or our understanding of not so ancient history. The active disregard in this article for these constitutional truths or juxtaposition of these items in the real world precludes the context necessary to have an intelligent conversation on the subject. If these particulars were included, and acknowledgment of history as a paradigm were revered over ambiguous political correctness then I would hope it would be abundantly clear to those that argue for additional government control that the citizens that speak out to defend the second amendment do not have an insatiable blood lust. (Continued)
rc February 18, 2013 at 07:04 PM
(continued from above) They do not have a thirst for righteous indignation. What they have is clearer grasp of human nature, and an understanding that lawful power can be corrupted by human nature despite written checks and balances. (Look in your history books folks and you will site many examples.) These individuals regardless of if they own a firearm or not understand that governance is necessary, but the physical power to repel and forcibly object to invasion of personal rights or overzealous government edict alike must remain with the citizen. There are plenty of laws on the books that disallow infringement of fellow citizens’ personal rights. Often, the problem with many of these laws and consequences is that they do not deter the actions of those who chose to ignore the verbiage or punishment. To these shortsighted individuals and groups the ends outweigh the means or consequences. Please keep it clear that the rights set forth in the 2nd amendment are not rights regarding hunting or target practice. They state the rights of an individual citizen or group of citizens to strike at those individuals or groups who would impede, by force of arms, their rights as free Americans. If law followed the impulsive arguments about types of weapons, numbers of clips, registrations, etc. it would do nothing other than impeding the utmost rights of the otherwise law abiding citizen. Self-fulfilling prophesy anyone?
Native February 18, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Very well said RC, thank you!
Mary Ann February 19, 2013 at 12:14 PM
These commenters have me convinced. Ken is absolutely right.
rc February 19, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Mary Ann, So I understand, are you saying that an individual who is forced by circumstance to make a conscious decision to defend themselves, family, or fellow citizens, by staring down the sights are not doing that out of love and for the preservation of good? Your first post was the jabbering rant of an individual who lives in an imaginary world cushioned by padded walls of a false security. Your second post proves that you live in a "code compliant" straw house and expect others to live in “code compliant” straw houses even though we both know there is a chance that the wolf could run low on bacon. I love my piglets more than my (to this point sustained) ideals of peaceful happy bliss. Back in the real world now… Out of love, I would choose to be prepared to make a quick and permanent decision if left no other recourse for the preservation of good. Sorry about the metaphor, I thought you might need it explained in the context of a fairytale. Building Code Hint: If you build your house out of straw don’t build your expectations out of brick. Regards rc
Mary Ann February 19, 2013 at 05:27 PM
rc - Your bluster and diminishment have probably served you well. Actually, my life hasn't been so padded. I appreciate when things are good, having come out of a few struggles (I prefer understatement to hyperbole). I know what it looks like before a person pulls the trigger on you; I've been shot. I find my peace as best I can. You sound very angry and fearful. We all have a lot to lose. Our nation is the only one among its peers that hugs its ammo (I already know your response to that!). Look, you guys win - there's no way you'll give it up. Your rhetoric bespeaks the blood you'll spill when threatened. Which again, proves Ken's point.
rc February 20, 2013 at 05:51 AM
Mary Ann, To clarify your perception of me, I'm a happy camper and I only break out my "bluster and diminishment" to get the attention of those individuals who may have the ability to see beyond the end of their nose. Unfortunately most of these people are bound to remain cross-eyed. Speaking to which their guile and hypocrisy amaze me. The ones that go on the soft spoken attacks of personal rights under the guise of public safety are often the same ones that would make childish jabs associating religion and guns (site the above article) if someone with an ethos steps in to defends those rights from the threat of elimination. There lays the difference between us. I could not attempt to comprehend how your incident galvanized your personal views, yet you would support politicians that are hell-bent on changing citizens’ personal freedoms. Where does it stop when the failstop is gone? Since I don't know the circumstances of your situation I won't speak to it anymore other than to wish the best of health to you in the future.
rc February 20, 2013 at 05:51 AM
Mary Ann, To clarify your perception of me, I'm a happy camper and I only break out my "bluster and diminishment" to get the attention of those individuals who may have the ability to see beyond the end of their nose. Unfortunately most of these people are bound to remain cross-eyed. Speaking to which their guile and hypocrisy amaze me. The ones that go on the soft spoken attacks of personal rights under the guise of public safety are often the same ones that would make childish jabs associating religion and guns (site the above article) if someone with an ethos steps in to defends those rights from the threat of elimination. There lays the difference between us. I could not attempt to comprehend how your incident galvanized your personal views, yet you would support politicians that are hell-bent on changing citizens’ personal freedoms. Where does it stop when the failstop is gone? Since I don't know the circumstances of your situation I won't speak to it anymore other than to wish the best of health to you in the future.
Mary Ann February 20, 2013 at 01:36 PM
rc After this, I'm done. I'm as capable as anyone in using terms like "guile and hypocrisy", "citizen's personal freedoms", and "childish jabs" - but viewed from a different lens, and focusing very clearly on a different populations and concepts. Correct, you don't know my circumstances, and I don't know yours. Perhaps we shouldn't presume to know Ken Kovacs's? My last posit is to suggest we change our national currency to NOT say "In God...", to "In Guns We Trust".

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »