Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Gun Nuts are Right

I've said the main aim of the gun control folks shouldn't be (yet) to worry too much about regulation; a great victory would be to de-legitimize the notion that the citizenry needs armaments to combat oppressive government (and many believe any government at all is oppressive). However, my objection to that line of thinking is more practical. Someone who holds that view should probably also be a big fan of cuts to defense spending, because, at current rates, the citizenry will be severely outgunned for the foreseeable future. As a matter of practicality, I'd be fine with the notion of citizen militias if it meant we could cut 90% or so out of the defense budget; that's a trade-off we can all embrace.

I don't think the theory of oppressive government should be overthrown though, because it's wrong. The gun nuts are absolutely right. Government is our example of empire in this day and age - it's a large power center, using dominant force to exact its will. If anyone's wrong, it's the folks who believe government is a force for good in the world. It may be necessary and our scriptures might indicate it's purpose is to do good, but that's simply not the reality.

Those with power will use it in oppressive ways. That's a historical fact 99.9% of the time. Shoot, many a scholar has said the main story line of the Bible is the faithful resistance of empire. It's the exact trajectory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Identifying the problem is not the issue. Those gun nuts have it right all the way.

The problem comes in the solution. Armed resistance has generally been the course of things. Sure, Canada and Australia had a more diplomatic approach to freedom, but it was really only after both sides recognized the alternatives. Gandhi had great success with non-violence, but economic factors were far more prevalent in the decision of Britain to excise itself from the sub-continent.

Of course, that doesn't invalidate the idea or it's affect on the process. This faithful resistance those biblical scholars talk about is not the same thing as taking up arms to surprise a violent power with a counter-violence they didn't expect. The gospel provides an alternative. Faithful resistance in the way of Christ is simply to take up your cross and follow Jesus, which literally means an execution for treason. It's not a court battle or an actual battle, but a commitment to love in ways that may only make a difference after we're dead (or maybe after our children's children's children's robot children have been decommissioned).

It's not super attractive and it's not entirely logical. No, the way of faithful resistance in love really only comes into view after we've tried out the other options and found them wanting - not always in effectiveness, but certain in overall satisfaction. Violent resistance - even stubborn non-violent resistance - often gets us what we want, but what we want in that scenario is power of our own and inevitably we use it terribly (even if slightly less terribly than those we overthrow - which had lower odds than a coin flip, if we're taking history into account). In the end, it doesn't get us across the finish line; it just perpetuates the problem (albeit in a more palatable way, short term).

So, in short: the gun nuts are right in identifying the situation in which we find ourselves; they're just typically (and by that I mean indicative of typical) off on how to address it.

It's not really any different to solutions other people proscribe to problems of this nature. Outlawing something is perhaps less violent in the physical sense, but no less oppressive. This is where we have to have our discussion about separating government responses from moral ones - a discussion we certainly don't have time for today.

The question we ultimately have to grapple with is how we comprise our values for life in the world. Do we believe in love and hope and faithful resistance on a personal or religious level and deal with government oppression (hopefully in our favor) as an interim measure? Do we leave the governing to the government and simply reserve our engagement to other venues? Do we simply live the way of the world until things change (presumably supernaturally), when its easier to do as we believe?

None of those seems great, but they're also not entirely dismiss-able; you can't blame people for choosing any of them. I can say, very clearly, violence itself is not Christian, but what level we're willing to live with oppression (of and by ourselves) in this world is truly a contemporary quandry.

The gun nuts have chosen their answer.* What are the rest of us going to do?

*Yes, I know I'm going to catch flack for continuing to say "gun 'nuts,'" but I think you all know exactly what I mean. If I'm going to be politically incorrect, I don't mind doing it in a way that's disrespectful of violence. Sorry. You'll just have to live with that (and hopefully be graceful and forgiving).

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