Thursday, June 19, 2014

163.5 - The illness of guns

The illness of guns

Following up on the Clown Award, what's really amazing is how deeply the concept of guns has penetrated our culture. I don't mean gun ownership; in fact the number of people who own guns has been gradually declining in this country for some time even as the number of guns owned continues to increase - that is, fewer and fewer people are owning more and more guns each. Rather, I mean the idea of guns as just a routine part of our culture. Let me give you some examples to illustrate.

On June 27, the administration of Preston Memorial Hospital in Kingswood, WV, is staging a "community BBQ," during which the hospital plans to raffle off a matched set of Ruger handguns with .357 and .44 Magnum cartridges.

What makes this even more insane is that this is the second year they have run a gun raffle.

Tickets this year are $20 and proceeds benefit the "PMH Foundation Building for a Healthy Future Capital Campaign." Put a little less clumsily, the guns are being raffled off as a fundraiser for expanding the hospital.

I certainly hope that expansion includes an improved emergency department.

And this is not even an isolated case.

In March, as part of a bid to attract more people to its services, the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York gave away an AR-15 assault rifle in a free raffle: the only requirement to win was to be in church on the day. Pastor John Koletas said the event was to honor hunters and gun owners, and, he went on, "we’re being a blessing and a help to people who have been attacked, viciously attacked, by socialists and anti-Christian people - the politicians and the media."

The church promoted the event with flyers saying "Win a FREE AR-15" right above a quote taken from John 14:27: "my peace I give unto you." And yes, they spelled it p-e-a-c-e not p-i-e-c-e.

Pastor Koletas claimed "the Bible is replete with defending yourself and arming yourself, and being capable of defending yourself." Apparently the Bible can serve as a tactical military manual. The article did not specify any of the "replete" passages which the pastor may have cited. And I guess this passage doesn't mean anything:
You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say to you, That you resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue you at law, and take away your coat, let him have you cloak too. And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you do not turn away.

You have heard that it has been said, love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you.
That's John 5:38-44. It's part of the Sermon on the Mount, which apparently doesn't appear in Pastor Koletas' Bible.

Nor, apparently, does it appear in the Bible used at the Lone Oak First Baptist Church of Paducah, KY, which, a couple of weeks before Grace Church's BBQ, drew 1300 people to a steak dinner at the church hall by raffling off 25 rifles for free.

So many of us have become so used to guns, so inured to the death machines that they are, that they are built to be, that by the end of the first week in June, the TSA had discovered 892 guns in passengers’ carry-on bags at security checkpoints. That’s a 19 percent increase from the comparable period of last year, which was a record - and 80% of the guns were loaded.

Why were they trying to carry loaded weapons past the security checkpoint? Usually, the excuse was "I forgot it's there."

John Pierce, a Virginia lawyer and co-founder of, which is campaigning for the right to “openly carry properly holstered handguns in daily American life,” said that those for who firearms are not a daily part of life might find it hard to understand those for who carrying a gun is second nature.

No, Mr. Pierce, that's not it - because I can understand that. That's the problem. You are so connected to the gun that you can forget you have a loaded gun in your carry-on bag, as if a loaded gun was no more consequential than a cell phone or an extra pair of shorts.

More than that, more important than that, our love of guns, our mythos of guns, our identification with guns, has gone beyond an acceptance, for too many of us it has gone beyond an obsession into a sort of mental illness, a psychosis driven by a constant state of fear combined with a feeling of powerlessness to improve or even to affect our own lives, a psychosis that leaves us envisioning Jesus packing heat and expecting at any moment a crazed murder-rapist-terrorist to come smashing through our front door.

NY state Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, who attended the event at the Troy church, said he couldn't understand why the event would be controversial. The thing is, for the most part, it's not - and again, that is exactly the problem.

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