Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Politics, Tragedy, and Grace

Don’t be deceived by the charlatans and hucksters attempting to sell you simplistic political solutions. They want your vote and they have only two models to address the mass shooting in Orlando:
1.      More guns here, more bombs there, less Muslims everywhere
2.      Less guns here, more diplomacy there, more tolerance everywhere
Solution 1

This would seem sensible if all (or even the majority) of mass shootings in America were committed by radical Muslims immigrants at the behest of foreign terror groups. So, for the sake of brevity, we can glance at the top 10 deadliest American mass shootings since 1966:

·         Of the 11 perpetrators (San Bernardino had two), 8 were born in the United States, 1 was from South Korea, 1 from South Vietnam, and 1 (the lone female) from Pakistan.
·         4 Were Muslim, 4 were Christian, and 3 had no discernible religious affiliation
·         Of the four Muslims, only one had any demonstrated communication or ties to an Islamic Terror Organization (although the San Bernardino shooters were inspired by ISIS to perform their acts and Omar claimed allegiance).

Assuming there was a ban on any foreign-born Muslims in place, the only perpetrator affected would have been Tashfeen Malik (the wife and accomplice of San Bernardino shooter Rizwan Farook). Sadly, we now live in a world where their rampage doesn’t even make the top six. None had criminal records and as far as we know all obtained their weapons through legal means.

Some may argue that while these might not have been immigrants in the typical sense, there is definitely a trend connecting Islam and mass shootings in America. However, any attempt to disarm gun owners based on religion or dislike of the US government would have the added irony of placing The Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association on the same page. Flippantly disarming Muslims in America would also have the unintended effect of neutralizing the 5,000 that currently serve our military and the thousands who work in law enforcement.

So, let’s eliminate all soft targets. Arm the good-guys. We already have more guns per capita than any country and guns sales have grown exponentially since 2008. Smith & Wesson’s stock has gone up almost 800% since Obama took office. Do you feel safer now than you did 10 years ago? Are you less or more fearful of random violence? Are there less or more mass shootings?

That leaves the idea of bombing ISIS into oblivion so that they can no longer inspire anyone. Suffice it to say that the whole military-action-in-the-Middle-East strategy has had dubious results at best. Even assuming that we could eliminate any mass shootings involving Muslims - and assuming that their religion was their primary motivation - it would have only affected 3 of the top 10 incidents.

If we eliminate Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando; those slots would be filled by the 2013 Washington Navy Yard Shooting, the 2012 Colorado Theater Shooting, and the 1999 Columbine Shooting. This still leaves us in a world where Dylan Roof’s 2015 murder of 9 people in a South Carolina church can’t crack the top 10.   

Solution 2

The idea here is that if there are less guns, less people die needlessly. Perhaps, but it is also true that violence can express itself any number of ways and completely eliminating guns (if such a thing could even be done) would not eliminate hate and violence. It is also true that while total pacifism sounds alluring as a moral high ground, I doubt that ISIS is the type of organization likely to respond to a gift basket and strongly-worded e-mail. Tolerance also has limits. There are certain things that can and cannot be “tolerated” by a free society in order to remain as such. 

So what are we supposed to do? 

As for me, I refuse to place my hope in political ideologies or presidential candidates. I refuse to place my hope in the goodness of mankind or the deterrent of consequence. I even refuse to place my hope in religion or its practitioners. I choose instead to place my hope in the grace exhibited through Jesus Christ. It is a grace that existed before politics, governments or religions ever formed and it shall remain once they have fallen away.

Our world knows well the transformative power of the hate and fear. In many ways, those two emotions have brought us to where we are today. I hope and pray that we demonstrate a better way forward for the sake of my children. A way where we do not blame victims for their fate or God for the terrible actions of those who invoke his name. A way where we do not continually give in to the debilitating fear of those in whom we have difficulty seeing ourselves. A way where we stop believing that our self-sufficiency can overcome our flaws and protect us from all harm. A way that seeks to emulate the Son of God who never let politics, nationality, societal norms, or even religion keep him from reminding us that we are his children and we are loved. God came looking for us. May our lives, words, and actions bear witness to the one whose prevenient grace pursues us still. 



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