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Thursday, April 19, 2012


In your life do you feel more like (a) I've got the enemy trapped but not destroyed? (b) The enemy has me trapped? (c) Battles abound, but I'm not alone? (d) I'm overwhelmed by the battles I still have to face? (e) The enemy doesn't dare utter one word against me? 2. In each instance, who (or what) is your enemy? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition p.342).

It is obvious from the National Rifle Association's popularity and the support that it continually receives, a lot of people feel strongly about the ability to carry guns for protection. One can say that nearly always on their minds, or certainly in the back of their minds, is the idea that they may need to use a gun in self-defense. They have a sense that enemies are real and pose reliable threats. While this is so for some, it is interesting that many others, perhaps a majority, go about their lives without this feeling of impending threat. For these people, constantly lurking threats are not even in the back of their minds. In short, while a large group of people feel they have real or potential enemies, another larger group feels no sufficient alarm in this regard; and while admitting that terrible things are possible, they refuse to have their outlook determined by remote possibilities however grotesque.

I feel this way myself. I rack my brain trying to visualize mayhem perpetrated by an enemy at home or while on the street. Perhaps this does not speak well of me; perhaps anyone worth their salt and anyone with strong convictions in this world will surely have enemies of some sort. I think of Jesus who while certainly a good man had enemies aplenty; enemies that eventually crucified him. He had ideas, opinions, and convictions that ran counter to many in his society. So since I regularly surmise that I have no enemies, perhaps this is not a good sign. Yet, I believe it is really the case that while some people have an ingrained sense of threat, others confronted by much the same reality do not. Is it farfetched to believe that it is possible, even likely, that one can live a life in accord with the rest of humanity? The remarkable fact is many people (really the majority) navigate throughout out life without deadly enemies.

I can only speak for myself, but if I were to choose to live among a group of people, I would prefer living among people who do not feel constantly threatened by their fellow human beings.

Today in the news was a story about the Secret Service assigned to protect President Obama. Let's consider the obvious fact that the president (and this could be one of any party) is constantly under threat by all sorts of potential enemies. So, I do not claim for a moment that we live in a totally benign world. Every day I see on the news and read in the paper of grotesque crimes committed against innocent people in the community, yet I do not feel motivated to carry a gun or even to have one. Perhaps this could be called unrealistic. A person can justify carrying a gun based on the simple fact that criminals are present. My position on this is that it really is not my place to discern and execute this kind of ultimate justice. To me this is a state function, a function which I am not qualified to fill. Hence I feel content to leave law enforcement up to others—to the servants of the state and the sworn officers within the state. Obviously, if there were no state law enforcement it would be a Wild West. Then, clearly, everyone would need to carry a gun. But since this is not the case, and since my judgment especially under stress and high emotion cannot be relied upon to deliver a measured sense of justice, I am better off not having a gun. But this is a view based on reasoning. It does not explain my emotional contentment to remain unarmed.

Perhaps in the end I'm afraid of guns, especially guns in my hands. I know myself only too well (and other people's not well enough) to feel confident about carrying a lethal weapon. I've heard it said that if guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns. But despite this saying—and I have to admit probably in the last analysis we are faced with an unprovable matter—I prefer to rely on the state for law enforcement and the due process of determining justice and not on myself. I refuse to let a minority of lawbreakers undermine my beliefs and convictions about the proper role of the state and its law enforcement officers or of my role as an average unsworn citizen. I am certain about that. It continues to amaze me that there are people who blithely assume that they have complete control over themselves in the use of a lethal weapon—that they have absolute trust in themselves to decide justice on an instant. To me that signifies feelings of rectitude and self-righteousness buttressed by mental and emotional misgiving and fear—bringing to mind the words of FDR in his first inaugural address when he spoke about the nation's economic catastrophe: So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror... ” (Source).

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