Aberrations, such as the massacre of 20 elementary school children at Sandy Hook do not appear out of thin air, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Trying to find political consensus to solve the problem of gun violence in America, while establishing reasonable parameters of gun regulation appear to require the wisdom of King Solomon.
Perhaps we can get guidance about handling this critical issue from Solomon. Before he became arguably the wisest man in all of history, he properly positioned himself for success, as we learn in 1Kings Chapter 3, beginning with verse 7:
7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
We could say Solomon had ascended to the Oval Office, or we could say he was at the helm of the most powerful lobbying group in the land—God’s chosen people. But he did not rest on, nor self-exalt in how well capitalized and influential was his PAC or that he was ‘clothed in immense power,’ but he foresaw the challenging politics to come, realized he couldn’t manage this favored positioning as an island, and sought to be Divinely equipped with the ability to ‘rightly divide the word of truth.’
It was a brilliant approach, which immediately paid dividends.
1Kings 3 continues:
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.
The current political landscape has the National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership, and many gun-rights advocates on the right in a stalemate with the Obama Administration and many gun-control advocates on the left—while the body count from gun violence in America daily rises, and the rift widens.
How did Solomon deal with a similar situation?
1Kings 3 continues:
16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” 2 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
Post Sandy Hook, a growing number of progressives are aggressively arguing against the NRA assertion of second amendment protection of the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines to the general public—which is seen by many as solely as an NRA campaign to drive upward the profits of gun manufacturers.
Meanwhile, a recent Rasmussen poll found that 65 percent of Americans see gun rights as protection against tyranny.
The previously existing paradigm was deemed perfectly acceptable capitalism 101 and/or political lobbying 101, until the moral vacuum was filled with the bullet-riddled bodies of 20 babies.
Now the argument must be settled to find which group’s thinking is the parent of the solution to this unspeakable tragedy. Those who would insist on universal background checks, fingerprinting and licenses for all gun purchases, “well-regulated” sales at guns shows, banning high-capacity magazines and assault rifles; or, those who would reject any attempt to restrict the sale, manufacture or ownership of firearms in America and direct attention to strictly focus on mental health issues, the effects of the consumption of violent entertainment on youth and/or the championing of posting armed guards at every school in America?
The political gulf is wide—widening!—and given the stream of non-conciliatory rhetoric, seems impossible to bridge. But a decision has to be reached that will be in the best interest of children.
If only we could get King Solomon on the phone!
We can’t do that, but we do have a court transcript of the baby-gate trial proceedings. Let’s review how Solomon ensured the safety of the child and saw that the child's future was guided by the right hands?
1King 3 continues:
23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king.
Well, one cannot say Solomon was against arming himself to deal with a problem. The first thing he did was call for his “piece.” I digress.
1Kings 3 continues:
25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” 27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
The elegant, God-given wisdom of Solomon!
Soon, we in America will know who best loves our babies, by their actions. We will see who is ultimately wise and just.
Understandably, there is an intense focus in the ongoing debate on guns. There is also some mostly amorphous talk about possibly related mental-health issues. But the question also bears posing: can we really expect to arrive at a wise and just resolution of this conundrum of carnage without factoring in America’s love affair with violence?
This romance is evidenced by the ample commerce generated by violent movies, television shows and video games, which confirm our uniquely American predilection for that which is the pablum for weaning our children on macabre forms of entertainment.
Enter, Ephesians Chapter 2:
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
It talks about, “The ruler of the kingdom of the air.” Is that not how these violent movies, games, even violent music are introduced into our children’s spirits, through the air—either by sight or by sound—watching television, watching movies, playing video games, listening to music, via the ‘airwaves’?
Alright, table that thought and come back down to earth, if we must. Look at what we have been able to figure out in the temporal realm: A 15-year-long University of Michigan longitudinal study published in the March 2003 issue of Developmental Psychology says children’s “perceptions [are] that TV violence is realistic” and the viewing of violence is “linked to later aggression as young adults, for both males and females.”
The study re-surveyed 329 of the 557 boys and girls who were the subjects of a 1977 study, when they were between the ages 6 and 10.
In the 2003 study, the subjects were in their early 20’s.
In addition, a report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania: The Effectiveness of the Motion Picture Association of America’s Rating System in Screening Explicit Violence and Sex in Top-ranked Movies from 1950 to 2006, indicates “the explicitness of violence and sex in popular movies rose following the 1968 replacement of the Production [or Hays] Code with the MPAA [Classification and Rating Administration (CARA)] rating system.”
“Violence increased steadily in both R and PG-13 films over time…which suggests that CARA has systematically changed its criteria over time for assigning R to violent films, since it increasingly takes more violence to receive an R rating,” reads the Annenberg report.
“Especially concerning is the finding that proportions of PG-13 films escalated drastically over time to the point where they accounted for about half of top-grossing films. PG-13 has contained increasingly violent content over time…,” the Annenberg report continues.
Youth aged 12 to 24 buy more movie tickets than any other age group. It is therefore in the MPAA’s financial interest to limit the number of R-rated films, as PG-13 films generate far more revenue.
The Motion Picture Association says US/Canadian box office revenues totaled $10.2 billion in 2011.
We passionately patronize movie-industry and gaming interests who, under first amendment protections, produce and traffic in violent content intended for our children.
To begrudge Hollywood and gaming interests their "artistic freedom" is not my cause and that appears to be settled law in America. It is primarily a parental and community responsibility to protect our children, not theirs.
We allow for the emotional adoption by our young people of screen (and video game) heroes and anti-heroes with whom or through whom, on a daily basis, they interactively or imaginatively mimic committing the most heinous acts of gratuitous violence.
We label it entertainment and countenance its consumption by their developing or, in some cases, their innocently developmentally arrested minds.
News flash: we also blissfully buy McDonald’s Happy Meals for our early learners that are frequently a primary point of aftermarket distribution for the violent characters and weaponry depicted in commercial motion pictures—perhaps stealthily (along with other worse offenders) or unintentionally, grooming our babies to take over the cinema seats of their aging big brothers and sisters.
In his 2009 book, “The Moment of ‘Psycho’: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder,” British film critic David Thomson argues that the 1960 film Psycho allowed for increasing levels of violence to enter into motion pictures.
“In terms of cruelties we no longer notice…we are another species,” wrote Thomson.
Ephesians 2 continues:
3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
The acculturation of violence in our children begins almost as soon as they start watching cartoons like Roadrunner (which I loved), or can be babysat by a violent video game, or phoneticize the word ‘McDonalds’—whose marketing to children is iconic—as is their legendary philanthropy through the Ronald McDonald House, to be fair.
There does seem to be a paradigm shift in America—with the Sandy Hook shootings being the apparent tipping point.
A recent Johns Hopkins poll indicates 89 percent of all respondents, and 75 percent of those identified as NRA members, support universal background checks for gun sales. It also indicates a majority of NRA members support prohibiting people with recent alcohol or drug charges to buy guns and 70 percent support a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison for selling guns to persons not legally allowed own them.
“Not only are gun owners and non-gun-owners very much aligned in their support for proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws, but the majority of NRA members are also in favor of many of these policies,” Daniel Webster, co-author of the Hopkins study and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research said in a written statement.
The Hopkins survey also indicates most Americans favor greater spending on mental health issues, a plank in both President Barack Obama’s and the NRA's plan, outlined by Wayne LaPierre, intended to curb gun violence.
Is there a 21st century cultural renaissance or spiritual awakening afoot? Can we generationally devolve from the ‘Thomson model’ of insensitivity to violence, if one accepts the premise, even if one rejects the spiritual elements of this equation?
One can only hope that a growing and continuing chorus of grassroots voices calling for national and/or states’ action on violence in entertainment, mental-health issues, school safety and "well-regulated" gun ownership will provide enough political cover, if not backbone reinforcement, for lawmakers to take meaningful action, now, and not allow the Sandy Hook victims to die in vain.
Wise King Solomon settled the political dispute between the prostitutes in his court by testing which of them would sacrifice their own personal comfort and relent from their well-rehearsed talking points to save the life of the child.
1Kings 3 continues, after Solomon’s ruling on the child’s life:
28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.
In the settlement of this gun-rights/gun-control debate, we too must keep a discerning eye out to see who is willing to cut the baby in half and whom we will hold “in awe.”