Local News: The Spring semester at Belhaven University is underway. On Monday, January 21, students will have an opportunity to earn two chapel credits by participating in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day. Students are able to plug into numerous service projects around the Belhaven neighborhood and around city of Jackson. To read the full Spring 2013 chapel schedule, click here.
Fiscal cliffs, deficits, taxes, gun control—the list of things the nightly news gives you to worry about seems to continuously grow. It is in the muck and mire of these real life issues that faith in Christ can make a real, practical difference. We have hope.
1. God will take care of us
As this examiner has been pondering the economic issues which are being reported on so much lately, one verse that has provided a measure of comfort is Matthew 6:33. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” By “all these things” Jesus was referring to our daily necessities—food, water, clothing, shelter, etc… This comment from the Sermon on the Mount reminds us that God already knows what we need and promises to meet our needs. Instead of getting in panic mode when seeing the decrease in our paychecks due to more taxes being taken out, we can remember that God is committed to taking care of us. Whatever is going on in Congress doesn’t obstruct God’s promise to care for us.
In the midst of economic uncertainty, we’re told to seek God’s kingdom. That means to seek his will, to look for ways to conform more to what he expects from us, to yield our desires to his desire for our lives, to look out for others as much as for ourselves.
2. God wants us to give our opponents the benefit of the doubt
What is particularly frustrating in listening to news reports about Congress and the President is just how polarized our country appears to be. Republicans and Democrats alike are using the country’s economic woes to try and score political points against each other, and the biggest impression one gets from the media is that neither side is willing or able to cooperate or compromise with the other in order to get much done.
Unfortunately, even the issue of gun safety has become much too politicized. What is sorely needed in the gun control debate is moderation. The National Rifle Association has been under fire this week for launching an attack ad which drags President Barack Obama's daughters into the gun control debate. One often gets the impression, from listening to the news, that one group wants civilians to have unlimited, unconditional access to military style machine guns while the other group wants to trample the 2nd Amendment by banning all firearms. In reality, both sides want something in the middle and it’s time to stop caricaturing each other.
If one examines the arguments on both sides, one sees that both want more or less the same thing: increased safety. The “pro-gun” crowd believes that law-abiding citizens possessing weapons is the best self-defense measure against unlawful citizens with firearms. There is anecdotal evidence to support this position. Case studies have been done showing how numerous criminals have been prevented from killing innocent people because they were first gunned down by a civilian with a gun of his or her own.
The gun control crowd believes that current laws are too lax, making it too easy for unstable and dangerous people to possess military type firearms that can be used to massacre innocent people. Massacres such as the one last month in Connecticut are reminders, they say, of what happens when assault weapons end up in the wrong hands. Thus, tighter restrictions are needed regarding who can buy guns and what kinds of guns are available on the market. The 2nd Amendment, after all, ensures the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t remotely address what kinds of firearms should be legal. Even the most ardent pro-gun people generally concede that some military weapons don’t need to be on the market.
The concern, we can see, on both sides is to increase safety, so let’s stop assuming the worst about each other. Whatever side you come down on in this debate, remember that the “other” side wants the same thing you do; the debate isn’t about responsible safety vs. reckless unsafety or between constitutional freedoms vs. forfeiting constitutional rights. The debate is about how to lawfully make society safer.
Some are calling for tighter security measures at schools, such as installing metal detectors and hiring security guards at all public schools. Of course, the biggest problem with such a solution is that there’s no money for such an intervention. Schools, especially in Mississippi, can barely afford to staff schools with qualified teachers; there’s not surplus money sitting around to be used for security guards. Even if metal detectors could be afforded at all schools, something would be lost in the process of gaining security. The atmosphere of the school would change, taking on a much less friendly demeanor, and would no doubt feel like a prison to many children.
Would banning certain guns merely make it harder for law abiding citizens to protect themselves? Would criminalizing certain guns merely ensure that only criminals have guns? Or would stricter gun control reduce violent crime statistics throughout the nation? Sayings like, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” have become clichéd, but the grain of truth in them is that guns, in themselves, are morally neutral. What makes them “good” or “bad” is determined by how they are used. This seems to be the perspective of Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant who yesterday announced that he would oppose any Federal gun control legislation being enforced in Mississippi.
We live in a fallen world so mankind is always going to find ways to take things that are not necessarily evil and use them for evil purposes. We mustn’t hastily assume that fixing the gun problem, whatever that means, would fix the problem of violence in the world. Remember the Rwandan genocide, history’s bloodiest massacre since the Holocaust, was carried out mostly with machetes and other blunt objects, not guns.
The ongoing questions over taxes (Is it fair to impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans? Is it socialism?) as well as the debates over gun control are complicated, without a clear cut, black-and-white answer. Certainly, there isn’t a definitive “Christian” answer to the debate. Committed Christians occupy both sides of the debate and mustn’t allow this, or any other political disagreement, to hamper their fellowship in Christ with each other.