Sunday, December 23, 2012

Is He Really the Prince of Peace, or Just a Figurehead?

As I write this post today, it is the fourth Sunday in Advent. We celebrate today, in the birth of an innocent child, the arrival of Emmanuel, which means "God is With Us." In Isaiah Chapter 9 it is written 

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

How ironic that just as we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, in my own culture just so recently there has been yet another mass killing by a deranged man who had access to firearms. How ironic that some of the same people who claim to believe in the teachings of the Prince of Peace will still resist efforts to disarm killers and reduce their opportunity to harm others by regulating access to handguns, automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition. How ironic that some people who claim to believe in peace, advocate violence themselves? 

The evil caused by handguns and high capacity firearms is so obvious it cannot be ignored.  
Sandy Hook is only the latest manifestation, the most recent name in a list of names that is far too long. The facts are clear. Guns kill people. No one can seriously believe otherwise. If the converse were true, bare hands would be just as effective and no one would claim to have any use for a gun. The only purpose of a weapon is the use it was intended for, which is killing or wounding. The type of weapon indicates what type of killing or wounding it is intended for. The myth that guns provide protection is refuted by evidence to the contrary. The real reason for resistance to regulation of firearms has nothing to do with protection. Instead, it has everything to do with America's worship of guns, gun culture, and the false machismo that goes with it. 
There was a time in U.S. history when the "wild west" was in our back yards and when guns of some variety were needed for protection.  Even our children's stories, such as Laura Ingles Wilder's story about her childhood, Little House in the Big Woods, about her childhood during frontier days, has stories about dangers posed by wolves and bears that her Pa had to defend the family against.    Many folk still enjoy hunting for game or even supply a good bit of their family's larder through hunting.  But the guns used for protecting from bears or for shooting deer are not the ones at the center of the debate over regulation of guns.  At the center of this debate is the sale and regulation of guns that have no practical use other than the killing and maiming of our fellow citizens.    By failing to remove these weapons from the realm of ordinary gun shops and shows, America is showing its willingness to continue to partake of the violence.   

The consequences are clear and foreseeable.  It's not just that people are being killed and maimed by guns.  It goes even deeper.  The symptom is a reflection of a spiritual malady:  the idea that violence can solve problems.  When we have a conflict with another person, the solution is not to go shoot them.  Everyone pays lip service to this.  But widespread ownership of handguns and a culture of gun ownership belies our words.  Just one statistic:  just one.  If there is a gun in a house, the increase of death to a woman as a result of domestic violence increases five fold; and in 2005 there were 1182 deaths of women in the USA reported to be the result of domestic violence.  

As a result of our tacit acceptance of a culture of violence, America's hands are dripping with the blood of thousands of people killed by guns each year, not just the highly publicized cases.   Cases every day in each of our own back  yards, figuratively speaking.  Yet Americans continue to resist common sense restrictions on gun ownership and sales of ammunition.  

The hypocrisy of claiming to believe in the Prince of Peace yet refusing to give up a culture of violence astounds me. As many times as God has chosen to speak to humankind, that many times has humankind ignored God. In Jesus, God sent the good news of peace, the message of God's love for each of us and both the exhortation and the example that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. The message is clear throughout the Gospel. It is up to us not just to hear it but to heed it. Until something changes, nothing will change. 

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. Matthew 5:38-40

I am reminded of the story in Luke Chapter 16 of the rich man who died and, from his perspective in the afterworld could see the error of his ways. He asked God to let him go back and warn his brothers. God's reply was that his brothers had the message from the scripture and the prophets they could listen to. If they would not heed those, they would not heed the brother who came back from the dead, either. Likewise, we have the clear teachings of Jesus in the Bible. If we do not heed his message of love and compassion, we condemn ourselves to the consequences. 

Today, I light a candle not just for the children of Sandy Hook, but for all those whose lives have been cut short as the result of gun violence and our culture of violence. 

We owe it to ourselves and to our children to work for a culture of peace. We owe it to our children to work for a culture where all children can take life for granted. We ought to strive for a culture where innocents can dream sweet dreams without fear of violence. Especially if we claim to adhere to the teachings of the Prince of Peace. 

This recording is of Sugar Zuccero and Pavarotti singing about the golden dreams of childhood. The golden dreams of the children of Sandy Hook were cut short. Cut short because of our deeply embedded culture of violence and resistance to change from within. We cannot claim to be a Christian nation and at the same time continue to advocate policies that are contrary to the values of the gospel. Violence as a way of life, as a "right," or as an acceptable social policy is not an exception to the requirement that, if we claim to believe in Jesus, we must likewise follow him even when he leads places we would rather not go. 

Proverbs tells us, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6).  For Christians, it is not always easy to give up our own defenses or to trust in the Lord. And there are risks. But it's a clear commandment that we do so.

Va Pensiero

Va pensiero sul anni dorate 

Cross the mountains and fly over the oceans 

Reach the land find the place where all children go

Every night after listening to this lullaby. 

There you find their heroes alive protecting their innocence 

Bless them all 'cause their simple song is so pure and wonderful. 

Va pensiero sul anni dorate 

Life's beautiful dream carry on for all night long. 

Lend them your golden wings every fear will fly away 

Take them by the hand help them find an easy way 

Lead them back to the light, back to the light 

Where they once used to belong 

Where they can be children as long as they want. 

Va pensiero sul anni dorate 

Cross the mountains and fly over the oceans 

Reach the land find the place where all children go 

Every night after listening to this lullaby 

Every night after listening to this lullaby


  1. Amen! That is a beautiful and well written piece with much for us to ponder. Here's my take, google: "Jesus -- an unwanted Christmas present"

  2. And how many have there been since you wrote this two years ago? It always astounds me, as a Canadian, that Americans consider themselves a Christian nation, when, as you've said, what they really worship is their guns. What I've been noticing at this advanced age (I've always been a bit of a slow learner) is that there are two camps of Christians: the ones who "believe in" Jesus, and the ones who follow him. The US is an example that shows this difference in caricature.


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