Jesus would weep


We worship “a God of radical nonviolence.” So said Father Ron Rolheiser in his column on this page last week.
He was making the point that our faith in Jesus represents progress from earlier, more primitive forms of faith which seemed to require such violence as human sacrifice. But the instinct to violence won’t go away easily. Even the history of the Church shows this from the period when we thought God wanted us to offer up the roasted bodies of heretics.
We called it the Inquisition, but it was our form of ritual violence.
Even at the center of the Church, even after centuries of reflection on the nonviolent way of Jesus in the Gospel, we showed that the desire for control, for a kind of absolute security and safety, can make violence the winner.
The Church of our time is ashamed of the Inquisition’s murderous excesses. We don’t do that any more. We understand better that God wants a living faith, not a coerced, fear-inspired conformity.
We understand better that the imitation of Christ takes us in the direction of self-offering all the way to self-sacrifice. The self we are called to build as Christians is one with capacities, with talent, with skills, with offerings for others, not against them in fear or hatred.
We offer only life more abundantly, never death. We are a sign of human flourishing in love and unity, never the fracturing of humanity in fear, suspicion, hostility, division and violence. At least that is our sign, the flag that we fly, the direction in which we lead if we stand on the Gospel.
This needs to be clearly understood when we might be confused by a contrary faith in violence. The highbrow atheism of academics who dismiss religion as ignorant, archaic nonsense is a relatively minor threat to Christian faith. Our real danger comes from two other directions: indifference, and belief in the saving power of violence.
A good many of us try to live in both camps: we say we believe in Christ while also believing in guns as necessary for the good life. This might be a possible straddle if we are only dedicated hunters for food or the control of pests and prudent conservation of resources.
If that belief in guns rises from fear while living in dangerous places, it may make sense for a Christian — but he or she would be more interested in reducing danger than building an arsenal of violence. That would include reducing the number and availability of guns, especially for unstable and violence-prone people. It would include support for laws and regulations that limit and oversee the manufacture of guns and their buying and selling.
If a belief in guns goes as far as the pronouncements from the National Rifle Association and its allied groups such as Iowa Gun Owners, it’s very hard to see how Christians can be in their membership. The notion that more guns in more hands, more tools designed for deadly violence, is the road to the good life is both nonsense and non-Christian.
Unfortunately, and sadly, the Iowa Legislature will apparently go another year without tightening our laws that oversee gun traffic. Background checks still won’t be required for many sales and transfers of guns. The big holes in mental health reporting won’t be filled in. And we’ll still allow large-capacity bullet feeders.
Jesus would weep.
Frank Wessling

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