Statement, Parkland, Florida

All of our hearts go out to the families, loved ones, friends, teachers, and anyone else even remotely connected to the Parkland, Florida high school youths killed in yet another act of violent evil. 

I want to share with you a section of a sermon I gave last November, at the time referencing the mass-shooting at the Baptist church in Texas, following on from the one in Las Vegas...  (Please excuse the all-caps, but this is directly from my manuscript written for public delivery)

"THE LATE JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, A GOOD CATHOLIC WHO WENT TO MY HIGH SCHOOL, SAID THE 2ND AMENDMENT WAS NOT INTENDED TO BE AN OPEN-ENDED BLANK CHECK TO BUILD AN ARSENAL IN THE BASEMENT.

I'M NOT A PACIFIST, AND I'D LIKE TO THINK I'D HAVE DONE THE SAME THING AS THE GUY WHO FIRST CONFRONTED THE PERPETRATOR OUTSIDE THE BUILDING.

BUT IT'S BIGGER THAN THAT.

MY OPINION, AN UNBRIDLED SECOND AMENDMENT IS IDOLATRY, BECAUSE IT MAKES GUNS MORE IMPORTANT THAN GOD WHO GAVE ALL OF US THE RIGHT TO LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

 YES, I BELIEVE THE VICTIMS IN LAS VEGAS ARE IN HEAVEN WITH GOD, BUT I THINK GOD INTENDED FOR THEM TO PURSUE A LITTLE MORE LIFE AND HAPPINESS HERE ON EARTH.

 WITHOUT MEANINGFUL AND EFFECTIVE CONTROL WE CAN'T PURSUE ANYTHING, AND IT'LL BE AN AWFULLY SAD DAY IN CHURCH IF THE BENEDICTION HAS TO BE GIVEN BY WYATT EARP."

All of the facts regarding what just happened in Parkland, Florida are still to be elucidated.  Those facts will emerge soon, I hope.

Last Sunday, in what was a hypothetical example on a different topic, I said this...

"ONE OF THE MOST TYPICALLY MISTAKEN WAYS WE CHRISTIANS APPROACH THE BIBLE IS THINKING WE HAVE TO FIND TEXTS WITH WORDS THAT EXACTLY MATCH THE TOPIC AT HAND.

THIS IS A FORM OF PROOFTEXTING THAT WINDS UP REALLY LIMITING THE WAYS WE CAN APPLY THE PRINCIPLES OF SCRIPTURE.

FOR INSTANCE, GUNS AREN’T MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THERE AREN’T PASSAGES THAT CAN GIVE CLEAR GUIDANCE ON GUN OWNERSHIP, IF WE’RE LOOKING FOR GOD’S WILL."  (Underlining added today for clarity)

So how about we consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 10?

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

While initially related to dietary laws, I believe the Living Word of God allows us to extrapolate from this text, thus gleaning a life-enhancing principle for all of us today.

So, here's what I'm feeling right now.

I am not at all a gun abolitionist (far from it).  In point of fact, I believe every high school student should have school access to a government approved gun safety course (because they may be exposed to guns even if they don't actually own them).

That said, I am firmly in the Justice Scalia camp (as quoted above).  I'm not sure why any civilian should have access to an AR-15 level gun, unless they have been required to pass competency tests that would also require the demonstration that others would be precluded from having access to that weapon.

Yes, in the most recent case, we can say this is a mental illness issue.  It is.

I don't think it's at all a stretch to say it is a weapons issue as well.  The personal dysfunction of an individual may be the original component, but the access to an assault rifle is the multiplier. 

Yes, people can be killed with knives, or even plastic pens.  But it's awfully hard to inflict mass casualties, from a distance, in a short time, with implements that are technically incapable of rapidly issuing widespread lethal force.

I am not blaming our current legislators for the current state of affairs, because it seems to me that this issue should have been foreseen 30 years ago.  Decades past, as the technology got more sophisticated and accessible, the morality should have kept pace.  It didn't.

My biased view is that the ethical application is a few decades behind.  Kids have paid the price.  Their loved ones will pay every day they remain in this world.

Do I believe we're seeing the results of a constellation of issues challenging our young ones?  Totally.  The Social Media seminar we hosted in our Sanctuary touched on some of the pitfalls our young ones need to negotiate every single day.

However, relying on my reading of Scripture, my personal common sense says that within the present state of affairs, semi-automatic weapons may be lawful, but I just don't think they are helpful.

As a very proud American, I feel embarrassed for our country.  We are better than this, and we are smarter too.

I feel mortified for the parents and siblings and classmates and teachers of the school children killed.

We need to pray for all concerned (including the alleged perpetrator).

We also need to pray for ourselves.

If our intention is to light the way, candles won't do it.  Solid Christian ethics and love will. 

Big problems never yield perfect solutions, but they do afford the chance to make a worthy and effective response.  We can do better, and without political recrimination, I think we will. 

We must.

Godspeed,
Rev. Bill