Five Hundred Dead Cannot Be Ignored
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
The United States of America, together with the city of Chicago, has passed a gruesome and heinous milestone this past week. As of this past Friday, September 9th, 2016, 500 people have been shot to death in Chicago so far this year, and we have just over three and a half months to go before the end of the year. This damnable statistic is a scathing indictment of American “society” in general, and the city of Chicago in particular. As of this writing I do not know anyone who has relocated, or who has plans to relocate, to Chicago for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t take a blooming genius to figure out why – the average citizen living in Chicago has a greater chance of being shot than US military personnel do in Afghanistan or Iraq. Only Syria would be a scarier place to live right now, and that’s nothing for Chicago to brag about. But it’s not just Chicago, as I wrote above. These shooting deaths are an absolutely horrific portrait of American society.
There are many who say the proliferation of guns and the gun culture in America that accompanies it is the culprit. Take all the guns off the streets, they say, and the problem of excessive gun violence will be solved. To me, quite frankly, this ‘solution’ is laughable for its naivety and ignorance of the Constitution. You might say, “What do you mean, naive?” Simply put, I find it astonishingly naive that anyone would assume that outlawing guns would solve the gun violence problem. You see, the people doing all the shooting are exhibiting criminal behavior. Criminals don’t obey laws to begin with, so the net effect of outlawing gun ownership would be that only outlaws and the police would be armed. The remainder of us, the other 98%, would be reduced to moving targets. If there is anyone out there who thinks the police shootings would stop, or that gun violence would cease, if the general public were to be disarmed, they had better think twice – and very carefully too! Moreover, with a disarmed population robberies, sex crimes, and domestic terrorism would increase exponentially since only outlaws would have weapons. A disarmed public would only embolden all the predators out there, not to mention all the trigger-crazy police. Moreover, an infamous man once famously said, “The first step to taking over a country is to disarm its citizens”. That infamous man was Adolf Hitler. Josef Stalin did the same thing in Russia from the mid-1920’s to the early 1930’s. Look it up.
Then there is the problem with the US Constitution, or more accurately the interpretation thereof. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. There it is in black and white, folks, from our supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States. So now we can see that the only way for the government – law enforcement in this case – to legally take away our primary means of self-protection would be to change the Constitution. That would mean calling for a Constitutional convention consisting of Congress and representatives of the President and his Cabinet, something not likely to happen without a citizen’s revolt. Yet by the same token, a revolution is exactly what America needs for such reforms to take place. While I personally do not own any firearms – something I’ve been rethinking lately – I am very much a pro-2nd-amendment kind of guy.
I can see two main reasons for all the gun violence. The first I can sum up in two words – anger management, or more accurately the lack thereof on the part of all too many Americans of all races, enthnicities and complexions. Too many people are using their emotions instead of their minds for processing thoughts and feelings. The second I can sum up in one word – greed! There are too many people trying to shake down too many others for a quick, easy profit. The fact that much of this stems from the lack of economic opportunity, combined with wages that are on par with the 1960’s, changes nothing. Allow me to share a few examples of what the Bible says about this. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul; let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse” – my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush into sin, and they are swift to shed blood.” (Proverbs chapter 1, verses 8-16) These verses remind me of the gang problem here in the US, which is substantial to be sure. As you know, youth plus a sense of belonging, minus any positive role models at home, and minus any real chance at economic or educational opportunities, equals future gang members. If our youth can’t find the love, acceptance and guidance they need from home and church, they will go and get it somewhere else.
But there is more to America’s anger management issues. Much of the gun violence Chicago and other American cities are experiencing is due to hot-tempered individuals – those who don’t stop and think before they act. Once again, as a Web minister and Christian blogger, I consider it my duty as well as being part of my job description to point out what the Bible has to say about this. Rather than pontificate about this, I will let the Word of God speak for me. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver, and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace it; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.” (Proverbs chapter 3, verses 13-18) People react emotionally instead of thoughtfully because they allow evil things like greed, pride and a bad temper to rule over them, as it is written: “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.” (Proverbs 10: 23) But isn’t there more to it than just that, you ask? You’re right, it’s more than just a lack of understanding. Some people need to grow up and learn to control their tempers, and to cease provoking others. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. (Proverbs 15: 1) And again it is written in that same Book of Proverbs: “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15: 18)
But at the end of the day, the reasons for gun violence have one common denominator – a lack of love. Hatred has replaced love in a world that can’t stop hating because it doesn’t know how. The reason some people don’t know how to stop hating nor how to start loving is because they refuse to take the Bible and its teachings seriously. Moreover, there is no love because there is no trust due to fear – people are afraid to trust one another because they’re afraid if they do they might miss out on something beneficial, having forgotten that mutual trust is itself beneficial, as is mutual love. The apostle John put it best when he wrote: “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1st John chapter 3, verses 11-16) But Jesus said it best of all. “’Teacher, what is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it; love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew chapter 22, verses 36-40)
So this is how we can stop all the gun violence in Chicago and all across the country. Love your neighbor as yourself, a commandment from Christ that should be taken to heart, but sadly it is not for a disturbingly large cross-section of the population. Read the Bible and start taking it seriously! Follow Jesus instead of the desires of your belly, your sex drive, and your emotions. Use your brain for thinking, not your heart. And may the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding be with you all!