Responsibility and Gun Control


I just bought a gun. Two actually.

I’ve been a gun owner for years and really enjoy shooting. I’ve owned about 20 different firearms since I became legally able to own them and currently own about a dozen. Like everything, its cyclical for me. I went through a “whatever I could afford phase” wherein I bought really, really, cheap guns; an “automatic weapons” (I refuse the title assault weapon – it’s pejorative and unhelpful) phase wherein I purchased multiple weapons that would deliver lots and lots of rounds downrange fast; a long hiatus wherein my “post deployment” blues caused me to put all my guns away and not shoot for years; and my current phase which is interested in hunting/historical replica shooting. I have a desire to own (a replica) of every gun the US Army has used in it’s history – kind of a bucket list sort of thing. Currently, I own two. I have a long way to go…

I say that to highlight that I care about owning firearms. I believe in owning firearms. I have a right to own firearms. I also recognize this:

Owning a firearm is a massive responsibility to myself and my community.

Simply put, owning any firearm means that I have at my disposal the means to kill very easily. The more rounds I can shoot, the faster I can shoot them, and the faster I can reload them simply adds to the severity of that responsibility. If I choose to purchase a a firearm, I am assuming the responsibility for how it is used.

Currently, the conversation that I have read/heard/witnessed seems to be stuck on bans/mental health/original intent/the AR15 is the new musket. All of which I believe frame the discussion in an unhelpful manner.

1. Bans generally do not accomplish what they set out to do and just create sub markets off the radar. Look at our bans in history: alcohol, prostitution, drugs, etc. Not particularly successful in stopping anything.

2. Do we really want to do down the road of mandating that a social worker report anyone who should not shoot a gun? Depressed? No shooting for you!

3. The AR 15 is nothing like a musket and who cares anyway. Going down the road of “original intent” is not usually helpful since we can say whatever we want about what they meant. Cause the Founding Fathers really cared about a woman’s/minorities right to own a firearm…

None of these conversations help us to get a reasonable place where there are some rules and expectations on those who desire to exercise their 2nd Amendment right!

I would compare this to the freedom of religion. The constitution guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion. However, one cannot just do anything they want to call it their faith. Churches have to obey zoning laws. Polygamy is illegal. One cannot just state that meth trips are a part of their faith and justify a church sanctioned meth lab. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of child abuse. Traditionally, a church’s advise to a parishioner is confidential and a conversation between a congregant and minister is held in the highest confidence. Not anymore. Pastor’s are mandated reporters in many states and here in Kansas City, a bishop was held responsible for suppressing the actions of a priest. One cannot just do whatever they want and cover it in religious freedom.

Or the 2nd Amendment.

“Shall not be infringed” That boat sailed the first time a town said that you couldn’t bring a loaded musket into church or the saloon. As America westernized (I’ll say that since there were certainly active, functioning civilizations long before the Pilgrims landed) and started to apply English common law on these shores, regulations around the use of firearms came with it. Certainly they would have been different than they are today but that goes with common sense. Their laws matched their tools and our laws ought to match ours.

It would be silly to apply the road rules of say, 1900, to the massive Petersen Truck that has the ability to pull tons or freight at high speeds. Laws need to match risk.

I know, I know. Criminals won’t obey the law. Got it. That’s why they are criminals and should be treated as such. If a criminal has a gun illegally or someone buys a gun for a criminal, they should be treated accordingly. Got it.

Here’s a common sense idea: treat a weapon with varying levels of regulations related to risk.

Clearly, my single shot .410 is a dangerous weapon. It can absolutely kill, maim, wound. However, there is much less risk associated with that firearm than, say, an AK47 variant which has the ability to lots of lead very quickly. They are different firearms with differing capabilities. They should be treated differently, that makes sense.

I believe that anyone who wants to own an AK47 should be able to. I also believe that there is a grave responsibility one should also have to assume when purchasing that firearm. One should be able to afford it, demonstrate that they are responsible, upstanding citizens, can care for it (i.e. keep it out of the hands of those who should not have access to it like children), and, above all, be able to deploy it effectively.

Not all of those things can be governed. However, some can. What if a person had to take a class (like is required to get a Concealed Carry Permit) in order to own/shoot a certain class of firearms (like we already do with fully automatic weapons)? The ability to fire a hundred rounds as fast as a person can squeeze a trigger is not something to be taken lightly!

What if a person was held accountable for distribution of a firearm? I.e. if I sell a firearm to someone else, I am responsible to report that sale otherwise I’m in trouble for trafficking a firearm to a criminal. Lets put the burden of responsibility on the person who owns the gun. Again, it’s the idea that owning a gun comes with the responsibility for safe use.

I recognize there are laws on the books for this – good – lets find a way to leverage technology in such a way that it makes the laws easier to enforce rather than harder.

There are lots of creative ways to mitigate risk while protecting rights. Many more than I could think of to be sure. That’s the conversation that needs to happen – not fruitless fighting over bans and original intent.

What if we framed the conversation – how do we mitigate risk effectively – how can people utilize their rights in a way that is safe for the community.

By the way, I’m all for a well-regulated militia. I’m all for people getting together, training, shooting, holding each other accountable.

Reasonable regulations are always appropriate when there is significant risk involved. We do this with cars, money, drugs etc.

I like shooting. I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I do not believe that I need to “demonstrate a need” in order to own a gun. I also believe that I should be held accountable if a gun that I own falls into the hands of an unstable person, minor, or criminal by my negligence.

Wherein I shake my head….


So, this happened.

Seems a pastor that prayed alongside leaders of other religions (to include scary Muslims and Jews) was reprimanded by his church and apologized. I’m guessing because he committed that awful sin of attempting to participate in the communal grief of his hometown.

That’s his journey. My frustration would lie more with the bishop or regional minister rather than the local pastor. He’s trying to keep his job.

Several years ago, I was endorsed by a fundamentalist organization. Fine people. Didn’t actually have much to do with me. I guess as long as I paid my dues, they were happy to take them (to the tune of 160 bucks a month. Yes, I paid this group $160 a month for the privilege of ministering in the military. There’s something wrong with that, but hey, that’s another post when I’m feeling particularly froggy…).

They didn’t call. They sent a card once in a while. They didn’t keep up with me. I sent in reports and heard nothing back.

Till I dared use this phrase in my blog at the time: “I’m becoming more open and ecumenical.” Within weeks, this group, who had not interacted with me for years in a real way, sent two men (there would only be men in leadership of this group) to meet with me to test my orthodoxy. We sat at in a Golden Coral and they asked me questions relating to the substitutionary atonement. I gave them the answers they needed to assuage their conscience. After all, if I answered wrongly, they could pull my endorsement and I’d be a civilian again. When your jobs on the line…

They left telling me that no chaplain in their organization should ever “share the stage” with a Mormon and Catholics should be understood to be kind but hell-bound.

I started searching for a new endorser that day.

At a time when Christianity itself is losing relevancy; when in a 200 member demographic, 60+ will be “No Religious Preference,” we’re still going back and forth over whose the “real Christians” among us.

So, I shake my head…

You are God’s Now


Remember what it was like the first time you went home after basic training? Or when you went home after being gone for some time, college perhaps or summer camp? There you were, having traveled, grown, been shaped, met people, done things, become something – but when you stood in the kitchen, talking to your mother and she looked at you cross-eyed because you forgot to take off your shoes – you just crumble.

Only two people in all the earth ever called me “Johnny,” my mother (who died in 2000) and my granny (great-grandmother, died at 101 a couple months ago). Two women who could call me anything they wanted. All the places I’ve been. All the people I’ve worked with. All the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, all the Soldiers I’ve served  – none of them called me Johnny. Most everyone I know calls me Sir, Chaplain, Captain, Chappy, Padre, or Dad. No one calls me Johnny. But I tell you, every time I walked in to see my Granny, blind though she be, she’d call me Johnny. Mom only said it when she was happy. It was a cue that she was pleased with me. If, on the other hand, she used my ENTIRE name – run. Run fast. Maybe that’s why I never wanted to be called Johnny.

That awkward moment when you remember that you are, and always will be, just a kid to your parents.

In our age, the expectation is to do better than your parents. It is a part of everyone’s family mythos in America to list off your humble roots. It’s the “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” idea. My great grandfather was a sharecropper. His daughter married a man who dies in prison, whose only daughter marries an alcoholic Navy Vet who dies at 51 of cirrhosis of the liver. One of their daughters runs away from home at 14, struggles to gain legitimacy through her considerable talents, marries a stable man and is my mother. Sara had a great uncle, moonshiner, who fled from the Feds all the way to Portland. My great grandfather on the father’s side worked in the northern Michigan logging industry. The GI Bill changed our family tree! In our culture, the expectation is upward movement.

This is emphatically, NOT the case in ancient Mediterranean culture. In fact, ideas of family honor and “place in society” are firmly embedded ideas in most cultures other than our own. In the Mediterranean world of antiquity, everyone had a proper place in society and this place was established by birth. No one was ever expected to become something better than or to improve on the lot of their parents. In fact, to do so was to cast some dishonor on your parents by saying that their place was not good enough for you. What they did was somehow dishonorable and you are going to do something different, more honorable.

Since towns were small and very interrelated, your choices as a family (and individual within that family) impacted everyone in the village. You do what you were born to do, what your father was born to do, what your grandfather was born to do. This kind of consistency, helped the culture deal with the changes that came from geopolitical forces they could not control. This fact is the basic foundation of honor, public claim to worth and a public acknowledgement of that worth by others. Each child inherits, carries on, and is expected to safeguard the family’s honor. In fact, throughout human history, this has under-girded societies. One of the challenges of globalization is that this is dramatically changed. The daughter of the rice farming family can, in fact, rise to great heights through education – but then, who farms the rice?

The people in Jesus’ hometown know him and his family well. The prose here in the Text is as dynamic and lively as any in the New Testament. You can see the separated classes in the Synagogue. The men up front, women in the back. All is quiet as the young man, Jesus son of Joseph, the carpenter, rises to read. Everyone remembers the questions around his birth. Joseph had to work particularly hard to overcome those stories but then, everyone needs a table! Jesus, the author Luke notes, is filled with the Holy Spirit and selects a reading that challenges their understanding. This isn’t a “awe, Joseph’s son reads so well! Bless his heart…” It’s a “wait. Isn’t this Joseph’s son, who does he think he is???”
14-15Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure.

16-21He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”
22All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke. But they also said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?” (The Message) 

Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, doesn’t make it any better. He puts himself in the same place as two of Israel’s greatest and most holy prophets. Elijah and Elisha. Really? Can’t read a crowd Jesus? They are not liking this.

23-27He answered, “I suppose you’re going to quote the proverb, ‘Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.’ Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn’t it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian.” 

28-30That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way. (The Message) 

In Jesus’s world, the basic rule of thumb is, “look at your family first.” It’s like opposite land to our contemporary worldview that sees that as nepotism. Jesus has a responsibility to care for his parents. He has a responsibility to care for the village that raised him. Gave him the benefit of the doubt when, clearly, his mother broke some very cardinal rules of society. There were those in the crowd who gave him business when they could have gone elsewhere. The village needs these rules to survive and Jesus is breaking them. This village needs their sons to grow up and do what they do NOT become healers and teachers. What if other young men get ideas about their self-worth. Who does he think he is?? The crowd gets hostile. They advance on Jesus. Push him toward a cliff. How dare he!! Take it back!!

Jesus escapes by walking through the crowd and away from Nazareth.

The author is writing this decades after Jesus death. He writes to the early Church. A persecuted church. A church struggling with what their identity is in the world. He deliberately highlights the mission of Jesus in the world – the restoration of a fractured world. The groups he is come to work with have all been rejected. None of them have worth to the world – blind, poor, prisoners, oppressed?? To a church struggling with a growing oppression, a church that is experiencing their daughters and sons being systematically hunted and destroyed – this is a life-giving identity. Who do we reach out to? The traditional religious leadership don’t want us, they hire people like Saul to hunt us down and stone us. The Romans are getting worse and worse. They demand that we say things like “Caesar is Lord” just to do business! They were struggling and Luke reminds them that Jesus came for them!! That the religious traditions they have left behind to follow in “The Way” have a dark side and they are right for this new path. I can see them, hearing this read in services, nodding, weeping, holding hands in the dark. It was right to follow this path. It is true.

Here is Jesus mission. It’s not to the local family, it’s bigger than that. It’s not to maintain honor, it’s bigger than that. It’s not limited to teaching, preaching, and fine theology – it’s practical, hands-on, and life changing.

Is Jesus’ Mission our mission?

The other day, I was visiting with an inmate. He struggled with the classic question of being spiritually healthy. He wanted so badly to serve but the “dark side” of his life seemed to close in. Seemed to crush out the part of him that wanted to serve God and others. Weeping, he spoke of just wanting to be healthy so that Jesus would love him. I listened. I waited. When the weeping had subsided. I said, “You are exactly who Jesus came for. You are exactly what God wants. You, in your depressed, struggling, sinning state is who Jesus loves. I seem to remember something about not coming for the “healthy” but the sick.” He started to smile. I showed him this passage and we talked about it. These words, recorded thousands of years ago about an event that took place decades earlier surrounding a dead prophet – these words, brought life.

Are you one of these groups? Jesus came for you. Are you wondering what the focus of your ministry and service should be? Look to these groups. Whatever you were – you are God’s now!