by James A. WIlson
In the hurricane of vitriol engulfing the tragedies in El Paso, and Dayton I am (almost) at a loss for words when I see presidential candidates grabbing media attention for political gotchas with their denunciations of a real president as he seeks to bring healing and resolution. These people shriek about the so-called racist-in-chief – and attack the Constitution – instead of seeking to comfort the afflicted. If there is a way to preclude reconciliation in our culture, these people have found it.
Yet as God is my witness, we are better than this.
Reconciliation – as I outline in my first book, Living as Ambassadors of Relationships – is a three part process. It begins with expressing our view of reality through passion coupled with respect; direct speech is good but name-calling a conversation killer. The second step is listening to the other’s point of view with respectful appreciation of the passion if not the logic; again direct speech is appropriate but character assassination is a deal breaker. The last and most important step is permitting the great reconciler – His name is Jesus – to reframe the conversation so all win and no one is victimized. This requires a miracle; human ability is always inadequate..
When this process is engaged with integrity it becomes possible to address issues in terms of what we actually know. What then do we know?
We know gun controlled Norway leads the world in mass shootings on a per capita basis. We know our nationwide ban on assault weapons of the nineties – while it reduced the number of incidents involving fully automatic weapons – failed to reduce overall gun violence. We know Australia has had strict gun control for decades and yet –on a per capita basis – continues to have as many incidents as we do. We know there were as many or more El Paso-like incidents during the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations as we see under this one; these include Orlando, Sandy Hook, and Aurora, Colorado. No one blamed Barack Obama for the incidents on his watch.
The solution requires a painful admission – it is not about who occupies the White House; it is about us.
We know Chicago posted fifty-five gun deaths the same weekend thirty-one died between El Paso and Dayton; most violence in Chicago is black-on-black, demonstrating hatred knows no racial boundaries. We likewise know most large death events are not caused by guns; the Oklahoma City bombing – during the Clinton Administration – killed one hundred sixty-eight and wounded nearly seven hundred; the weapon was made from fertilizer. And we know the most prolific killers are gangs and government, although they are not listed as mass murderers when we take up issues like El Paso; we dare not forget the WACO massacre under Bill Clinton when seventy-six cultists were slaughtered when government agents set their compound afire while they and their children were inside. Neither should we forget cartel killers who terrorize Mexico and traffick across our borders.
To seriously address the violence we have to seriously sacrifice some sacred cows. While deep background checks seem no-brainers considering how many gun killers bought legally, so-called red flag laws pose a serious constitutional threat inasmuch as they seek to ban guns from people who have done nothing unlawful but who are deemed – by whom (?) – to be high risk for offense. Serious or feel-good?
We need to think outside the box across the board. That means revisiting the many studies linking violent crime to family disintegration, violent ideologies, and – brace yourselves – violent video games, hard core pornography, certain kinds of music, and in-your-face movies and television. Whether to ban or restrict these things is for discussion, and other factors must be weighed, but pretending the jury is not in on these factors of causation is burying our heads in the sand.
There is a catch. If all parties to a dispute are not committed – equally – to reconciliation there will be no reconciliation. For example – to take up a current event that has no connection to these massacres – once top officials of the FBI who have been fully exposed for their attempted coup and terminated from their positions humble themselves I would favor that mercy which enables reconciliation. As things stand Andrew McCabe and Peter Strozk are suing to regain their power while James Comey and John Brennan continue to pontificate and fulminate. Only their prosecution can achieve damage control on the one hand and deterrence on the other.
There is a spiritual dimension to the dilemma that cannot be avoided or denied. For openers we need to re-commit – at home, in church, and in school, public or private – to teaching the traditional values that made us a great nation. (I am not promoting religious indoctrination on taxpayer funds, just American History.) Even more important is recognition by a critical mass that we began this dysfunctional road trip with that first betrayal back in the Garden of Eden; we traveled it one knife-in-the-back at a time. (Whether we believe or not there is no other adequate analysis of how we got here.) That said, the same critical mass needs to re-commit to re-focus on the God who alone can reverse our course and bring us home; He assures us He has already done as much and is only waiting on us to cash the check. Now would be an excellent time for that.
The God who creates all and redeems all is first of all a maker of reconciliation. Let all parties engage with one another in the process I outlined above and let us see what He might make of us yet.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books, or at firstname.lastname@example.org