Today we have a guest author – friend, student, and aspiring Instructor, Hoyt Ellspermann!
I’m a fan of information, as well as discussion about all things. So, here is an interesting take on the Texas church murders Hoyt penned this past week. Enjoy!
Lots of opinions shared in tweets and glib remarks about guns and faith due to current events. If you are interested in the opinion of a “well-trained” gun owner and true “believer” in Christianity – please read on.
Disclaimer: I say “well-trained” not out of arrogance but out of genuine authority on the matter. There is a massive difference between someone like me who takes the protection of my life and the lives of people I care about very seriously by regularly carrying a weapon, training to use it (and weapons like it) in all conditions, all imaginable scenarios, as well as learning to treat and stabilize the bleeding and trauma associated with gunshot wounds, plus volunteering my time to teach anyone interested in acquiring these skills – and – someone who keeps a firearm in their “safe” and cannot remember the last time they fired it. We’ll get to the “believer” part later.
I was motivated to pen this because several friends and co-workers have asked my opinion in a shy or rather reluctant manner as of late – and I don’t blame them, there is a lot of noise out there and some people are quick to brand anyone with an honest question about a real issue some kind of “-ist or -ism” or chastise them for their “privilege” – which apparently is now defined as “not being born with a robust knowledge of all things diversity.” I also found motivation from the frustrating amount of terribly misguided and slanted hit pieces directed towards my security and my faith in recent weeks. Tweets like “stop with the prayers” or “your prayers obviously didn’t help you, even in church” or one article in particular – an Opinion Piece from CNN titled: “Why Americans Don’t Give a Damn about Mass Shootings.” My favorite nugget from this article was “we don’t have to agree on what causes a mass shooting – we just have to agree that we want to solve the problem of mass shootings.” Channeling my inner Ace Venture…. Reeeheeheally?
First of all, who is out there on either side saying this isn’t a problem or that we don’t want or care to solve this problem? But more importantly, we actually DO need to agree on what CAUSES this problem. Not doing so is literally putting the cart before the horse. If a house fire is determined to be caused by an electrical problem at the breaker box, would the response and the solution not be very different if the cause was determined to be arson? Please take a moment to ponder that analogy. In both cases fire burned down the house but neither scenario could ever be completely prevented because accidents happen, fire exists, and these realities are not going away, we can only take precautions. Are the proposals to ban/further regulate firearms the equivalent to banning or regulating fire in my arson analogy? Not exactly, but they are rooted in the same falsehoods.
Anyone who takes an honest look at the issue understands we cannot “un-invent” firearms any more than we can “un-discover” fire. Before you dismiss this as an extremist view, consider the following. Firearm ownership is nearing 50% or close to 150 million citizens currently possessing guns in the US. The quantity of firearms owned in the US has more than doubled in the last decade with even conservative estimates putting the number well above 300 million.
So, if guns are the problem, why haven’t we seen a massive increase in violent crime for every new gun that is purchased? Yes, we have had “the actual largest” followed by “one of the largest” mass shootings in just a 2 month period but those two events, while horrific, are genuine outliers when you consider these men only fired 4 of the 300,000,000 firearms in the country. The issue remains a people problem; if the guns were the cause, the body count would be astronomical.
I believe there is a slow, dishonest, and destructive end game strategy to do away with the entirety of the 2nd Amendment by progressively feeding/selling to the American People false promises of security, “reasonable” regulations of freedom, and various platitudes having to do with what’s right for the kids. A tertiary glance at history proves a disarmed populous will find neither freedom nor security. And as for the kids, each parent is different and must own the content and inputs their children receive – but, life isn’t easy, nor fair; there is no reset button. Pretending danger doesn’t exist and hiding it from children, or telling them its someone else’s responsibility to respond to threat, does not prepare them to win.
Let’s evidence the perpetual existence of firearms with this: Firearms are akin to nuclear weapons in that their ownership on the international stage is equivalent to the 2nd Amendment for a sovereign country. “I won’t point mine at you, if you don’t point yours at me.” There has been a longtime effort aimed at nuclear disarmament but does anyone believe that will happen? I don’t think there is a faster way to learn Russian or Chinese than to surrender our nukes. We cannot un-invent nukes either. Whether mankind chooses to harness these technologies for the furtherance of liberty or the justification for tyranny is sadly something we also cannot fully control.
Those who suggest gun confiscation domestically, even when restricted to only certain “scary” firearms, say-so as cavalierly as those who exclaim internationally that “we should send in the Marines” or “we should bomb the hell out of them” First Question: Who is this “we” you speak of? I get the feeling it doesn’t include “you.” Second Question: Whose job would it be? Well, the typical answer to the first question is usually “a blank stare” followed shortly thereafter by “the police” – presumably and ironically because they also have guns.
Honestly, here is the basic rationale behind why confiscation by police is a non-starter. There are two different categories of LEOs that would perform this practically impossible and logistically daunting task + a 3rd possible wild card: 1) City police and County Sheriff’s police within rural to mid-sized metros in the “flyover” states; 2) the Major Metropolitan and Large Municipal police; and 3) the Federal Government.
I’ll break these down in reverse order.
- Group 3 / WC – The Feds would be involved only if society is prepared to destroy the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 10th Amendments along with the Posse Comitatus Act in the process as the Federal Government by itself lacks the authority, jurisdiction, resources, organization, and fundamental will to participate in such an endeavor – especially without the first two groups being fully partnered and engaged. Which begs the question: Why would the others not be engaged?
- Group 2 – in many ways these cops, but mostly the politicians, are already trying to confiscate guns. Despite egregious and comprehensive ownership restrictions, in some cases complete prohibition, gun-free zones, gun buy-back programs, and voting patterns of the local populous being pretty reliably anti-gun – these areas boast the highest firearm and violent crime rates in the country. Chicago is approaching it’s 600th homicide this year, a pattern that is marching steadily upward over the last decade. These metros are making every effort to obliterate firearms from existence yet they seem to be hopelessly out-gunned by even small pockets of active criminal elements. Many of whom aren’t even shooting at the cops, rather at each other. Could you imagine if the cops gave them a reason to shoot at them instead? …oh, my goodness.
- Group 1 – this group of police has a fundamental lack of enthusiasm for confiscation largely derived from silly things like a shared belief in small / limited government, the real purpose and intent of the 2nd amendment, an interest in self-preservation, and general distrust of anyone “from the government who’s here to help.” Not to mention the areas these LEOs serve have the highest density of ownership and proficiency with firearms, probably on the planet, so even if the other two groups played along, it wouldn’t be a very productive effort without group 1.
As far as confiscation goes, there is only one scenario where I feel like all bets are off and it is terrifyingly detailed in a book called Day of Wrath by William R Forstchen. Albeit a largely misplaced response in the end, it is an understandable reaction and would be the only possible way of uniting around this cause – but there is no guarantee, the attitude would likely be temporary, and bigger problems would surface pretty quickly. Shockingly, miraculously, this hasn’t happened yet.
So let’s assume we are in agreement that firearms aren’t going away and statistically speaking, many of our friends own them but just choose not to talk about it – by the way, good for them. What Causes Mass Shootings?
My intent was to separate topic 1 (guns) from topic 2 (faith), not because it doesn’t belong – actually it does and I can explain why – but, more so because some in the audience reading this may not be religious. I’m sure there is nothing more frustrating and disengaging for a non-religious person than hearing arguments for or against a topic supported by chapter and verse references to a book that presumably has nothing to do with the topic and obviously wouldn’t have been read by the non-religious party.
However, mass shootings are caused by evil people bent on doing evil things. Replace “evil” with “disturbed” if you have to but the reality is if I gave Betty White or Richard Simmons or Jerry Seinfeld or Denzel Washington a dump-truck load of guns and ammo, I doubt the result would be a mass shooting. Now if the same dump-truck showed up on the south side of Chicago or Somalia or any random prison – I’m not so certain the outcome would be as innocuous as the former. No-one takes life, especially life in quantity and at random, without being highly disturbed. (If I’m still allowed to use the word?) It’s not normal behavior regardless of what color you are, which bathroom you use, who you’re attracted to, or who you voted for in the last election – normal, mentally healthy people don’t perpetrate mass shootings.
Healthy people do healthy things. Disturbed people do disturbed things. Mental Health, baring a grotesquely traumatic or acute event, does not immediately deteriorate. Healthy people don’t walk out of slasher movies on Halloween and become serial killers. Millions of kids play Call of Duty for long periods of time but they don’t run over to the park and kill their friends. People get cut off in traffic, they are lied to (or about), humiliated, wronged, abused, and defeated all the time, but they don’t go bananas and randomly kill strangers. This may be hard to believe, but these injustices and hardships happen, with some regularity, mind you, to people who actually own and carry guns – but, they do what healthy people do, let it go or seek alternative means of reconciliation. Even in cases where women are sexually assaulted or children are physically abused, mental health deterioration is progressive, typically not immediate – So, understanding and predicting who is more susceptible to violence and/or the trigger that ultimately sends them off the deep end is impossible. PTSD is something the medical community is still trying to understand; it’s riddled with ambiguity and situational application. Regardless, disturbed mental health is a pre-requisite for real violence. When I say real violence, I mean Class I & II felony acts. If you steal an apple because you are starving, that is a violation but you are not necessarily mentally disturbed. If you kill the fruit stand owner over the apple, you just might have a mental health issue.
So, what causes the deterioration of mental health? Many out there try to point to Hollywood’s embrace of violence for entertainment, action/thrillers involving firearms, or horror movies that glorify murder or glamorize questionable moral behavior. Others point to violent video games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto that reward players for numbers of kills or violent escapades. Some point to the absence of, or from, father figures – God included, as well as his removal from our lives. What about the devaluation of life through suicide and abortion or devaluation of our bodies through sexual promiscuity/pornography. Maybe even religion itself, or politics – I mean don’t people all over the world kill each other in the name of religious or political ideology? And further still are the very real cases of consistent historical abuse by a loved one or singular acute acts of violence by a stranger. Whether you agree that one or more of these things would contribute to mental health issues, it’s undeniable that all of these problems are created or perpetrated by one source – people. Yet, how do we account for the fact that there are still a very large majority of people who experience some, many, and occasionally all of these things yet have no tangible or measurable change in their behavior – and again, 99.9%+ are most certainly not perpetrating a mass shooting.
This lack of personal or societal self-awareness and the unwillingness to acknowledge and confront a decline, or even the existence, of moral standards is probably why it is so easy and natural to point to the “gun” as the culprit in mass shootings. The gun becomes the scapegoat.
Why is the gun to blame? On the same day, how many times did a gun with a more honorable trigger puller stop a rape, or a murder, or a kidnaping? On 9/11, airplanes were used to amass a body count far surpassing the enumeration of all mass-shootings in recorded American history. Yet no one wanted to ban airplanes. Same goes for cars used in terror attacks or even just cars in the regular activity of crossing intersections, for that matter. But that’s not the same, right? Guns were “designed” to kill people; airplanes, and cars, and hammers, and pipes, and so on – were all “designed” to do something else entirely but their purpose was hijacked or reconfigured to commit crimes.
The gun was designed to kill. Technically so was the knife – but now we are issued one with every meal and never think twice about it. That’s not the same, you say. Well, you’re right, it’s not the same. But, there are two fundamental facts we must acknowledge about guns – 1) they cannot be un-invented – that genie is out of the bottle, and, 2) in the right hands they serve as a critical and sometimes absolutely necessary tool for stopping or preventing disturbed behaviors.
What is the solution I propose? Hear me out. I will boldly and simply state – Learn to use a weapon and carry it with you. No other human being is as uniquely positioned and intimately vested in the preservation of your life than you! There should be no issue more politically agnostic than personal protection. No matter what group or subgroup you identify with, there is a firearm for you.
- I’m talking to you single ladies – trust is earned and until then, you need an equalizer.
- I’m talking to you LGBTQ community – they generally come in black but all colors are possible, sizes and shapes can vary, and there are even some that can quickly change barrels and frames to be something else entirely. Can I get a “hell yeah!?”
- I’m talking to you mother of 3 – if something happens to you, what will happen to your kids?
- I’m talking to you Jewish/Christian/Islamic Leader – your number one job is to protect your flock and when some clown shows up to do them harm, you need an answer to that problem, and you need it now!
- I’m talking to you proud father – as one myself, enough said.
In fact, many victims of violent crimes – even petty crimes – have been cured of their fear, anxiety, and victimhood by owning and carrying a firearm. News Flash: Guns are dangerous – but possessing the proficiency, skill, and confidence to harness that danger for good is liberating in a way you cannot appreciate until you have it.
Why should we have to? Well, to that I say to everyone: “check your privilege.” We’re only about 100 years removed from 5000 years of human history where if you or your traveling party didn’t carry protection with you at all times you’d be risking almost certain death. Additionally, the safety and security we feel at home and in the US is as relative as it is unique. But, progress doesn’t mean we abandon our protection, it just means we put it in a holster and cover it with our shirts. One day a wolf disguised as a sheep will knock on your door, or pass you in the parking lot at night, or offer you’re a ride home, or maybe just ask you for help – it might amount to nothing. But, if it’s something, do you have an answer for that problem that is as immediate and convincing as the business end of a gun and the will to use it?
Now, the faith part of this issue. I ask that my non- or not-so-religious friends stick around, if for no other reason than because you respect my viewpoint. Many tweets this week have called for the end of prayers for the victims and their family members but my personal favorite was one that said, “your prayers obviously didn’t help you, even in church” – wow. That one was cold. To understand my point, you need a little background so bear with me for a moment.
The central message of Christianity does not promise protection, in fact, it warns of just the opposite for Believers. “Sin” is what the Bible calls our misbehavior or transgressions. The Bible also contains multiple references to sort of a catch-all phrase called “The World.” This is what Christians use to describe the sinful nature of humanity and the forces of darkness that conspire to push us away from God and into activities that are displeasing to Him or destructive to ourselves. This may sound strange but for Christians, sins are all basically on the same playing field, despite what you learned from the Brad Pitt movie. This is what the Apostle Paul, writing in the book of Romans, meant by “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” We believe in a God that is infinitely good and as such, even the smallest, most unintentional blemish on our character or behavior separates us from a perfectly holy God. Furthermore, the enumeration of sins and their severity still leaves the “good sinners” clustered with the “bad sinners” – stinks, huh? This fact also tends to shake the foundation of the “lived a good life” crowd but that’s a topic for another time.
This sin problem is actually the only thing that unites pretty much every other worldly religion. Despite the insistence by some who say/question “aren’t all religions basically saying the same thing?” – that is just not true. What is true, however, is almost all religions seem to start with the same basic principle which sounds something like: “What is wrong with the world? Things are not the way they are supposed to be. It is a world filled with pain, and suffering, and injustice.” So, they start to look for answers to diagnose the problem, and, pretty soon, they are all diverging in radically different directions in search of enlightenment, ultimately ending up in wildly different places.
Confused? Let me help you with that, especially if you are one that thinks all religions are basically the same. If you take the 4 biggest worldly religions – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism:
- Christians say that there is one God, He is utterly distinct from the world, He exists in 3 persons (father/son/spirit), became a human being, suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins because he loves the world that He made.
- Hindus however believe that everything is god and god is everything. The world and god are basically the same thing. The divine is expressed in an infinite number of ways in all that exists.
- Islam on the other hand, hears both of those things and calls it blasphemy. They believe there is no god but Allah, he is utterly distinct from the world, he never became a human being, and he has revealed himself through only one man, Mohammad.
- Meanwhile, Buddhists say there is no god. Because Buddhism is actually a non-theistic religion. It’s all about escaping from the world of pain and suffering.
While these are generalities, they are fundamental pillars of the faiths. Unless you throw logic out the window, all of those things cannot be true. Maybe none of them are true. But, one thing is for sure, they cannot all be right!
Stick with me, we’re almost there!
One more important backdrop: Christians believe that God recognized an antidote to the sin problem was needed – this is what Paul describes, also in his letter to the Romans, that “the wages of sin is death” – So, God sent His son Jesus to live a perfect life on earth, suffer incredible injustice and discrimination throughout his life, as well as unspeakable agony through crucifixion, ultimately resulting in a death He didn’t deserve. Paul continues, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”
The central promise of Christianity is: eternal life with God, through faith in Jesus. But, before he died, at the last meal he had on earth, Jesus prayed for his friends (The Apostles), and for all future followers of the faith (like the people killed in that church) that they would be strong in the face of persecution.
- Specifically, He says these words to everyone: “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
- He prays for his Disciples: “Holy Father protect them by the power of your name. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe, my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you would protect them from the evil one.”
- Lastly he prays for all future followers of the faith: “I pray for all those who will believe in me through their message.”
Here is the point. Protection is not a promise of Christian faith, only salvation. Protection along with many other things, is certainly something that we can ask God for in prayer, but whether it is given is or not is entirely God’s business – it’s up to us to have faith.
Prayer is answered in four possible ways: Yes, No, Slow, or Grow. The first two are obvious, but the others, not so much. Slow is basically a “not now” but later. You do need the request, and it will be answered, but the timing is wrong. Grow is “slow”, but a little more complex in that it’s not a waiting game. God is requiring that you grow in some way – maturity, spiritually, etc. How we might discern replies are the topic for another day.
In the end, all of the Disciples eventually died, as all people will because the human body is not designed for forever. But, these men didn’t just die of old age. In fact, all but one (John, who was exiled) died very violent deaths ranging from beheadings, crucifixions, meetings with wild animals, and even more creative means devised by the Romans – they didn’t have firearms, but the Romans were quite thorough.
Eventually, the protection the Disciples received through prayer stopped and God felt it was time for them to come home. But, just as His son was not spared pain, these men, too, were brutalized. They all could have passed in much less painful ways, or just of old age – the only ask was that they rescind their belief in Jesus – and herein falls the reality which sets Christendom apart from all other religions. The Disciples and their followers were actual eye witnesses to the miracles performed by the person whom they later came to believe was God Incarnate – point being, they were not told about Him 2000 years later. If the signs they witnessed were their own fabrications, and the faith they proclaimed was a total steaming pile of BS – then they were, to a person – choosing to die agonizing deaths for something they knew to be a lie. Do you know of one person in your life that would die for a lie? Do you know 11 more? Do you know several thousand? Because that is the reality of how the Christian faith started. There is no promise of protection in this life, only salvation in the life to come.
It is for this reason that I pray often…and carry a concealed weapon.
Hoyt makes the time to advance his skills
at every opportunity.
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