Guest Author: A Christian’s Take on Sutherland Springs

So, what can we, as Christians, do about mass shootings?  It is easy to blame the world around us, but the reality is, if the world doesn’t know about Jesus it is our fault.

 

♣ Guest Column by Steven Hart

In the event a mass shooting, the first reaction of the public, as in the case of any tragic loss of human live, is invariably one of unified horror and dismay.  Yet, as the days go by, grief fades, and as life resumes its former pattern, one question remains looming in the public mind: Why did this happen?  Were this only an isolated instance, perhaps we all could continue on, satisfied with a circumstantial answer.  “He was out of his mind!” or “He’s just a really bad guy.”  But when the news of mass shootings becomes more and more routine, the localized answers no longer suffice.  What we really want to know is “How can we prevent this from happening again?”  In our present society, two main answers to the question predominate:

The first solution focuses upon the instrument.  In order to stop mass shootings, we must keep guns out of the hands of mass shooters.  This solution works in theory, but is very hard to put into practice.  Some attempt to achieve this through artificial regulations such as limits on magazine size and mandatory waiting periods, but these do virtually nothing to stop any determined shooter.  Others focus on the idea of “universal” background checks.  The case of Stephen Paddock (the Las Vegas shooter), however, calls this logic into question, as he showed no foreseeable signs of instability and passed all background checks.  Other solutions have been suggested as well, but they all face the same inevitable reality: gun control measures cannot be truly effective at stopping massing shootings in this country without wide-scale disarmament of the American people.  This is not only a logistical, political, and constitutional impossibility, but it also works directly against the second answer to our original question.

Rather than focusing on the gun in the hands of the criminal, some choose instead to focus on putting guns in the hands of the potential victims.  As these people see it, we may not be able to stop the shooter from firing his first volley, but we certainly can stop him from firing a second.  Although this logic may be disturbing to some, it is more pragmatic than many of its opponents are willing to admit.  Indeed, once a shooting has begun, it is most often another gun that brings it to an end.  This being said, although this solution may be effective on a circumstantial level, it doesn’t offer a truly systematic solution to the problem.  Even if we were able to get a gun in every school, church, and public place, (and find able-bodied people to use and fire them) this still would not stop these shootings from happening in the first place.

  …the reality is, if the world doesn’t know about Jesus it is our fault.

I want to make it very clear that I am not attempting to summarily dismiss either of these two solutions.  Both side’s arguments have their merits, and any policy which could lower the number of deaths from mass shootings in this country is at least worth considering.  That being said, both of these plans really only deal with the symptoms of a greater problem, a problem that has its roots in our modern culture.  The reality is that 60 years ago, people didn’t just walk into churches in order to murder everyone.  This, of course, raises a very interesting question. What has changed in American culture such that people now choose, with increasing frequency, to engage in mass murder?

Before I attempt to answer this question, we must first stop to clarify the topic.  People have been murdering each other since the beginning of time.  Domestic gun violence has existed as long as have guns, and violent racketeering has existed (and will continue to exist) as long as it has been profitable.  These things, evil as they are, have existed in some capacity over virtually all cultures at all times since the advent of gunpowder weapons.  [Terrorism, on the other hand, is a more recent phenomena, but not one that is by any means endemic to American culture.  Heinous though it may be, it has its roots in politics and ideology, and thus its causes and motivations are relatively easy to track and understand.]

  A society without God is a society without hope, and a society without hope will inevitably become filled with bitterness and misery.

The shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, alongside many others, however, are of an entirely different phenomenon.  In these cases, we have an individual murdering a large amount of people with no clearly identifiable personal or ideological motivation, other than perhaps a generic ire against society.  In common language, they are just ordinary people who appear to have “snapped.”  Although it is true that these shootings constitute only a tiny fraction of overall gun violence, these acts often appear to us the most heinous, as the victims are chosen not on the basis of any individual offense, but rather their membership in some greater segment of American society.

With this in mind, we can now consider the heart of the question: What has changed about American society, such that these shootings now occur?  There are a lot of possible causes I could point to – social isolation, bitterness, entitlement, etc. – but I think, for the Christian, the answer can be summed up with a simple statement: we live in a society that has forgotten God.  Some may reject this as mere truism, but I deeply believe this to be the heart of the matter.  A society without God is a society without hope, and a society without hope will inevitably become filled with bitterness and misery.  I am afraid that so long as society drifts away from the church, shootings like these will only become more and more commonplace.  Gun control and self-defense measures might be able to help, some, but ultimately, they are nothing more than painkillers.  What we are dealing with is a cancer.

♣  For if we save lives on this earth only for them to perish in the next life, what have we accomplished?

So, what can we, as Christians, do about mass shootings?  It is easy to blame the world around us, (“if only they knew better”) but the reality is, if the world doesn’t know about Jesus it is our fault.  It is our job to let the world know and experience the love of Christ.  So long as the Church sits on the sidelines, entering the public sphere to make its voice heard only on issues of petty politics, societal degradation will continue.  If we wish to curb the tide of nihilism in our society, we must get out and fight!  But we cannot fight bitterness and despair with anger and self-righteousness.  Our weapon against the forces of evil is the love of Christ and the truth of his Gospel.  If you are sickened by this tragic loss of life, the best thing you can do is love your neighbor and share the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For if we save lives on this earth only for them to perish in the next life, what have we accomplished?  For this reason, I urge you all, brothers and sisters, to live and preach the gospel with ever greater fervor, and when tragedy strikes, let your love and faith shine all the more.

 

♦Steven is currently a student at Cedarville University, a private Christian college in Ohio, where he is currently studying Accounting and Political Economy. In addition to his formal studies, Steven enjoys reading about history and philosophy, and analyzing current events through the light of his Christian faith.

Weaponizing Scripture, exploiting tragedy

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Weaponizing scripture, that is, quoting scripture and applying it out of context to attack one’s political enemies and to exploit tragedy for political brownie points, has become a ritual here in America. This familiar pattern has again emerged, with fervor, following the shooting at a small-town church on Sunday.

Like a metal beam which has been bent and is no longer structurally sound, God’s Word does not serve His people when it has been distorted.

So, what exactly did the apostle James mean… continue reading

 

 

Trees Are Not Brown… And Other Truths

Project 3, Post 2: Trees Are Not Brown….. and Other Truths

In my last post (the first of this series), which can be read HERE, I described my inadvertent ruining of a once promising piece… My creative experimentation doesn’t always turn out well. I had accidentally turned a painting full of light into one now blanketed in darkness.

As I mentioned this is not dissimilar from the current state of our American churches… It is we who must confront ourselves in order to restore our churches to places of light and Truth.

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Artistic Process:

I kept looking at my poor picture – that poor tree – and kicking myself for what I had done. The whole thing… It was just a big mess! My error left me feeling a bit deflated and a lot confused. What do I do now? How am I supposed to fix this? I can’t take the wax off… How do I save my picture???

As I stood there pondering my canvas catastrophe, my thoughts slowly grew in clarity and I was able to identify a new “starting point.” The streams of melted wax had blurred the boundary between the sky and the ground…

And so began the process of renewing my painting…

I mixed into being variations of yellows and greens, darks and lights (all acrylics). After determining where the horizon line would be formed, I began applying the paint using short, brisk stokes, creating grass. Using dark greens and browns I slowly created elevation changes and shadow. At last, a clear division between land and sky had been established. The mess I had made of my painting had regained a small semblance of order. Once I finished the border area I went on to rejuvenating my poor, darkness enveloped tree.

 

Many people don’t realize this, but tree trunks and branches are far closer in color to gray than to brown. Sure, we all grow up coloring brown trees with green leaves, but that isn’t actually representative of reality, of truth. I challenge you to go outside and find a tree. Walk up close. Is it brown or is it more of grayish in tone? HERE is a fairly simple, scientific explanation. 🙂

I carefully reformed the body of my tree using shades of gray paint. Darker shades were applied against lighter shades to create clear and distinct shadows and highlights. Grays aren’t the only colors found on the trunks of trees, however. Many trees often play host to interesting molds and fungi, many of which are greenish in tone. Therefore, I took a splayed, dry brush and dabbed small sections of the tree trunk and branches with olive-colored paint.

…Little by little I was able to uncover my lovely, knotted-old tree from that dark mess of which I had made. I could see its form, its beauty. No longer was it hidden. At once, it was as if I felt a heavy load had been lifted off my back.  Truth and clarity have that effect on us.

BELOW are pictures representing various stages of renewing and redefining my tree.

 

Reflection:

There is a clear border between land and sky, right and wrong, good and evil. However, if trees are gray instead of brown, what is the Truth about good and evil, about right from wrong? The world of fallen men has a tendency to creep into our idea of right and wrong. Have you lost site of the border, the boundary between good and evil?

Do you follow Biblical scripture or do you follow worldly scripture? Do you even know the difference?

We (Christians) of all people should be the most diligent in knowing what is Truth. That comes from diligence to knowing and understanding God’s written Word.  Paul commended the Bereans in Acts 17:11, for their scriptural diligence, writing “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.

“…If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” – Matthew 15:14

Right now, many Christians live in a state of ignorance. We conflate nice with good. We conflate position with honor. We are lazy and far too trusting. We assume that the lessons from the pulpit are honest and truthful and based in scripture. If you assume that your minister is preaching Truth simply because he became a minister, was hired at your church, and seems like a nice guy… You could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute.

When is the last time you read from your Bible? Do you check the sermons and the words of others against scripture to determine Truth? If you don’t, you could be a lazy Christian.

Stop. Stop right this minute!

Our jobs as Christians isn’t simply to receive sermons or try to be better people. Our job is also to safeguard the Word of Christ Jesus and his message, ensuring that it is delivered to others in Truth! The Word of God is precious. However, harmful and fallacious doctrine results when the word is taken out of context and twisted around by fools. From now on, understand that you are the keeper of the Word. If you don’t read the entire story and seek to understand it, you only contribute to the abuse against it. If you do not double check references to scripture made by others, including ministers, including ME, you could be allowing the Word to be abused and misused.

If you do not seek the Truth, you do not and will not have the Truth. You do not and will not know gray from brown. You do not and will not know the difference between right from wrong and good from evil.

We must stay diligent seeking God’s Truth. We can not renew our churches without first being able to SEE the clear border between right and wrong, truth and lie. By reading God’s Word, our own failures and sinful nature come to light. – I know, because God’s Word continually  reminds me of my fallen nature as a human and the Holy Spirit is my inspiration for my continuous quest toward living as God wishes. Christ saves me from myself and he lifts me up, carrying my burdens. He walks with me and guides me forward. It is imperative that we continually renew our own spirits in Christ and in Truth, confronting ourselves. God’s Word brings the border between truth and lie, right and wrong into clear focus.

Today- rededicate yourself to God’s Truth through his Word. Pray for full understanding. Renew your soul.

This is your own new starting point! Go, now. Off your tuckuss!

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God.” – 2 Timothy 2:15

Free Speech in the New Socialist Republic of North America

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Did you know that there is a new “constitution” for America, for once America becomes past tense that it… This new “constitution” comes courtesy of  the Revolutionary Communist Party. Click HERE to read my article which was published today @ The New Americana. How much speech will you have under that new document???