Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said in a video published Monday that requiring universal background checks for gun purchases was indisputably needed.
He told Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel editorial board that closing the so-called gun show loophole was “an area we need to look into.” Though licensed gun dealers are required to run federal background checks, private sellers at gun shows and other venues do not have the same requirement.
Ryan said it was an “obvious” problem.
Some Republicans and the National Rifle Association have denied that the loophole even exists.
I appreciate the point of this article very much. At the same time, I don’t think old-line traditions, especially ones with horribly ossified institutions such as the Episcopal Church, should sit back and give thanks that our worship has not been juvenilized–we have a lot of work to do to make sure the structures of our church and the way we make decisions, and the very tasks we pursue, do not become positively geriatric.
The house lights go down. Spinning, multicolored lights sweep the auditorium. A rock band launches into a rousing opening song. “Ignore everyone else, this time is just about you and Jesus,” proclaims the lead singer. The music changes to a slow dance tune, and the people sing about falling in love with Jesus. A guitarist sporting skinny jeans and a soul patch closes the worship set with a prayer, beginning, “Hey God …” The spotlight then falls on the speaker, who tells entertaining stories, cracks a few jokes, and assures everyone that “God is not mad at you. He loves you unconditionally.”
After worship, some members of the church sign up for the next mission trip, while others decide to join a small group where they can receive support on their faith journey. If you ask the people here why they go to church or what they value about their faith, they’ll say something like, “Having faith helps me deal with my problems.”
Fifty or sixty years ago, these now-commonplace elements of American church life were regularly found in youth groups but rarely in worship services and adult activities. What happened? Beginning in the 1930s and ’40s, Christian teenagers and youth leaders staged a quiet revolution in American church life that led to what can properly be called the juvenilization of American Christianity. Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults. It began with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, which in fact revitalized American Christianity. But it has sometimes ended with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith. In any case, white evangelicals led the way.
While I’m in favor of equality, I think the realm of combat is a rather odd arena to serve as a test ground for it, not least because it’s a decidedly negative activity that in general, no one should wish for. I can certainly understand the motivation to serve together with one’s comrades in all facets of military life, and to not be restricted or have one’s career curtailed. That said, I find the triumphalism surrounding the recent decision to allow women in combat to be strange indeed. Should we really be celebrating the fact that yet another whole swath of our society has, at least in theory, become wide open to waging war? To that extent, I am ambivalent. Far from a triumph, this has me thinking of a Stanley Hauerwas essay from the 90’s about don’t ask, don’t tell, entitled “Why Gays (as a group) are Morally Superior to Christians (as a group)” in which he writes the following:
“This moral confusion leads to a need for the illusion of certainty. If nothing is wrong with homosexuality then it seems everything is up for grabs. OF course, everything is already up for grabs, but the condemnation of gays hides that fact from our lives. So the moral ‘no’ to gays becomes the necessary symbolic commitment to show that we really do believe in something.
But in some way this prejudice against gays has worked in their favor. They at least know more about who they are and who their enemy is. If only Christians could be equally sure who they are. If only the military could come to view Christians as a group of doubtful warriors.” (The Hauerwas Reader, p. 520)
From the Article:
The fact that the male-dominated Old Testament includes accounts of these three women is fascinating, no doubt. And yes, the stories are inspiring, perhaps especially to the young girl who has always wanted validation that she, too, has the power to plant tent pegs in men’s temples. But say there was no Deborah, and Barak instead rose to the occasion and won the battle for the Israelites, would that mean women shouldn’t serve in combat?
Of course not. While in this particular case Deborah kicks butt, and I think military women should be permitted to do likewise, taking cues from the lives of Biblical characters as if we’re reading from a script written to determine the right choice for this very occasion makes little sense and can even be dangerous. This is especially true when we are talking about a political and military decision, something decidedly removed from the purview of the church; it’s time to leave ancient anecdotes aside.
Because we are not Jewish, I believe we have a hard time hearing how many of our doctrines and claims sound to the ears of those who have endured centuries of persecution at our hands. Antisemitism is not a liberal or conservative issue within Christianity.. it is subterranean across all segments of our tradition and we need to seek help in determining what doctrines and teachings contribute to this sin.
The role of the Jews in the crucifixion narrative isn’t a consciously evaluated part of a good deal of the Christian theology that I encountered during my time in Fresno. It came up periodically, and I would expect that my being a Jewish person made it more likely to come up in conversation than if I hadn’t been. However, one of the things that became apparent is that many Christians thought of this position as a sort of benign one. Historically, it isn’t. I pointed this out periodically in my interactions with various groups; the willingness to note the problematic nature was limited, at best.
Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old son was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month, was heckled by gun advocates during a legislative hearing on Monday.
“Changes have to be made,” he told Connecticut lawmakers in an emotional testimony. “I’ll tell you a little bit about Jesse. He was a boy that loved life, lived it to the fullest. His mother and I are separated. He spent equal time with both of us. He was my son, he my buddy, he was my best friend, and I never thought I would be here speaking like this, asking for changes on my son’s behalf.”
“And I never thought I would be laying him to rest. The happiest day of my life was the day he was born. He is my only son, my only family. The worst day of my life was the day when this happened.”
He said firearms like the popular AR-15/M16 rifle were designed to “put a lot of lead out on the battlefield quickly.” When Heslin asked why anyone should be allowed to own a semi-automatic rifle like the one used to kill 26 people in Newtown last month, angry gun advocates shouted, “the Second Amendment!”
“We’re all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts,” Heslin said. “But I wish they’d respect mine and give it a little bit of thought.”
This article mirrors my own experience. Had I not encountered another way of being Christian, one that took science, history and culture seriously, I may not have been a committed Christian. Likewise, if the only examples of ordained ministry I’d ever seen were like the majority I wtnessed as a child, I likely would’ve continued to say “no” when asked if I was going to be a preacher–because, I never wanted to be a preacher *like the one’s I saw growing up,* with only one exception. But then I encountered Anglicanism in the form of The Episcopal Church, and I saw faithful priests going about their ministry in a holisitic way. The one allowed me to hold tighter to my faith even as I encountered the breadth and wonder of God’s world, and the finite nature of our knowledge of it, while the other put me in a place where I could hear the call of God and the affirmation of the community without an immediate “no” coming to my lips.
It’s more than a little disheartening that many of the interviewees told David Greene that they don’t feel welcome in religious communities because of their doubt, particularly in light of the fact that they have been welcomed to be doubters on public radio. They can air their concerns to a reporter they’ve only just met who will then literally air them to a national audience, but they don’t feel like they can go to the most natural place, a faith community, and share their doubts there. We’ve failed them.
Beyond that though, I almost couldn’t bear to listen as my peers explained the various reasons why they’ve moved away from faith. These include a range of reasons from misunderstandings of the Bible to the problem of tragedy to, for a number of respondents, their perception of Christianity’s universal stance against homosexuality. We’ve failed them.
We failed them in so many ways, but perhaps none more severe than in letting one form of Christianity — and let’s name it: conservative evangelicalism — become the most public face of our faith in the United States. The young people who put it all out there on NPR, my peers, feel estranged from a faith I don’t adhere to. Of course I recognize it, and I remember it, but I don’t claim it. It occurred to me that, without a few crucial influences in my life — from my parents to pop culture — there but for the grace of God go I. I could’ve been a “None” too.
This morning, as I listened to both segments of the NPR story, my first response was to write a solution, to provide an answer, to suggest that we progressive Christians do better PR. But I don’t know. Now, as I sit here actually writing, I feel the old feeling of defeat creeping up again. It seems unavoidable: the most extreme voices are always the loudest.
Wednesday, January 30th, is the feast of King Charles the Martyr. This is not a feast in the Episcopal Church Calendar, but it is observed in other parts of the Anglican Communion. There is a chapter of the Society of King Charles the Martyr in the Diocese of Tennessee, a group that advocates for observance of this feast by Episcopalians.
Historically, the puritan leanings of the US, as well as the republican triumph of the Revolutionary War, mean that Americans have been at the least ambivalent about the commemoration. That said, I believe that if some among us can hod their nose and accept the inclusion of Archbishop William Laud in the calendar, then we can certainly look again at King Charles the Martyr. Below are some articles and blog posts on the topic.
The Case for Charles, by J. Robert Wright
“Be ready always to give account to anyone who asks of you a reason for the hope that is within you, but do it with gentleness and reverence.” I Peter 3:15.The Commemoration in which we are engaged this morning is part of an international movement for the recovery of Anglican identity. King Charles the Martyr d. 1649 was commemorated in the Prayer Book of the Church of England from 1662 to 1859, then he was dropped. He never quite made it to the first American Prayer Book of 1789-90 because of our country’s need for distance from monarchy at that time. Whether or not the Queen’s Printers had statutory authority to remove his name from the English Kalendar in 1859 when the State Services were terminated [I think they did not], he did finally re-enter an official English liturgical calendar in 1980 with the publication of the Alternative Service Book of the Church of England in that year. Of course he has also entered the calendars of some other Anglican churches throughout the world, such as Canada. But most remarkable of all is the fact in this 21st-century post-deconstructionism world of searches for identity, that Charles as “King and Martyr” has been clearly and explicitly retained in the new calendar of the very modern Common Worship volume of the Church of England, just published in the year 2000. Whatever the word “martyr” may mean, and there are various acceptable definitions, the modern-day Church of England clearly recognizes him as a “martyr.” The Commemoration of King Charles the Martyr is on the rise, even in official circles, in liturgical calendars, in special services, in shrines and memorials, and in other ways. There is a growing realization that he is part of who we are as Anglicans, and even in the Episcopal Church, in addition to the long-standing witness of the Society of King Charles the Martyr and other groups, The Anglican Society, which I serve as President, has by official action of its Executive Committee resolved to work for the addition of his name to the calendar of the Episcopal Church.Charles could have avoided martyrdom if he had agreed to give up his witness to the catholic faith and order that is an essential ingredient of classical Anglicanism, in particular if he had agreed to settle for a church without bishops.
Re-thinking Charles the Martyr, by Fr. Sam Keyes
This Saturday past I took the rare opportunity to attend the Annual Mass of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, held at All Saints, Ashmont. (All Saints is, by the way, a delightful Anglo-Catholic parish with a wonderful choir ministry with boys from the neighborhood.) I’ve never had any particular devotion to Charles. I confess that I went — and I probably wasn’t the only one — for the spectacle of it all. Strange as they can be (and SKCM is probably the strangest, from most perspectives), there is something deeply appealing about these old Catholic societies in Anglicanism. It thrills me that they exist at all, and that they continue to exist.
For a longer treatment, check out this article from The Living Church archive.
NB: I am not convinced that an “assault weapons” ban will be all that effective, since the given definition is so extensively aesthetic and not necessarily functional. Also, I do not believe that the capabilities of a hunting rifle ought to be outlawed. In terms of the assault weapons ban, I’m not sure I’m totally against it, even though it is primarily aesthetic. Because I think aesthetics matter, and just as the militarization of the police is a huge problem, a glorification of military-looking weapons ostensibly for civilian and traditional uses, such as hunting, probably signals a problem for those with a compulsion to buy them for those aesthetic reasons.
I am much more in favor of universal background check requirements and limitations on who can own a fire arm, and also, further requirements for training or certification to own certain weapons, as well as specific requirements for storage.
As people are quick to point out, criminals are likely to simply ignore these laws. That’s true, but most mass shootings in the US have been orchestrated with legally purchased firearms, often taken by a family member, if not purchased directly. It seems to me that requiring universal background checks allows for holding folks’ responsible if a gun they have sold to someone who is unstable or a criminal is then used in the commission of a crime. It gives further legal recourse to charge them for their part in making that crime possible and establishes a parameter for due diligence. Likewise, putting storage requirements on firearms, and a window during which the theft or unexplained absence of a firearm must be reported, puts responsibility where it ought to be: with the gun owner.
As I mentioned briefly above, certifications might be in order. As an extension of this, it may be that some weapons do not need to be totally outlawed, but that they should be restricted to people who have received a further level of screening and training. The situation is Switzerland could be instructive in this regard: weapons that actually fit-in capability-the definition of a military weapon, could be limited to those who have received training in the military or through a form of national service, along with regular re-certifications, and similar controls as the Swiss have over ammunition etc…
Just a few thoughts sparked by the article below:
When the Supreme Court in 2008 declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun, the justices made it clear that this right—like any right—is not unlimited. “The court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill . . . or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
For the past 20 years, the “conditions and qualifications” attached to gun ownership have been steadily removed, mostly at the behest of the National Rifle Association, which insists on a virtually absolute right to gun possession. But the massacre of 20 children and six teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, has finally led President Obama and other leaders to push for significant gun-control measures, including limits on the number of bullets that gun clips can hold; reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons; and universal background checks for all gun buyers.
The coming weeks will be a crucial period for Americans to support passage of such measures, which would serve the welfare of all (though not the financial welfare of the gun manufacturers who support and profit from the NRA’s political influence).
Most Americans are horrified at the easy availability of military-style weapons. They are astonished that 40 percent of all firearms purchased in this country are sold without checking if the buyer has a record of crime, drug addiction or mental illness. That loophole exists because the 1993 Brady bill—the last significant piece of federal legislation on guns—requires background checks only for sales by licensed dealers, not for private sales. Ending the private sales loophole is a crucial step in reducing gun violence.
And such a proposal has widespread support. Though the NRA fought the Brady bill at every step and even challenged its constitutionality, polls show that 74 percent of NRA members and 84 percent of gun owners—and 95 percent of all Americans—think submitting to a background check is a reasonable condition for gun ownership.
My wife and I took an anniversary trip to Paris recently, enabled by frequent flyer miles and grandparents’ babysitting largesse. At an Irish pub one night we noticed “I Will Wait” on the TV, a video of a British band recorded in America. The barkeep changed the channel, and we shouted involuntarily. He turned it back on and turned it up, and we shouted along, not a few Parisians joining in. It was a Pentecost moment, more dorky than cool. Song ended, we raised our glasses, tipped well, and left—resolved to reenter the world-repairing practice of friendship, accompanied by a song we couldn’t stop singing.