A Holy Week Message from Douglas Avilesbernal, Regional Minister, Evergreen Baptist Association
“ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
I live with PTSD. I keep it private because it weighs heavily and it changes relationships, though a relatively new therapy has been amazing for me. It also tends to end conversations in very awkward ways. I mention the above because it is very relevant to a whole lot of the arguments we hear every time there is a mass shooting. I have lived in a war zone where firearms are plentiful and easy to get. Where anyone can get whatever they want to protect themselves and loved ones. From that experience I can unequivocally tell you that is no way to live. The scars for those who survive are unimaginably painful and recovery is generational. On top of that, the pain from loved ones lost shortens life expectancies and the ability to enjoy the life one is given. No one should live always prepared for a firefight breaking out at any moment.
Do not fall for the delusion that we Americans are better and as soon as there are enough people visibly carrying the mass killings will stop. Someone hell bent on releasing their anger by killing will just make sure they are better armed when they do. Then there is the obvious question: if there are many people armed, how could anyone possibly know who the good guy is when rounding a corner there are 2, 3, 4, and more people shooting at each other?
The birth of the delusion
Being raised in our country means that it is just about impossible to escape the glorification of violence. We read about violence, we watch violence, we live violence. We enjoy and escape to violence when stressed. It is all over our language; our expressions around work, talk of success, the way we describe difficulties of life. Even the way we talk about ministry! Worse still, violence is nearly always presented as a viable solution to conflict. Kill this off! Beat them/this to the ground! I’m going to fight this! We’re going to war against this problem. The best solution to a problem is a magic bullet! Violence is inescapable in our culture.
Therefore, slowly but surely, violence as a viable solution is effectively inculcated in us from youth. Compounding this craziness is the fact that we are all told any one of us can be violent enough to kill as many as it takes to win. All of our heroes use violence to bring about justice. All are remarkably capable of out-violencing evil. We gleefully watch or read about our justice warriors inflicting crushing and unimaginably painful injuries on bad individuals before killing them, or ignoring them because the catastrophic injuries inflicted on them do not allow them to move anymore. That is the cradle in which we are nurtured into life. An all-encompassing cradle where mass murderers are nurtured, encouraged, taught, and convinced they too can kill their way to a solution or at worst die in a glorious last charge in a hail of bullets.
If that weren’t bad enough, we ensure we make it very easy to access means of mass murder. We sell weapons of war over the counter with high-capacity magazines, unlimited ammo and without a national registry! Many states offer unregulated peer to peer sales! The worst part is that every time there is a mass murder people in leadership argue for making access to firearms even easier!
In glorifying violence, we also glorify the individual with a firearm.
“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
We nurture countless good people into the delusion that by carrying a firearm
they will be the good guy/gal s/hero who stops the bad one. This delusion allows too many to think that when someone opens up with a semi-auto assault rifle, they will be able and alert enough to:
Draw and accurately aim their Springfield XD, Ruger, Glock or other.
Identify which shooter is the bad person.
Accurately put rounds on target while missing victims in front, behind, next to the bad guy and those running through the line of fire.
All within seconds and, of course, while also making sure whomever is with them is safe and out of the kill zone.
This delusion is solidly grounded on the weekly emptying of clips at paper posters with the silhouette of a human on them. If you are still wondering, ask a soldier about going after a semi-auto with your handgun.
This delusional thread leads to death dealers (firearms manufactures, gun salespeople, etc.) having their best sales in the days and weeks following mass murders. Yes, there is a difference between hunting firearms and the ones made to kill humans. When was the last time a mass shooter attacked anyone with a Browning BLR or Winchester 70 30-06?
“If I had been there, I’d have gotten him!”
“That’s why I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”
We have deluded ourselves into the certainty that the best solution for gun violence is being even better at it.
Into this mess Jesus sits with perpetrator and victim to cry. That is because everything in the Gospels SHOUTS against what we think of and defend as normal. Matt. 22:36-40 is just one of the passages telling us how getting better at killing in the hope of saving lives is against everything Jesus taught as well as basic reason.
EBA, our world is clamoring for a prophetic church that shouts out to the world how useless violence is, AND offers paths, practices, trainings and more on how to get out of that cycle. Now is the time. Here, in the pain, in the pandemic, in the longing for each other, in the hurt that comes when being with each other again. Here, now is our time.
EBA, preach the Gospel by living it and loving all every bit as much as we profess to love God! Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that condemning others and focusing only on banning firearms will solve this complex issue. It will be a struggle; it will be long, and it is certainly worth it.
Tonight on LABC Zoom – No Soup, But Study with Pastor Ally, 6:00 pm