Archive for January, 2013

Find common ground on reducing gun violence

Thursday, Jan. 10, The Kentucky Standard

The Lexington Gun and Knife Show last Saturday was attended by at least 1,500 people, including some who wanted to buy military-style rifles like the Bushmaster AR-15, which was used in the murders of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., and two firefighters in Webster, N.Y., just before Christmas.

At a nearby park, clergy led about 150 people in an interfaith candlelight vigil to pray for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Kenny Woods, a Baptist preacher, gun shop owner and founder of the gun show, thought the vigil across the street was inappropriate.

“I think the church has no business in this,” Woods told a Lexington Herald-Leader reporter. “I think they’re attention-seekers, myself.”

Some of those attending the gun show were also seeking attention and making a statement. Since Sandy Hook, Woods said, “we’ve been breaking attendance records.”

People are “buying stuff they were never buying before,” he remarked. “The warehouses are empty. The gun stores are empty.”

They’re empty because many think our government is the enemy, and it’s going to make all firearms illegal. Some even think the feds are coming after the guns we already own. I know. It’s absurd.

The only proposals our representatives in Washington are talking about are closing the loophole that exempts gun show purchases in some states from criminal background checks, limiting high-capacity magazines and reinstating the ban on what most people call “assault rifles.”

This has led to arguments over what an assault rifle is. Gun enthusiasts say the term refers to a fully automatic weapon. Gun control advocates and the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary define an assault rifle as an automatic or semiautomatic rifle with large-capacity magazines designed for military use.

That argument is irrelevant. What’s relevant to the gun violence conundrum is that these weapons of mass destruction are the weapons of choice for sociopaths, drug gangs and other monsters.

Civilians have no reason for having those kinds of guns, or at least having them without a license and registration. Ask almost any police chief.

Before some of you jump to conclusions, I am a gun owner, and I occasionally enjoy target shooting. My father taught me how to handle and respect firearms when I was a young boy. Guns are part of my rural, southern culture. But culture is not the same as cult, and while guns are a rich part of our American heritage, the gun cult is a source of division, hysteria and inaction in our country.

I’ve interviewed” patriot militia” leaders who believed the U.S. government is going to impose martial law and a one-world government. I have known survivalists who were stocking up on ammunition and rations for the coming Apocalypse. Many believe President Barack Obama is a foreign-born jihadist or communist who wants to take away our guns so he can take away our freedoms.

Just this week, one of my Facebook friends posted something about a 1968 gun law being modeled on one in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. He actually believes it. Another acquaintance, a tea party leader, has started calling Democrats “gun grabbers.” I don’t think he believes it, but it’s a catchphrase to promote his agenda.

The time has come for legislators and journalists to give less attention to voices of extremism and listen more closely to the quieter voices of those who believe modest measures to reduce gun violence are not an egregious infringement of freedom.

Liberals shouldn’t dismiss the National Rifle Association’s argument that we need police officers in schools and that trained, law-abiding people who aren’t psychotic should be allowed to carry concealed weapons with a permit. Libertarians shouldn’t think that licensing firearms would lead to confiscation or that the Second Amendment prohibits gun regulations. Those who think we should do more to identify and treat those with mental health issues are right. Parents who think that extremely graphic violence in video games and movies desensitizes children have a point.

It doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. Making America a less violent society probably must include changes and compromises in all these areas.

We won’t find common ground, though, if all we do is denigrate one another and stick to our guns.

MLK and ‘the arc of the moral universe’

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that justice often comes slowly, but it comes if we have faith.

As we celebrate the legacy of King and the civil rights movement on Monday, we should remember what guided him and others on that hard road to freedom — a sense of justice deeply ingrained in Judeo-Christian teaching.

Listen to these words spoken by King on Aug. 16, 1967, in an address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference:

“When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

What is this “creative force,” this “power” if not Providence?

This week I’ve been reading Timothy Keller’s “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism,” and am interested in his ideas on justice.

Religious fanaticism is often a source of injustice, but it doesn’t come from being too committed to Christianity, but from not being committed enough, he explained.

Christianity teaches that all of us are flawed, and it’s only through God’s grace that we can be forgiven and redeemed, not through anything we can do. That is a humbling thought.

And it is different from the thought of the white, secular liberals who were allies of blacks in the civil rights struggle.

Liberals, Keller said, saw civil rights primarily as a political movement, while blacks understood it as a spiritual revival.

The secularists put their hopes in a false belief in the inherent goodness of human nature, and thought education and enlightenment would usher in the newer world.

Southern black Christians, on the other hand, knew of the sinfulness of every human heart, and their appeal had a firm biblical foundation.

The powerful words etched onto the civil rights memorial in Montgomery, Ala., are not those of King, but of the Jewish prophet Amos from thousands of years ago: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

King didn’t change white America’s minds with the secular nonsense that truth is relative and that each of us should decide for ourselves what is true for us.

No, he rended white Christians’ hearts and brought them to their knees by confronting them with the deep knowledge that truth is timeless and absolute.

Right and wrong doesn’t ever change. It is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. What changes is our understanding of it.

We should be grateful to King for helping us better understand.

And we should be grateful to that “creative force” that used King, despite his flaws, for its purpose — to “make a way out of no way” for his people.

2012 reading list

The following is a list of books I read in 2012. 

1. The Family Legacy of Henry Clay: In the Shadow of a Kentucky Patriarch – Lindsey Apple (NF)

2. Wordsmith: My Life in Journalism – Al Smith (NF)

3. On the Banks of Monks Pond: The Thomas Merton/Jonathan Greene Correspondence (NF)

4. Momentum for Life: Biblical Practices for Sustaining Physical Health, Personal Integrity and Strategic Focus – Michael Slaughter (NF)

5. George Herbert Walker Bush – Tom Wicker (NF)

6. Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero – Chris Matthews (NF)

7. Counterfeit Gods – Timothy Keller (NF)

8. The Great Divorce: A Dream – C.S. Lewis (F)

9. Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show – Frank Delaney (F)

10. The Spirituality of St. Patrick – Lesley Whiteside (NF)

11. Almost Catholic: An Appreciation of the History, Practice and Mystery of Ancient Faith – Jon M. Sweeney (NF)

12. The Other America: Poverty in the United States (50th anniversary edition) – Michael Harrington (NF)

13. Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party – Geoffrey Kabaservice (NF)

14. Ralph McGill: A Biography – Barbara Barksdale Clowse (NF)

15. Relationships 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know – John C. Maxwell (NF)

16. Sarum – Edward Rutherfurd (F)

17. Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship – Richard Aldous (NF)

18. The American Home Front 1941-1942 – Alistair Cooke (NF)

19. Freelancing for Newspapers: Writing for an Overlooked Market – Sue Fagalde Lick (NF)

20. The Tea Party: A Brief History – Ronald P. Formisano (NF)

21. The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick and Will (Eventually) Feel Better – Tyler Cowen (NF)

22. The Queen: A Life in Brief – Robert Lacey (NF)

23. London – Edward Rutherfurd (F)

24. George Washington – James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn (NF)

25. Thomas Jefferson – Joyce Appleby (NF)

26. John Quincy Adams – Robert V. Remini (NF)

27. John F. Kennedy – Alan Brinkley (NF)

28. John Adams – David McCullough (NF)

29. The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith – Peter Hitchens (NF)

 30. The Sons of Bardstown: 25 Years of Vietnam in an American Town – Jim Wilson (NF)

31. Selected Poems of Thomas Merton (V)

32. Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal – Peter A. Galuszka (NF)

33. Engaging the World with Merton: On Retreat in Tom’s Hermitage – M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O. (NF)

34. The Good Pope: John XXIII and Vatican II: The Making of a Saint and the Remaking of the Church – Greg Tobin (NF)

35. Social Security and the Golden Age: An Essay on the New American Demographic – George McGovern (NF)

36. Unabashedly Episcopalian: Proclaiming the Good News of the Episcopal Church – Andrew Doyle (NF)

37. The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again – J.R.R. Tolkien (F)

38. The Christian World of The Hobbit – Devin Brown (NF)

39. Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent – Enuma Okoro (NF)

40. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism — Timothy Keller (NF)

 

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