God, Guns and Peace

When I spoke up recently about my own experiences with pistols, several of my friends responded with strong opinions. One said I shouldn’t tell people I’m a single mom because criminals would be more likely to hunt me down. Another said that as a minister of peace, it was hypocritical of me to own a gun because guns kill. Another said that all of us are capable of snapping and going temporarily insane, or experiencing psychosis, myself not excepted, and for that reason, I should not own a gun. It was arrogant and silly of me to think, she added, that I was not immune to insanity. Another friend characterized me as possibly being like any terrorist, supposedly well-meaning or perhaps not, who kills in the name of his or her God.

Photo: Glock

I don’t like when anyone resorts to name-calling or brandishes hysterical accusations during arguments. It’s not only anti-gun folks who engage in this sort of behavior of course. A gun instructor said to his students that he “hated all liberals.” A gun supporter said on a video I watched the other day that all those who want to “take away his rights” are idiots and they deserve to be shot. Other friends say that Muslims are the enemy, and college president Jerry Falwell Jr. said the other day that “if more people had concealed guns, we could end those Muslims.”

The gun debate, in other words, has become like the abortion debate. Some people say that when an issue becomes this acrimonious, you should avoid discussing it, but the world doesn’t resolve its problems if we all pull the fabric over our eyes and give up trying to resolve differences amicably. And I really dislike it when people, particularly men, tell me to keep my mouth shut. I won’t be quiet on issues if I think I can help a single person understand a complex issue better. It’s my hope I can enlighten and unite those who read my words.

As a minister, I’ve had to sort out differing interpretations of God’s word, and then I’ve gone directly to the source and tried to intuit, via the Teacher that lives inside my heart, how we should obtain peace while we live on earth. At an early age, I embraced “turning the other cheek” as a theory and wanted to apply it to my own practice. I love Jesus; I cherish Gandhi; I honor MLK.

But my God is the Lord of angel armies. The God I worship wields power when needed—the rod of force is used only to protect His subjects, to enforce justice, and to guarantee the peace. God, in other words, does not turn the other cheek, and for very good reason. As I have grown closer to God and as I have studied history and theology, politics and interfaith scriptures more, I have come to see that turning the other cheek often leads to less peace, not more.

The disagreement over how to obtain peace reminds me of arguments over capitalism versus socialism. Many people embrace the concept of equality; indeed, I embrace equality of opportunity, and I don’t love the fact that some people have three homes while others have none. I believe a good political system should aim to ensure that no individual who wants to work and tries to provide for his or her family goes homeless or hungry. It was often said to me in college that in a perfect system, communism would be the best form of governance. Despite my views on poverty, and setting aside a complex dissertation on modern politics and economics, I disagree with this concept.

I think humans simply like to have a piece of their own land, a place to call their own, and a chance to earn the fruits of their honest labors. I don’t think that human nature itself can be changed; thus, I don’t accept that a workable utopian world exists that does not recognize the human need to strive, to create, and to be independent and self-governing (at least to an extent). Communism, in other words, is not a governing theory that is in accord with the very souls its meant to govern.

The same holds true, in my opinion, for theories on peace that require us to turn the other cheek, to not fight back, to refrain from arming ourselves in self-defense. Such theories disregard human nature. Humanity, in other words, is not by nature peaceful.

Image from Wikipedia

I love peace. I don’t enjoy war, but given the state of the heavens and the state of this world, war is inevitable. So long as there are temptations and separations, divisions and boundaries, territories and countries, there will be conflict. So long as there is the potential for conflict, there is the need to keep the peace. And peace is not kept merely by wishing it into effect.

So how do we keep the peace? And who should keep it? Back when I was struggling with the theological underpinnings for fighting, I would pull my hair out trying to dissect the teachings of one great prophet: Jesus, as well as the teachings and actions of another great prophet: Muhammad. Neither prophet’s teaching on war and peace quite made sense to me.

Turning the other cheek makes emotional sense to me and it’s simple. Someone slaps you, don’t slap back. But what happens if all that’s left is Lucifer and God? Should God let Luce take the throne, or the rod? Or what if Hitler and FDR meet and Hitler says, “Surrender to me.”–should FDR, hypothetically speaking, hand Hitler the keys to his people’s cities?

And fighting to make the world safe so that you can worship in your own sanctuary also makes a certain amount of sense, but Muhammad at times took the fight further than I felt was right. Muhammad, after all, went searching for the fight at times . . . and that feels like an uncomfortable mixing of politics with religion. Then again, maybe in a tribal society, this was how Muhammad had to lead. But I don’t think prophets make the best military leaders.

Which brings me to guidance from the oldest known religion with the oldest scriptures. The Mahabharata, which serves as the holy writings for the Hindu faith, divides the job of peacekeeping from the job of teaching; these scriptures separate political leadership, which is the job of kings, from the work of prophets and holy leaders. Religious worship and spiritual instruction is handled by one class: the Brahmin. Governance, which is the province of kings, is handled by the class known as Ksatriyas. And the main job of kings is to wield to rod of force. Kings, in other words, keep the peace. And if the ksatriyas do their jobs correctly, peace is assured to all the other classes in society.

As an interfaith minister, I search for truth in all the cultures and scriptures, and when it comes to issues of peace and peacekeeping, I’ve found guidance from the Mahabharata and its insights. Who should fight? Well, we don’t have a strict class system in our postmodern world. We aren’t born into classes or assigned to them. Instead, we self-select, and this freedom for some can, myself included, can be dizzying. For some of us, the idea of bearing arms is repugnant. For others, owning a firearm for defensive purposes makes sense on a gut level—as in, we sense that we can and must do our duty to protect ourselves and our community from threats foreign and domestic.

Image from Wikipedia

Those of us who would take on this duty do not, in most cases, take it lightly. Strenuous training and practice are essential to responsible gun ownership. There are considerable abuses and misuses of the power and right to bear arms; I still think, after all, that the Second Amendment is limited by the clause “a well-regulated militia.” Some limits should exist and some regulations are necessary to ensure that arms are borne responsibly and carefully.

When it comes to misuses of power, I abhor the despicable incidences of police brutality, and will continue to speak out in favor of better training and to advocate that all lives matter. More can and should be done to ensure that bad cops are given the training and discipline required to maintain a safe and sane police force.

In fact, police malfeasance points to the need to ensure that citizenry maintains its own ability to guard against the ever-present threat of a police state. American government, after all, only grows bigger and Donald Trump, the current leader of the Republican primaries, would not hesitate to crush the rights and liberties of the individual. Should this occur, those who oppose the individual’s right to bear arms might think again.

But by then it might be too late to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. Until that time, I will train and practice and do my best as a soul to protect other individuals and to make sure that those who would turn the other cheek when a threat appears—can safely do so.


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4 Comments on “God, Guns and Peace

  1. Well said my friend. A bit long – but necessary for anyone interested in true debate. I, for one, appreciate all the input. I also own guns(responsibly) for my own protection.
    & ” to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. Until that time, I will train and practice and do my best as a soul to protect other individuals and to make sure that those who would turn the other cheek when a threat appears—can safely do so.”
    Amen sister.

    • Thank you so much Janet! My blogs always run long–I used to worry about this and try to follow the trend and write short, punchy to the point blurbs, but oh hell with that. I’m glad you own a gun in such a manner. Would that more responsible souls did so! Be well sister <3 El

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