The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 focuses on distractions preventing Martha from listening and honoring Jesus. Jesus visited their home. Mary chose to spend time with Jesus, listening to his teachings and interacting. Martha chose to do housework and perhaps fix the meals. Martha complains to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has let me do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” Perhaps she wanted help in cleaning the house and meal preparation in respect for Jesus. Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” The point of the story is to let nothing distract you from taking time for Jesus.
I wear sunglasses to give ease to my eyes. As a Christian, I am committed to addressing life issues through “Jesus Glasses.” Gun violence prevention is no exception. “Jesus Glasses” help me recognize distractions that prevent action for gun violence prevention.
The NRA, Gun Owners of America and other pro-gun groups like to posit distractions to justify unqualified gun purchases. Restrictions are not allowed. The fact that 40,000 people die of gun violence each year and 100s of thousands of people are injured by gun violence each year, and the USA is far and away the leader in rate of gun deaths among Western Developed Nations, do not give them pause. Instead they mouth distractions.
The classic Lappier trope: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” (forgetting the analytics that prove more guns cause more deaths). Then there is the Second Amendment credo: “…the right of a people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” (while conveniently forgetting the first half of the amendment relating to militias). Guns are good for business is another distraction (Walmart and Dick’s have cut back on the types of weapons that they sell). I have to protect myself and home (analytics have proven that guns in the home will be used many times over against oneself or a family member before they will protect yourself from an intruder). If only the teachers at Parkland and the church members at Sutherland Springs had been armed the massacres would not have happened (This is a tough one. But the question of how the presence of guns affects learning and worship is valid). Distractions. Martha-ish.
But let’s not be too hard on Martha. There were necessary tasks to prepare and show respect for Jesus’ visit. HOWEVER, she avoided the greater priority of listening to Jesus and being transformed by his Spirit. This transformation impacts how we do life, what we buy, how we spend our time, how affected we are by perceived threats, how we feel about other races and what value we place on protecting ourselves.
Jesus’ transforming love focuses our decision-making in respect for life, protecting life and giving life. Jesus’ ethic was foundationally nonviolent. The presence of guns in the mix of life complicates our listening to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t say yes to every passion. Listening to Jesus requires us to engage personal rights along with what it means to follow Jesus. What we perceive as our Constitutional rights is second to Jesus’ call to discipleship. Jesus gives us pause in our gun relationship. Yes, guns are instruments for sport. Conversely, the other side of gun grief exists with distractions only flavoring a deadly filet which looks and smells a delight but distracts us all to frequently to a banquet of bereavement.
Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes