The offensive goal in football is to move the ball downfield and score a touchdown. The offensive goal in gun practice is to move gun actions forward towards the goal of gun safety, that no lives be lost to gun tragedy, but instead guns can be properly employed and enjoyed.
What are some “plays” that can move us towards this goal? Noted theologian and author, Brian McLaren offers a game plan. He says everyone has a “world view” which guides our actions. The gun owners’ game plan/world view tends to center on the Second Amendment, that privileges them to shout “Freedom!”, “personal rights” and “Constitutional rights!” to justify their purchase and use of guns with minimal restrictions, opposing what they believe are laws that would inhibit their gun rights. But we all know there is a 40,000 death problem with this permissive world view.
In response, how can we advance our game plan, our world view to score “points”, to save lives? McLaren advances a wisdom saying you do not change a world view, score more points by argument, reason and facts, by relying on Enlightenment thinking, but instead by “imagination and experience”. This is an echo from Joel 2:28: “. . . I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old [men and women] shall dream dreams, and your young [boys and girls] shall see visions.” Joel posits a tick-tock between life and imagination, past and future, with the Spirit of God enlightening the experience.
What are the realities of life, past and future, in which experience (life) and imagination can enlighten to guide and open us to gun safety? In his book WILDLAND: THE MAKING OF AMERICA’S FURY, Evan Osmos reveals sources of America’s fury. Significantly, he lifts-up guns and gun violence as wedded partners in this volatile fury. They walk hand-in-hand through the fire. Who are these gun partners? Who inflames the gun and tickles the trigger finger? The life partners are: ideological and religious tribalism, radical self-reliance, fear-suspicion, urge to dominate, inequality, loneliness, disengagement, poverty, racism, no health care, no wealth, no opportunity, no security, no sick leave, no path to redemption, and the need for protection. Together, these gun partners ignite a toxic fury.
Osmos argues that gun violence is lessened when these life partnerships are transformed. We address the partnerships, the life experiences, through imagination. As Joel insights, the grace of God infuses us with the Spirit of God to empower and inspire change, to create life-giving visions, to fire-up our imagination to effect people’s lives and make them new! Hence, we are led to two questions: 1) What values are needed to transform the fury within the above listed “partners”?; 2) What life actions are necessary to create practical life experiences based on the new value, to transform fury into future? For example, a transformative value to poverty is a living wage. An imaginative and practical action is guaranteeing an education, high school and beyond. Another cause of fury is religious tribalism. A transformative value is commitment to know and understand each other, to spend time together in the evenings, over a meal or sharing a latte’. An imaginative action is working together on a community project. This dual approach may lessen the perceived need for a gun solution because our human, personal needs are being met in imaginative, nonviolent ways. The Spirit of God opens us to each others’ life experiences as People of God and inspires us to imagine and work together for the common good.
Looking at the inflamed furies, what are the transformative values for each? Then, what are living, practical actions to make the new value live? I strongly suspect gun violence will significantly lessen. I suggest the partnership of Joel and Brian inspire a life-giving game plan! Sharing experiences and uniting in imagination! Score!
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)