I write of individual gun purchase and use for violence against the innocent. The weight of 47,000 gun deaths in 2022 is individualism turned in upon itself. The shooter becomes the center, the arbiter of life and death, the anomie of despair, a victim of oneself, the outsider, an inhabitor of an island of one, a citizen of one’s own state, a solo church member, a god of benile hope; a contrarian of God’s will, Christ’s love and Constitutional vision. Gun violence is the Cross. Gun violence is the community anti-vision. Gun violence is the calamity of Augustine’s “homo incurvatus in se”. What is the contrast to this community anti-vision of which the gun blasts? What is the character of this restorative community?
PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTION: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America.
PITHY QUOTES: “Liberty is not license.” John Locke. “National liberty has to be balanced with everyone else’s.” George Washington. “Freedom, where unconstrained, is a war of all against all.” Thomas Hobbs.
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER: In the introduction to Bonhoeffer’s book, LIFE TOGETHER, Payne Best, a British POW in Flossenburg Concentration Camp with Bonhoeffer, writes, “Bonhoeffer always seemed to spread an atmosphere of happiness over the least incident and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive . . . . He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near . . . . On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment.”
LIFE TOGETHER: Bonhoeffer begins his book citing Psalm 131:1: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” He quotes Luther, “The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but with devout people. O, you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing, who would have been spared?”
DR. JAMES BURTNESS: Writing about Bonhoeffer, “At Christmastime in 1942, a few months before his arrest by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his friends, ‘We will not and must not reach to the events of history with barren criticism or barren opportunism, but must take our share of responsibility for the moulding of history . . . . The ultimate question for a responsible person to ask is . . . how the coming generation is to live.’ Later, explaining why he must return to Germany, leaving a comfortable teaching position at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Bonhoeffer wrote, ‘I have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.'”
TIMOTHY SNYDER: In his book, ON TYRANNY, Snyder writes, “For resistance to succeed, two boundaries must be crossed. First, ideas about change must engage people of various backgrounds who do not agree about everything. Second, people must find themselves in places that are not their homes, and among groups who were previously not their friends.”
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the Republic for which it stands: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
E PLURIBUS UNUM: National motto
Gun violence is the anti-thesis of God’s will for what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would call the “beloved community”. Gun violence is the tragedy of Augustine’s dictum, “homo incurvatus in se”, humanity turned in upon itself to the exclusion of relationship. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is God’s response and restoration of humanity. This restoration of community, at times easy, at times difficult, is energized by God’s grace in Christ, consistent with Christ’s call to love one another as we have been loved. Where there is Christ’s love there is nonviolence. Where there is nonviolence there is community and the lessening and/or elimination of gun violence.
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)