When I heard the news about yesterday’s mass shooting in Oregon, I knew what would happen next. I knew that my Facebook and Twitter feeds would be clogged with my pro-gun control friends sharing their outrage. I knew I would see an article about what happened in Australia after a mass shooting there 20 years ago. I knew I would see a ton of gun control articles I’ve seen every time a mass shooting occurs. I knew that my friends on the right would offer prayers for the victims and I knew I would see some article somewhere about how this gun control tactic wouldn’t have stopped the shooter.
It’s interesting that in the same week the GOP hauled Planned Parenthood to the Capital for a show trial congressional hearing, we would also deal with a mass shooting. I say interesting because these two events highlight our culture which based on rights and not just rights, but maximum rights, body politic be damned. We live in a country where we place a big emphasis on rights. That is a good thing in many ways or else I wouldn’t be in a such a good spot being both African American and gay. But I think at times, we tend to make our rights into idols, things that become sacrosanct to the point that it doesn’t matter if someone gets hurt.
I will say right off the bat that I tend to have libertarian views on social issues, which means that I tend to support gun rights and I’m moderately pro-choice. But because I am a Christian, neither of those rights can or ever should be absolute. We also have to think of our fellow person.
Let’s start with abortion. While many liberals seems to favor restricting if not eliminating gun rights, they tend to want the maximum rights when it comes to abortion. The old attempt at moderation, keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare” has given way to shouting your abortion. Many European countries have some restrictions on abortions after the first trimester. But such a law would never pass here. Liberals don’t want to give an inch to the pro-life side (sometimes with good reason) which means they end up supporting abortion even well into the third trimester. What is bothersome is the fact that even in the church there is no talk about balancing the needs of the woman and the needs of the growing presence inside of her.
Now to guns. I don’t think we should ban all guns and I’m not the type that says only law enforcement or the military should have them. I think there are safe ways to use a gun. Even though I don’t own one, I have no problem with concealed carry of handguns. In essence, I think guns are ok to possess. (You can read about my evolution on guns here.)
That said, having a right to bear arms doesn’t mean not doing anything concerning guns. I get increasingly bothered by fellow conservatives and libertarians who seem to think that when mass shootings happen, the only thing they can do is offer prayers to those killed and wounded. That’s cowardly. There are ways to retain gun rights and have some laws that might prevent mass shootings from happening. But it’s the same thing as with abortion, the pro-gun side sees limiting rights as the same as surrender.
As a Christian, what should matter is how we treat our neighbors. Are we treating our fellow human being with respect if just abort fetuses whenever we want or push for extreme gun rights when people are being mowed down? For Christians, the talk is not about rights as much as it is responsibility; how we treat our sisters and brothers. And in my opinion, we have ignored this. As important as rights are, there is a danger inherent with rights, because it is focused on the self. Legally that is a good thing, but we are not simply Americans, we are also Christians who are called to not live for ourselves. We are called to live for others and that means thinking about the humans around you. Or inside you.
So as we get on our soapboxes, let’s think about what matters here and who is god. We should be worshipping God, not Planned Parenthood and the NRA.