Another shooting, this time in Santa Barbara, with legally purchased guns. You probably think it's partially my fault. Why? Because I am a Godless American.
Within hours of the Sandy Hook shooting, Mike Huckabee told viewers on Fox News that the tragedy comes as no surprise considering that America has "systematically removed God" from public schools. He's on record saying, "If this nation forgets our God, then God will have every right to forget us." The man who might be the Republican candidate for the 2016 presidency sees God as the solution to America's gun violence.
Saying that bad things (like mass shootings) happen because prayer is not permitted in public schools means believing one of two things, or both: that 1) God could intervene but chooses to allow the massacre in order to send a message to people like me, people who believe in the separation of church and state, or that 2) if the shooter had been allowed to pray in school during his formative years, he might not commit acts of evil. Either way, the burden of blame, at least partially, rests with me, a Godless American.
Yes, I am a Godless American and a devoted mother of two who believes that the highest form of love doesn't come from a supernatural being but from human beings. I make ethical decisions based on empathy and a deep appeal for fairness. So if you've ever wondered what a Godless American might be like, here's an opportunity to know one. I like to bake birthday cakes from scratch and take in stray dogs. I am a Girl Scout leader.
I am a mother who won't even use Santa Claus as a convenient tool for moral obedience. (And yes, Godless Americans celebrate Santa. What do Barbie dolls from Santa have to do with Jesus of Nazareth?) I want my children to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do and not because there's a prize to be won in exchange, whether that prize is a toy-filled stocking or an eternal life of Hosannas.
But Enough About Me; Let's Talk About You Godfull Americans With Guns
As citizens, you openly prize two things: Jesus and the Second Amendment. Your cries for more God and more guns ring from sea to shining sea. We hear you. Believe me. But here's the thing: As an American citizen of equal value, I can't let you claim this country as a gun-loving Christian nation. I live a life of moral decency, as I'm sure you do too. But I do it gunless. This makes me indisputably more Christ-like than you.
In response, you will say I'm stifling your right to religion. Quite the opposite: I'm encouraging you to pick up your Bibles and live more in accordance with your religion. I'm asking you to choose between the right to bear arms and the right to quote Jesus. If you won't give up your guns, then give up your identity as a Christian. Be disciples of Wayne LaPierre. Make your mantra "From My Cold, Dead Hands," not "Turn the Other Cheek."
Something Is Terribly Wrong With Americans
Our scale of revulsion is off. When the thought of disarming citizens elicits vitriol, and when the cries for Second Amendment rights muffle the cries of grieving parents, America needs to reconsider its status as exceptional.
Here's an example of truly exceptional citizenry: In 1996 a gunman in Scotland opened fire, killing 16 elementary school children in their gymnasium. It took the UK less than two years to ban all civilian handguns. There has not been a school shooting since. And to those who say a madman will find a way to arm himself, maybe you're right, but the 7-year-old boy who was accidentally shot by his father one week after Sandy Hook would still be alive today if civilians couldn't own guns. I mention this particular child instead of the 194 children who were shot and killed in 2013, just because. I mean, we certainly don't have time for week-long CNN tributes for each and every one of those dead children. There would be, like, zero time to cover celebrity weddings if we did that.
Your Response to Gun Violence Is More Prayer and More Guns?
Prayer, like exercise, might be good for you personally, but it doesn't involve a sacrifice. It doesn't cost you anything. As Christians, you should identify with sacrifice: "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son...." As Christians, certainly you can give up something you love (your guns) for the sake of something greater.
Personally, I would love to stifle your right to the Second Amendment. Even more, I would love to see you do it yourself in honor of the dead children, because, ultimately, it doesn't matter whether it's a madman or a "responsible" gun owner who pulls the trigger; guns do the one and only thing guns are designed to do: shoot bullets that kill. It's not like you can use a gun to whittle a wooden spoon or slice a carrot, or use the sterilized tip to drain a nasty blister on a camping trip.
Let Us Pray
The religious right loves senators like Tim Scott of South Carolina, who says that guns are the cornerstone of America, who proudly doesn't believe in any gun regulation whatsoever and is prepared to fight attempts to weaken gun rights "in any way." I'm going to try praying. I'm going to pray to Christian pro-gun senators like Tim Scott -- a man with real power to intervene.
I encourage you to do the same. If you see Godfull citizens who love their guns so much that they will not give them up, get on your knees and pray directly to them. If they are embarrassed by your display, explain that Jesus cannot disarm them, for surely if he could, he would. Also remind them that Christians believe God uses humans as agents of change. As Americans, if we don't ban civilian guns in response to the ongoing carnage, then we should indeed view ourselves as exceptional in the worst possible way.
For the last 19 years the Gerdua Steel Mill in Rancho Cucamonga, California, has volunteered its furnace to melt thousands of confiscated and civilian-surrendered guns into steel reinforcement bars that are then used to build everything from freeways to schools. It's called "Project Isaiah," in reference to the Biblical passage that calls for swords to be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Instead of fighting for your Second Amendment rights, fight to institute "Project Isaiah" in your city. I think your savior Jesus Christ would approve.