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David Michael McFarlane Headshot

Gun Violence Affronts the Heart of Christianity

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The deaths at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon on Tuesday marked the 74th instance of school shootings since Sandy Hook -- the massacre that, progressive politicians claimed, was "enough."

The numbers may actually be higher, as these figures come only from media reports, aggregated by Everytown.org. They certainly don't take into account shootings in alleyways and at backyard barbecues and during a Mother's Day parade, not even the horrific rampage last month by the UC Santa Barbara student, which technically occurred off campus.

I'm not sure if I'm still angry, or if I've just been so angry for so long that the rage has settled like a cloud over my mind, and I've forgotten how to comprehend the world any other way.

These news reports have become normal, a phenomenon almost as sickening as each act of violence itself. I'm asking, because I honestly don't know: At what point did our good society arrive here? When did we say it's okay to cry and propose paltry semi-automatic gun control legislation, and then shake our fists when the NRA squashes the bill, and then carry on until the next month when the cycle repeats itself?

I dismiss the founding myth that ours is a Christian nation, but demographically it more or less is. So when did we stop viewing each other as images of God, the ontological principle at the beginning (and heart) of Jewish and Christian Scriptures? Why do we invoke religion to deny marriage rights and put the name of God on our money, like he was some deity of wealth, and keep silent when our children are no longer safe in institutions of learning? How can we claim to want the 10 Commandments in our courtrooms when we violate the least controversial of its tenets, murdering every day in our classrooms and streets, to say nothing of what we're doing to our prisoners, and foreign citizens abroad?

I won't pretend to know a solution. Of course so much of this violence is systemic. More nefarious factors drove Elliot Rodger to kill classmates and sorority girls than just the availability of a gun. Still, I wish we could smelt every firearm on this planet, wish we would stop producing these little devices designed only to kill or at the very least maim as efficiently as possible, wish every sane American would stop believing that possession of our own death machine was our right -- that it was good.

That's moral language I can't comprehend. Somehow American Christianity became politically aligned with gun rights and a Congressional committee obsessing over the deaths of four Americans in Libya nearly two years ago. Benghazi was a tragic event, certainly, but a political attack that occurred in a war-torn country, not a room where children gathered to learn about photosynthesis or Huckleberry Finn. I've heard more Christians demand an explanation for this than for any one of the 74 school shootings we've endured since December 14, 2012, a paradox that I expect would make our Lord and Savior overturn tables in a holy rage.

I say this, because it is my faith that leads me to view human lives as precious and deserving of protection. The central narrative of Christianity follows a savior who sacrificed his own life and commanded people to love their enemies, including, surely, those who break into homes to steal televisions. How have so many people forgotten this -- inverted this, in fact? Somehow religious folk especially have been duped into believing that to conceal a gun in a purse or jacket is the mark of a good citizen, when in fact it is an act of absolute cowardice and disregard for the beauty and value of our fellow humans.

If no Senator will stand up and say "enough," and really mean it, if we can't purge our nation of its 310 millions guns, if we can't pay for enough security guards and metal detectors to keep our youngest citizens alive, Christians can at least decry this as wrong. They can stand up and call this destruction of lives evil. They can affirm, as so many of their holy verses do, the value of every person on this planet.

I don't want a sermon or a prayer vigil. I don't want an article written about the nature of sin. I want members of the Christian Right to look at their Bibles and admit that humans shouldn't kill each other or carry around handguns manufactured for no other purpose. I want the politicians who invoke Jesus the most to understand turning the other cheek invalidates their fantasies of an armed populace. I want American Christians to contemplate the stunning and grave declaration that every man, woman and child is fearfully and wonderfully made, because that might stop even one person from shooting his family or teacher or himself, which would be enough.