I’m looking through the pictures of my son’s baptism yesterday, All Saints Day. It was an Anglican service, so we were up there for a while. The time stamps on the photos range from 11:35-11:48 am. They catch my daughter misbehaving. They show my son cooperating (though concerned) with the water, the oil, the lifting, and being walked through the congregation. The pictures catch our faces, immersed in the joy of infant baptism and the realities of parenting a three-year-old sister. We were celebrating a spiritual reality that informs how we live on earth.
These were also the minutes just after the shooting had stopped 33 miles away at another church in another town. The tragedy had occurred, and so many lives were forever altered.
I already had in my head the blog post I was going to write about how baptism reminds us that God enters the chaos of parenting and community. He works inside real life, and as nice as it is to have quiet sacred moments…sometimes we bring the chaos and God brings the sacred. We often think of infants as these beatific, peaceful, receivers of baptism, and the rest of us experiencing this wholly transcendent moment…when the reality is that they are actively resisting the grace most of the time, and the rest of us are pretty distracted. And that’s a much better picture of God’s grace.
I was drafting that in my head when I got the email about Sutherland Springs. My heart broke, and my thoughts changed.
I can imagine God in my chaos…but what about THAT chaos? What about the chaos of violence and tragedy? Does his grace go there? Does our baptism mean anything in that context.
Yes. Because we were not saved, not brought into God’s family, to revel in our own comfort and placid situation. We delight in our peace with God, not to insulate ourselves and work on our own personal holiness. We were saved to be a comfort to John Holcombe and his aching community, and we were saved to do battle against sin.
I can’t speak to the lawyers, Constitutional scholars, lawmakers and the others who have to wrestle with how to actually try to prevent the next shooting. But I can speak, as a member of God’s family, to how that informs my response to mass violence.
First, we need to be at work in the world, sharing the Gospel, and helping others find peace (and sometimes medical resources) to reach their sick and sinful places. We need to be sharing the healing we have been given. Because yes, violent people will be violent, whatever their tools.
But, in the current context, I also believe we need to go further. Because those tools, and their capacity to do harm, are a problem worth talking about. The public voice of the “Christian” community played a powerful role in getting us here, so let’s see if we can be part of the solution.
God’s family does not whine about its rights. God’s family asks, “how can we serve you?”
God’s family is not afraid of a “slippery slope toward tyranny” or other talking points provided by those who are raking in the cash from our addiction to firearms. We were saved to be brave about a conversation that we need to have as churches, as families, as lawmakers, as voters, as citizens.
Around the dinner table of God’s family, the “gun conversation” is this: a Christian has no business giving a second thought to his gun hobby, his hunting pastime, and even his own rights. The Christian, living in grace, bravely enters the conversation about guns open to the idea that he or she might need to give up a hobby, a pastime, or even a right. The Christian does not hold onto rights for rights sake. The Christian is far more afraid of violating the law of God than of living peacefully under even the most tyrannical government. The Christian’s primary identity is not American, it is Christian.
Maybe we have the conversation, listen to experts, take a real look at evidence, and come back around to the position that guns are good to have. Maybe we conclude that if fewer people had assault rifles, that we’d be worse off. But right now there are powerful financial interests, and lots of “me first-isms” with a deep foothold in the Christian community and those powerful interests will not allow the conversation to happen. They deflect, they cut it off. So before you pull out the knee-jerk talking points…ask where you got them, and who is laughing his way to the bank.
One little side note on the second amendment…and I’m open to a Constitutional lawyer helping me understand the broader implications of a “well-regulated militia” but… do you honestly, HONESTLY, think your assault rifle is going to protect your from the full force of the US Military (or Russian or Chinese or ISIS)? If the citizens of the United States ever need to defend themselves against a military power in a nuclear age…what exactly are you hoping to accomplish? If the most you can come up with is “going down fighting,” you need to get over yourself. You might as well use your fists. A well-regulated militia of exactly zero use in 2017.
The founding fathers were not God. They did not foresee where these things would go. And the Constitution is not Scripture. “The constitutions tells me so” is a really lame argument for a Christian to fall back on here.
One of Asa’s baptism gifts from the church was a (decorative) arrow. His name means “healer” and our prayer has always been that he would be a flaming arrow of peace into the darkness. That arrow is our reminder that baptism brings grace, and the effect of grace is power. The power to do good. The power to do battle with sin and its havoc.
There is sin and havoc in an angry man with a weapon capable of indiscriminate killing in the space of seconds. There is sin and havoc in greed and power. There is sin and havoc in church who can’t remember where its true citizenship resides. Let our baptism be a reminder of what we were saved from, what we were saved to do, and where our citizenship resides.