Springsteen, Morello, and Dorothy Day

I recently had the chance to see Bruce Springsteen perform in his natural habitat, at MetLife Stadium in the famous swamps of New Jersey. It was the middle of the string of concerts where he broke his own record for longest American performance on each night. I was there for the middle one.

I’ve been a fan of Springsteen’s for awhile. Because it was the radio heyday of WNEW FM and they hyped him relentlessly, I bought his first album the week it was released. His songs spoke to me, resonated with me. They still do. I like that his music tells stories. And that those stories all pretty much echo the same theme. There’s a guy. The odds are stacked against him. He realizes it but he doesn’t let it get him down. He keeps going, bathed in the good of his life, a good which usually manifests itself as a girl, a car, or a guitar. He knows he can’t win, but he carves out a meaningful life as best as he can.

The night I was there Springsteen was joined onstage by Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine. It would be hard to imagine a better coupling. They launched into a set of songs that called attention to the oppressed little guy. They took the side of the little guy. They spoke for the poor. It occurred to me, sitting high in the upper deck, that I was hearing onstage the same message I heard every day at mass. They were preaching the Catholic Church’s Preferential Option for the Poor and setting it to music.

The Catholic emphasis on kindness and service to the poor really struck me. It went from a topic I rarely thought about to one that was constantly before me. A friend of mine, who works with the poor and marginalized in North Carolina, once told me that he’d seriously considered a conversion to the Catholic Church because of their care for the poor. It wasn’t, he said, a trendy thing. They’d been doing it forever. It was St. Lawrence of Rome who identified the poor and marginalized as the greatest treasure the Church possessed. Now I watched as Morello played his guitar and sang, his head rolling back, alternating between a state of musical euphoria and social anger pouring out empathy for the downtrodden, asking that the playing field be leveled.

I am reminded of the great Catholic social activist, Dorothy Day. She was a Staten Islander, like me, both of us living on the south shore beachfront. After her conversion, she devoted her life to the poor. She started the Catholic Worker Movement. She spent nearly every spare penny on the hungry and homeless. She was the advocate for the downtrodden every day of her life. She used her writing skills to start The Catholic Worker, a newspaper that aimed to give hope to the one who thought there was no hope for the future.

I googled Morello after the show, wondering what instilled this attitude in him. I wasn’t surprised to see that his background was Catholicism. He isn’t what anyone would call “devout.” He considers himself an agnostic. He does two day events in cities where one day is a rock show and the other is a day of social service. He wrestles with his faith, to be sure, but wrestling with one’s faith is something the Church makes provision for.

Springsteen also is a non-practicing Catholic. But, Catholic teaching has a way of influencing you and never setting you free again. He didn’t close his show without encouraging us to put some cash into the buckets manned by a South Jersey community center. Though Springsteen and Morello have distanced themselves from the Church intellectually, both still see the poor as the Church sees them. Both know that the poor are treasures. And both acknowledge their responsibility to help. Springsteen likes to proclaim at concerts that “I’m a prisoner…of rock and roll!” That may be. But he and Morello, like Dorothy Day, seem to be prisoners to the Church teachings of social justice.

 

 

 

About a Fat Guy (part one)

I’m a fat guy. Not really that fat, just morbidly obese. I’m labelled that way on the BMI chart. Morbidly obese.

I’ve been a pudgy guy for nearly all my life. There was a ten year period where I ran a lot and was able to keep my weight down. I’m nearly six feet tall and, at the peak of my marathoning days I weighed 139 pounds. That may seem thin to you, but, I felt pudgy at that time. A pudgy 139 pounder. I felt that way because my internal body image was distorted. I felt fluffy. I wasn’t, of course, but that didn’t matter to my self image.

When I stopped running (always a mistake), I began to put on weight. When I reached 160 pounds I told myself I was at a good weight. I probably was. After all, 160 pounds is middleweight boxer territory.Who wouldn’t want to be a middleweight?

I stayed in that 160 range for awhile. Just long enough for me to begin considering that 160 was my regular weight, my best weight. I would gain four or five pounds and then lose them again. Back to 160. My best weight. After awhile I noticed I wasn’t dropping back to 160 as quickly. Eventually, I didn’t get there again. I adjusted to my new plateau of 175. It was my best weight.

I changed jobs and worked at a place where I would do a lot of walking from account to account. My boss told me that a side benefit of this job would be that I would lose a lot of weight with all that walking. I wondered why he would say that. He didn’t seem to realize that I weighed only 185, my best weight.

I didn’t see that weight loss prediction come true. Sure, there was a lot of walking, but it was always by a pizza place or bagel store. Even the outdoor newsstands in NYC sell candy! I was doing all that walking, so certainly I was fit. I just needed to update my wardrobe to accommodate me at my best weight of 200 pounds.

What a shock it was to me one day to go on an appointment that I’d made from a friend’s lead. When the client talked to my buddy about the meeting he referred to me as “the fat guy.” The fat guy? I was only 218 pounds. It was my…

I took a good, hard look at myself in a storefront window. Sure enough, it was true. It had happened when I wasn’t paying attention. I had become a fat guy. Fortunately, I was determined to do something about it. I changed my diet. I gave up soda, bread, pasta, cheese and potatoes. I bought a scale to keep in my office. I was determined. And, it worked.

I actually enjoyed being on a diet. First, it made me feel good to deny myself. I enjoyed the attention in the office when I gave weight loss progress reports. Also, and I know this is not a good trait, I felt morally superior to everyone who could not stay on their diet. I kept on my diet diligently and was able to attend our company’s national sales conference at 185 pounds. I was pretty proud of myself. After all, I had gotten down to my best weight.

Those weight loss battles were twenty years ago. After I got down to my best weight of 170 pounds I stopped being so diligent. I stopped weighing myself. I allowed some “treats”. I was inching back up on the scale. I was doing it without monitoring myself. A few days before this Easter I weighed in at 237 pounds. I told my son that I was too fat. It was the heaviest I’d ever weighed. I was far from my best weight. I would do something about it right after Easter. Right after Easter.

I learned a quick, painful lesson by starting my diet right after Easter. Monday, the day after Easter, I tipped the scales at 246 pounds. I had put on an amazing nine pounds in those final few days of my feeding frenzy. To bring that into focus, it generally days a month to diet away ten pounds. So I’d set myself back more than a month because I put off doing what was necessary. I’m sure there’s a corollary there to other habits in my life.

So, I’m making a declaration today. I’m declaring war on my fat, blubbery self and freeing the fit me from the trap of morbid obesity. I’m doing it publicly because I fear that if I don’t, I will fail. Today it’s “game on.” I’m going to stick with this diet and with this topic until I succeed. I ask all you people who pray to pray for me regarding this. I won’t give you any credit when I succeed but you will privately know you did your part.

 

 

 

 

Abortion, Dignity and Consistency

by Ross Decker Sr

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.”

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Mt2:16-18

This was the reading on December 28, The Feast of The Holy Innocents. For his homily, my priest made the clear connection between those verses and abortion. But he didn’t stop there. He made the case that we, as the Church, should be aware that the abuse of innocent children doesn’t end there. It extends to children born in poverty. Children born in areas of the world where deadly disease spreads unchecked. Children who are killed and maimed because they were born in a country where the adults wage continual war. Children who meet that same fate as refugees trying to flee to safety.

It made me grateful to be in a Church where the Sanctity of Human Life is championed daily, not just on a single snowy, cold day in late January. And it made me grateful to be part of a Church where pro-life means more than just stopping women from getting abortions.

I always felt that there ought to be more to the pro-life movement than being anti-abortion. I learned that from my friend and pastor, Kevin Rhodes. In February of 1982, I invited Kevin, half in jest, to attend a conference for women with me. To my surprise, he accepted and we went there together. One speaker was a young man, a young college professor who spoke about how important it was for women to have access to “easy” abortions. Kevin, sitting next to me, boiled. He was convinced, and was able to convince me, that this guy’s entire agenda was built around creating an environment where it was not only easy to get an abortion but also easy to get college girls to have sex with young college professors.

Kevin felt the need to do something about what we’d seen and soon, the two of us were putting together the first Crisis Pregnancy Center in our borough of New York City. All services were to be free, no board members would be allowed to picket at abortion clinics and there would be nominal material support for mothers who elected to keep their babies. They would get diapers and clothing for their babies. And each year, around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, we sent a board member around to each Evangelical church on our island to remind our brethren about the sanctity of human life.

And then, I became Catholic!

When I entered the Catholic Church I got the chance to see what it meant to be pro-life everyday. What it meant to be pro-life, not merely anti-abortion.

From the start of that Crisis Pregnancy Center I saw the need to take care of the mother who didn’t abort. Now, I saw the need to get her counseling, formula, diapers and baby clothes. If we were going to ask a woman to do the right, though hard, thing, it was our responsibility to help her. We had to stick with that mother because it’s important to be as pro-life with a baby once born as it is to care for a pre-born baby. That’s got to be part of being pro-life.

The woman who had the abortion needs care too. There was a lot of stress, fear and confusion that led her to make that choice. Having an abortion doesn’t sort that out. She still needs to be cared for because of the human dignity God gave her. The care of that woman is a pro-life issue.

After becoming Catholic I learned some things about the Church’s compassionate nature that surprised me. I learned that the first AIDS clinic was started in New York City by Cardinal O’Connor. Why did he do it? Because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

I’ve learned that being pro-life means that we hope for fair immigration laws. Families come to America because they are hoping for a better life for themselves and their families. They’ve always heard that America can offer them a great opportunity. The decision to enter as undocumented isn’t made on a lark. There are real risks in going to America. But there is a dark future in their own country. We want families to be able to hold together. We advocate for fair treatment of immigrants because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

We see the human dignity in the marginalized. We seek to bring them in from society’s outskirts. We care that the worker gets a fair wage and is able to provide for his or her family because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

We advocate against the death penalty because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

We see war as a last resort because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

Yes, we know there’s a second amendment issue to gun control but we need to see gun violence addressed because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

We want to see the LGBT community treated with Godly love and respect. Why? Yes, because we are Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

There’s so much more to being pro-life than being anti-abortion. Being against abortion certainly is an integral part of being pro-life but the issue is greater than that. When I came home to the Catholic Church I learned that the Catholic position on the pro-life is the most comprehensive and consistent position of all.

We see the human dignity in the faces of all God’s children. Why? Because we’re Catholic and it’s a pro-life issue.

 

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Text, Tone and Tension

I recently had a conversation with a Calvinist regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As most of you know, That’s the Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation, a doctrine held by the entire Christian world until the advent of Protestantism in 1517. Even then, one major Protestant figure, Martin Luther, was not content to jettison the doctrine. He created a variation of it in which the bread and wine still changed to the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Another major player in Protestantism, John Calvin, created an entirely new concept where the bread and wine were mere symbols of the body and blood of Christ.

The purpose of this blog is not to argue the merits of the three (or more) possibilities. I just wanted to relay how that conversation, between two guys who promised not to offend and to be civil, went straight down a rabbit hole.

Although the Church believes in Sacred Tradition, I find it fun to debate with Protestants using only Scripture. I spent thirty seven years as a devout Protestant so, although I’m no theologian, I can find my way around a Bible.

We were debating the sixth chapter of John, a chapter where Jesus clearly defines and introduces the doctrine of transubstantiation. My Calvinist friend, running from the clear Scriptural truth, insisted that it could not be. It didn’t make sense.

The beauty of the Gospel is that NOTHING makes sense. Would God become a human and be born of a virgin? Could a bit of bread and several fishes feed thousands? Could a man once dead be commanded to walk from a grave? Could the Son of God do the same? It’s all ludicrously true.

He then cited an early philosopher, honestly mistaking his work with that of Clement of Rome, to show that the influential Clement did not hold to the Real Presence. I gently pointed out the case of mistaken identity and he became angry, calling the conversation off, because I was too “emotionally invested” in Catholic doctrine to see the truth. We had a conversation that lasted over the course of several days that ultimately went down in flames because we failed to understand each other.

There’s a great example I like which points out how careful you need to be when putting your own inflection to someone else’s written word. I heard it, I think, from Charles Swindoll. It has always stuck with me. It’s the simple sentence, “I didn’t say you were stupid.”

There’s no inflection in writing except where the reader places it. Let’s conquer that by using capitals. Please trust that I am not shouting. Take “I” didn’t say you were stupid, with emphasis on the first word.  It’s possible that you are stupid. It’s possible people are talking about it. But, I haven’t said it.

I DIDN’T say you were stupid is a straight up denial. Sort of. It doesn’t rule out the possibility I may say it in the future.

I didn’t SAY you were stupid. I thought it. I’ve accepted it as common knowledge. I just didn’t verbalize it.

I didn’t say YOU were stupid. It’s your mother who is the real dummy.

I didn’t say you WERE stupid. It’s an oncoming thing. No way is your stupidity relegated to the past. It isn’t that you were stupid. It’s that you are stupid right at this very moment.

I didn’t say you were STUPID. But, let me tell you, being stupid would be the least of your problems. Your big problem is that you are ugly. Oh, and you smell really bad. But I didn’t say you were stupid.

Facebook is often hard for me because I frequently misread the intent of a post. I will admit that, for me, joy is fleeting and gloom is permanent. And, because of that, I often place a negative reading on an innocuous comment. I hope you don’t do that too.

It’s important for me to remember, for my Calvinist friend to realize and maybe for you to remember also, that only the reader and not the writer can control how a sentence is read.

Let’s read each others words with the best intent.

Syrians, Samaritans and Mustard Seeds

by Ross Decker Sr

He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”

As the middle east continues to be a troubled, unsafe place, thousands of Syrian immigrants pour into Europe daily. Estimates place the number of displaced people at nearly 400,000. We’ve seen the pictures and heard the stories. The photograph of the three year old who drowned on his way toward hope is burned into our minds. Although the wealthy Gulf States have displayed amazing lack of compassion for their Islamic brethren, Europe is responding to the crisis with kindness and care. Germany has set itself at the center of the gracious acceptance of these displaced people. At this point, though, the crisis shows no signs of abating.

The Pope has called for each Catholic parish in Europe to take as many refugees as possible. He has extended the compassionate arm of Jesus Christ toward these afflicted people and welcomed them. It is, he reminds us, our duty as Christians. More than that, it is our great calling. We are to love the world and to love our neighbor in Jesus’ name. It is an honor to do so, regardless of the personal costs. The disciple James advises us of our responsibility on this. He writes, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what goo is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Quite a few Christians, Catholic and Protestants alike, have questioned this call. Some think it isn’t safe to do this. They worry that terrorists will slip into our society, arriving as refugees. I have heard others say that, being the same nationality as our enemies, they should be left to suffer and to perish in this horrible predicament. This may even seem to be the sensible thing to do if we are afraid of those nations. Some say that they would prefer to protect what they have and let this poor mass of humans find it’s own way through. But this solution is political expediency, not religion.  But it isn’t a following of the calling given to us by our Lord. Our religion, if co-opted by fear and hatred, is no religion at all.  And, if we turn to our faith only when we’ve exhausted “reasonable” options, we’ve only a comforting philosophy. Not a faith. We pollute our faith when we fold politics into it. Combining those ingredients ruin the recipe. Religion plus politics equals politics.

Let’s look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is one of the most famous parables of Jesus. People with absolutely no connection to faith have all heard of it. A certain man went down the very dangerous Jericho Road. On the way, he was mugged. The muggers beat him very severely, robbed him and left him for dead by the side of the road. His own people, a priest and a Levite, passed him by. They were in a position to help. As religious people, you would reasonably expect that they would. But, they didn’t. It took a Samaritan, in this situation the enemy, who gave the comfort. This stranger, this enemy, went out of his way. He cleansed the wounds, he brought him to an inn, and covered all the expenses.

Well, it isn’t a very big stretch to apply this parable to the immigration crisis. The influx of immigrants is represented by the man beaten on the roadside. The priest and the Levite are the Persian Gulf nations who will not help. And we? We have the opportunity to be the Samaritan. We shouldn’t wish to play the role of the Levite.

It makes sense not to help. It’s safer. It feeds into our anger and revenge instincts. It’s the easy choice to make. But it isn’t what we are called to do.

The Scripture overflows with exhortation to be kind. To do good. To love our enemies. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to be kind to the stranger in our land. Do these people, so desperately in need of our help, possibly have ties to the terrorists who seek to kill us? Yes. But we are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us. We are to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. No, it doesn’t make sense. But we are supposed to do it.

Through the centuries the Church has handled difficult situations with supernatural bravery. Are we always delivered in the way that Daniel was delivered from the lion? No. We are not. But brave Christians have preserved and advanced the faith through the years. Tertullian wrote “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Recent events in Paris have made this a harder choice. And, it has place a solemn burden on our government to thoroughly vet refugees.  Maybe there will be terrorists hidden within the masses who seek asylum. But, if something horrible happens, it will have happened while we were doing good. While we were serving the Lord. While we were loving our enemies and washing their feet.

The parable tells us that the mustard seed is one of the smallest of all seeds. And Jesus says it is an example of our faith. And to follow that illustration, it’s fair to say that our faith, when it is fully grown, should be expansive. It should be welcoming. The birds of the air and the people of all nations should find the mustard tree of our faith to be a safe harbor from the harsh reality of this world. They should find comfort in our branches and stability in our rooting. This is our calling.

Kim Davis, Wedlock and Deadlock

By Ross Decker Sr

I’m pretty sure that you have heard, over and over, that Kim Davis. a clerk in Kentucky, refused to issue wedding licenses to same sex couples because of her deeply held religious beliefs. She took a stand, a stand that prevented some couples from obtaining marriage licenses for a few days and, once again, made Christians look totally foolish.

I’m a Christian. Had a “born again” experience in 1976 and I’ve never wavered from the commitment I made to God on that day. But I never got confused about what that commitment was. It was a commitment to live my life according to the grace God gave me through His Spirit in accordance with His word, the Bible. At no time did I make a commitment for anyone else and in nearly 40 years of following Him it has never occurred to me to extend that commitment to anyone else. No one had to follow the rules I’d voluntarily adopted for myself but me.

So, Let me get this out of the way straight off. I’m sick to death of Christians taking stands about what other people should do. Before we do that, let’s take a shot at getting better at our own behavior.

I’m not about taking stands. I can’t support someone using their political power to try to force their deeply held religious beliefs on other people. Kim Davis is all that. She’s taking stands. Gays had to wait about a week before they can get married. Not a very effective stand, was it?  She wouldn’t put her signature on a marriage license because she has to take a stand. She can’t go against her word. Or….can she? What about the vow she took when she assumed the job? She vowed to uphold the laws on Kentucky. Now she goes back on her word. Because she is taking a stand.

Her lawyer claims she has been jailed for her beliefs. But that isn’t true. She is being jailed for her actions. And she is being jailed for ordering her subordinates to follow her conscience rather than their own. She’s taken a stand for them, too.

The Bible is written for God’s people. For believers. Never does the Bible put us in charge of what non-Christians do. We are not to tell them how to live. We have enough difficulty keeping our own stuff together. None of us are in the position to tell a non-believer how to live their lives. We  are called to proclaim the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ died for mankind’s sins. It’s accepting that by grace that we are redeemed. It isn’t by living a moral life.So, why would a dutiful Christian try to control the behavior of non-believers when that good behavior makes a non-believer the nicest person in hell.

I’ve lived this life long enough to see someone on staff at his church refuse to attend a wedding between a young couple because he was “taking a stand.” The couple was of legal age to marry, the bride wasn’t pregnant. All the parents approved of the marriage. What was the issue? The pastor of this man’s church was counseling the groom and the groom chose not to follow it. That was a little more than 10 years ago. That lovely couple is still happily married today. But, that guy, related in no way, refused to be a guest at their wedding because he was taking a stand.

A dear friend gave his daughter in marriage. In this case, she was pregnant. People (from the same church), took a stand and stayed away. Though it was none of their business, they didn’t approve. Maybe they thought that if they went to that wedding they’d wind up pregnant too. It’s hard to know what the reason is when someone takes a stand. Both sets of parents approved of the wedding. But, their dear friends took a stand. And they created a host of negative memories that pop up with each anniversary. And, yes, there have been over twenty of those anniversaries.

Now why does Kim Davis refuse to issue marriage licenses to same sex applicants? From my point of view, I’d have to say it’s merely because she feels like it. There are certainly no scripture verses to support her deeply held religious views that she should tell strangers how to behave.

That right wing Christians try to frame this as some kind of infringement upon religious freedom is troubling. The government isn’t forcing its beliefs upon her. If anything, it is Kim Davis attempting to force her religious beliefs on the government. I get that religious freedom extends to the individual outside their house of worship. Religion cannot be limited to the walls that surround the church, temple or mosque. The freedom to practice your religion must extend to the marketplace. Christians are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and the imprisoned. We are to bury the dead. We need to be able, for example, to feed the homeless in city parks. To be forbidden to do so, or to be forbidden to mention Jesus’ name does infringe on our religious freedom. But, when it comes to actions that affect others, our deeply held religious convictions, and the extent of our religious freedom, should be to do good and not harm. To be compassionate and not harsh. It is not an infringement upon our religious convictions to stop us from forcing our religious beliefs on others.

We are a nation of laws. We obey the laws. If we have a job which requires that we perform an action we find we cannot do with a clear conscience, we give up that job. We don’t disrupt the lives of others as we protest the law. Don’t refuse to do your job and expect to continue being paid, especially if you took an oath, as government officials do, to do that job.

One thing we can expect from Christians is to tell the truth. Jesus says to let your yes be yes and your no be no. If you promised to do your job, do it. Or resign. If something about your job bothers you and you do not quit, you effectively tell everyone that you are choosing your paycheck over your principles.

I do believe that a church should never be forced to perform same-sex marriages. That would infringe upon their deeply held religious beliefs. But, an individual’s signature on a marriage license doesn’t compromise their convictions in any way. That would be a legal service regarding a legal procedure. Kim Davis would be acting as an employee of the state, not as a Christian. That marriage will be performed without naming God once. Outside the walls of the church, it’s a civil marriage. Religious convictions are not involved.

Jesus never tells us to interfere in the lives of non-believers. I think that’s because we have such a difficult time managing our own. But, there are many verses and parables which clearly tell us that we are to act kindly, lovingly, compassionately. Let’s not worry so much about how important our signature is and let’s start being kind and compassionate when we name the name of Jesus Christ.

Guns, Memes, and Bumper Stickers

by Ross Decker Sr

“But you know what’s more insidious than that? Your gun control position doesn’t have anything to do with public safety and it’s certainly not about personal freedom. It’s about you don’t like people who do like guns. You don’t like the people. Think about that the next time you make a joke about the South.”  Ainsley Hayes, The West Wing

And, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s that the people on both sides of this debate don’t like the guys on the other side. Friends on my Facebook timeline begin to post angry memes immediately after each shooting. It seems to energize them when they get to use a national tragedy to push their point of view. I’m talking about both sides when I say this. Gun supporters have no problem calling gun control people stupid.  And the gun control people never have a problem coming back with snarky insults of their own. I have always been for gun ownership but afraid of guns. I concede that the Constitution guarantees the right to gun ownership. Nonetheless, I’ve never touched one. Years ago, a friend of mine was dating a patrolman in the New York Police Department and once I saw his gun out on the kitchen table. “Go ahead,” he said, it’s not loaded. Pick it up. See how it feels.” I couldn’t do it. That was when I realized that I was afraid of guns. My friend and her cop boyfriend looked at me like I was a nutcase.

I really began to think about this after the horrible Charleston shootings. Gun control was not really an issue on my radar. But then, Dylann Roof walked into a prayer meeting and sat with a group of parishioners. Awhile into the meeting, after seeing how nice these people were, he did the incomprehensible thing and opened fire.

As I write this, the news is reporting another shooting, this one in Louisiana. A man described as a drifter walked into a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater and began firing. One witness said, “The guy was just kind of at ease, just standing there, just shooting,”

So, it has been a long journey for me. I’ve been saddened and shocked by one mass murder after another. And, it’s moved me from a reluctant defender of the right to bear arms to a man reluctantly hopeful that Congress will soon get around to writing thoughtful, enforceable gun laws.

I can’t help but wonder why it is that people who support gun control think that condescending memes will get second amendment supporters to change their mind. That’s not the tactic that works with me. Presenting a well thought out appeal might get it done. But telling me that I am laughably stupid doesn’t make me receptive to your point of view. And changing minds is what the gun control people want to do, isn’t it? I mean, the goal isn’t just to get off a cleverly insulting lines and click “like” for each other. That doesn’t advance the cause of gun control one bit. The pro-gun control folks  might do better changing the minds of pro-gun people if they didn’t treat them as though they were idiots. That strategy draws a line in the sand and makes people dig their heels in. You may not get guns removed but at least you can feel smugly superior. But I hope that isn’t what they are truly after.

The second amendment defenders can afford to be snarky. They don’t need to change minds. They don’t need to influence others. They have existing law on their side along with a Congress that doesn’t seem the slightest bit motivated to remove gun rights. They can ride the status quo on this one. But, don’t be so snarky that you reduce the loss of human life to a bumper sticker.  If one more person says “guns don’t kill people….”

Guns do kill people. One argument I’ve heard is that blaming guns for killing people is no different than blaming cars for an accident that kills someone when a driver is drunk. But it’s amazingly different. A car is designed to transport people safely. Congress continues to pass laws requiring even more safety measures. Car manufacturers are doing many things, like accident avoidance features, to protect drivers and pedestrians both. So, when a car functions properly, everyone arrives safely. When a gun functions properly, someone dies. So no, it isn’t a reasonable analogy. Here’s a reasonable analogy, though. My smartphone won’t function without my fingerprint. Make guns the same way.

My reason for caring about this is that I am pro-life. In all aspects. I want babies to be born. I want old people like me to die while breathing their last natural breath. I want death row prisoners to live out their days in a cell rather than have their lives taken by the state. And I want children to come home and do their homework rather than be murdered at school.

I’m not a political guy. But this issue should transcend party lines. It’s not a “heart issue.” It’s not a “sin issue.” It’s a campaign finance issue. That’s the law that needs to change. The NRA owns both parties. They spread their money around to everyone. They are in every politician’s pocket and their brooding influence hovers over ever gun control vote. They produce a bumper sticker that says “I’m an NRA member and I vote.” It should say “we’re the NRA and we buy Senators.”

So, let’s show each other a little respect. Let’s agree that whether we want guns or don’t want them, we all want people to live. Something has to be done. Together we can do it. Let’s start a dialog built upon respect. We can make guns safer, We can make laws stricter. And we can certainly repeal an amendment. We’ve done that before.

But in the meantime, if your reasoning can be summed up on a bumper sticker or a meme, you probably need to sit down and think it over some more. And, ask yourself if maybe it isn’t the issue so much as it is that you don’t like the people on the other side.

Thanks for reading this. Whether you liked it or hated it, please feel free to comment. And share! Always share!