Friday, December 21, 2012

O come, O come Emmanuel....

Windhorse says:
I firmly believe we are watching the decline of a great nation because a significant part of its citizenry - and I don't make this claim lightly - cannot wean themselves from idolatry. On a practical level, many, many Americans value the Second Amendment over the First Commandment, among other forms of prostration to false idols like money and tribal identity.
I was watching "The Hurt Locker" the other night, for the first time.  And I noticed that almost everybody in the movie had a gun.  They were all carrying openly, though some people were using their guns in hiding.  Indeed, having a gun seemed to make you, not protected, but a target.

Having a gun certainly didn't keep you from getting shot.  Lots of people, even "good guys," got shot even though they had a gun in front of them.

Police officers carry guns; and they get shot.  Police officers are trained in shooting, and they fire wildly.  Police in New York fired at a man from a distance of 8 feet.  They fired 16 shots, and hit their target 7 times.  Where did the other 9 bullets go?   A police officer in the Houston area fired three shots at a man from a distance of 15 feet.  He struck him once.  Where did the other 2 bullets go?

Police officers get shot, too.  They carry guns, but still they get shot, and sometimes killed.

In every incident where a person is carrying a gun "for protection," it seems they end up shooting someone who doesn't have a gun.  The Zimmerman case is a famous example; but there was a case in Houston, where the shooter videotaped his own violent assault.  Recently, a man in Florida opened up on a car full of teenagers because the car radio was too loud for his tastes.  He felt so threatened he drove off, after he'd emptied his revolver.  In all those shots, he only hit one person; but one was enough.  Another man shot a fellow patron at a pizza parlor, for complaining about the wait in line.  He was "threatened," too; by the man's fists.

How is society better off by letting people carry guns?  Presumably all of these people had "training" in order to carry their guns.  I can remember when NRA gun safety specifically said "Never point a gun at anyone."  I was admonished on that point the very first time I picked up a gun owned by a friend.  Today on NPR an NRA safety instructor quoted his rules for gun safety, and they included "Never point a gun at something you don't mean to shoot."

Which is a world away from never pointing a gun at another human being; and a world away from what used to be sensible gun safety rules.

And flag and Nativity scene.
The whole concept of a "War on Christmas" is at one with the idea that the world is at war with us, and we must arm and defend ourselves.  And it is all an idolatry, with our needs and wants as the real idols (what else is new?).  The struggle, as ever, is really with ourselves.  This is the "spiritual issue" involved in questions of evil, but it is an issue all too often too close to home for many of us to take up seriously.

Per your many remarks to this end, I have finally been disabused of the notion of progress.

I would call this unfortunate, indeed, except that  I'm no longer enamored of the "notion of progress" myself.  Nothing happens in spite of us, and "progress" is largely a chimera that means "we like the present and wish it to continue, because it is providing us with so many benefits."  That, in fact, is the position and the posture of so many gun advocates today, who aren't really advocating guns so much as they are advocating power:  power through profits, power through politics, and even (though they are loathe to openly admit it), power through bullets.  The latter is, indeed, illusory, and people like Wayne LaPierre know it.  But the symbolism of the gun has served the NRA and other groups well, and they will not soon give it up.  Nor have they waited for "progress" to come around to their way of thinking; they have worked diligently for decades to bring "progress" to them.  It's time we set aside the comforting notion of progress, and took up the realistic notion of struggle.  Because that is, among other things, the message of Advent:  preparing for the struggle that will come, has come, and will come again.


  1. I agree on idolatry. FWIW Bacon was making similar points back in the renaisance (sp). Remember idolatry also is the worship of what is made by human hands. The hew and outcry when Obama said "you did not build this" was the complaint of idolaters being called out on their sin.

  2. Windhorse11:49 AM

    It's time we set aside the comforting notion of progress, and took up the realistic notion of struggle.  Because that is, among other things, the message of Advent:  preparing for the struggle that will come, has come, and will come again.

    That is a very helpful message to dwell upon, thank you.

  3. To some extent a Christian is committed to the notion of progress--to the extent, of course, that history is aimed at the parousia of Christ, the new heavens and the new earth, and the overcoming of the fall, when God will be all in all. This veil of tears is not supposed to last forever.

    On the other hand, the conventionally "liberal," "progressive" notion of progress--which, so far as I can tell, is kind of the inertial ghost of the Hegelian/Marxist notion of history providing an inexorable impetus toward some benign goal--seems unsupported by science, reason, experience, or revelation.

    Not that progress doesn't exist (I prefer the term "improvement"). It's just that it's the result of human intentions and actions, not their cause. And looking at it as "improvement" rather than "progress" neutralizes that (to me) strange temporal ranking which suggests that what is new is better than what is old simply because it is new.

    To give an example: It may or may not be an improvement to reject Christian sexual ethics for Graeco-Roman sexual ethics. We can discuss it. But surely it's a little strange to call it "progress."

  4. Rick--

    Thank you; that's precisely what I should have said.