Tuesday afternoon, May 24: My focus was the Republican primaries in my home state of Georgia. Donald Trump, in his continued efforts to protest the lost 2020 election and make sure he can never lose another one, had put up two toadies — David Perdue and Jody Hice — to challenge Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger. They had gone terribly wrong, you see, by honestly certifying the election in which Trump lost by precisely 11,780 votes. But Trump and his minions were on their way to humiliating defeats, which is good news for our democracy. So, I was in a pretty good mood.
As I entered the Piccadilly with my aged, ill mother-in-law and my wife, the TVs were tuned to CNN. And then I saw that the news was not of primary elections. It was of yet another school shooting, this one in Uvalde, Texas. An 18-year-old boy had charged into an elementary school and begun shooting. At the time, the death toll already was placed at 14 children. Now we know it has reached 19, and two teachers. I didn’t have the heart to tell my wife and mother-in-law that I had seen that headline. I tried not to study the details, so that I could sleep. The food that night tasted like ashes.
Wednesday afternoon, May 25: Jeanie and I arrived at a dance studio in Greensboro to meet up with our daughter and to watch our 3-year-old granddaughter at dance class. We entered a waiting/watching area filled with moms, a few dads, some grandparents, and lots of iPhone cameras. Through the glass we could watch a half-dozen adorable little girls in their frilly dance dresses doing their steps. Was it just me, or did it seem like everyone was hugging everyone a little tighter that afternoon? The teachers were hugging the girls, the girls were hugging each other, and the parents and grandparents were hugging everyone.
You see, we don’t seem to have the ability to protect our children and grandchildren in this country, but we can hug them hard and hope against hope and try not to be too afraid. That night, I dreamed of children in a classroom in Texas. My effort to try not to picture any of their precious, irreplaceable, individual faces — it failed.
Thursday morning, May 26: Breakfast at the Greensboro hotel. A pink-haired middle-aged woman is sitting with her man looking at video on her phone. The voice is declaiming loudly that Biden doesn’t know what he is talking about, THE SECOND AMENDMENT IS INDEED ABSOLUTE! Her partner is agitated as he considers the shocking possibility of something like minimal gun control in this country. He says: “In Israel everyone over 18 has to carry a gun!” She says: “Don’t worry. Whenever there is another one of these mass shootings people go crazy. I say it again: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Pleased with the originality and wisdom of this sentiment, calmed by its narcotic effect, the couple walk off.
“No other country has created a culture like this one — filled with angry, ill, alienated young men, who have access to military-grade weapons they can buy like candy.”
No other country has created a culture like this one — filled with angry, ill, alienated young men, who have access to military-grade weapons they can buy like candy when they feel like it, who now have available to their imagination an extensive library of terroristic attacks on soft targets like schools and supermarkets filled with innocents. And so it continues, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, over and over and over.
And then there are our “leaders,” our (mainly Republican) governors and legislators (and millions of citizens) who genuinely believe the way to treat the disease of gun violence is with easier access to more guns. Let’s arm every teacher! Maybe arm the children too, that will keep us all safe.
Like the alcoholic who thinks the way to get over a hangover is to drink some more, we ask the guns that kill us to save us. Drunk on our guns, we are choking in the blood of their victims.
Of all the things that are sick about U.S. society, this has got to be at the top of the list. Who will save us from this body of death?
David P. Gushee is a leading Christian ethicist. serves as distinguished university professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, chair of Christian social ethics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and senior research fellow at International Baptist Theological Study Centre. He is a past president of both the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics. His latest book is Introducing Christian Ethics. He’s also the author of Kingdom Ethics, After Evangelicalism, and Changing Our Mind: The Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians. He and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta. Learn more: davidpgushee.com or Facebook.
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