Partisan solutions no way to fix social ills

Rather than being co-opted by politicians in debate over gun control, Christians should seek common-ground solutions that unite rather than divide.

By Luke Smith

In light of the traumatic crimes of the past year, it is no surprise that we want to soothe our grief by identifying some measurable response that will alleviate our pain in the face of senseless violence and protect us from it happening again.

But such a response will not automatically be effective or healthy. The political process is subject to the manipulative cunning of some very clever people. I fear voices from the church may become pawns in their political machinations.

I am not a gun owner. I have no particular aversion to the principle of banning large magazine clips or assault rifles. Nor do I feel overly restricted by background checks. But I am not convinced that such proposals are offered out of a genuine assessment of the dangers and needs in our community.

I believe that such measures are pursued for other less healthy reasons. These measures provide a political wedge issue. These are issues upon which candidates will be able to frame their opponents.

The current offering of the gun bill is one example of this kind of politics. Those who oppose this bill have enthusiasts who will contribute financially to the causes of those holding the minority position. The majority position will again have one more issue to include in a catalogue of harangues about why the opposition is unfit to hold power.

The grief we carry from the memory of the tragedies becomes directed in anger at the opposing sides, and no substantive response is offered for our communities or nation.

There are things that can be done, and we should give the power of our persuasive argumentation to them. There are no strong, dug-in positions about the provision of mental-health services, for example. There is broad consensus that such services need to be revisited. I think we should direct our energy at identifying the most effective steps to strengthen such services.

I do not know exactly what these reforms might include. It might be more access to residential facilities. It might be more psychiatric social workers. It might be reforms of the practices of defensive medicine that create policies that direct precious limited resources in ineffective ways.

As we build constructively and effectively, we will offer to our communities a bridge in the midst of this very toxic partisan divide.

In addition to reforms to address the violent tragic events in our communities, there are things that local congregations can pursue directly and immediately. Caring for loved ones who suffer from mental illness is an isolating experience. Local congregations provide an immediate place to offer community and support for such families.

It may be that such friendships could help create relationships that can offer advice to people struggling with the judgment of whether a loved one is increasingly becoming a danger to themselves or others.

Some years ago in a Sunday school class, the topic of discussion was dealing with arguments in the home. One husband said of his wife, “When we have a brush fire burning, she goes into the kitchen and instead of getting water to throw on the fire she pours gasoline.”

We can be tempted to respond in such a way to the political issues of our day. Let us offer to our communities a more effective and healthier approach to the very clear need we have to address this social problem.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.