Talking To Your Christian Friends About Their Guns

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Gun violence in our country has reached epidemic proportions with no end in sight. While on the one hand we have seen one mass shooting after another -- including mass shootings of little children like at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the response has not been to work to have less guns and less violence, but to encourage people to have more guns. As the NRA advertises, "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." So we have people with guns at schools, at movie theaters, at Bible studies.

Think about that for a minute. We do not have people who are trained at all in how to deal with hostile and dangerous situations. We have a person who is afraid, who has had that fear repeatedly fostered by groups like the NRA, Fox News, and others, and who is now walking the halls of your kindergarten packing heat. We also have laws like "stand your ground" that say that if that person feels "threatened" they can kill.

Take an untrained person, motivated by fear, and give them a gun. That is a recipe for disaster. The driving force here is fear. That's why people are so adamant about gun rights, and discussions can get so emotionally heated. They want to protect their own safety and the safety of those they love, and when someone suggests we take away their means of protection, they feel vulnerable and threatened, and react with anger. It's a response to a perceived threat that is ironically called being "triggered" and means that our body literally physiological shuts down the social part of our brain (the cerebral cortex) and engages the fear-center (the amygdala).

So the question becomes, how can we help people to look at the issue of guns and violence without shutting down the rational and social parts of their brains and simply becoming angry and reactive? I've heard some pastors take the hard line of saying that Jesus forbids the use of violence, and so the answer to "How will I stay safe?" becomes "You won't. You will die like the martyrs did. Jesus commands it. Take up your cross." While that is indeed an argument that one can make with the New Testament on their side, you can see why this would make a person feel threatened and trigger a reactive amygdala fear response.

Let's not kid ourselves, the core message of the gospel is not pro-gun, and in fact Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is a systematic refutation of that way of thinking. This is one of the take-away points from the 2015 documentary Armor of Light, which follows one conservative evangelical pastor's attempt to speak to his fellow evangelicals about the conflict between guns and the gospel. You can watch it on Amazon for just a buck. It's a great conversation starter, and it's a conversation we desperately need to have.

What I would like to do is give some theological context to that conversation, demonstrating that a belief in guns cannot co-exist with belief in Christ. They represent two opposing and incompatible visions of life, and we need to be clear on that. What I hope further to show is that the way of Jesus is indeed good news. It is not pie in the sky idealism, but a realistic way, addressing the fears we have, and our deepest desires for abundant life. It's a gospel message that many white evangelicals in this country have never heard.

Jesus' message of the kingdom of God represents an alternate societal vision, in contrast to the societal vision embraced by the religious culture at the time of Jesus, and found in the parts of the Old Testament, which promoted  tribalism and responded to those on the outside with condemnation and acts of violence committed in the name of God. When Christians claim the Bible supports their endorsement and use of violence, they draw on those parts of the Old Testament that Jesus specifically confronts and rejects. So let's take a closer look at Jesus' message of the kingdom and how it speaks to the issue of guns, and more broadly to the larger issue of self-preservation and fear.

The big picture of Jesus' message of "die to yourself" is one of overcoming fear. The biggest fear we have is the fear of death. Fear is often behind why we do hurtful things. We are afraid we won't have enough for ourselves, so we are unsocial. We are afraid of being hurt, so we carry a gun. The gospel tells us that we need to care for others, that we need to learn to think socially, and that when we do, that our needs will also be taken care of. "Don't worry about food or shelter" Jesus says, "but seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you as well."

This is not about denying the self or denying your family or tribe or race. It's about widening the circle of who you consider to be "in" to include everyone. It says that it's not just about my family, but also about your family. It's not just about my race, but about yours, too. Jesus points us to caring especially for those who are neglected in society, the poor, the unclean, the condemned. He calls out racial prejudice with the story of the Good Samaritan. He calls out religious superiority with the story of the good centurion.

Today in America our "Samaritan" would be a Muslim, or more broadly anyone with brown skin who is seen as threatening and labeled as a terrorist if they are Muslim, or as a criminal if they are black. In other words, the people we feel threatened by, the ones who we feel we need to use a gun against, the ones we want to lock up in jail or keep out with a wall are the very ones Jesus says we need to love. The are the ones whose lives we value "the least" as Jesus says.

In other words, the reason Jesus would say "black lives matter" is because he recognized that society (including religious society like his and ours) disregards the value of the lives of those they see as "other" and "least." If we want to break out of that, caring for all lives, the way we get there is by caring especially for those who are treated as "the least" valuable by us.

Behind that otherizing is fear. We are afraid of the person who looks scary to us. That's where the idea of enemy love comes in. An "enemy" here is someone that you perceive as a threat. This is not something only conservatives do. Liberals do it, too. Liberals like me see conservatives with guns as threatening and scary, just as conservatives see liberals like me as scary. The typical reaction is to label the other, calling them a terrorist or a criminal (if you are conservative) or labeling them as racist or homophobic (if you are a liberal). Either way we see ourselves as the "good guys" and them as the "bad guys" who need to be stopped.

When you see someone in that category of "enemy" you feel justified in silencing them, harming them in order to protect yourself. You need to dehumanize the other to kill them. So they are labeled as a "terrorist" or a "criminal" and then it's okay. The gospel is about recognizing the humanity and value in everyone, not because we are innocent or "good guys" but rather the gospel is that even though we are sinners, God showed his love for us. The gospel is about seeing that the sinner -- which includes you -- is valued and loved by God.

It's relatively easy to care for those we see as meek, poor, helpless, begging for mercy, repentant. But what about those who we see as a threat? Do we know how to love someone like that? Do we know how to reconcile? Do we know how to make peace when there is real conflict? Or do we instead build walls, fire people, and even fire a gun? "Do not return evil with evil" both Peter and Paul write. The Hebrew there (which is the context they would be thinking in) is "do not repay anyone harm for harm." That seems to be the only way we know how to respond though. We either passively do nothing, or we return violence with violence, evil for evil. It's the American way. But it is decidedly not the way of Jesus.

What is missing completely from this is any application of love of enemies. It is at the same time the most ground-breaking and revolutionary of all of the teachings of Jesus, and also the least taught -- let alone practiced -- by Christians (whether they are liberal or conservative). Perhaps that's because we think that love of enemies means "be a victim," and pronouncements by pastors like the one above to "be like the martyrs" tend to perpetuate this misunderstanding. Similarly, lots of Christian pacifists take the stance that Jesus simply gives us a prohibition against the use of violence. I don't disagree, however I must insist that this cannot be all. Just as a Christian vision of sexual ethics cannot only be about not having sex, a Christian vision of love of enemies also cannot be only about not committing acts of violence. Love of enemies is not just a prohibition, a command saying what you cannot do. More importantly love of enemies presents an alternative means to resolving conflict without violence. In other words, it is not about doing nothing, but about doing something different.

Love of enemies is about recognizing the value and humanity of the one who you have dehumanized by seeing them as an enemy, and asking what you can do to end that hostility and work towards reconciliation. Whether it's the polarizing and hateful rhetoric of political discourse, or the fear-based stockpiling of guns, reconciliation is something we Americans seem to be utterly incapable of.

Love of enemies is connected to the widening of the in-circles discussed above. We widen the circle to care not just about my family, but also yours, and all families. We widen the circle to care about all races, all lives. We widen the circle to care about not only those in our nation, but all people.  That is something that Jesus teaches over and over in the Gospels, and it is the exact opposite of the idea of building a wall around us, and encouraging Christians to bring guns to church with them so they can kill bad guys. Again, there is really nothing "Christian" about being pro-gun if Christian has anything to do with the teaching of Jesus and his vision of adopting God's values "on earth as it is in heaven."

So why is it that it is so hard for people -- especially white American evangelicals -- to trust the way of Jesus more than they trust their guns? A big part of it is diet, that is, what we feed on. While pastors remained silent on the issue of guns, groups like the NRA and Fox News stepped into the gap, inundating people with a 24-hour message stirring up fear and anger. This "other-gospel" of fear and anger has come to be associated with white evangelical Christianity, but it is about as Christian as a strip club. The fact that those same white evangelicals endorse a presidential candidate who encourages acts of violence from his supporters, and who owns strip clubs, is not lost on me. White evangelicals have abandoned the way of Jesus, and substituted it with the way of violence, driven by fear. That may be hard to hear, but it is the truth. I say this as a white American evangelical myself. I say it out of love, calling on my fellow evangelical brothers and sisters to repent of their unbelief, and return to Jesus.

In the end it is a matter of faith versus fear. Fear keeps people away from the way of Jesus. Fear of losing the good things in our life, fear of death. We need to understand that Jesus is not about taking away good things from us. He came, he says, to give us life, abundant life. He continually is telling people not to worry, not to fear. But what he does want us to do is to learn to think socially, to learn to love, to learn to widen the circles we make to include those on the outside. He wants us to become messengers of reconciliation. That is what preaching the gospel, the good news of the kingdom, is all about.

The part where widening that circle becomes hard is where we perceive those outside the circle to be an enemy, a threat. The point is not to ignore danger as if it did not exist. The point is learning how we can reconcile with someone, how we can overcome hostility. The way we do that is not through escalation, buying more guns, or building bigger walls. The way we do that is by learning how to be ambassadors of reconciliation, how to be peacemakers. Currently the direction we are moving in is the opposite, shutting out the refugee in need, the racial divide ever growing, becoming more and more reactive, fearful, hostile, and violent. We need to learn the way of peace, the way of reconciliation.  Doing that is not some optional side thing, it is at the very heart of the gospel, at the very heart of what the kingdom of God is about.

The fact is, white conservative evangelical's association of God and guns going together has virtually nothing to do with Christianity. It has to do with something that runs deeper. It has to do with the fear of death, with our human survival instinct, which is an incredibly powerful drive. The gospel speaks to that fear. We need to learn how to preach that gospel message. We need to learn how to place our trust in the way of Jesus, and not in a gun.

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At 5:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Meh, this article is oversimplified and not fully representative of the "stand your ground" laws. How bout you post the actual language verbatim from the law and see how quickly the article falls apart? I do agree that conservatives and Fox News are propagating fear by the gallon but this "ain't" the way to create peace.

At 5:01 AM, Anonymous Paul S said...

Actually, the Stand Your Ground laws vary by state -- they are state laws so there are many variations. In practice, they often come down to someone chanting "I'm in fear of my life" a time or two and then shooting someone else. As to Derek's point that the vast majority of gun owners are not trained to respond well to emergency situations -- he's right there too. My sister was an FBI agent for 11 years and one of her friends was shot and killed by mistake doing a building entry. Her husband, an FBI agent for 25 years, says that the time he was most frightened (and he was not a paper-pushing desk jockey) was doing another entry when he was almost shot by mistake. These are people who go through lengthy and demanding training. By contrast, Joe Six Pack is a danger to everyone within range,

Here in rural Texas, preachers aren't speaking against the expansion of the gun culture. They realize that they'd lose substantial segments of their congregations if they did. They also don't preach on Jesus' teachings on money for similar reasons.

Great article!

At 5:42 AM, Blogger SteveO said...

Can a devout Christian be an ardent, gun carrying...

Police officer? One with the ethic that used to be written on the side of many police cars, "To Serve and to Protect." I wish law enforcement could recapture their ethic of being a "PEACE Officer." Something has been lost here. The over emphasis on "officer safety" has devolved into an "us versus them mentality" at the expense of citizen safety. But signing up for the job means putting one's life on the line in the service of others. Instead of the fear driven militarization of local law enforcement which devolves into an overbearing police state, we need the greater love ethic, laying down one's life in service of others. Maybe we should start at the top power structures of society instead of picking on individual citizens who just want to take care of their families.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SteveO, I agree that it has devolved. However, we as a society must understand, too, that they, the police officers, also have families that they want to go home to. The, the police officers, also have a fear of death...they are human.

We, as individual citizens, must also realize that we put an unfair burden on them. Why? Because we, as a collective of individual citizens, do not support them. Of course the departments are now fear driven; they have been unrecognized for their terrifying job and no one with power has done much to make their jobs easier.

We must also understand that a lot of this was kicked up due to what was perceived as brutality that GREW in to brutality and downright murder in some instances. Yet you must also concede that the police force should not bear the full blame of that, why? Do you remember where the riots actually started and why? Ferguson, Michael Brown. A nationwide riot started up even though Darren Wilson did his job perfectly! Yet then it became be "fuck the police" after that, yet they get the blame for killing some innocent (or at least unarmed) people though all of our police forces have become targets! You seriously can't keep blaming all of the power should, however, blame a President who HAS failed to represent all minorities in equal ways...particular the white race and the police force. And if you need proof, look at Ahmed Mohamed vs. Chris Mintz. Ahmed builds a suspicious clock in panicked times, goes to Whitehouse. Chris gets shot 9 times in Oregon trying to stop a massacre, and he gets........a phone call (maybe).

Derek, I hope I don't speak out of turn, but I feel like you have done an extremely good job of finding middle ground. But you must understand that there is now a movement that you might unintentionally be supporting, along with such writers as Benjamin Corey, that really is marginalizing people and painting those of us sympathetic to "hetero"-, family-, "gun"-oriented as being callous and bigoted. And that is not the way to go about changing our minds. It's frustrating when I, who (tries) to love all people but am looking out for my legitimate concerns of family am shoved aside as being hateful...and I never said one word about my belief on any of the issues. Yet this is exactly what I get every time I've tried to just be sympathetic to the discussion.

For example, look at the transgender issue (and I'm sorry to beat a dead horse).
Not one conservative I know actually has a problem with that penalty that Obama illegally put in place (and then revoked fearing impeachment) least not one person had a problem with transgendered people. WE have a problem with such a terrible ambiguous law that predators could take full advantage of. And yet the argument from "the other side" continues to be that we are afraid transgenders are the bad guys. Just Google any of that context and it's the only way the left knows that they can win. And I won't apologize for fearing for my daughter, but I just wish people could be sympathetic to the real danger posed by such an unclear dictatorial pronouncement.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve O,

A gun carrying police officer can be a Christian just as much as Roman Centurion can.

At 2:45 AM, Blogger Chris Fox said...

From the other side of the pond, in the UK, it is utterly baffling to look at USA and the addiction to guns. It is bewildering to see Christians supporting gun ownership. Our police thankfully are unarmed (mostly) and are trained in how to use authority to defuse situations; even in the rest of Europe where police do carry guns, they are rarely used. The number of deaths due to guns is tiny compared to the USA.
So yes Derek I agree that fear is the problem; and I applaud your efforts to encourage us all to try to take the different way in responding to threat. It is extremely difficult of course - may Jesus change my heart too
And so you don't think I'm smug about our situation here - of course the gospel challenges much of British culture too and of course there are things I am blind about. Trouble is, I don't know what they are, cos I'm blind! -maybe it's as obvious though to you guys over there as it is obvious to us over here that guns are simply wrong

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I'd like to respond to the "anonymous" commenter (It would be nice for people to at least give their first name, btw).

You write, "There is now a movement that you might unintentionally be supporting, along with such writers as Benjamin Corey, that really is marginalizing people and painting those of us sympathetic to "hetero"-, family-, "gun"-oriented as being callous and bigoted."

As I say in the article above, 'the typical reaction is to label the other, calling them a terrorist or a criminal (if you are conservative) or labeling them as racist or homophobic (if you are a liberal).' You perceive people labeling you as "callous and bigoted" and "hateful". As you say, this is an ineffective way to communicate because it simply results in the person feeling defensive and offended.

What I desire is not to offend, but to lead people to repentance.

What I think is critical to understand is that the nature of evil is almost never about us doing things we know are wrong with malicious intent, and instead almost always is about doing things we think are justified and good, but not considering how those "good" things turn out to be really hurtful to others.

That means that sexism is not about ill intent. Racism is not about malicious feelings or intentional discrimination. It's much more subtle. It's about things that we believe are good for us and for our group, and being unaware of how these hurt others outside of our group. The focus of Jesus, the focus of the gospel that I think white American evangelicalism has completely lost sight of, is to move to bridge the gap between these groups. It is to move to take down the barriers that separate us. Paul writes, "For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies" (Eph 2:14). Substitute "Jews and Gentiles" with any two conflicting groups you like... men and women, white and blacks, straight and gays, Christians and Muslims... and you get the idea of our calling. We tear down walls in Jesus name. We don't build them.

Again, the motivation for this wall building is not hate or malice. It is motivated by good. But it is not good. Take for example what you say about transgender people and public restrooms. The motivation is to protect children, which is a good motivation, something we all want to do. However it rests on a false assumption, which is wrongly connecting transgender with pedophilia. There is no connection. However this is the fear driving most people to support these laws. You say "not one person had a problem with transgendered people" but that is simply not true. I've spoken with many many conservatives who (falsely) assume that transgender=pervert=predator. They are wrong, but this is the assumption of a great many, and is the fear that motivates these proposed laws.

Now, you say this is not what you believe, and instead propose the scenario that a non-transgender male predator might use the women's restroom to prey on girls. However this scenario is extremely unlikely. What is much more likely is that male non-transgender predator would simply hang out in the boys bathroom to abuse boys. So by that same logic, what we really need to do is make laws prohibiting all males like you and me from ever using public restrooms. That would not be enough though. We would also need to pass laws prohibiting all males from ever working with children ever. No male youth pastors, pediatricians, school teachers, gym coaches, etc.


At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


That of course would be silly, because it would hurt and disadvantage an entire group of people (all men) while doing very little to actually solve anything. That's a bad law. we need to find better ways to keep our kids safe. We can't just say "no men can ever go outside because some of them are bad."

That would be silly. The same thing is true with the transgender "bathroom law". It's a bad law that would hurt lots of people, while doing next to nothing to actually protect anyone. It is a law based on fear, and fear is never a good way to legislate.

The challenge for white Christian men like you and me is to see that, to see how what we propose and support for our benefit will affect others outside of our group, to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to see and understand what it is like to be a woman, or to be a person of color, or to be a Muslim, etc.

It's about empathy, about not only seeing things from our own perspective, and looking out for our own needs defensively, but about learning to widen our circles to think socially about what is good for all of us. In Christ that "all of us" goes beyond gender, race, nationality, religion, and includes all of humanity. We can only get to that "all of humanity" when we learn to really listen to others perspectives. That takes work. That's what I want to say to my fellow white male evangelicals. We need to learn to listen. We need to learn to empathize.

Let me be clear, I don't think you "hate" anyone else. I don't think you intend to hurt anyone, and I'm sure that your motivation is for the good of yourself and your family. However, what I do observe in what you say here is a general lack of awareness of the real struggles that non-white non-males have to live with in this country, and as a result you propose things that would be good for you, but would hurt others. And you say things that, in the ears of someone from one of those other groups, sounds unloving and even offensive. That's why those reactions of "hater" and "bigot" come back at you.

I hope however, that rather than pulling back defensively, you would be open to listening, to hearing what they have to say, learning of the struggles they have that you and I do not, and walking in their shoes a while. Based on what you say about Ferguson, I don't think you have done that yet, and you really do need to. There is a huge problem with racial injustice in our county, and white evangelicals are generally denying it rather than doing their part to mend it. The first step in that is to really listen. This is, I remind you, the direction Jesus continually urges us to move towards, opening our hearts to those who are considered "least" in our society, learning to open our hearts, learning to work towards reconciliation and mending our world.

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


I agree that there is a lot of reform that needs to happen within law enforcement Incidentally so to a lot of law enforcement leaders. There is, in general, and severe lack of training in how to deescalate dangerous situations, and what is needed is simply education of police officers in effective ways of doing this.

However the issue is not simply one of educating individuals. There is also wide spread systemic problems within our criminal justice system that work against this, and perpetuate the culture of violence and "otherizing" that you mention. Those systemic problems need to be dealt with as well.

That's in part why I am (at least in this one post) addressing us citizens. We are part of that violence-loving society that is the United States. There is something very broken about our nation, that is very obvious to all the other Western nations. We appear inhumane and fear driven to everyone else. That fear and inhumanity (i.e. the lack of empathy for other humans who we decide are a "threat" to us) leads us to become more and more violent.

I hope we can regain that humanity. I'm thankful that a light is being shined on these problems. That light reveals the dark shadow across our nation. It's hard to look at that shadow though.

At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Jim Baton said...

Brilliantly said, Derek! I appreciate hearing a white Evangelical dealing with the "plank in our own eye."
I've been out of the US for 20 years building bridges between Muslims and Christians in a large Muslim nation. The average Muslim there still considers America a "Christian" nation and cannot fathom why we feel so strongly that we should own guns. Here I am trying to encourage my Muslim friends not to go to the witchdoctor to get protection from bad things happening, but to pray directly to God; meanwhile one of my own family members in the US, a leader in the church for years, just bought a gun for protection.
You make an excellent point about being willing to "widen our circles"--this is something we teach in our peace curriculum here. I agree with you that in America Muslims are the "Samaritans"--they are a minority with the "wrong" religion. It's good for us to remember that the first entire village to recognize Jesus as Messiah was a Samaritan village (John 4).
I'm a novelist, and have just completed a book on taking on ISIS non-violently, believing that even terrorists can change. Some of the most effective world-changers today are the former terrorists working for peace; former drug users helping addicts; former gang members mentoring young men at risk; the list goes on and on. These people are much like Moses, David and Paul in the Bible. Thank God some fearful person with a gun didn't meet them on their worst day, shoot first and ask questions later.
And thank God for all the prison chaplains, inner-city ministries, peacemaking organizations, and individual Christians who, like Jesus, look deeper and welcome everyone into their circle.

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Derek said...


"I'm a novelist, and have just completed a book on taking on ISIS non-violently, believing that even terrorists can change. "

That's a really non-intuitive, but profound truth. It's a story we see repeated over and over in the NT, and really it is the quintessential Christian story. Yet it is still so hard for us to accept. It's the opposite of the story we rehearse over and over in our Hollywood movies where the only solution is to kill a bad guy. That's even true for the plots of children's movies (for example it's the plot of Disney/Pixar's "Up") let alone action movies.

It's great that you are expressing this in the form of a novel. I think story is really the only way we can learn this. It's a story we need to learn. A complex and messy story, a story with real pain, but a good story.

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

I am anon.

"However it rests on a false assumption, which is wrongly connecting transgender with pedophilia."

Again as I've said to others, this is not true--this is what progressivists want the argument to be! This is the exact argument that people throw back at me when I'm just trying to present the sensibility of bathroom rules as they are! Perhaps it was dumb of me to say that "no one has a problem." But certainly the majority of people that I've talked to living in the South, mind you, is that they realize that perverts/predators will use this law to their advantage and that the consequence of this outweighs the benefits or gender-identity based bathrooms.

"Now, you say this is not what you believe, and instead propose the scenario that a non-transgender male predator might use the women's restroom to prey on girls. However this scenario is extremely unlikely. What is much more likely is that male non-transgender predator would simply hang out in the boys bathroom to abuse boys."

No, voyeurism and peeping (which are forms of predation and abuse) happens all the time, How would this law not make each of these easier. Don't get me wrong, North Carolina's law was ridiculously stupid. Yet, what's so hard about making the based on the type of equipment you currently have--or are perceived to have? Honestly.
You say that predators would stalk boys bathrooms. That's fair, but that won't change with this bill and instead would just bring even more opportunity for straight predators. Why subject a majority of people (young girls) to opportunities of assault just because someone with a penis wants to use a girl's (in the sense that they have a vagina) restroom?
I understand the T community feels under-served. I understand that, but why not make a T restroom? This mandate by our President went so far as to threaten the underfunded school system as it is, and this law is only reducible to unisex bathrooms.

"You perceive people labeling you as "callous and bigoted" and "hateful"."

No, this is exactly what happens in any discussion. They call me this. Right now, you probably perceive that I'm anti-gay or anti-transgender (though you said I don't hate them), and it's OK that you do so long as you're willing to accept that I'm in fact not. I am not phased either way by people of that "persuasion". I also realize that the roots of this (whether or not it inhibits the ability to do Kingdom work--of which a lustful heart is just as detrimental) are deeply ingrained in their psyche.

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

"However, what I do observe in what you say here is a general lack of awareness of the real struggles that non-white non-males have to live with in this country, and as a result you propose things that would be good for you, but would hurt others...There is a huge problem with racial injustice in our county, and white evangelicals are generally denying it rather than doing their part to mend it."

Could it not be as fair that I say that I think you are overly sympathetic to a perceived plight of non-white non-males in society that didn't exist 10 years ago? I, too, think that you are motivated for doing good but this conversation is extremely one-sided. We are talking over all affirmative action plans, equal opportunity employment, federal and state aid so that minority students can get the education that they seek, lunch plans for kids whose families can't afford to feed them, etc. This was all motivated by goodhearted people...but it was not eroded by privilege of the white man. I'm led to believe that it was eroded by a mindset that doesn't seek to be smart but instead pragmatic. They raze inner cities by moving people to nice suburbs and subsidizing the housing only for the infamous "white flight" to occur. They raze inner city schools by moving those kids to schools with great academics. Every time every where the results are degradation of the neighborhood and the schools including increases in vandalism and crime.

Now, the argument might be that that's because the "privileged" move out and so it dwindles. Yet there shouldn't be any wrong perceived. I have a daughter, and I will not accept that she cannot safely go to school or walk home from school one day because of these ridiculous policies which blame white male privilege. I mean, couldn't these families do online schools (which they can get plenty of grants to complete) so that they can afford to move out of the inner city? I know I certainly would not be able to EXACTLY FOR THE REASON that I'm a white male.

Ferguson riots should smack of something much different than inequality...btw, we all feel inequality. The middle class is being marginalized by inflation without wage growth--and that's even for us college folks. But Ferguson must be accepted as an officer who did his job properly and now can barely go outside without disguise...they plastered his name and face over all social media and was unfairly labeled a racist. And this situation was used as a prime example of abuse of police...and all he did was do his job! People should be ashamed of themselves, and all of social media should pay retributions to Darren Wilson who did his job despite lying reports from eyewitnesses and could have been beaten severely (if not to death) were it not for his gun. Michael Brown had 80 pounds on him and weed in his system for God's sake.

Forgive me if I sound vehement. I'm just impassioned, because this discussion lacks practical and sensible application and understanding. Much like the rest of these "unjust" perceptions.

At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

Oh yes and on my own note:
"This mandate by our President went so far as to threaten the underfunded school system as it is, and this law is only reducible to unisex bathrooms."
This should piss you off to no end if you have a child enrolled in a public school. This is just not something you do unless you have an ill-intended purpose: miseducating the public.

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

I promise this is the last response:

"The motivation is to protect children, which is a good motivation, something we all want to do."
Thank you, Derek. Thank you for at least accepting that this is my intent...that this is our intent. I would just ask that you listen to people such as Benjamin Corey who would suggest that this isn't the true motivation. And yes, he did that here:

"It's about empathy, about not only seeing things from our own perspective, and looking out for our own needs defensively, but about learning to widen our circles to think socially about what is good for all of us."
Sometimes empathy should be left at: "I understand, but in a matter or practicality you can't always have it your way."

Let's be honest, when we talk about white male privilege, we're given no hand-outs when it comes to education. I HAVE TO owe 30k in student loans just so I can maintain a somewhat stable middle class lifestyle that is eroding. Yet, minorities can basically go to school for free by somewhat applying themselves and use grant money that they don't have to earn.
Now, I could raise cain about this, yet the response I would get is "Well we can't make everyone's education free as a matter of economic practicality."
And do not believe those promises you hear if "that guy" is your retort.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

Apologies, this is the link and last post:

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Derek said...


What I observe is that you are not at the point of empathy. You are instead focused on seeing things from your own perspective and defending that. So the only thing that can happen here, so long as that is the case, is just an endless argument that just goes nowhere.

Before things can go further, what needs to happen is a life changing, perspective changing experience of empathy. That probably cannot happen over the internet. It needs to be face to face. You need to become friends with a black person, grow to care about them as a human being, and listen as they tell you, through tears, about how their son or brother was gunned down. This is not a matter of information, empathy is about actually feeling in your guts what another person feels, feeling the pain of a mother who loses their beloved child.

Feel that, understand that pain the way they do, and then you will be able to understand. That's why Jesus says the most important command is "love your neighbor as you love yourself." Your focus right now is completely on loving yourself, your family, and your race. So you focus on looking out for and defending that. When you learn to love the "others" with that same dedication and passion, you will be walking in the way of Jesus, and in the way of God's justice and love. The way to get to there is empathy, feeling, love. You need to actually love those "others" the way you love your own. Until then, there is really no basis for conversation and no possibility of understanding. There is no detour around love.

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

We’re not talking about just serving at your local Food Bank and becoming close friends with those you serve. We’re not talking about just empathy, feeling, or love; to those things I agree whole-heartedly with you. But currently, we’re talking about the real and negative effects of political grandstanding. We’ll use phrases such as “loving like Jesus did” and “love your neighbor as yourself” as our golden rule, but the metaphor breaks down when we’re talking about going to Caesar.
In Jesus’ time (and I realize I needn’t instruct you on a matter you’re much more acquainted with) it wasn’t the Gentiles and the downtrodden that went to Pilate or Herod: it was the Jews, it was the Pharisees, and it was Caiaphas who went to the political leaders. In contrast, today we have a political action group which touts the name of Jesus at every whim to push a social agenda that says “guns are bad, the white man is bad, racism still exists” and whitewashes over every instance of reverse racism or statistic that says otherwise in regards to guns, crime, “reverse” hate crime, the inconclusiveness of transgender suicide statistics and their cause, and race representation and expects our President to do something about every whim this group decides to thrust forward. And although he has had 8 years, his presidency has left us with a nation more divided than it has ever been since the Civil war. Thus voter turnout has been historically low, so Mr. President put up the idea of mandatory voting! Now he retracted this statement shortly after due to backlash, but this is the mindset you need to be aware of with our current political leaders.
So I’m sorry; I will impart to my kids the need to be loving and empathetic of what the “others” feel, but I will not allow them to become victims of incompetent and vilifying social policy. If this stance, my stance, that says Christianity should remain separate from pragmatic social policy of the nation-state causes me to become a caricature of someone who is unsympathetic and merciless, then so be it. But I will teach my kids enough that they don’t confuse the two.


At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

Now, I believe sincerely in your push to love the “other”. Your admonishment in your previous response will stay with me forever much like your first book, which I’ve read for 3 - 4 times since I purchased it. However, I believe that this empathy, feeling, and love should be founded at a church and person-to-person level; it should not be thrust on us by Executive Action. I, in fact, extrapolate this from your own book: man-made systems of authority have a tendency to oppress be them religious, executive, judicial, or legislative systems.

Yet this is what we are getting: a push for health care for all (not a bad ideal, but not economically practical at this time—that’s why insurance companies have been going bankrupt), free education for all (not a bad ideal, but not enough full-time, benefit-giving jobs exists), affordable housing (not a bad ideal, but the current methodology doesn’t deter crime and merely destroys what would be family neighborhoods and in fact raises housing prices for any middle-class non-subsidized family). What’s also notable is that these things have eroded middle-class family lifestyles who expected to have job security and a quaint life after taking student loans for school and realizing they were lied to about the job market.

Now these are the frustrations you hear from righties like myself. It’s not that we don’t empathize; it’s that we’re tired of being called “the bad guy” when the real bad guy is the one who caters to pragmatism and tells people their continued existence in ignorance, racism, hatred, and lack of a job is the result of a lack of effort to provide those opportunities while those opportunities are there with every affirmative action, minority grant, or equal opportunity employment mark they make on their application be it for a job or school!

Perhaps our fears, and my fear, portray me as someone uncaring. This is not the case, but please understand that we’re also trying to make ends meet and provide a wonderful and safe life for our children that we see being attacked by flimsy social action that never seems to cease. At some point we, as parents, should draw a line on how vulnerable our children can be to social changes if merely for the fear of the effect of poor social policy on their psyche, and if that means the political action group will see me as unloving then so be it; it still won’t stop me from serving at a food bank and realizing that I can see Christ in all of those “others”.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I’d like you to consider how you are characterizing things. You describe the other, not in terms of actual people who have legitimate needs like you do, but as a political lobby group trying to take unfair advantage of the system. What I do not see is any sense that these other people – actual people not faceless groups – have legitimate needs that you recognize.

In response, you speak of defending your needs and rights, and the needs and rights of your family and race. However, what you also do in the process is discount the needs and rights of these other people, other families, and other races. The repeated picture that emerges is that they are bad people who are being dishonest and cheating the system. You, on the other hand, describe yourself as just trying to protect yourself and your loved ones. That is not empathy. It is an us/them perspective. That is a perspective that Jesus wants us to move out of.

I am not advocating for any particular government policy, and I recognize that there are a lot of problems with government policies, and lot of problems with corruption in government. What I am advocating for the kind of love that Jesus said we need to practice: Care for others like you care for yourself. The next question is how that translates into social action, how we care for those needs as a society. That’s a difficult question to answer. But from a Christian perspective I can say with complete confidence that it needs to be founded in a baseline of loving others as we love ourselves, and cannot be based in a perspective of focusing on defending self and our tribe.

The question really comes down to this: We have a human tendency to want to be focused on self-preservation, focused on our tribe. Jesus calls us to move beyond that, to trust that if we would love others like we love ourselves, that the result would be abundant life. So the question is: Will you trust Jesus with that? Are you willing to learn to walk in that way?

Jesus describes it as “losing your life to find it” because it feels scary to give up that self-defensive focus. But the “ find (real and abundant) life” part is critical. We are not really losing. We are letting go of one rope to hold on to a better rope. So again, the question is, will you trust Jesus with this? It’s a gospel question.

At 7:23 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

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At 7:23 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

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At 5:14 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

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At 5:15 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This is Josh.

"Now, you say this is not what you believe, and instead propose the scenario that a non-transgender male predator might use the women's restroom to prey on girls. However this scenario is extremely unlikely."

Hey Derek, I'm returning here to say "Case in Point".


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