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America’s idolatry of firearms

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I grew up in what many would call a sportsman’s paradise, the Ozarks of Missouri. Deer hunters from the big cities would fill the motels in the small river town of Van Buren. During quail hunting season, my Baptist preacher dad and a church deacon would go quail hunting and allow me to tag along. Firearms for hunting were the norm in my childhood.

I inherited my dad’s .22-caliber, pump action rifle and my grandfather’s 12-gauge shotgun. Neither of these firearms were thought of as weapons of defense, only as hunting and target practice firearms.

Times have changed since those formative, adolescent years as has the nature, design and role of firearms in our culture, and not in positive ways.

Consider this fact. The United States holds 4% of the world’s population while possessing 43% of the world’s firearms. Question: Are we safer as a society due to this statistic?

Guns are manufactured to kill. What or whom they kill is determined by those who possess them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 40,000 people died from firearms in the United States last year than any year since 1968. This statistic reflects the third consecutive year the rate of firearm deaths rose in the United States.

Let’s cut to the chase. As a society, we have become obsessed with firearms as a means of keeping us safe, secure and free. May I propose that this is a myth that’s created a contemporary golden calf? Have we not enshrined the divinity of guns as our culture has established an elaborate public liturgy for every public massacre? Pouring forth are “thoughts and prayers!”

The crisis of widespread deaths by firearms has become a spiritual issue of the most urgent nature. Our national love affair with firearms has reached crisis proportions that should challenge and trouble the soul of everyone who believes in the “Prince of Peace.”

Just like the golden calf gave the ancient Hebrews a false sense of security, when we are consumed by our fears, when God seems to be invisible or absent, when we feel threatened by those who are different than us, it is easy to fashion a new idol — an idol in the form of firearms — to be our savior.

Let’s be honest. Our national motto is not, “In God We Trust.” Our national motto is, “In Our Weapons We Trust.” In such is our salvation, our safety, our security, our freedom. God takes a backseat to this “god!”

God spoke to Moses and said, “…they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it…and the Lord sent a plague upon the people, because they made the calf.”

Are we not living in our own self-made plague of the evil of mass killings by firearms intended as weapons of war?

Brian Bilston’s poem, “America is a Gun,” contrasts our country with other nations and their cultural symbols.

“Japan is a thermal spring/Scotland is a highland fling./Oh, better to be anything/Than America as a gun.”

Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.