OUR CULTURE OF GUNS

by Jeanine Elliott, Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ, Beaverton, Oregon
Americans are awash in guns. Our history tells the story. The continent opened up before us as we surged across the land. Orderly communities and the law followed the surge. Guns, for good and bad, went with the frontier. Guns provided food; guns provided self-defense; guns gave people, primarily men, a sense of power and identity. The Western movie and the Western novel captured the stories of the frontier. Heroes and villains abound in these stories, and nearly all of them used guns.

The “Western” has almost disappeared from our entertainment library, replaced by war and urban crime movies, and more recently, stories that explore (or exploit) brutality, lawlessness, sadism, and other graphic violence. We have not yet reached the end of our curiosity about our human dark side.

Our faith has given us another story, though it seems hard to wrap it around the violence of much of our culture. In the story of Jesus and in the Easter story, we know the capacity of the human to cause suffering and pain, but we also know of the God-given human capacity for life and love.

As Americans, it seems unlikely we will give up our love of guns or the stories that glorify them. But the death toll is too high, and many of us do not feel safe. Far too many young men end up in prison. Far too many die at their own hand. The collateral damage (the death of bystanders) caused by guns continues. What to do, what to do…….