"It's the end of the world, as we know it…and I feel fine."
"So, if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out.
If they say, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it…
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
-- Jesus Christ (Matthew, Chapter 24)
There is anecdotal evidence on the inter-webs today that, in some places, long lines are forming outside gun shops. (This commentator predicts it here.)
Disturbing news, of course. But given the Sandy Hooks shooting on last Friday, and the end of the Mayan calendar on this one, it's not surprising.
There is an apocalyptic fear that always seems to flow, just below the surface of American life, and it rears its ugly head now and then. Americans, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, have always had a secret fetish for the "end times."
The distinctive American end-times-fear has a theological and a secular form. They are related, but they are also distinct.
The theological form sees Jesus riding in on the clouds at the end of the world.
(Although, apparently, this week people are willing to grant a "Mayan exception")
The secular form sees President Obama riding a fleet of UN helicopters into Anytown, USA, to tear guns from the hands of law abiding citizens.
Look. Can I offer a bit of perspective? Let me debunk both of this...
First off, the world's not gonna end on Friday. It's just not.
People have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of time, and they've always been terribly, terribly wrong. They will be on Friday too. Here's an impressive list of just how many times they've been wrong.
But more than this, as you can read from the above passage, Jesus was very clear that even he didn't know when it was going to be. He says that only "God the Father" could know such things.
Given this, there's a very simple, easy, and scripturally irrefutable test to see if any particular day will be the actual end of the world.
The test is this:
If somebody says any specific day is the end of the world, you are absolutely, positively 100 percent assured it will NOT be that day.
Why? Because Jesus said so.
("Jesus said it. I believe it. That settles it")
That is why, from a Christian perspective, I can say with great assurance: The world won't end Friday.
So people, please calm down out there. Please. Take a breath. Several.
But, what about the "secular form?" The idea that the government is about to swoop in and take away guns from every single human being on the planet?
Look, my sense is this: Sandy Hooks has changed things. The horror of Sandy Hooks has opened the eyes of many people, in ways that few events in recent history have.
As I wrote Saturday: "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results."
I have a sense that the American people are about to wake up from our insanity about guns.
So, in that sense, then, maybe it is the "end of the world as we know it."
And if it is? Then, dear God, I do feel fine!
I feel fine about a world of unregulated guns coming to an end.
I feel fine about the sale of assault weapons coming to an end.
(Hint: if a weapon has the name "assault" in the title, it's not a defensive weapon)
I feel fine about the gun-show loopholes coming to an end.
I feel fine about high-capacity magazines coming to an end.
If that's the "end of the world" we're talking about? Bring it on!
I mean, when Joe Scaborough --former Republican Member of Congress, with a 100 percent NRA rating-- comes out with this commentary, you know the world is changing, and an old world is ending:
BTW, the United Methodist Church has been calling for changes to the way we treat guns for a decade. You can read our fine statement here.
Ironically, one of the themes of Advent is Christ's coming into the world.
We remember Christ's coming once.
We celebrate Christ's coming at Christmas, into our hearts now.
And we look forward to some final coming, where things on earth will be quite different than they are now.
As we say this three-fold affirmation the communion liturgy every time we take that sacrament:
"Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."
In this, we say, "Yes, the world is dark and dangerous. Yes, the world is cold and yes fear is rampant. But incarnate love is still possible. Things can be different than they are now"
Lord knows (and the Lord does) the world needs to change on guns.
When more preschoolers die from guns than members of law enforcement, the world needs to change.
(And, no, nobody in law enforcement ever needs to die. Just pointing out the horrible irony…)
When eleven of the world's 20-worst mass gun killings have happened in America in the past fifty years, the world needs to change.
When FIVE of those have been since 2007, the world needs to change.
When there have been thirty-one school shootings since "Columbine," the world needs to change.
We are insane about guns in our society, and we need to change.
OK. Let me turn my focus...
If you are a gun owner, I want to speak directly to you now.
If just reading the words in this blog strikes a fear into you heart, all I can tell you is this:
God calls us to faith, not firearms.
Our faith is in God, not guns.
Life in inherently risky. You cannot possibly own enough guns and ammunition to keep your family safe in all circumstances and at all times. That is the truth. Believing you can is a dangerous fiction. It's dangerous to you. It's dangerous to your family.
Few people I know want to ban all guns. But they do want to reduce gun deaths, and some kind of responsible regulation will probably be a part of that.
Obama will not take all guns. The government will not take all guns. That will never happen. Anybody who tells you it will is stirring up fear in your heart, driving you away from faith in God, and rotting your view of your fellow human being.
Buying more guns cannot save you from your all of your fears. Even if you carry a gun 24-7, there are hundreds of times a day when somebody could shoot you or your loved ones. I know this to be theologically and spiritual true. But, apparently, it's also been factually proven.
I don't own a gun. But I love you, my gun-owning friends. And I love you enough to tell you that you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot than I am. (Read it here)
You see, I tell you this not because I hate you, but precisely because I love you. I don't want to see you die like the millions of other American gun owners who die every year by having their own guns turned on themselves, or in some horrible gun accident involving their loved ones.
Take the horror of Sandy Hooks, for example. Today, Michael Moore tweeted this bitterly sarcastic, but totally true, message:
"If only the first victim, Adam Lanza's mother, had been a gun owner, she could have stopped this before it started"
Of course, she was a gun owner. She taught him to shoot. He used her
guns to kill her, and twenty-six other human beings. It's literally true to say --however hard it is to hear-- that she taught him how to kill her.
But the truth is harsh, dear gun owner friends.
It's a harsh truth you need to hear precisely because I do care about you.
I don't want to see that happen to you.
Don't fear anybody taking away all the guns. If you love guns, there will always be a legal way for you to have them, if you want them.
As I said the other day, one of the things we owe the Christmas Angels, those who died Friday, is to not just dream of, but make real, something new; to stop being insane about guns, and to do things a different way.
The world may end someday. But it won't end Friday.
And it won't end should there be more gun regulation either.
But, here in Advent, we may well be seeing the end of a part of our world: The part that tolerates unregulated guns, and unending death.
If so, I am ready for it.
(Eric is a minister, musician, blogger and author. Originally published here)