Plausible distractor: gun control, contemporary culture, and school shootings

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Many or most, if not all, of my readers will be aware that there was a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, which resulted in 17 deaths and wounded 14 others. I shall not here identify the perpetrator, who appears to be a deeply disturbed and sinister young male – I certainly will not dignify him with the title “man.”

It has not taken long for the left-wing media – following Rahm Emanuel’s infamous dictum “never let a good crisis go to waste” – to politicize this latest tragedy, and use it as the latest argument in favor of stripping Americans of our God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to defend ourselves. The irony in that will not be lost on those who have not succumbed to leftist ideological indoctrination.

Fortunately, not everyone has, and a good friend of mine posted the above on Facebook. I shared it, with a few added points which I reproduce here:

  1. Automatic weapons were available to civilians for a brief period following the First World War, and prior to the National Firearms Act of 1934, after which they were and are NOT available to anyone who is not the holder of a Class III Firearms License – which is very hard to get, and requires extensive background checks and monitoring (and expense). When they WERE available, use of them in crime was limited to gangsters, which in those days meant organized crime families (which is why they were limited). So “automatic weapons” or “assault weapons” are a non-issue: as regards the civilian population, they do not exist.
  2. And lest you say, “b-b-b-but large-capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles…!” let me remind you that the Texas Tower shooting, the first “mass shooting” by modern standards, which occurred in 1966, was committed largely with bolt-action and pump-action firearms.
  3. Let me remind you further that mass shooters are highly motivated individuals, who are unlikely to be deterred by such minor details as lack of availability of their preferred (or any) firearms. The Oklahoma City bomber did not need guns to kill 168 people and injure 680 more. The 9/11 hijackers did not need guns to kill nearly 3,000 people and terrorize a nation, scarring its psyche in ways that still linger. Terrorists in various locations, including New York City last year, have not needed guns to kill large numbers of people by ramming them with vehicles. Someone who is sufficiently determined to cause a massacre will find a way of doing so. And while banning guns may make them think a little harder for a little longer, it’s not going to prevent it; it is going to make things more difficult for law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves and their families, or use firearms for sporting purposes.
  4. And that “18 school shootings in 45 days” meme that’s making the rounds? That includes eight incidents with no injuries or fatalities, two attempted suicides, one shot fired during the course of a fight, and two others that resulted in a single student being slightly wounded. And that is according to records found at “Everytown for Gun Safety,” Michael Bloomburg’s anti-gun advocacy group, which uses a very lenient (one could argue, highly misleading) standard: “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds,” it counts as a school shooting, regardless of whether or not the shooting results in injury or death. While any and all of these are regrettable, placing them in the same category as what happened in Florida is disingenuous, to put it mildly.

It is very easy to place the blame for tragic incidents like the recent Florida shooting on firearms. But – although the military is working on autonomous (AI) weapons (a concerning development, but tangential to this) – no firearm currently available to civilians is capable of engaging a target on its own. It requires a human being to make that decision and act on it.

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The 1931 girls’ rifle team outside Huntington High School, Huntington, New York.

In the 1950s and 60s, it was commonplace for students to bring firearms to school, for hunting purposes, often leaving them plainly visible in gun-racks in their pickups on the parking lot, or sometimes keeping them in their lockers. Yet there were no school shootings. During the same period (and for decades prior), high-school shooting teams were common. Again, no school shootings. Teenaged students even carried firearms on public buses and trolleys, on their way from their homes (or schools!) to the outskirts of town to hunt. Again, no shootings resulted.

The issue is not a gun issue. That’s an obvious but a misleading target – a “plausible distractor,” in testing terms. The issue is a societal and cultural issue, and a moral issue. It is a whole lot easier to say “ban guns” than it is to wrestle seriously with where we, as a culture, might have been going wrong – might be continuing to go wrong. And there is no single answer to that question, either; it is almost certainly a multiplicity of wrong steps, in a variety of areas.

These include, but are not limited to, the failures of parenting Sandy mentions, plus breakdown of stable family units in general, the rise of media and recreational opportunities (including music, videos or other visual media, the video gaming Sandy mentioned, etc.) that glorify amoral or immoral violence while minimizing its consequences, the breakdown of traditional religious observances and the moral guidelines religion has traditionally provided (see Washington’s Farewell Address), and the breakdown of cultural cohesion – and the stability that provides – in a variety of ways. There are probably many others that I have missed.

And until we seriously and constructively address these issues, the problem will continue. Banning or limiting (any more than they are already limited, which is severely) firearms will not solve it, it will only make things more difficult for law-abiding citizens, and chip further away at our freedom.

P.S. I have seen a number of worthwhile comments come across my newsfeed today. Here is one:

“We have to understand that even if we secure every school to were a mouse couldn’t get entry with a pea-shooter, it’s a band-aid. What then: shopping malls, fast-food restaurants, hospitals? We have a much more fundamental, philosophical and spiritual problem. When was the last time the great works of western philosophy and ethics were taught in our schools? When did we last focus our children on the big questions of the human condition, questions addressed by the great thinkers of Western Civilization? Could it be back in the last days when we had no mass school shootings? Do we really believe we could turn our back on the great projects of Western Civilization and not loose a hold on civil society itself?”

Indeed. To tear a plant up from its roots and not expect it to whither is the height of insanity. And of course, the diminution and marginalization of traditional religious faith – particularly the Judeo-Christian religious tradition – and the moral standards which come from it has played a major role in stripping our society of its moral compass.

And then there was this comment, from a Washington sheriff, interviewed today:

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Here is the video clip, in which he reinforces a lot of what I’ve said, above – only a lot more succinctly:

We have viewed abandoning traditional social and cultural norms, traditional moral values, traditional religious faith, traditional child-rearing practices, and much more, as being “progressive,” and trumpeted this abandonment as great advances in the human experience. But as C.S. Lewis presciently put it,

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world it’s pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”

C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity

Amen.

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Men Without Conviction, Churches Without People | George Weigel | First Things

https://d2ipgh48lxx565.cloudfront.net/uploads/article_5a7a50e65befd.jpg?Expires=1520574144&Signature=gQKuuu6oMS5fde28IxsnZ8OyJMprSjALwxtjYlvHWsQX5vP6AngucE-J0I9szUrEceNOxcXner1So-4oMeLAan3c3ktyivLFyoUOr~bodnMFZTlCzKyYcyeMDvex4JF1wRKQikda3lElDk-62g9k0cF1sOeVt5W1W~ZJ-P5XsftkBm-F0Y4~PI2RFQkVZxuXbcfuW04GHB2Dun8Tt4GhsiHCUoQTQSjqmcLK02J1yl6uWCo8qdx8FkiE6bKhryX1dbiLxWMSPyPztPrlwGuD2RXlLwtXXpSbCjuxyyAOYbU6Fhgk~xHMMvjDIHW05L44DYmhFnB8VeASVtOCJunyNg__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAIN7SVXNLPAOVDKZQ

Source: Men Without Conviction, Churches Without People | George Weigel | First Things

“Christianity is dying in western Europe. There are many reasons for that, including the complicity of many churchmen in the ideological awfulness that turned mid-twentieth-century Europe into a slaughterhouse. But the gospel has power, and those who believe that, and preach it in the conviction that it can transform and ennoble lives, can still get a hearing. Indeed, as post-modernity decomposes into ever more bizarre forms of irrationality, the cleansing, liberating truth of the gospel and the vision of life well lived found in the Beatitudes ought to be a compelling offer. “

Young people are returning to traditional faith practices

A young woman prays during the opening Mass for World Youth Day at Blonia Park in Krakow, Poland.

[Emma] White is part of a growing number of young people in the Church who are embracing traditional practices. Despite the popular idea that young people have no attention span, there seems to be a deep desire to encounter God in tradition and silence. More millennials are returning to older prayers and devotions.

Source: Young people are returning to traditional faith practices

As in a number of previous instances, this is from a Roman Catholic perspective – there is not (yet) nearly enough writing on these sorts of matters from within the classical Anglican tradition – but the thoughts translate easily to an Anglican context. Simply replace “Latin Mass” with “classical Prayer Book liturgy,” and (with a few minor differences, of language and ritual) most of it applies directly. Particularly interesting in this one: the author is a 20-year-old college student. As the name of a Facebook group I belong to puts it, “Actually, young people do like traditional liturgy!” Many do, anyway, and the number seems to be growing.

The Family that Prays…

The Family that Prays Together Stays Together

We did not do this so formally, in my family, except on special occasions. And as Methodists, we did not kneel! But I was raised in a devout, reasonable, Christian home; and I learned the faith literally at my mother’s knee. I have always been grateful for that, and my gratitude grows with each passing year!

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” — Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Evangelical Anglicans warn they might walk away if CofE departs from ‘apostolic truth’ | Christian News on Christian Today

Canterbury Cathedral

“Our desire is for the Church’s teaching and practice to offer a vision of human flourishing which is faithful to Scripture.”

Source: Evangelical Anglicans warn they might walk away if CofE departs from ‘apostolic truth’ | Christian News on Christian Today

“In a document entitled Gospel, Church & Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith and Life released to its supporters and organisational representatives, CEEC says: ‘As we face many changes in British society and forceful challenges within the Church of England on matters of human sexuality and marriage, we believe it is important not simply to focus on these contentious areas of disagreement but to set them within a wider and deeper theological vision.

“‘Our desire is for the Church’s teaching and practice to offer a vision of human flourishing which is faithful to Scripture.’

“While the document does not explicitly mention homosexuality or same-sex marriage, its context is the continuing turmoil in the CofE about how far it should go in accommodating changing social mores. The ongoing controversy has effectively already split the Anglican Communion and the CofE’s unity is under pressure.

“The document stresses the ‘gift of singleness’ and the House of Bishops’ affirmation that sexual relations are ‘properly conducted only within heterosexual marriage’.

“This teaching is not an ‘optional extra’ or ‘adiaphora’ but is ‘apostolic and essential to the gospel’s transforming purpose’, it says.”

The determination by many or most “mainstream” Christian churches in America – and indeed, the West – to be “open” and “welcoming” to persons who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and (increasingly) transgender, often with a few more categories added on, as well as an overall weakening of traditional sexual mores, seems grounded for the most part (a few hardcore Leftists aside) in compassion, the desire not to exclude anyone from communion with Christ, or the benefits of full inclusion in the Christian faith.

“Radical love,” even “Christ-like love,” seems to be the catch-phrase. And this is admirable – to a point. There are a couple of things that are missed in this, however. Continue reading “Evangelical Anglicans warn they might walk away if CofE departs from ‘apostolic truth’ | Christian News on Christian Today”

The Feast of The Presentation – also called Candlemas | The Uprising – Ancient:Modern:Anglican Church

Candlemas - Purification - Presentation

The Feast of The Presentation – also called Candlemas

From an excellent Anglican blog found on Facebook, called “The Uprising – Ancient:Modern:Anglican Church”:

There is one more sacred day that should not be lost in the avalanche of “winter holidays.” February 2 – the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – is a time when we celebrate the blessing of the candles for the year – Candlemas – and the Presentation of the Lord in the temple.

After celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, with its splendor in both the Church and the popular culture, it would be easy for one’s mind to drift and overlook the significance of the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth. But we should look beyond our hustling to banish the decorations to the attic, the obsession over the days remaining in this strenuous winter, and endless chatter about Super Bowl Sunday. Because the events set in motion with the Annunciation and Nativity continue with the significant presentation of our Lord in the Temple.

Joseph and Mary’s presentation of the baby was no pro forma event. The words of the prophet Malachi are fulfilled in the poor parents presenting their firstborn son along with their humble sacrifice of two turtledoves. (“Now I am sending my messenger— he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:1) The mother of God – the Theotokos, in no need of ritual purification – and her husband did not set themselves above the Law.

In their conformation to the Law is God’s entrance into his Temple. Simeon and Anna, pious and elderly, having spent their lives in prayer and waiting in the Temple for the Messiah, have their “moment.” There is the glorious Nunc Dimittis of Simeon. Is not the conformation of the Law and the Prophets also fulfilled when the Lord enters the temple of our hearts?

With Candlemas we celebrate the coming of the Light of the World. But a shadow also passes; a shadow foretelling the suffering that will precede the victory of the Light over darkness. Simeon not only proclaimed that he had seen his salvation, but also told the Mother of our Lord that her share would include a sorrow pierced heart. In Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II wrote that Mary heard in Simeon’s words something akin to a second Annunciation,

“for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in the misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”

In like fashion, do we not also share in the sorrowful sufferings of the Holy Mother as we too live our lives in obedience to Christ?

Propers for the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

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“The Presentation of Christ in the Temple” (Presentazione di Gesù al Tempio) by Giotto, c.1311 – 1320. Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Assisi, Italy.
https://www.wikiart.org/en/giotto/presentation-of-christ-in-the-temple

Presentation of Christ in the Temple,

commonly called The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin.

The Book of Common Prayer 1928.

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy Majesty, that, as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Epistle. Mal. iii. 1.

BEHOLD, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.

The Gospel. St. Luke ii. 22.

AND when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken to him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord. and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.