My grandfathers taught me how to shoot. I graduated from rubber band guns to BB guns and rifles. And the octagon barrel .22 that’s been passed through my bloodline is one of my prized possessions.
My dad's dad served in the Navy and my father still escorts surviving WWII vets to their memorial. I respect our servicemen and women.
I even took military skills courses throughout my journalism education in the event I’d ever cover battles or our soldiers - to know their language and to absorb their culture, if only to a degree. I gained more respect than other "civies" when I lit up their targets. All this to say I’m not afraid of guns; I own quite a few and I’d be happy to put my shot against yours at any range.
Still, I aim to wage my wars with a pen.
Before you write this off as an anti-Second Amendment rant, let me be the first to say it’s not. And I’ll use our First Amendment to walk it through. And before you think this is solely about faith, it’s not at all.
My wife and I were just talking about how glad we were our church doesn’t assume a strict dress code. She always sports her Sunday best, but all that formality and surface level pressure can get in the way of any real substance for others. Church should be the one place you can come as you are.
Thoreau was onto it years ago when he said, “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”. I’ve personally taken it so far as silently vowing to never work for anyone who won’t let me do my job in a pair of Vans once in a while. I’m simply convinced a man’s worth runs deeper than his cotton.
But this all took a turn when a gentleman greeting churchgoers by the front door shook my hand in an NRA hat. And for the first time I can ever recall, I wished my brother chose different attire. I admit that I knew nothing more of the man beyond what he outwardly, and proudly volunteered, and I hold true that this man's worth runs deeper than his cotton. But I worry that agendas can spoil wonderful gestures of servitude, community and connection.
I firmly believe that unity does not require uniformity, and that the beauty of living in America is the breadth of our passions, pledges, and perspective. I also know that any affiliation that outweighs love often makes words and actions feel disingenuous. I know many people question or deny Christianity because of disingenuous Christians, and I imagine it was pretty scary to walk through our church doors that day if you did have a problem with guns.
I imagine it’s hard to have an open conversation with others if there’s already one in the chamber. And like I said, this isn’t a Second Amendment rant. Our common spaces have been riddled with friendly fire from every angle. Neighbors crossed, coworkers torn apart, and families tested across the aisle from (heated) conversations about conservation to women’s rights and beyond. We've all been a little trigger happy on Facebook, in the office and everywhere in between.
It’s time we holster our pistols. It’s time we cease-fire.
I wouldn’t want a greeter rocking a marijuana shirt or any political attire for that matter. When our affiliation to anything grows larger than our affiliation to love, we’re bound to alienate others. We’re bound for collateral damage.
I’ve played this out in my head a number of times over the past few days. I’ve tried to talk myself out of writing for fear of sparking more political noise and nonsense from both sides, fear that some readers may think I'm voicing hypocrisy in my efforts to do anything but that. It comes down to this: I’m not prepared to tell anyone how to live. But I hope that people of position and influence, big and small, grow cognizant of their presentation and continue to find new ways to connect through similarities rather than professing their policies. I pray we change our targets.
No more rifles in the kingdom.