Last Saturday was a relatively warm day to run here in Illinois. Late February has turned out to be mild and relatively windless. Perfect conditions for a nine-mile run.
As Sue and I trekked toward the start of the river path in Naperville, both of us felt the urgent need to find a bathroom. The service station where we often stop was still two miles down the road. I noticed a church across the street from the trail and told her, “I’m going there! You too?”
So we jogged across the lawn to a Methodist church that was apparently holding a Northern Illinois Conference for the faith. We were respectfully greeted at the door and allowed to use their bathrooms. We thanked them quietly on the way out but it was really no big deal.
Except to us, it was.
And what if the church had turned us away? That would be an interesting moment, would it not? A year ago I attempted to use the bathroom at the local Red Cross offices near a running trail in St. Charles. “We’re sorry,” the gal at the front desk insisted. “We don’t have any public restrooms.”
Okay, I get that. Not every facility is equipped to serve the public.
But it got me thinking about the public and private personas of certain organizations. That made me wonder whether Sue and I would have been comfortable approaching a mosque to use the restroom. Or a synagogue? Outside our respective faith backgrounds and traditions, people are not always comfortable. Something as simple as using a facility to go to the bathroom seems like an odd imposition.
Which is where our society has gotten so screwed up. The basics of humanity and need are lost by the imposition of fear or prejudice against people of different faith traditions than our own. This has been going on for thousands of years. The Crusades and the Inquisition and even World War II have shreds of ideology woven through the motivations to kill people who either do not abide by our faith or are somehow “different.”
But here’s the deal. The service station where we normally stop to go to the bathroom (and thankful for that) is run by an East Indian fellow. So are most of his employees. They could not be nicer people, welcoming us to their well-kept facility.
It’s basic goodwill. Yet there are plenty of people who figure the better way to run a business is to allow only paying customers in the door. That’s a “right,” we must suppose. Private businesses and even churches, mosques and synagogues have a right to ban whomever they wish.
I’ve noticed there are plenty of organizations that put signs banning handguns on their doors. Many of them also have No Smoking signs. It makes sense. Both guns and cigarettes are known to kill.
The signs are necessary because the Concealed Carry craze that swept the country under the auspices of Justice Antonin Scalia and his ilk were effectively an imposition of sorts on millions of businesses and organizations across the land. And while we have people publicly protesting that the are forced to make wedding cakes for gay couples, which is “against their religion,” it is also true that laws were passed allowing people to carry deadly weapons in public places as if they were a set of harmless car keys.
And which has the more potentially deadly impact on society; a loving gay couple asking for a wedding cake or a person carrying a gun that believes they know justice better than the person next to them in line?
For these reasons, there’s been little apparent resistance on the part of gun owners to argue with the No Gun signs. Surely it is not appreciated. From their perspective, it might seem like their right to keep and bear arms is being infringed.
Signs of the times
And yet, businesses and organizations have stuck to their guns, as it were, and been intolerant of Concealed Carry weapons.
There were no such signs posted on the Methodist Church where we stopped for a bathroom break. But if we had been carrying weapons, how would that have made those church members feel if they knew? Which is the worse affront, asking to use the bathroom or packing a weapon on your hip as you enter a religious facility?
Why anyone would ever need a gun to enter a church is the real question. Oh yeah, forgot. “Gun Free Zones” are considered dangerous by those who choose to carry weapons around in public.
But of course, there is no more insidiously ironic a term than “gun free zones.” That insinuates guns were themselves a part of God’s creation. They are not. They are the creation of the human race and were invented for the purpose of killing. That’s it. Those are the Concealed Intentions of all guns in the universe.
And get this: There are now more guns in America than there are people. It’s a sign of the times that weapons now outnumber the human population. But guns don’t kill people, people kill people? Sorry, we’re outnumbered.
Godless value systems
This entire value system based on guns as a defense is a breach of religious trust. Either you believe in the protection and providence of God, or you do not. It’s true with any religion. You either turn the other cheek as Jesus said, or proceed with peaceful protest. We have the recent Oregon Militia fiasco to illustrate the difference. Armed and angry, their efforts led to a death and a violent stalemate.
That stalemate is at large in the world as well. Are women supposed to have to carry a gun with them when they go for a run? Just to be safe in this world? Is that the world in which we want to live?
Okay. There have been black churches in the South where parishioners have armed themselves to the teeth. That’s because black churches that have been directly threatened by white supremacists. That’s different. Under racial oppression and with violent acts and bombings being carried out, those people have genuine reasons to be concerned.
Yet a white shooter still sat through a Bible class and then opened fire on the very people with whom he had just read scripture. His motivations for hate surpassed any conventional notions of human respect. HIs concealed intentions wrought death.
Law-abiding until they’re not
The argument from gun owners is that these are aberrations. Law-abiding gun owners have no such motivations. Until they do. And take note: the exceptions to the “law-abiding” rule are many. Another mass shooting just occurred. And America does nothing about it.
One truly wonders what God, if asked, would say about all this? Well, truth be told, there does seem to be considerable support in early scripture for violence and acts of genocide. These were ostensibly conducted with God’s full direction and approval.
Entire races of people were wiped out. Women and children were eviscerated and killed. People were taken as slaves. And the stories in the Bible seemingly approve. It didn’t even take guns to do that. People in the Judeo-Christian tradition followed the laws of God to kill. But does that make it right?
There is much concern these days over depictions of the Muslim faith as a “violent religion.” When taken literally or interpreted as such, passages of the Quran can be turned into a form of murderous screed. That’s how terrorists from a religious standpoint justify beheadings, killing and explosions in the name of Allah.
But be honest: Christianity and Judaism are historically no better. Today’s nation of Israel is engaged in terrorist acts against Palestine, displacing families and taking over territory in acts of aggression. In retaliation, their opposition lobs missiles into Tel Aviv and promises to wipe Israel off the map.
And yet, it could all be reduced with basic human understanding and kindness. It’s been proven by history that former enemies can become friends. Japan and the United States. Germany and Britain. The examples of violent attitudes turned into peaceful partnerships are many. Yet any attempt by President Barack Obama to open ties with Iran were met by visceral calls to bomb the nation instead. And what exactly would that accomplish?
Obama has adopted a form of Concealed Carry instead to fight terrorism. His drone strikes are a “defensive” measure against terrorism. But even these cause collateral damage. That’s what all attempts at concealing violence do.
Such is the case with all conflicts. They are always contextual, yet never eternal. The so-called Cold War was a collision of concealed intentions between the former Soviet Union the United States. Yet along came the call for an open society in the former Soviet Union and the communist threat dissipated. So will the conflicts over religion if the human race just slows down and takes stock of what’s really going on.
So will the conflicts over religion if the human race just slows down and takes stock of what’s really going on. Starting wars is no solution. Granted, finishing them sometimes is. World War II and the American Civil War are both illustrations of that fact. That’s why you have a military or own a gun. That’s what the Second Amendment really means.”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
I’m not against gun ownership. I’m against the mentality and patent claims they are a solution to modern problems. They are not.
Fear and conflict
It really is that basic. It is fear that drives conflict and lack of knowledge or understanding that leads to fear.
It really is that basic. The idea that it should be a problem to approach a mosque or a synagogue and ask to use the bathroom is the problem. We’re all guilty of that in our respective fears of other humanity. Fear and ignorance is the problem. Would you ask to enter a black church to use the bathroom? Why in fact are there black or Mexican or Korean or Greek Orthodox churches at all?
Fortunately, there is a tool for understanding out there in the world. These sports we do; running, riding and swimming, are the great equalizers. Visit any race and you’ll see people of all backgrounds participating. They all share the same Porta-Potties. All people do the same things, in other words. It’s that basic. We eat. We fuck. We shit.
Social conflict and laws
Perhaps that tells us we have it all backward. These social conflicts are so often about who is superior and what makes us better than the other person. Jesus had a few things to say about that attitude. Leaders of the faith at the time questioned Jesus and his disciples about their habits relative to tradition.
“15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
To which Jesus replied:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
And of course, those faith leaders, arch with self-importance, blamed Jesus for breaking rules and not showing suitable fear for their authority.
13 (Jesus) He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
And that is today’s lesson. Traditions and laws and fear-based authority are common in this world. But you are blessed with a better form of understanding if you pay attention. That is the great equalizer of love and forgiveness. It has always been revolutionary and always will.
You don’t need those things people claim you need to be safe or loved in this world. All you need is love.
SEEK JUSTICE • LOVE LIFE