Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Friend on Gun Control

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


    Every Good Friday on the corner of Lincoln and Main, some of Belvidere and Boone County's most faithful pulpiteers lead worship and help bring the community together in/through/for Jesus by the book (see attached).

    Encouraged by the officers, staff, and membership of our family of faith, I am very careful about who speaks to our sheepdogs and sheep in a Matthew 10:16 kinda way.

    We don't open our pulpit to wolves in sheep's clothing.

    If I'm not convinced they believe in Jesus by the book or if I've heard/seen them in creed/deed being antithetical to Biblical Christianity, they are fenced from infecting the faithful.

    Same with KDs.

    Every once in a while, a friend/peer/whoever sends something to me that Kathie posts and Hans sometimes links to www.churchandworld.com.

    Today's guest is a former California cop who went to seminary avec moi and remains one of my closest friends despite geographical challenges.

    Oh, yeah, it's Dr. Paul G. Watermulder who served forever as the senior pastor of Burlingame, California's First Presbyterian Church.

    While I've been really bummed out by historically and existentially ignorant clergy and other politicians along with newspaper propagandists who don't know the truth or tell the truth by Jesus, Holy Scripture, and common sense, this is an exceptionally sober, sensitive, strong, and compelling commentary on one of the challenging issues dividing America.


Guns and the Gospel:  A Personal Perspective, by Paul Watermulder; February 28, 2018

“And a little child shall lead them,” we read in scripture.  Or in the words of Jesus Himself, “out of the mouths of babes and infants “comes the truth.
Across our land students are in an uproar about America’s lack of effective control of abuse of guns.  Adults have debated and argued the matter through the killings and the attempted assassinations of Presidents, Congress people, judges, civil rights leaders, police, teachers, gang members, innocent bystanders and innumerable victims of spousal abuse. 
But the parade of shocking injustice against the innocent has continued.  It has been laid at the feet of the mental health community, of politicians, of hunters, of terrorists, of the political left and the political right.  To no significant avail.
But now it’s the kids.  Our children and grandchildren are picking up where we have dropped the ball.  They’ve seen high school children murdered and grade school children slaughtered.  They’ve heard of the fear of families in other countries to visit the USA because of gun violence.  They have seen the news report that it is more dangerous to be a child in America than in any other developed country, due to gun violence. 

And they’ve heard enough.  They’ve had enough.  “Let the little children come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God,” said Jesus.  And they are starting to follow the ways of that Jesus in speaking up for peace on the streets and in the schools of America; in caring more about results (dead children) than in abstract principles (along with the Pope who said, “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.”); as in protesting the injustice of the massacre of the innocents in our very own time and on our very own land.  And they are watching to see who will stand with them against evil as it comes to yet this newest of our generations.
I used to carry a gun every day:  before becoming a Presbyterian minister, I was a street cop in Berkeley, California (a suburb of San Francisco).  I worked night shift in the (then) high crime, low-income community of West Berkeley.  I never fired my weapon in the line of duty, but virtually no week passed in which its use was very nearly called for to protect some citizen., and its presence in or out of its holster made a huge difference in bringing a non-lethal peace.
That’s where I developed my working definition of a cop:  A good police officer is one who protects the vulnerable from the bullies.  It’s that simple.  And the bullies are armed and dangerous, as well as often mentally ill and just as often drunk, angry or high.
I’ve retired from forty years working as pastor of churches and am now a chaplain weekly amid dozens of people who are armed and must be in order to protect the vulnerable from the bullies—these happen to be federal police officers working within TSA.  Happily, they are as well-balanced and smart, as caring and as well trained as any cops I have worked with. 
I praise God for quality peace officers who care about the communities they serve and who seek to protect the vulnerable from the bullies.  And I praise God for their ability with weapons that can stop evil in its tracks.
Twice in my pastoral ministry I have disarmed parishioners who have been on their way to find and shoot their wives:  Though I was not armed, neither of them got the chance to do those things, and I was grateful that I had been well trained not only in working up close with such people, but also in disarming their weapons.
In my experience, many terrific Christians and many wonderful Americans also are very familiar with guns and are part of the solution rather than the problem with guns in America.
But since we live amid so many people who have access to guns and who are not well-trained or mentally healthy or sober or caring or seeking to treat their neighbor as themselves or to love like Jesus, the kids are right.  Dead right.  A new path must be taken if we are to be anything close to the City set on a Hill, a beacon of hope, a society of protectors of the vulnerable from the bullies.
Like most everything that can be used for good, guns are certainly being used for evil.  Or to put it more to the liking of many, like anything that can be used for evil, guns can also be used for the good.
My wariness of guns came from having guns pointed at me and at others who were trying hard to be part of the solution, not the problem.  And from finding too many results of horrible choices by people with guns. 
In fact, as many other police officers may testify, I found that personal handguns often were used in ways that their owners probably never desired or anticipated:  These included:
1.           Used in suicides in the depth of drunkenness or depression.  Guns generally allowing no room for second thoughts, such as being talked off a bridge or being found with an overdose or (as in one case) becoming frustrated in not being able to tie a noose knot and giving up.
2.           Used to shoot an unknown person who turned out to be, for example, a “friend of our college-age son, who had told him he could always come to our house if he was in town and needed a place to sleep.”  Or in another case, to shoot a drunk neighbor who mistook a neighbor’s house as his own and tried to get in to go to sleep.
3.           Stolen by criminals and used in subsequent crimes either by them or after they are illegally sold to other criminals.  Virtually every traceable gun used in crimes I was familiar with had been stolen.
4.           Accidentally discharged, as when a small child finds the gun that was thought to be well hidden and shoots a friend or family member without knowledge of what she had done.  Or when being cleaned.  Or when being moved perhaps by a family member trying to get behind it to something else in the closet.  Or being examined by a teenaged child with friends.  You get the picture.
5.           Used by a homeowner to threaten somebody in an argument leading either to a discharge that had been mostly unintended or causing the other person to escalate on that escalation.
6.           Displayed or referred to in conversation with others, who may have innocently made reference of this gun ownership to yet others thus making the gun owner far more susceptible to home burglary than otherwise would be true.
7.           Brought out in an attempt to defend house or family but its presence made things worse (i.e. A fistfight is called for and the gun gets in the way.  Or the bad guy wrests the gun away).
8.           And in a very small number of cases, used to successfully defend a home or family.
It is so easy to forget that: Anytime a person shoots somebody else, even in righteous self-defense, that shooter can count on being taken into custody and staying under arrest from a few hours to days or longer. 
What can we learn from our children as well as our Lord on this subject? 
For starters, how about learning that very few matters in life are solved with “one size fits all.”  What is true in one community may not at all be true in another.  What is right at one time in life may be wholly unhelpful at another time in life.  So, we need conversations that go beyond seeking a single and simple solution to a very complex set of issues.
Or how about committing ourselves to real conversations with people who we think do not agree with our viewpoint?  Polarization has come to define so much of our national dialogue on any subject that we are no longer a bell curve but a barbell of opinion.  And we often may fear drawing toward the center for fear of “people like me” no longer trusting us to have good judgment.  Or we fear that the “other side” is so entrenched as to have nothing but withering scorn or mountains of “facts” to refute our thinking, so that the whole experience will be painful and upsetting, and the conversation leaves naught but long-term scars.
Perhaps churches could each intentionally hold discussions on aspects of gun ownership and control with established groups such as Sessions, small groups or classes.  And such groups could agree ahead of time on ground rules to listen to see what one thing they can learn from the “other side” and to refrain from assigning the “other side” attributes of Satan, Lucifer, Judas and the Philistines all wrapped into one.
If it is true that “guns are not the problem, but people are” (but often their access to guns is the real problem!), we could talk in quiet discussion settings of the kinds of people or conditions we think should or should not have access to guns. We may then discover how each of us are our brother’s keeper and how our getting hold of the gun problem will include recognizing our mutual responsibilities to pay attention to each other, to mental and emotional strain, to things said or done which in retrospect may prove to have been a “signal.”  It is far more productive for most of us when we argue from the specific (children killed in Parkland High School) than from the general (citizens have the right to bear arms).
People on both sides of the public debate, such as it is, will need to recognize that some laws will have to change, since law by nature has an enforceable force that in fact is needed with some people.  Also, we will need to recognize that changing the laws is a key but never the only nor the hardest part of our becoming safe for all of our children.
The hardest part will be the personal discussions with family members and friends and neighbors.  Misunderstanding is easy, we can almost guarantee being misunderstood and maligned.  There are a lot of laws on the books right now that are not being enforced fully, and probably we all are partly to blame—how many times do we rationalize that we don’t have to follow one law or another because we feel it does not pertain to us, or because we feel we “know better?”  (Think of seatbelts, or “rolling stops” on up to laws about making weapons and ammunition fully secure, up to telling the truth under oath.)  Dealing with individual feelings of being above the law (entitled) may be the most important point in discussions.  But if sacrifice in the manner of Jesus means anything to a Christian, surely it can mean that we become willing to sacrifice our reputation or attitude or even any smugness we might have about our position. 
The more we talk and listen about the guns in our houses and cars and in the hands of very bad people and of very good people and everybody in between, the more we tame this Herod-like slaughter of our innocents of every age.

(Paul Watermulder is a retired clergy member of San Francisco Presbytery; a graduate of Princeton Seminary and Drew School of Theology.)


A Service for the Worship of God

Good Friday

March 30, 2018 

“The Seven Last Words of Jesus”

First Word

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:34
Adam Reardon, Pastor, Redemption Church

Second Word
12:20 p.m.
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43
Brian Phillips, Pastor, The Grove

Third Word
12:50 p.m.
“Woman, behold, your son!…Behold, your mother!”
John 19:26-27
David Smith, Pastor, Belvidere First

Fourth Word
1:20 p.m.
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34
Dan Pope, Pastor, Open Bible Church

Fifth Word
1:50 p.m.
“I thirst.”
John 19:28
Martha and Tomas Valladares, Salvation Army

Sixth Word
2:20 p.m.
“Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit!”
Luke 23:46
Scott Stolberg, Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church

Seventh Word
2:45 p.m.
“It is finished!”
John 19:30
Scott Nellis, Pastor, Evangelical Covenant Church


Thank you for worshipping with us today as we recall
Our Lord’s passion and meditate on His Seven Last Words
as guided by
local pastors
who love
Jesus by the book.

Today’s offerings
will be used
the glory of God
through the
The Compassion Closet of St. James and First
(Please deposit offerings in “Gifts for Ministry” box)



Blessings and Love!


Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!



1 comment:

Mark said...

Luke 22:36
Then said he unto them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his bag: and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
38And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough.

I think that self defense to fight off robbers is in line with scripture.

Agape <><