January 23rd, 2013


second amendment farce

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

With some political discussions, farce and humor can often be really effective. The gun control debate going on now is no different. For that reason alone, I’m thankful for Colbert:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Colbert’s Double Barrel Blam-O-Rama – Piers Morgan & James Yeager
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

It’s the second conversation (with Mr. Yeager, @ 2:30) that really interested me. The man admits that he sees in hindsight he probably shouldn’t have done. In emotional situations, with the adrenaline flowing, we’re all prone to shoot off our mouth. Why not our guns? Is it really so incomprehensible that, in situations where firearms are at hand, you’re that much more likely to react violently? You can take back a hasty word (kind of), but definitely not a hastily pulled trigger.

This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t own guns. It does mean people should respect their explosive potential, and look at the reality of the situation. Are you concerned about self-protection from criminals? Look at the stats for how likely home invasions as opposed to domestic violence or accidental shooting incidents. Or do you think you’ll have to fight off a tyrannical government with your gun? Think hard about how effective you’d be against even your municipal police force, and whether owning a gun will make it harder for other citizens to trust you enough to work with you for change. (The Onion actually has a good parody of this view, so it may be worth reading it and figuring out where you think the parody breaks down.) In all these situations, sometimes the gun really will be a reasonable precaution, worth the risk involved. Other times it’s not. And even when it is, being conscious of the risk means you’re more likely to take precautions. That’s a start.

On a related note, Mr. Yeager calls Obama a dictator. But I’m only seeing one man saying if our duly-elected representatives put together a law and voted on it, he’d use violent force to keep that from happening. And it isn’t the president.

Reasonable people can disagree on how best to address gun violence. But some voices just aren’t reasonable. I could pick them apart point by point, but sometimes humor works better.


choosing life, from the womb to the tomb (gun violence version)

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Lots of people are discussing abortion these days with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My own take is: 1) abortion always carries moral implications and is usually wrong, though I wouldn’t consider it murder until far into the pregnancy; but 2) attempts to make abortion illegal are by their nature discriminatory (and insulting) to women. So I prefer the third way: moral development that makes women more likely to choose to carry a pregnancy to term when this is the moral option combined with good sex education and access to contraception that minimizes unwanted pregnancy, rather than trying to make abortion illegal.

That’s a nuanced position that requires more than a single post, and really these days my interest is elsewhere. I also don’t have a lot of personal experience with this issue, so I’m letting other folks take the lead on blogging about this issue. But I have been very interested in the Vatican’s statements regarding gun control, and since I see a real connection between them and the culture of life that drives the Vatican’s position on abortion, I thought I’d use the Roe anniversary to point people to them.


To be fair, the article headline is misleading. This is the statement by the official Vatican spokesman, but it looks like he’s speaking for his own understanding of how Catholic ethics affects this issue rather than making an official pronouncement. And he’s also taking an ethical position more than a political one. I think it would be completely consistent with this statement to say the government has no right forcing people to disarm (which, to be clear, no American politician is proposing) while also believing Catholic ethics required people to recognize that reliance on guns was at best an imperfect measure for an imperfect world. When I read an English translation of Fr. Lombardi’s piece (which I can’t find online; sorry) it seemed to be more about the moral cost of relying on violence to address violence, rather than a political position on whether and how American law should regulate guns.

I’m mentioning all this now, tied in to the Roe anniversary, because it shows the RCC is at least remarkably consistent on the issue of human dignity and the culture of life. In many cases, I think the way this culture of life is applied in the case of abortion is indefensible, and has led its representatives to ignore the mother’s health. I also find the way their opposition to the ACA over contraception is focused on minutiae to such an extent it threatens to do real harm to the people Christians are most called to help. (It also takes focus away from real victims of religious persecution in a way I can’t condone.) But even while I think the RCC’s policy on abortion and contraception sometimes is so focused on the trees that it is blind to the forest, I have a lot of respect for the basic principle at work here, and I commend the RCC for living by that principle across the board. When you have a culture that focuses on violence as a right without taking into account its effect both on the victim and the perpetrator, that’s dangerous. Sometimes necessary, yes, but the danger can’t be ignored.

So, here’s to the RCC: we may not always agree, but I enjoy wrestling with you, and admire your commitment to your core principles.


NYC may not be “Bible-minded,” but it really is quite religious

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Barnum released an interesting poll about how “Bible-minded” those cities are. My hometown of NYC ranked near the bottom of the list, at 85th out of 96. But it’s worth noting just what Barna means by that term.

The study is based on 42,855 interviews conducted nationwide and the analysis of Bible trends was commissioned by American Bible Society. Individuals who report reading the Bible in a typical week and who strongly assert the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches are considered to be Bible-minded.

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