The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Nancy Bacon

Respect for guns, not idolatry of them

From the Pastor's Desk


My Dad was a great provider - a hunter, trapper, farmer, and he taught me well how to survive off the land in rural Minnesota. He believed there was no reason I shouldn't capture, kill, prepare, and cook any form of edible animal. I have cleaned many fish, gutted many chickens, and helped to butcher numerous creatures. (Perhaps that has something to do with why I am vegetarian today, but that's a whole different story.)

I got my first gun as a young teenager and with good vision, I was a deadly shot. My Dad and brother and I would compete for killing gophers that tore up our pasture. I loved spending time with them while developing the skills of hunting and gathering.

My Dad taught me to respect guns and weapons that could serve our family well. We didn't need an arsenal. We didn't need a pistol. My Dad was frugal. We had four rifles that worked just fine and always a full freezer of meat, wild game, and fish.

When I started college in the big city of Minneapolis, I decided to enroll in a 10-week college self-defense class, since it was a bit scary walking home at night alone. Fortunately, the class was excellent. It was taught by two retired sheriffs who emphasized practical skills, including gun safety, and reacting when someone else has a weapon. We cleaned pistols and one night we shot at targets in the basement of a building where a woman had previously been murdered by an intruder. These teachers took their job seriously and wanted each of us to be as safe as they could prepare us. They wanted us to know how to pick up a gun and use one, or take one away from an assailant, if we could. They also warned us that owning a pistol was more dangerous than not owning one. They taught that we were more likely to be harmed or to harm someone we loved than we would ever use the weapon for our own defense. I gave up owning weapons.

Shortly after taking that self-defense class, I began working with a beautiful young woman who was confined to a wheelchair. As a toddler, her young cousin was curious about a gun and accidentally shot her in the back. I think to this day that the sheriffs who taught me were correct - most of us probably know more people who were accidentally shot or killed than people who shot criminals in self-defense. Whenever I see a pistol in someone's purse, I think of the woman in the wheelchair and the freedoms she lost.

I find it ironic when people claim that "freedom" is only for the gun owners. What about freedom to live and not worry about harm from accidental or preplanned shootings? I don't want to lose my freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, nor should anyone else have to lose theirs. Our second amendment is precious, but all liberties come into conflict with other liberties - they don't exist alone in a vacuum. When we treat them that way, it's as though weapons take on the status of idolatry. We worship the right to have them, rather than recognize coexisting higher ethical and moral liberties.

I have never heard anyone, not even my most liberal acquaintances, say that guns should be outlawed. Scaring people that the liberals are coming to take away guns is a tactic used by gun lobbies to maintain their treasured status. Gun ownership demands respect, but not blind idolatry. People of faith must consider not only the second amendment, but also commandments not to kill or to worship false idols. Jesus didn't bear arms and his teachings inspire us to avoid violence.

Our right to bear arms, like any right, is not absolute. I can't own nuclear weapons or chemical weapons and there is no need for weapons of war on our streets. One's right to weapons has prevented others their right to life. Our country fights to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of foreign rulers - yet we allow such weapons dispersed as private arsenals to exist throughout our country. We can not afford to merely buy the gun lobby's side of the argument. We need sensible limits on gun ownership.

My heart goes out to the victims killed and wounded in the Las Vegas massacre, their families, and also to survivors, some of whom live in our community. Their lives have been forever changed by what they had to witness. Let us pray for the physical and psychological recovery of the survivors. Let us be inspired by the many acts of bravery and humanity that strangers offered to each other in the midst of terror. And let us pray that we can let go of our idolatry of weapons of war that have no place in a civil society.


Pastor Nancy

About Tehachapi UCC:

No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here!

The Tehachapi UCC is an open and welcoming community of faith that believes that each person, created in the image of God, holds a piece of the truth. Therefore we respect each person's unique spiritual journey. We invite you to experience the difference that religious freedom in a caring community can make in that journey.

We are located at 100 East E St., in Tehachapi. Worship and Sunday School are at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. Please join us for coffee and fellowship at our Friendship Hall after worship (approximately 11:30 a.m.).

All are welcome.


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