Normally this is the place I link a news item and then either explain it or react to it. Not today. You are all, of course, aware of the action in Charleston last week and the death of nine innocent black church goers at the hands a young man. This tragedy has led to a great deal of discussion in this country about several issues. Rather than deal with any one of those stories I am briefly going to react to them all.
Roofs actions were characterized by some as an attack on Religion because it fit in the narrative they wish to paint to do so. It was very demonstrably not an attack on religion. Roof has been identified as a member of the church, he sat through an hour of Bible study with no one questioning his presence. He has been shown, and confessed, that his actions were racially motivated, he sought to instigate a race war. Why he thought that was a good idea or how exactly it could happen remain unclear.
Were his actions the result of mental illness? No. Mental illness often comes down to any behavior or belief that is contrary to the norm. Killing nine people for no reason other than the color of their skin is something we would like to believe is a sign of mental illness - human history tells us it is not. It may be that he had some chemical imbalance in the brain, that he was off his meds, or had not been properly diagnosed. So what? A significant percentage of Americans struggle with issues related to depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and other minor brain chemistry issues for which they take, or should take, medication. I am one of them and, likely, so are you so let's just praise the Lord. Mental illness is only a justifiable defense if the individual no longer has a clear sense of the impact of his or her actions. Roof obviously new his actions would have a impact, and even desired that impact to be magnified. Was he
troubled' or depressed or 'a loner' or whatever else they might say about someone like that? Boo. Hoo. If I, or any other minister, can be 25 years in professional ministry and not open fire in prayer meeting then no one has an excuse to do so.
Is this a case for gun control? No. Roof did not purchase the gun he used, his father did. It is unlikely that Roof would have failed any reasonable background checks since, as far as I know, he had never had a history of violent behavior. Other than a total ban on hand guns there is no legislation that would have applied here and if there was such a band then someone like Roof would have simply used a knife or a bomb or a car or a fire to accomplish the same ends. Evil finds a way. The issue in this country is not gun access, it is gun use. I do not think you can blame "Hollywood" for that either. The lack of value of human life is systemic and widespread and will take more to address than someone yelling "please think of the children."
Is this a reason to have open carry in churches or to expand gun laws? No. Country to whatever anecdotal evidence you may wish to trot out, the presence of armed individuals does not prevent killings. There are numerous instances of this as proof. Why is that? Training. Knowing how to operate a gun safely or being an experienced hunter is not the same as reaction in a crisis to an active shooter. Even professional law enforcement personnel have difficulty using their weapons effectively in such situations. Anyone who does not have the specific qualifications to deal with another human being in close quarters with a weapon and lots of targets should not draw a weapon. Therefore there is no need to carry one. While it might cause someone to hesitate, but more likely it will cause escalation, see previous paragraph. Oh, and by the way, President Obama has signed only two laws related to guns: one allowing guns in national parks and the other allowing guns to be packed in bags on Amtrack trains. Yes, he has issued executive orders limiting high capacity magazines and certain types of fully automatic weapons, but the only reason anyone would need those things is if they intended to kill large numbers of people. Only an idiot would think they could hope to match the firepower of the US Military on US soil, so it is not like you can argue you need those for protection against the government. Which is probably why he also issued an order requiring more stringent background checks to look for mental illness.
(Just to be clear: I have no problem with gun ownership by the average citizen. I do think criminal and mental health background checks are good ideas as are waiting periods. I think gun safety training should be mandatory before you are allowed to purchase or carry a firearm. I do not think that military grade weapons, ammunition, or magazines should be available for the average citizen.)
Is this about the Confederate Battle Flag? No, but the flag is a symbol of hatred and racial injustice and if it takes something like this to get rid of the damn thing all the better. But...but...What about our heritage? Really, you are proud that your ancestor rebelled against the lawfully elected government in support of rich plantation owners who needed slavery to continue their economic domination of the cotton and tobacco trade? A system in which the average white person was living in poverty as little better than serfs, only one step up from the slaves? You do know, right, that the flag never actually flew over any state capitol during the Civil War and was not recognized as unifying symbol by the Confederacy? The the flag was only popularized by the KKK and became widespread in the early part of the 20th century? Maybe we should find something else to be proud about.
Look, all of this conversation is good for our country. But try and keep an open mind about somethings. Ratchet back on the paranoia a little bit. Assume the person talking has positive intentions. Try to honor the dead by being civil to one another.
Then again, I can be deliberately provocative. But if it makes you think about what you really believe, good.