I found as a parent when arbitrating disputes with my young children, that when there is a win-lose situation no one wins. For a moment that may feel different. If one got her way and the other didn't, clearly there was a winner and loser. But when it comes to grudges, human beings have long memories and it wasn't long before that day's winner was tomorrow'sloser. I found the goal (albeit unsuccessfully many times) was to create a win-win environment. Here's what I have learned helps create that possibility.
It begins with being clear who or what the problem is. If the problem is another person there will not be a winner. BUT, if the problem is identified as a grievance, a hurt, a neglect, a fear, etc., then both parties can be welcomed into solutions. Getting differing opinions to agree on a problem and then see themselves on the same side of the field resisting an opponent is critical.
When it comes to gun control who is the opponent? Killers of course. Investigating all the issues that lead to wrongful killing with guns is worth consideration. In this ongoing debate, I find many people feel a win-lose scenario taking place. If we change gun laws this will be the start of eventual stripping of all freedoms related to guns and changing the constitution. But what if that is not the aim? What if the aim is to be clear about the problem: no one should have to live in constant fear of being shot, especially children in school. Of course, mental health issues are something we must confront, but since guns are so prevalent, should we not learn and understand what the varying laws are related to who can purchase and carry guns? What kinds of weapons should or shouldn't be available to the general public? What are solutions being tested in other parts of the country and world? How can we respect and understand how other people feel who think differently on this issue?
This is where the church has something to offer. We are in the business of bringing people together, not to mention standing up for peace. Those who say the church is no place for politics are absolutely right. "Politics" assumes a bias. Using the church to promote a bias isn't appropriate. What is appropriate, in fact mandated, is that the church not shrink back from speaking into issues that affect the well-being of people. Did you know our UMC has a few things to say about guns? There is a significant section in our Book of Resolutions (no.3426) that addresses "Gun Violence" and includes this statement, "The United Methodist Church is among those religious communities calling for social policies and personal lifestyles that bring an end to senseless gun violence." (I will have copies of this full section available this Sunday at church)
We don't have the option of living in two worlds - one that is purely spiritual and then the real world. We are called to keep the two united. Part of being a good Christian is being a good citizen. Separation of church and state was never meant to remove spiritual influences from our country. It was to keep unhealthy bias from occurring in either. As Christians we should stay responsibly informed about the most important issues of our day so that we elect those persons we believe will lead our country in the right direction. At the end of the day, we will disagree on exactly what those directions and who those people should be, but at least we'll do it with understanding and hopefully even appreciation and respect for others who disagree with us.
Why do I keep going on about this? Because I want you to understand why we are promoting these kinds of discussions at St. Luke's. It is not to cram a certain opinion down anyone's throat. It's because Indianapolis is facing another year in which death by guns may set a record. It's because a child walked into a nearby school last week and started shooting. It's because discussions about metal-detectors at schools isn't far from saying we must have them in our churches too. Before long our need for security will start to send a different message than perhaps we want.
Last Sunday I got to visit a couple area churches (both of which had policeman in cars in the parking lots). A St. Luke's member came up to me at one of the churches. I asked how long she had been attending there. She kindly said, "Since my church (speaking of St. Luke's) no longer let me in." When I asked what she meant she explained how during her illness that prevented her from attending regularly she didn't realize we had to step up our security and begin locking outside entrances during the week. She came one day expecting to enter a door she often used and it was locked. The immediate feeling was, "My church now locks me out!"
Of course, when I explained the thefts we've had and need to secure our preschool, she understood. Who wouldn't? This is the world we live in and a church of all places must be a safe place. But I came away from that conversation thinking that adding more and more security at some point begins to feel uninviting. Yes, we must provide a safe place, but we must also be a church that leads the way in providing for a safer world.