What god gave you the right to guns?

What god gave you the right to guns?
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One hundred people die a day from a bullet in this country and twice as many are shot and survive, yet we are unable to pass legislation that would stop or at least slow down the bleeding. 

On Aug. 31, Texas experienced its second mass shooting in as little as four weeks. Texas House Rep. Matt Schaefer responded to the call to “do something” on Twitter by saying he has no plans to support legislation that limits access to deadly weapons because it is a “God-given right.” I don’t know what god House Rep. Schaefer is referring to, but as a pastor, I can say it is not the god of Jesus.

Some form of Jesus’ command to love God and love thy neighbor appears in each of the four gospels. When something appears in all four gospels, it clues us in to the fact that this is a primary teaching. We think Jesus wasn’t clear about who we are to love, but he also tells us to love our enemies. This means that everyone is included in Jesus’ command to love. It is impossible to love another human when one is preparing to take up arms against them.

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Presbyterian pastor Rev. Jim Atwood writes in his book, “Gundamentalism and Where It is Taking America,” “Millions who claim one of the Abrahamic faiths have added guns to their godhead. They have placed their ultimate trust in firearms and dismissed God’s command to love neighbor, stranger and enemy. They bow before the Second Amendment and reject God’s Second Commandment in Exodus 20:4-5: You shall have no other gods before me.”

Rep. Schaefer cannot see that his god is an idol and the religion he is practicing is American Civil Religion, not the way of Jesus. The way to collapse harmful theology like Rep. Schaefer’s is with life giving theology and spiritual practices. 

The challenge is folks like Rep. Schaefer can’t see their idolatry. Trying to point it out directly will only result in a hardening of their beliefs. For some people confronting one’s religious beliefs touches a part of the brain where identity is formed. This results in the brain’s amygdala kicking into action and sending out danger signals. These signals cause a wall to be built that won’t let in any information that could destroy one’s beliefs. 

We can work our way around the brain’s defense system by sharing our personal stories, which allows us to connect on the level of the heart. By using the spiritual practices of circle and breath prayer we create a container to hold the intense energy that comes with creating cracks in the walls of identity. The "God of Gundamentalism" is authoritarian while the energy of the circle is egalitarian.

When we gather in a circle to share our experiences, we are embodying the energy of creation as our ancestors coming together and circling around fire formed civilization. Adding the practice of breath prayer helps to keep our breathing and thus our heart rate steady so we can stay out of “fight or flight” mode as we learn to listen and be uncomfortable.

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We can change the laws of this land by having hard conversations and demand that things be different. All of us must be informed and engaged in the prevention of gun violence beyond just offering thoughts and prayers. 

Reverend Deanna Hollas is the Gun Violence Prevention ministry coordinator with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the co-founder of Retreat House Spirituality Center. She holds a Master of Divinity from the SMU Dallas Perkins School of Theology as well as a diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary.