Death in Many Forms

This has been a difficult week. I mean there really is no way for it to be anything but. Some may have read my post about Orange being an oasis, and it was. I enjoyed Orange Tour immensely, and it just solidified my excitement for Orange 2016. What amazes me is that this will be my fourth yes that’s right my fourth Orange. Time just keeps going…

But I don’t want to gush about Orange Tour or any of the people there. I want to look at a couple of things that happened this week, and the way not just faith but values evolve, and since this is my blog well, I’ll be looking at the evolution of my faith and values.

Growing up in church does a lot of things to a person, I’ve talked about that in some of the pages that are on here, dig in if you want that information, exact titles escape me at the moment but they exist and well I could use the readers let’s be honest…

The problem with growing up in the church is that there comes a point when you are faced with the prospect of continuing to grow in and with the church, or growing out of the church, I almost said outgrowing the church, but increasingly I believe if churches do it the right way and if Christ followers do it the right way there is no real way to outgrow the church, just ways to grow in faith, and community. A person grows out of the Church, and sadly grows out of their faith, when the dichotomy of humanity happens. Simply put when what is said by leaders, what is done in program, gets cross referenced with what the individual is reading in the Bible what they are seeing when they look at the life of Christ and how he interacted with people, and what they see being done in their daily life by the people around them, many of whom are supposed to be evil or lost doesn’t add up. Lets be clear, I do believe people that don’t have an active relationship with God are lost. I believe that active relationship begins with the realization that without Jesus, no GPS in the world will get you or I out of the mess of being a fallen human. There must be an acknowledgment of personal sin, and a recognition that forgiveness comes through Christ and that forgiveness is applied to my life on a regular basis.

BUT it’s important to realize that the church and Christians in general are their own worst enemy when it comes to new adopters and retention. Mainly because they refuse to evaluate and evolve. When you classify many Christians they usually get tossed into a box of intolerance, ignorance, hypocritism, and refusal, and sometimes those labels are earned, in fact more often than not they are. What’s hard is when you actively try and grow when you embrace the possibility that you’re wrong, that you read it wrong, that you understand it wrong or that you just can’t be the kind of Christian you were because that Christian was not really all that nice…

This week along with the personal tragedy of losing my aunt, there were two tragedy’s in the country that prompted this post.

1. On Wednesday September 30 in the early morning hours Kelly Gissendaner was executed.

2. On Thursday October 1, 9 people were killed at a community college in Oregon.

The thing is my faith and values have been challenged for a long time and have really been evolving. Most evangelical Christians support the death penalty and are very much anti gun control. I don’t have numbers or research to back this up more than some of the posts that make their way across my Facebook Feed, and observations of political candidates that claim Christianity and being conservative and their comments. I’ll be honest I had been a supporter of the death penalty, at times using the Old Testament argument, for the death penalty, but if you actually went by Old Testament law reasons for the death penalty can be pretty amazing. From working on the Sabbath, to Cursing your parents, to Losing your virginity there are several reasons that people were supposed to be put to death. Many Christians use this verse “a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever anyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind.” (Leviticus 24:20 NLT-SE) conveniently forgetting that Jesus specifically adresses this practice ““You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.”
(Matthew 5:38–39 NLT-SE) I guess what bothers me is the idea that anyone holds any life as less than, especially considering we are all crafted in the image of God. People will look at Kelly Gissendaner and say she got what she deserved. She did the crime she paid the penalty, it was justice. I’ll also be the first to admit that I have not had anyone close to me murdered. I can’t say that my opinion on this topic wouldn’t be differen or switch back if someone killed someone I love, that’s part of being human I guess, it’s easy for me to look at the situation and say wow all lives matter and all life is precious because I’ve not experienced the death of a loved one by the hand of another human being. Still at this time I find myself landing on the side of those that are against the death penalty. Life is sacred, all life, how can we advocate for one set of lives and ignore or campaign against another? If I really believe that grace is for all, that forgiveness is available to all, how much am I standing in that space when I call for the death of another human being? This all started to bother me when a well known Christian leader made the following stupid comment regarding Hugo Chavez…”We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability,” Robertson said Monday on the Christian Broadcast Network’s The 700 Club. I don’t see much grace, mercy or hope for the salvation of a fellow human being in that statement. What’s crazy is the same guy that was calling for the assassination of a human being, has called for a moratorium on the Death Penalty and sits at odds with other Conservative Christian leaders. Following the Gissendaner case just really solidified my opposition. So yes my faith and values have changed when it comes to this very divisive issue.

The Oregon Shooting is yet another reason that I am and have been for some time firmly in the gun control camp. When friends post comments that I find idiotic I struggle with allowing their posts on my news feed. The idea that more guns carried by more people will make us all safer boggles my mind, yet I regularly find these types of comments, and posts. In 2014 the NRA spent over $3,000,000.00 this year so far they have spent over $1,000,000.00 and the year isn’t over yet. The desire to have zero regulation when it comes to owning fire arms. ZERO regulation is amazing to me. The NRA opposes background checks, thinks owning assault rifles is no real problem, don’t want databases that show gun ownership to be kept, and don’t like any changes to fire arm registration. They throw up the smoke screen of mental health issues, while keeping guns for any. My question has consistently been why?  Why do you need that Glock 9, what’s the point of owning an AR15, why do you need an extended magazine? I’m sorry but if you’re such a bad shot that when trying to “defend” your home you need more than the average of 15 to 17 rounds I don’t want you to have a gun, after all it’s not a toy. Why we think the answer to gun violence is more gun ownership boggles the mind, but I can go to my news feed on Facebook and find loads of people posting reasons that it’s a good thing for more people to be armed. I’m not advocating for banning all firearms, far from it, but some things just make sense as far as I’m concerned. The arguments that people make are getting old and wearing thin, “Criminals will still get guns if they want them.”  “If you think taking away guns will curb violence you’re wrong.” “The majority of gun owners and collectors are responsible and safe.” Except when those things aren’t true which seems to be more and more frequently. I’m all about gun control, have been for a while, will continue to be. I think part of purchasing a gun should be stating the purpose for said gun. If purchasing for “protection,” state that in the application and along with the background check, that should be rather exhaustive, there should be a reference check. I think if it’s for hunting that too should be stated, along with what you are planning to hunt, again with references as well as a comprehensive background check. It should be harder to purchase a gun than it is to purchase any other item. It should take time, it should be a rigorous process, that is evaluated every 3 to 5 years. Recently I had to renew my license to drive. There are two sets of renewals in MD. Once you hit 40 you can no longer renew at the kiosk, once you hit 40 you have to renew with a teller because they want to make sure you can see, they want to evaluate how safe you are to operate a car. Why should owning something that has just as much potential to end a human life as a vehicle not be subject to further evaluation on a regular basis?

Death comes in many forms. It can come at the hands of the state, it can come at the hands of a deranged individual, it can come softly in the night. The one constant is that it will come. It will bring with it sadness, and anger, and for some hope of eternity. What we do with death when it happens and we are left behind is what matters. If we look at the death of Kelly Gissendaner as what she deserved, and the shooting as “stuff happens” (Jeb Bush) we are missing out on an opportunity to be better, to change, to grow to evolve. As Christians we are missing an opportunity to be with the people effected to pray for those that are hurting and stand for those that have no voice.

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