Our colors are showing again. Even in the midst of our national mourning, we are flying our flags. Red or blue; for gun control or against gun control. Everybody seems to have an opinion and many are proudly proclaiming it on Facebook and Twitter and a whole host of other media outlets. Some insist that since we took prayer out of schools we should expect the sort of tragedy we experienced last week. Others claim that it’s not just that we have taken prayer out of our schools, but that we have taken God out of the public arena and even out of our collective lives. Still others see no such connection but recognize this event as a clarion call for gun control.
It bothers me greatly that even before we have a chance to grieve the terrible shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we are lining up to verbally gun down one another, firing our arguments at others with little sense of mutual respect. Its US against THEM; winner take all.
On Saturday after the shooting in Newtown I tweeted, “Perhaps the best response to this shooting tragedy might be to ask, “What will I do to make the world a better place?” My thought was that most of us can do little to help in Newtown, but there are things we all can do in our own community to heal hurts and make life better for others. Almost immediately someone replied to my tweet, “How about Gun RIGHTS people throwing ALL Gun Control people OFF a cliff!”
Wow! I thought. Where did that come from? What has happened to the public square? What has happened to respectful discussion of issues that effect us all? What has happened to common civility?
I’d like to think that we Christians are not guilty of this uncivil discourse, but I see too many people who claim to be followers of Christ who engage in a very uncivil form of “debate.”
Issues like homosexuality, abortion, fiscal cliffs, and gun-control are difficult issues. But it seems to me that progress in our discussions is most likely to be made when the parties have genuine respect for one another and refuse to demonize those with differing opinions.
I personally would like to see a national discussion regarding our use of guns in this country. My own opinion is that it could be beneficial to make owning certain guns more difficult. I don’t see any reason for a typical citizen to own an assault weapon. That’s MY opinion. But I don’t demonize those who think differently.
Perhaps we could highly train two or three teachers or administrators in our schools and give them access to a defensive weapon. Perhaps we all could be more sensitive to individuals in our sphere of influence who feel lonely and alienated, the kind who usually commit mass killings. Surely we can do more to address violence and mental illness in the greatest country in the world.
I don’t have the answers but I think we should invest more effort into finding some answers. Of course, there will always be people who commit atrocities, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do all we can to prevent them. We have lots of problems in our society that need addressing. This and other important issues require CIVIL discussion and mutual respect. Not to take anything away from the terrible tragedy in Newtown, but I wonder if uncivil demonizing of others is not a deeper, more important cultural issue for us than what happened in Newtown?