(EDITOR'S NOTE: Faith Matters is a column written by the social concerns committee of the United Churches of Lycoming County. The monthly feature will include local faith-based comment on significant social issues facing us today. Letters reacting to the columns should be brief and clear and may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in the columns are those of the writers and the social concerns committee, not necessarily the Sun-Gazette.)
Although the Disciples took up swords to defend Jesus at Gethsemane, Jesus ordered a halt, healed a wounded arrester and bravely accepted his fate (Luke 22:47-51 et al). Is the lesson that it's OK to carry weapons but not use them on folks? Does it depend on the circumstances? Almost all of the post-Easter Apostles eventually died violent deaths. They had faced danger without using weapons. Perhaps their faith led to their deaths, but more likely to fulfilled lives.
The right to be armed and to shoot if sufficiently fearful is a gun-owning enticement. It makes neighborhood watch patrols seem safer. There would be fewer bad calls by basketball referees if the crowd, fearing officiating bias, had the option of carrying guns; and there would be fewer boos and technical fouls if the refs were equally equipped. Load up. Game on!
Instead of that scenario, we have faith that fairness, competence and sportsmanship nearly always will prevail.
When anxiety rules, a desperate dieter might waste the store assistant pushing a too-tempting sample of a cholesterol-topped cracker. A drunk might shoot at the approach of a breathalyzer device, thinking it a gun. A bus driver, seeing a sumo wrestler clambering aboard, might fear a take-over or roll-over. People fear that other folks may drill for gas in a sacred place or lay pipe over a sacred mountain - thus the rumored Lycoming-Loyalsock Militia, getting well organized, as the Second Amendment requires, and out to save our forests, waters and old loggers. Aw shoot, such things can't happen, can they?
Once when I was eating a tamale in a standing crowd in Mexico, a woman lurched at me screaming, "Comida!" I was being attacked as an unwanted alien, so I thought, and recoiled, not realizing she was crying for "food." Had I eased my insecurity by carrying a gun, it might have been - Blam!...one less indigent. The same to the "different-looking" stranger running toward me to return my wallet. Or the person who stumbles on me while entering my aisle in a darkened theater. The big guy who wants to T-bone my Knoebel's bumper car. Blam.
Were you ever confronted by the angry, shot-gun lifting landowner who upbraids your tired, hiking self for trespassing instead of asking you whether you are lost? Blam! I imagine dropping and letting go with my glockinator. Good riddance; it is really God's land anyhow, or the Indians'. But I jest. I am a non-confrontational guy who sold his only gun (bolt-action, single-shot) decades ago when eyesight worsened.
And the truly insane? What set them off? A cellphone ringing "YMCA" during a Zamfir concert? The voice of "God" in the churns of the Maytag? But they seemed perfectly sane at the gun store counter: "I'll have a Blastmaster and a keg of ammo, please." Shouldn't our rods be ready for likes of them?
Trust in God is trust in Life. "Fear not," said Jesus. Rarely is a gun, let alone an AR, required to fend off something feared. No good against a government drone, anyhow. Prayer and faith didn't save Christians in the arena from government lions, though assault weapons would have bought time. Sometimes you're just doomed. But you need faith that it won't happen to you or it's OK if it does; otherwise, you'll live with a holster and a quiver.
The dying protagonist of Conrad's novel Victory advises, "Woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young to hope, to love - and to put its trust in life!" Before we're out of time, let's reload our hearts with faith and love.
Coates is a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Williamsport.