Spirit Quest


Gun culture, grief and the Gold Rule

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

I hesitate to add to the verbal overkill on the subject of the Tucson Tragedy. Much has been written and spoken on the subject from both those who are sure that the killing spree was an isolated incident by a demented individual, and by those who believe that there are wider ramifications that impugn the violent political  rhetoric current in the United States. There are also those who blame the ready availability of guns and those who believe that all should be armed.
We, and I include Canada, who have our own Ecole Politechnique and Mayerthorpe, live in a culture of violence. Look through your morning paper and count the number of incidents of gun crimes reported in all their gory glory, though not as many as our government wants us to believe. Or look at the ads for films playing at your friendly neighbourhood theatres. The carnage thus portrayed is overwhelming.  Is it really entertainment for a snowy  Sunday afternoon with the family?
This culture has had a long run. As children we played cowboys and indians with its daily shootouts modelled on what we saw in comic books and serial movies. Good guys and bad guys looked to resolve quarrels through the end of a gun.
Six-shooters were the gift of choice under the Christmas tree. For a time I felt denied when my parents spurned  the toy arms industry as they refused to give me weapons of offense or defense — whichever. Somehow I managed to whittle a pistol’s facsimile out of a piece of wood and joined “the shootout at high noon.” This at least gave me status with my “playmates.”
Violence was everywhere in the wild west and the back alleys of big cities. Of course there were the battlefields abroad. All this was escalating to weapons of mass destruction on this planet or in Star Wars. The solution was always the same: the elimination of the enemy.
Proponents of the gun culture, and there are many in this peaceful kingdom,  suggest that had there been more armed and right minded citizens at the Plaza that Saturday two weeks ago the perpetrator could have been “felled” before he could have claimed many more lives. They probably also believe in “mutual assured destruction” as a sure deterrent. MAD is a good acronym. It was a brave woman and several unarmed bystanders who finally subdued the shooter. 
What grieves and perplexes me is that so many so-called Christians support violence and indeed are prepared to speed the arrival of Christ and the ensuing Armageddon to bring on the Kingdom of God, blood and guts all over but only of the infidel. Darwin in his theory of evolution stated that nature is red in tooth and claw. Are we therefore to remain helpless and sadly affirm that there is no other way?
The important task for people of faith is the formation of a Peace Crusade. I hesitate to use that word “crusade” for they were bloodbaths initiated and supported by the Christian church to secure control of the “Holy Land” from the Saracen horde though Saladin was an enlightened host. Today it’s Israel that wants to own the land from Dan to Beersheeba by the might of the IDF.
Crusade comes from the word cross. The cross has been carried into conflict from the Battle at Milvan Bridge (312 AD) when Emperor Constantine’s force painted  crosses on their shields. The emperor had been advised  by a voice that “by the cross you shall conquer.” His successful conquest led to the adoption of Christianity as the empire’s official religion.  Since then clergy have been called upon to bless the weapons of the combatants. Victory was to be achieved  from the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun “with the cross of Jesus going on before,” as the hymn has it. I beg for a different understanding of  crusade.  In the Christian tradition  Jesus died on a cross willingly not painlessly.
Last week I wrote about Karen Armstrong’s latest book: Twelve Steps To A Compassionate Life in which she offers a program of mutual understanding. The Golden Rule which she quotes is not specifically Christian, its sentiments can be found in all faiths, the monotheistic as well the ancient eastern religions. She quotes: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” but also: “Do  not do to others what you would not have them do to you.”
Doubtless I shall be ridiculed as a dreamy eyed idealist. Realpolitik a la Kissinger and his Austrian idol Metternich is held to be the only way to exist in this sad world. In other words, the fastest draw wins.
I prefer to be the idealist, dreamy or realist.  In his tome (over 1000 pages) A Brief History of Christianity: the First 3000 Years, Diarmaid MacCulloch, marvels that in a relatively short time that small offshoot of Judaism morphed into a worldwide movement.  Would it not be possible for a peace movement to become a global force? Indeed, there is such a movement called the World Conference on Religion and Peace. It has three primary aims: Stop War, End Poverty, Protect the Earth. Unfortunately it is not much heard about from our pulpits and lecterns.  The media has dismissed it with their inattention.
Religious bodies in Canada can begin by centering on our government’s addiction to weaponry e.g. the purchase of fighter jets which are useful only in all out war or for bragging. Certainly poverty has much to do with the unrest of our time. Perhaps an assured minimum wage such as was experimented with very successfully in Dauphin, Manitoba, might go a long way to alleviating hardship. Protect the Earth, I was glad to read His Royal Highness’  The Prince of Wales recent book  Harmony, in which he tells of his own concern and efforts to protect creation. The violent weather of our time has its own message that we should heed.
Let’s have a True Crusade whose only acceptable victory is Peace, Justice and the Integrity of Creation. It will not be won through the barrel of a gun but through creative  and even sacrificial actions of caring people.
Hanns F Skoutajan

Dreamy Eyed Idealist.