Thursday, April 3, 2014. Opening Day of Cabela’s in Greenville, SC, right on Woodruff Rd., where the traffic gods decided we needed a bit more traffic. Apparently, there’s been an expansion effort on the part of Cabela’s and there are cities all over the country that are celebrating their own opening days like we are today, mostly by standing in long lines and fantasizing about the whole world of outdoor adventures being opened to us.

A friend of mine went to the soft opening of the store a few nights back and said the gun section was packed to the brim, as if no one else was selling these things. But I know the people in my community can’t get enough everything sportsmen, specifically guns. It’s a sobering thing to see the sportsmen file into the gun section the day after 3 people were shot to death at Fort Hood in Texas. And it seems like, once again, the gun control debate will reach a fever pitch and my friends who love everything sportsmen will be up in arms, and my friends who are hippies and pacifists will be up in arms too. And I wonder what this means for the church to speak up for Jesus and tell the culture the way he would see it.

Strange as it might seem, this is where I landed:

At the prospect of taking a 15 hour road trip with me, one of my friends said plainly, “You’d kill me.” I think that was just meant to be funny. But maybe she really thinks I’d kill her. Maybe I am a killer.

I had a friend in middle school tell me that, when he sat in church, he fantasized about gunmen coming into the sanctuary, and he would devise strategies for dispatching them. Come to think of it, I had the same fantasies. I had Columbine on the brain, which turned into the Amish school shooting in PA, which turned into Virginia Tech, which turned into Fort Hood, which turned into Norway, and, finally yesterday turned back into Fort Hood again. And that’s only mentioning a few.

When I was child growing up in West Africa I would hunt lizards with a BB gun. At one point a seasoned missionary asked me why I was doing that. I told him because it was fun. He said that lizards were helpful because they ate the bugs and that you should only kill things if you were going to eat them. I did not eat the lizards I killed, but I commenced with hunting them anyway. I remember trying to avoid that same missionary if I was ever strolling around with my friend and his gun, looking for a lizard crawling on a wall. When I think about it now, I know I just wanted to kill something. I’m a killer, you know? Strange to say it, but it’s something I have to admit.

Nobody in their right mind would ever say that guns are the primary problem with the violence we see grabbing the headlines. Everyone on the gun debate spectrum would say that the real key to non-violence is keeping weapons away from violent people. Some people think they can do that by getting rid of guns. Some people think they can do that by shooting the violent people who have guns. In the end, the concern is about bad people, not bad weapons. That doesn’t present any kind of solution or resolution; it’s just true.

What else is true is that I’m a killer. And you, Reader, are a killer too. I demonstrated that when I shot lizards “just to watch them die.” Christians demonstrate that when they take Communion and feel the sobering weight of being the sinners that put Jesus on the cross. Maybe it’s those who realize they are killers who can understand how to use a gun safely and with the necessary precaution, not because guns are dangerous, but because their users are. Maybe it’s those who realize they are killers who can say they will never purchase a gun because they know what they’re capable of. I can’t really judge between them. But I do think that, whether or not you’re stoked about Cabela’s coming to town, and whether you are for or against gun control, Christians have a chance to start a conversation. And they have the chance to start that conversation with, “I’m a killer. I put Jesus on the cross. But there’s hope for me because Jesus turned my death into life. And there’s hope for all the Columbines and Fort Hoods of the past, present and future because on the Last Day, inexplicably, that death will be turned into life as well.”

–Jonathan Allston

 

*Much of the conceptual flavor of this post, including its title, has been shaped by “Guns & Peace: on an American Icon,” an essay by Larry Woiwode included in Words Made Fresh: Essays on Literature and Culture.


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Eleuthera Team 4.14

 

Our first CE Training Camp Team returned last night from Eleuthera. Team member Joey Espinosa wrote a blog recounting his time on the island and lessons learned. You can see the full post on the Doster’s blog.

 

 

…We tend to focus on the now of the Biblical timeline and of our lives, and we are usually able to look back on God’s history. But we don’t look forward often enough. We easily forget the glorious idea that God will bring about His New Creation one day… Read More.


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bracketsThis is one of the happiest weeks of the year for a lot of Americans, which may be a serious problem, but I would like to be sympathetic to them, because this week is pretty high on my list of good weeks as well. It’s tournament time, and if you don’t know which tournament, shame on you.

We found out on Selection Sunday where our favorites landed, or didn’t land, and for the last several days, the bulk of the American working class, non-working class, and too-rich-to-still-be-working class have spent hours of their work days predicting how it will all pan out. I’ve never had a single job where people didn’t have brackets lying around the office or the shop this time of year, and I think that’s an abundantly good thing. It helps people play at work, which should happen a lot more often in my opinion. But I digress.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they don’t watch college basketball until March Madness strikes because, interestingly enough, there’s something about filling out that bracket for your office pool or for ESPN, or for that one where Warren Buffett gives you $1 billion for filling out a perfect bracket–there’s something about filling out that bracket that suddenly makes you care who wins, and every game becomes a big deal. It’s amazing that when we lean into something, even with as little action as filling out a bracket, that our affections start to get involved. We start to engage people around something outside of ourselves, and we laugh about how we predicted that huge upset simply because the underdog’s mascot suited our fancy, and we start to care about teams and coaches and players, and we get legitimately upset at real people for making bad refereeing decisions. It’s just crazy. But it’s awesome.

That’s one thing bracketology can teach our souls. Lean into something, move towards it with only the slightest bit of action, and our affections will start to get involved. That’s true of relationships and how we engage culture and how we work and I could go on and on.

And here’s the other thing: I find it fascinating how much “fairy story” talk there is surrounding March Madness. Cinderella teams, fairy tale endings, miraculous plays, etc. The truth is, sports is one of the primary venues people flock to in order to find the magical, the other-worldly, the transcendent. And that’s actually a good thing. Granted, our society has more invested in sports than sports could ever return to society, and it could be one of the things that not only points to, but also enables our society’s destruction (not to be too apocalyptic). But our destruction will only be a symptom of a good desire that has been misappropriated. The fact that people turn to March Madness to find transcendence means that they are actually looking for it, and since most of them don’t know who Jesus really is, why would we expect them to look anywhere else but sports and sex and work and whatever else our culture binges on? Because there are tastes of the magical in those things too, and they will actually point us to the Deeper Magic if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

So, you might as well move into this bracketology/March Madness thing. Everyone else is doing it, and maybe you can tell them all where the real magic is. Along the way, another Cinderella story might help you taste the real magic in a way you never have before.

–Jonathan Allston


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