John Bennison Words and Ways | All I Want for Christmas Is an AK-47

All I Want for Christmas Is an AK-47

When the Reason for the Season Goes Missing

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Making a list, and checking it twice: “The Prophet Isaiah” – Raphael, 1512

Making a list, and checking it twice: “The Prophet Isaiah” – Raphael, 1512

The morning news cycle yesterday made passing reference that — among the brisk Black Friday holiday shopping spree sales last week — Americans snatched up more guns for gifts than in any previous year. Only a few hours later, news broke of another mass shooting spree, this time in San Bernardino.

The media predictably descended on that community, just a few miles from where my daughter, her husband and our 2-year old granddaughter live. Camera crews were close on the heels of swat teams in armored vehicles; with scenes that bore the resemblance to embedded reporters accompanying boots on the ground in foreign lands. Except this was the Inland Empire in Southern California.

Immediately the same questions and futile search for answers emerged, and all the worn and weary arguments about gun control waited in the wings to make their various, detached pitches for background checks, better mental health screening procedures, the ineffectiveness of terror watch lists, or second amendment rights of the 37% of all Americans who own and love their guns.

But regardless of whatever facts emerge in the aftermath of what has happened once again, people are already puzzled and perplexed in the vain search for explanations. This was no lone, crazed gunman. This was an American couple in their twenties, who left behind a six-month old child who is now an now orphan. According to first reports from baffled family members and friends, no one saw this coming. And as we all know, if you can’t see it coming – even if you yourself are armed to the teeth — how can you dodge a bullet?

But the plain truth is that’s the wrong question, based on a false assumption and illusory myth. Good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns. Except, in the vast majority of cases, only after the damage is done. In classic terms, it is once again the violent response to the myth of redemptive violence. On our behalf, law enforcement becomes entangled in a tragic pas de deux with the perpetrator.

With every perpetrator, there is one common denominator. We usually don’t know why they did it, at least initially. But we always do know how they did it. And we can say that for whatever reason they did what they did, it was an act intended to express something. Whether that something was to advance a cause or redress a grievance, it was intentional. And, in this case, the means used to express that something in such a lethal way was with legally acquired weapons that provided the means to commit those violent acts. Whether or not this scenario fits our predisposed opinions, those are simple, plain and undeniable facts. But lest the reader think this is just another editorial debate ….

This is the season Christian faith communities of every sort prepare in one way or another to observe the nativity of something deemed to be holy and salvific. We recall ancient prophecies that foretell a “prince of peace, and wonderful counselor” comes around each year with a message to save us from ourselves. (Isaiah 9:6)

Once born into a world of violence and terror not unlike our own, the message remains unchanged. Regrettably, so too has been the obstinate ways in which we have collectively refused to live with one another in response to that message.

We recall ancient prophecies that foretell a “prince of peace, and wonderful counselor” comes around each year with a message to save us from ourselves. Once born into a world of violence and terror not unlike our own, the message remains unchanged.

And while we seem to remain deaf to what is obvious, that message is not simply for the few individuals who – for whatever reason – are unable to hear that message. It is for every law-abiding gun-totin’ citizen; as well as the two-thirds majority of our citizenry who do not possess a firearm. It’s not about the few that can’t hear or won’t listen. It’s about the rest of us who can.

It was just over two years ago that a place called Sandy Hook Elementary School dominated the news cycle for a period of time [see “We Love Our Guns More”]. And there have been a numbing number of similar mass shootings since, in what we proudly call the “land of the free.”

At a recent charity event at a shooting range near Atlanta, Georgia, kids got to pose with Santa and an AK-47.

At a recent charity event at a shooting range near Atlanta, Georgia, kids got to pose with Santa and an AK-47.

But we are hardly free from the self-inflicted violence that is a plague on all our houses. As a society and a nation, we worry and wage war on terrorism abroad, while remaining intransigent to the kind of terror we blindly and willfully inflict upon ourselves. Time and again we shoot ourselves in the foot with the weapons we hold in our hands.

I have long thought the lack of any reasonable restrictions we have when it comes to guns is rooted in their obvious appeal; leading to their preponderance in staggering numbers in a culture that allows utter unreasonableness to pose under the guise of individual rights.

At the same time, I’m convinced we will not simply legislate our way out of this morass of violence through reasonable debate, a half-baked compromise, or a better argument. We live under a fundamental fallacy that violence is an acceptable response. It is a false myth, perpetuated by current social standards and norms. It is only exaggerated by those who uncontrollably and unpredictably fall off the grid of what poses as normalcy.

Yet the totally impractical, unrealistic and prophetic message of Christmas remains undeterred; with a nagging question that comes around every year, as we prepare for this holiday in the midst of carnage and chaos. We have erred so long on the side of doing nothing, might it not be time to err instead on the side of doing something, regardless of its possible ineffectiveness?

When my spouse asked the other day what I wanted for Christmas, I replied I already had everything I needed. I’ve since changed my mind. I want an AK-47, dismantled and rendered inoperable. I don’t care if such a gesture will only be an insignificant and inconsequential drop in the bucket of unprecedented U.S. arms sales this holiday season.

As I recollect it, the reason for the season began with a voice crying in the wilderness; a place where we seem to still remain. The echo of that voice still remains as well. It is something like, “Prepare the way of the one would be the lord of life.” (Isaiah 40:3)

As I recollect it, the reason for the season began with a voice crying in the wilderness; a place where we seem to still remain. The echo of that voice still remains as well. 

 

© 2015 by John William Bennison, Rel.D. All rights reserved.

This article should only be used or reproduced with proper credit.

To read more commentaries by John Bennison from the perspective of a Christian progressive go to

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http://thechristianprogressive.com

3 Comments

  1. I can’t tell you John – How much I miss you and your take on current events – As an aging person, I am so afraid for my children and grandchildren – for the future – for this country – I am not sure I want to be here on earth any longer. I don’t know this new generation – I don’t know this government any longer. I just know that this isn’t the way I was brought up, the way we lived just 10 yrs ago. We have lost our morals, our belief that above all else LIFE is important, and our belief in God. Thank you for your words of wisdom – you give me hope that maybe Faith will win out – I’m just not sure how reality is going to “pan out”

    • Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your fears and concerns. I believe “being on this earth” is the only option we have, or can know with any certainty. So the faith you mention is the trust even the slightest step toward a shared, common good — like my Christmas wish for disarmament, if even only symbolic — will not be a futile gesture. If you are moved to do even more, do it! jb

  2. Fred Fenton /

    How right you are. As individuals and as a nation we remain committed to what you call “the myth of redemptive violence,” refusing to heed the ancient message to save ourselves by a commitment to peace on earth. Religion should help us discover and respect our common humanity. Instead it often provides a perverted rational for the divisions among us.

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