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Death, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I missed “Bring Your Gun to Starbucks Day” this week.

The plan was to “thank starbucks for standing up for our right to bear arms” by bearing arms into Starbucks and ordering coffee. There was a logo and everything – the Starbucks mermaid-goddess, brandishing two handguns, framed with the words “I Love Guns & Coffee”.

I find this all rather disconcerting.

I understand why you need to carry a gun. I understand the need for self defense. I understand that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

In this broken world, perhaps guns are necessary. But we’ve forgetten that they’re a necessary evil, and they’ve become something celebrated and loved.

Guns[ source: The Daily Dot ]

Evil never rests, and if a bad guy is in a coffee shop with a gun then I’m grateful that a good guy can carry his gun into the coffee shop too. That right, and the freedom and security it brings, should be celebrated.

But what does it say about us, about our society, when we aren’t just celebrating our rights, our freedom, and security – we’re celebrating the weapons themselves? What does it say about ourselves when we proudly proclaim “I love guns!”? Have we forgotten that these are implements of death, carefully designed and engineered to quickly and accurately damage and destroy human bodies?

micah(These guns are designed to shoot plywood and small animals.)

Of course, there are good and healthy places to use guns. I’ve enjoyed shooting at pop cans and targets in the woods of Arkansas. I love meat as much as anybody, and respect anybody who can turn an animal into steak. But when you’re carrying a handgun into a coffee shop, it has nothing to do with sport. As the organizers of Starbucks gun day said, “Second Amendment is not about hunting deer. It’s about stopping thugs from hunting your family.”

When you put it that way, it seems like a strange hobby.

Maybe we should think about concealed guns the way we think about life insurance policies –  you should have one if you need it, but you should also pray to God that you never do need it. But instead, we have this. Not just a love of liberty, a love of the guns themselves. Celebration of the tools of death.

They say that if you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. I wonder sometimes if this is not what weapons have become in our society. We’ve fallen in love with the sense of power, the bravado, the invincibility. And it’s permeated every level of our lives, from the handguns in Starbucks to the armed volunteer patrolling the suburbs. From SWAT teams serving routine warrants to Obama’s drones. If you’re a good guy with a gun, maybe you’re more likely to find a bad guy to shoot.

1186109_701269319900620_360117370_n[ source: GunOwners4Liberty ]

I wonder if we’ve stopped praying “God, I hope I never have to use this” and instead say “I can’t wait…”

When I see this sort of gun culture in America, I wonder when worst case scenario preparation became entertainment? It’s a small step from shooting pop cans to shooting human silhouettes. When is readiness simply recreational simulation of killing?

I’ve spent many hours myself in the recreational simulation of killing. Sitting in front of my TV pulling the trigger on a wireless controller, piling up bodies of anonymous terrorists and then cashing in kills for more weapons. I can slit a hundred throats and then nonchalantly switch over to playing football or racing dirt bikes, as if they’re all the same thing. Just a few hours of evening entertainment. And this is what bothers me the most, about guns in Starbucks and about war games and target shooting:

We’ve blurred the lines between recreation and self-defense. Arming ourselves against evil has become a hobby, an identity, a lifestyle. 

(One of the most informative things I’ve read about American gun culture is this Cracked article – it’s full of profanities, so discretion is advised.) 

There’s a lot more that could be said about mental health and the Second Amendment and war and what Jesus meant when He said “Put away you sword.” I’ve had those conversations before, and will continue to. They’re infinitely complex issues, and easy answers are rarely true. I have friends on all sides of the conversation who I love and respect.

But maybe in the midst of all those conversations we’d be wise to take a moment and ask some deeper questions. About why we love guns, and what that says about our culture, about our hearts?

Today I’m wondering what to do when we find ourselves at the intersection of the Constitution and the Sermon on the Mount?

Today I’m wondering — when did life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness become so tied up in death too?

published September 20, 2013

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