I Want to Add Mustard Gas to my Gun Collection

Early weapons models, such as the "Fat Ma...
Early weapons models, such as the “Fat Man” bomb, were extremely large and difficult to use. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What if a large comittee of white mostly rich men gathered and wrote a document over too years ago?  A document that was brilliant, progressive, ahead of it’s time, but also limited by their joint experiences, their personal and historical cirumstances, preconceptions, and prejudices?  What if portions were left intentionally vague as a manner of settling the tremendous differences that even popped up among this group? 

As we used this document to guide our decisions, how far would our assumptions drift from what they meant?  At what point would our circumstances become so different from the original that it became absurd to say “The founding fathers would have felt X about Y” Because circumstance Y would have been so alien to their life experience we can really have no way whatsoever to know how they would have felt.

At some point, the game becomes one of “The founding fathers were my kind-of people.  If they had been born today, they would have been like me.  That’s why I think the constitution supports my position.”

Again, I think the Constitution is an amazing document.  It ought to be rated among the top human-created documents ever.  I think it is is still informative, instructive, and useful.  But I think we are in a time and place that we need to proclaim the emporer naked: we have to admit that there is places where we are without constitutional guidance.

A test case: The Second Ammendment

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The word “arms” written above can sometimes be narrowly defined as “firearms”– pistols, rifles, etc.

But it can be more broadly defined to include all sorts of weapons.  If somebody had a knife, and I asked, “Are you armed?”  They would answer “Yes.”  More to the point, I could say “Is that airplane armed?” and if it had a missile, or a bomb, or a chemical weapon, we would answer, “Yes.”

When the constitution was written, the second ammendment could and should have meant “People can have any available weapon that the military can have.”

I hope most people will agree with me that holding such a position today would be a little bit crazy.  The second ammendment does not guarentee a person’s right to have a rocket propelled grenade.  A conventional missile.  Chemical weapons.  Nuclear weapons. 

So here’s the question for the NRA and all their friends: What limits would you place on the second ammendment?  What weapons is a person NOT entitlted to bear?

I haven’t heard a serious answer to the question.  It’s a thorny one.  But can we please just stop saying that every difficult question is a slipper slope?  Because an awfully slippery slope has been created by the failure to answer questions like this one: we now live in a world where the slippery slope implies an every day average joe has the right to mustard gas and nuclear bombs.

The fact of whether or not said Joe currently owns them is irrelevant.  What I am throwing down the guantlet for is a guiding principal: how will we know when someone owns something that exceeds their right to bear arms? 

What many members of the other side don’t want to admit is that their is not a qualitative difference between our positions.  It is one of degrees.  Every thinking person has to put some limits somewhere on what a personal can own.  These limits may not be agnowledged.  But I’m now pointing at the elephant in the room for the gun-rights folks.  What are you going to do about it?

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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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