Why Gun Control Misses the Point

photo credit: John Steven Fernandez via photopin cc
photo credit: John Steven Fernandez via photopin cc

“The findings were disturbing….” So goes the beginning of a paragraph in an article about the Pulitzer Prize winning report (Assault on Learning) by the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding violence in the Philadelphia school system. After reading further, I could not help but agree—it is all very disturbing!

More than 30,000 serious incidents were reported in the district over a five-year period. On an average day, 25 students, teachers, or other staff members were beaten, robbed, sexually assaulted, or made victims of other violent crime. As large as those numbers seem, they didn’t represent the full gravity of the problem. Many violent incidents went unreported. Some attacks were carried out by children in the earliest grades.[1]

How many students are there in the district? According Susan Snyder—one of the lead journalists in the story—we are talking about only 146,000 students.[2] The significance of the problem becomes even greater when we recognize that schools are gun-free zones. In other words, very little of this violence had anything to do with firearms.

In one particularly sad case, more than 30 Asian students were brutally beaten by their fellow classmates—most of whom were African American. This type of situation was identity related and it stems from the third primary root of our fallen natures that contributes to violence—our quest for glory. Of the three roots mentioned—self-centered lust, the desire for control, and the quest for glory—the quest for glory is probably the most difficult for us to comprehend.

Adam & Eve had been created in the very image of God, and, being clothed in His glory, they were naked and unashamed. However, by choosing to seek a sense of goodness independent from their Creator, our ancient ancestors quickly found themselves naked and very much ashamed. Painfully separated from the King of Glory, the unhappy result was a glory deficiency which is now inherent to the entire human race.

Glory is fleeting . . .
photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc

From a very young age, it becomes every person’s goal to find a sense of significance through his or her performance, appearance, possessions, etc. It is in the fickle court of human approval that we seek to find significance. As we enter the world of comparisons and judgments, our value as human beings depends upon our ability to measure up to the ever-changing standards of our individual subcultures. In the high school scene, for example, those who meet current standards of beauty and athletic performance become wildly popular, while those who fall far short of the standards find themselves condemned as objects of scorn.

The pursuit of glory is so ingrained in the human psyche that for the most part we find it to be entirely natural. But the division it creates and the destruction it wreaks! A group of black students viciously beat 30 Asian students in Philadelphia schools simply because the Asians did not meet the standards of a black identity. Ironically, it was the same mindset used by whites to justify the horrors of slavery for so many years. We can see that at its roots this type of violence has nothing to do with black or white or any other skin color—it’s rooted in an all-encompassing effort to achieve a glory-based identity.

The tree of identity-based violence springs from the seed of contempt. Any time we despise someone who fails to meet our particular standards we commit an act of spiritual violence toward that individual. Physical violence ultimately erupts as we nourish seeds of contempt with the right (or wrong, depending on one’s perspective) environmental conditions.

At its core, the Gospel is an identity message.[3] We find our true significance through our relationship with God, not by our performance, but in our lofty status as sons and daughters of the eternal King of Glory. To abide in Christ is to be clothed once again in God’s greatness, secure in identity and free to be humble.

photo credit: Good Eye Might via photopin cc
photo credit: Good Eye Might via photopin cc

 Will fewer people be killed if our government implements gun control measures? Possibly. Violence and its resulting pain, however, will continue to plague American society until we strike the problem at its evil roots. Once again, the Gospel of Jesus Christ provides the most powerful solution to what ails us!

[1] Susan Snyder, The Press, the Passion, and the Prize, as found in the IUP Magazine, VOL. XXX, NO.3, p. 17

[3] Check out our Search for Me Identity Study for a much more in-depth explanation.


I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Glory!

There are few things in our world as painful as the blight of insignificance. We all want to know that we are valued by others—and not just for what we can do, but for who we are.

Photo by izik - CC BY 2.0

I remember a time when a local borough employee was vacuuming leaves on our street with what some of us locals affectionately call the leaf sucker. Upon hearing the monotonous hum of the large machine down the road, I ran out into my yard and began feverishly raking my neighbor’s leaves (which had blown into my yard) toward the curb.

Raking leaves sounds easy, but it’s actually a lot of work—especially when the pile is big and a person is in a hurry. After what seemed like an eon or two, I was only a few feet from the curb. By this time I was breathing heavily, my hands were beginning to blister and my shirt was stained with sweat. And there he came, the leaf sucker driver, a gray old guy about a 2 ½ days away from retirement.

Time froze momentarily as we stared into each other’s eyes, but alas, no heartfelt connection was to be made. Actually, it felt like the old geezer looked right through me! He simply kept on driving while I stood there exasperated—a mere 5 feet from the curb! In that moment a myriad of emotions flooded my heart—feelings of rejection, hurt, frustration and anger to name a few.

My guess is that we can easily come to a common consensus that insignificance sucks worse than that old leaf collector, but have you ever taken the time to wonder why insignificance and rejection are so painful to the human psyche?

Our ancient ancestors, Adam & Eve, were created in the very image of God. One thing is for sure about God—He is glorious! (My personal definition of glory is exalted greatness.) As long as they were in relationship with their loving Father, Mom & Dad were clothed in God’s glory. But as soon as they chose to go rogue, that covering of glory was removed and they found themselves naked and ashamed.

Photo by hackerfriendly - CC BY-SA 2.0

A helpful metaphor in understanding the nature of our relationship to God is the comparison between a moon and a star. A star has light (glory) within itself. A moon emits light only as a reflection of that star. Remove the moon from the star’s influence and it immediately goes dark. So it is with the human race. Our continued independence from God blackens the light of our individual and collective soul(s).

The problem is that we were created and wired for glory–our separation from God resulting in a never-ending glory deficiency. And so we crave glory. We crave it through an attractive appearance. We crave it through athletic prowess. We crave it through wealth and all of its accoutrements. We crave it through the pursuit of knowledge and college degrees. And most of all, we crave it through the approval of others.

Human glory is nothing short of intoxicating (at least for the moment), but like the unstoppable outgoing tide of the sea, glory flees, leaving the soul dark and empty. Of course, our natural response is to begin the pursuit all over again—laboring anew for yet another incoming tide of self-validation.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for glory!

I am so thankful that God has a better plan for each and every one of us! Stay tuned!