Why do we have such a hard time talking about guns in the U.S.? Why are we so adamant about our “right” to own tools for killing? Is it possible America worships guns and violence? Does it seem like we’re more preoccupied with our right to own arms, than concerned with the quality, or worth, of other people’s lives? Is it possible it’d be more accurate for our currency to say, “In Guns We Trust”, rather than “In God We Trust”?
We name ourselves a “Christian nation” … yet, does what our news focuses on, the plague of mass shootings in our country, the increasing political divide, the way we tend to scapegoat people different than us on social media and television, and the obscene amount of money we spend on our military, etc. reflect a people who follows the Prince of Peace? Or, is it possible our actions are more reflective of the religion of Ares/Mars (the gods of violence and war)? With each mass shooting my heart grows heavier, and in my spirit I felt compelled to say something to help, hence today’s blog.
Before continuing, I’ll pause to say I REALLY hope everything I say comes across in a kind and understanding way, because that’s my heartfelt intention. Also, while my path is a gun-less one, I think shooting at the range is fun, and I’m not opposed to responsible gun ownership.
The stats backing up our gun/violence obsession are truly staggering. While I find statistics interesting and compelling, I get most people don’t. So, I’ll just ask: Why is America the only country with more civilian owned firearms than citizens (we’re at 1.2 per citizen, while 2nd place is just over .6)? Why do we lead the world in mass shootings? Why does the U.S. own approximately 46% of the WORLD’S civilian firearms, yet “say” we trust in God?
This is naturally a heart issue, and that’s where the long lasting change needs to come from, and what I’d like to talk about and hope we might agree on … AND, in the same way slavery had to first be stopped by laws, I think our gun problem does too! Just look at what happened in Australia. In response to 1996’s Port Arthur massacre (35 people killed), their government enacted sweeping firearm reforms to stop it from happening again. In the 18 years before Port Arthur, and these changes to the laws, Australia had 13 mass shootings. How many in the 23 years since? ZERO.
Okay, let’s move on to the topic of heart change. One of the reasons I’m all in for Jesus, and do my best to live yoga, is their heart-centricity. Before Christianity was named “Christianity”, the Christ’s early followers dubbed their movement “The Way”. They were convinced, as am I; Jesus showed us what it meant and how to be fully alive in the most beautiful and amazing way. In The Way of Christ, Love (the unconditional and selfless giving and receiving of our energies for collective thriving and flourishing) is the dance, and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 (akin to Jesus’ 10 commandments) gives us some essential dance moves.
I bring this up because one of the radical, and awesome, things Jesus invites us to is to love and care for our enemies. This call to practice nonviolence, named Ahimsain yoga, was nearly universally agreed upon and followed in the early church … until Christianity became the Roman Empire’s religion in the C.E. 300s.
One of the things I find most lovely about following Christ is we do our best to live and show the compelling beauty of the afterlife/heaven hereand now. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, and find it inspiring, that living your yoga mirrors this in a marvelous way. In paradise, there will be no more wars, zero killings, no violence, and no more cause for suffering and sorrow, so with the harmonious energy of the Spirit, we display this Truth today.
Realizing the way we do anything is the way we do everything, and getting to the heart of the matter, OUR HEARTS, I think it’ll be helpful to both broaden the topic and focus on the positive. Guns are the tip of the violence iceberg. So, transforming ourselves and our culture means shifting our words, clothes, social media posts and pictures, memes, actions, etc. from fear, division, shaming, exclusion, etc. to Love, unity, encouragement, inclusion, and so on.
In prophesying about the way of God and what heaven will look like, Isaiah and Micah paint beautiful pictures:
He will judge between the nations, and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.(Isaiah 2.4, New Revised Standard Version)
He will judge between many peoples, and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.(Micah 4.3, NRSV)
I’ve been so moved and compelled by this image of transforming our tools and ways of violence into nourishment, the first tattoo I got (which you can see at the top) was inspired by the Swords to Plowshares statue that’s in front of the U.N. building.
Even more than my heart is grieved by the divides in our country, the mass shootings, and the polarization, it sings and shouts with gladness just thinking about shifting my thoughts, words, posts, tools, actions, and energies from violence, in all its numerous forms, into nourishing Love, in its epic amount of yumminess. Imagine if this became a trend! You know all those movies where some unstoppable contagion (like a virus or biological weapon) threatens to, or does, sweep the world and kill most people? Kindness is like that … only better and more contagious!
I’m convinced everybody is doing the best they can (YOU are doing great!). The same shift in thinking and behaving resonates for different people at different times. For instance, for one person owning a gun for self-defense might feel right, while for another it might not. A key thing I see the practice of yoga, and teachings of Jesus, continually call us back to is MINDFULNESS. It’s gradually becoming more and more aware of the impact our words and deeds have on others, and ourselves, and increasingly choosing Love.
Since I began with a series of questions, I think it’s fitting to end with a couple. Does fear lead and guide us? Or does self-sacrificial, acting with the best interest of all beings Love lead and shape us?
Grace and peace,
2 thoughts on “Turning Violence into Nourishment: Talking About America’s Gun Culture, Mass Shootings, and the Way Forward”
America is one nation under a secular constitution, not a Christian nation. We are a free nation. The words “under God,” did not appear in the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954, when Congress, under McCarthyism, inserted them. Likewise, Congress mandated that “In God We Trust” appear on all currency only in 1955, and it was absent from paper currency prior to 1957. “In God We Trust” was belatedly adopted as our national motto in 1956. The ofﬁcial U.S. motto, chosen by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, is E Pluribus Unum (“Of Many, One”), celebrating plurality, not theocracy. I prefer to consent to the original motto expressed in many yogic traditions as “Many paths, one truth”. I even invite students who are uncomfortable with the ohm in class to say amen as it’s a similar vibration. As yoga teachers, we need to be very clear that yoga is a spiritual path, not a religion, and avoid propagating our own religious bias IMO.
Thank YOU! Great observations, history, and points! I’m with you 100% on the yoga as a spiritual path and not a religion. I really like your inviting students to replace ohm with amen if they prefer. That’s really cool and I think I’ll try and work that in. 🙂 I really hope I didn’t come across as propagating my own religious bias. Namaste and thanks friend!