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Our Country's Value Problem

Thomas Whitley

That our country has a gun problem is undeniable. Since 1982 there have been at least 62 mass shootings. When compared with other high-income countries, our countries firearm homicide rates are 19.5 times higher. When we look at the 23 countries whose firearm homicide, firearm suicide, and unintentional firearm deaths statistics from 2003 were studied in this report, we get this sobering sentence:

Among these 23 countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States, 86% of women killed by firearms were US women, and 87% of all children aged 0 to 14 killed by firearms were US children.

Over the past 24 hours I've seen many Christians proclaim confidently that we don't have a gun problem, but rather that we have a God problem. Mike Huckabee, failed Republican presidential contender and Fox News host, said that we should not be surprised in the least by the shooting in Newtown, CT:

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?

This is the same Huckabee who said, after the shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado this summer, that

We don't have a crime problem, a gun problem or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem, and since we've ordered God out of our schools, and communities, the military and public conversations, you know we really shouldn't act so surprised ... when all hell breaks loose.

John Piper has taken it upon himself to explain to all us "the mind of God" in the midst of this tragedy. He sees a very specific lesson here for all of us and it's one that places an equal amount of guilt on all of us in responding to the shooting as it does the perpetrator of the crime:

Because both are a sin against God, not just man. Jesus’s threat of hell is owing not to the seriousness of murder against man, but to the seriousness of treason against God. In the mind of Jesus — the mind of God — heartfelt verbal invective against God’s image is an assault on the infinite dignity of God, the infinite worth of God. It is, therefore, in Jesus’s mind, worthy of God’s righteous judgment.

So what we saw yesterday in the Newtown murders was a picture of the seriousness of our own corruption. None of us escapes the charge of sinful anger and verbal venom. So we are all under the just sentence of God’s penalty.

So, do we have a gun problem or a sin problem? Am I just as guilty as the shooter in all of this because of my anger toward the situation? Aren't the people of God supposed to be outraged at injustice of every kind?

Our country has major problems; there can be no denying that. And I think that one of those problems is a value problem. For many yesterday, one of their first reactions to the massacre was, "Now the liberals are going to come for my guns." My Twitter feed and Facebook newsfeed were full of citizens proudly declaring that they will never give up their second amendment right, as if their right to own a hunting rifle were more important, more precious, more valuable than a kindergartener's right to live a full and healthy life.

The truth is, I'm not trying to take away anyone's guns or calling for legislation to do that. I know scores of responsible gun owners and certainly appreciate the sport (hunting) and protection that they can afford. I grew up with guns in my house and with a dad who taught me about responsible gun ownership. But I also lost an uncle way too early to a firearm death and I mourn for fellow citizens whom I have never met when they die as a result of a firearm death. If you ask me (and yes I fully understand that no one has), the second amendment should be interpreted much more narrowly since our country no longer has need of a militia of any sort.

But this is not the only issue here, and may not even be the biggest issue here. What dumbfounds me most is that our country seems to be in a place where we simply do not value the lives of our fellow citizens enough to even have a conversation about what we could do differently to try to prevent these tragedies. No one can even think about changing our gun laws. So what, if it's harder to buy Sudafed than it is to buy a gun, we have a RIGHT to own our guns and carry them wherever we so desire; the kindergarteners and teachers who were gunned down in their school yesterday are, apparently, just collateral damage.

Society, you're a crazy breed.