The Deaths Guns Cause
Another mass shooting has ignited yet another round of acrimonious debate about gun control. One thing everyone agrees on is 33,500 deaths a year by guns is way, way too many. What's eye-opening is the actual cause of these deaths, as compiled and impressively presented by FiveThirtyEight. The graphics are terrific.
While mass shootings prompt debate, they make up a very small percentage of gun deaths. Also, while gun laws of one sort or another would no doubt help, most of us feel powerless to do much legislatively. But there is one area where Christians, and especially the church, can potentially make a significant impact on gun deaths. Two-thirds of all gun deaths in America are from suicides, and 85 percent of those are committed by men, and nearly half of all suicides are committed by men over age 45.
It is one of the greatest crises in America, sorely under-reported, and one for which the church has the most honest and hopeful message desperate men need to hear.
Democracy: The Least Bad Solution
I'm pretty unhappy with the tone of "Shelby Foote's Civil War History Defends America Against Insatiable Haters Like Ta-Nehisi Coates." And while writers like Coates could fairly be accused of hating America, the deep anger and frustration that African Americans express toward the nation is not hard to understand and appreciate. That being said, when deep resentment leads to a repudiation of democracy, we're entering a minefield that could destroy it.
Democracy's chief virtue is its realistic, Christian understanding of humankind. People and societies are plagued by selfishness that regularly sabotages justice. Yet we also strive for the very justice we habitually thwart. This is an insoluble tension about which we make progress only in fits and starts. Democracy requires patience and compromise—which means learning to live with partial solutions that slowly make their way toward better solutions.
It's not just Coates who is angry with democracy; so is his nemesis Donald Trump—as are extremists of every stripe these days. "Shelby Foot's Civil War …" uses the debates surrounding America's bloodiest war to remind us about how democracy works and why it continues to work better than any other system we've yet devised.
We Cannot Not Choose
Speaking of America, here's another feature of the American experiment: the need for every man and woman to choose their faith. Our Catholic and Orthodox friends will sometimes claim that theirs is a faith into which they have been born and bred. Yes and no. Given the pluralistic landscape of American religion, one still has to choose to remain in the religion of one's childhood. And that changes not only the nature of religion but also the adherents, as this review of The Chance of Salvation: A History of Conversion in America suggests.
Pilgrims in America's Ice Age
We rightly laud the English adventurers who left the relative security of England to venture forth into the unknown, founding a colony called Jamestown. What I've not been aware of is the real human costs of that venture. For reasons of climate mostly, within a year, they were desperate:
"We are starved! We are starved!" the sixty skeletal members of the English colony of Jamestown cried out in desperation as two ships arrived with provisions in June 1610. Of the roughly 240 people who were in Jamestown at the start of the winter of 1609-1610, they were the only ones left alive. They suffered from exhaustion, starvation, and malnutrition as well as from a strange sickness that "caused all our skinns to peele off, from head to foote, as if we had beene flayed."
Thereafter follows a fascinating book review of A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe's Encounter with North America.
Grace and peace,
Friday, November 10, 2017
The Deaths Guns Cause