Tag Archives: NRA


Traverse City Crosswalk

Photography by D. Plasman

I pastored congregations for 32 years.

During that time I had innumerable conversations, cups of coffee, liters of beer, and counseling sessions with people who were clinically depressed, given to anxiety disorders, bipolar, suffering from dementia, coping with attention deficits, borderline schizophrenic, obsessive compulsive, autistic, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. All these human conditions are considered mental health issues.

Our President and many congressional leaders have referred to the latest mass shooting as a “mental health” issue. This unmeasured and unexamined response is an insult to all who suffer from mental health issues.

Perhaps the White House should appoint a team to study mental health issues in other industrialized countries. What would such a study uncover? Three things: (1) Every industrialized country has in its citizen population those who suffer from “mental health” issues. (2) Some countries do a better or a worse job than the U.S. in treating mental health issues. (3) No other industrialized country can compete with the U.S. when it comes to mass murders and gun violence.

It’s a false correlation to identify those with mental health issues as the main reason for gun violence. Only one correlation is also a causation: Easy access to guns leads to mass murders. Some mass murderers have mental health issues, but some do not. Some are just angry and pissed off . . . at gays, at immigrants, at blacks, at losing their job or not finding one, at other students who have more friends . . .

I’m not hopeful anything will change. If the murder of 20 children between six and seven years of age in Sandy Hook did nothing to change our gun culture, why should the latest tragedy? We are all complicit.



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The man who calls the White House home

Has pow’r beyond belief;

With shameless pride this one alone

Has caused the world much grief .


The deadly force of just one bomb

Exceeds what we have known;

The old, the young will find no calm

When seeds of hate are sown.


Our anthem plays, some bend a knee,

The lowly then are scorned;

What will it take for all to see

The humble ones must mourn?


Our guns we love as given rights,

To use as we deem fit;

Our bloodstained streets cry through the night;

What carnage we commit!


O Holy One, we dare to ask,

“How long must we endure?”

We hear you say: “This will not last,

If your protest is sure.”

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Joining the NRA

 ZXGUNPhotography by D. Plasman

Today, I joined the NRA. I went to www.nra.org, used my VISA card, and selected the one-year membership of $25. With my membership to the National Rifle Association, I’ll receive the digital magazine, America’s First Freedom (the cover story on the promo copy—“The Catastrophic Consequence of Gun Registration”—piqued my interest). I declined the offer to receive a free, camouflaged duffel bag with “NRA” emblazoned on the side. Quick confirmation of my subscription included the promise that my membership card will arrive in the mail.

I don’t own a gun. I don’t hunt. I don’t collect antique firearms. However, I’m not about to deny responsible people the right to do what I choose not to do.

I joined the NRA because I can’t get the names and faces out of my head: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor and Susie Jackson—all killed on June 17 by a 21-year-old gunman during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

The impact of this latest gun massacre already is fading from the news. In the United States, horrible stories like this one don’t remain front page stories for long. Here’s another reality: If the 2012 gun slaughter of twenty white children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School did nothing to tighten federal guns laws in our country, the death of nine black adults in Charleston will do even less. Nothing will change. Despite Columbine, Virginia Tech, The Navy Yard—nothing will change.

Nothing will change, in large part because of the power and influence of the NRA. The NRA owns too many politicians, is a darling of Fox News, and is warmly embraced by conservative talk show pundits. In my opinion, the leadership of the NRA spews forth far too much Second Amendment bullshit.

So, on this Father’s Day, I joined the NRA. As a dues-paying, card-carrying member, my goals are (1) to fight for universal background checks, (2) to seek a ban on assault weapons, and (3) to establish a federal database to track guns.

I entertain no hopes of succeeding (I imagine Donald Trump secretly feels the same about his run for the presidency), but what else can I do? Maybe something will change.

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A Bloody & Violent Religion

Jama Masjid, Delhi, India © Daniel Plasman

India’s Largest Mosque

What are we to think of a religion whose historical roots are bloody and violent, a history manifested to this day?

What are we to think of a bloody and violent religion whose sacred book is believed by many adherents to be the inerrant word of God?  I haven’t read every word of those sacred writings, but I’ve read enough between the opening and closing chapters to know those bloody and violent passages exist.

Imagine a spiritual heritage where ancient people believed that God demanded certain transgressions be punished by stoning the victim.  If a son or daughter was disobedient, the parents should haul the kid to the town square and publicly stone the child to death.

Imagine a religion with a spiritual heritage that believes God permits a soldier to rape a woman of a defeated people, and then take that humiliated woman as his wife, only to discard her after she no longer pleases him.

What are we to think of a religion whose sacred writings, believed to be inspired by God, permit the lobbing off of fingers and hands as a form of punishment?  For example, if intervening in a fight between her husband and an assailant, a woman grabs the genitals of her husband’s attacker, God permits that the woman’s hand be cut off — presumably, after she releases her grip on the assailant’s stuff.

And what of a religion that teaches if a husband discovers that his bride is not a virgin on their wedding night, he has the permission of the religious community and of God to kill her, again, stoning the preferred method of execution.

Imagine a spiritual tradition that believes God sanctions holy wars against other nations and orders the annihilation of entire populations, not just the killing of soldiers and combatants, but all citizens – young and old, male and female, the sick and infirmed, pregnant women and the fetuses inside them.

Imagine a religion whose sacred text instructs slaves to obey in “fear and trembling” their masters for this is the will of God.

This is the bloody and violent reality of our Judeo-Christian heritage.  The above examples can be cross checked in Deuteronomy 17:2-5; 21:10-14; 21:18-21; 22:13-21; 25:11-12; Joshua 10:28-43; Ephesians 6:5.

The Boston Marathon bombings have awakened a new anti-Muslim sentiment led by the pathetic ranting of pseudo news outlets.  We are a bloody and violent nation not because of Muslim aggression toward us, but because we spend more on our military industrial complex than the next 17 nations combined.  We are a bloody and violent nation of more than 10,000 gun homicides a year because our legislators fear political retribution from the National Rifle Association.  We are a bloody and violent nation because we kill innocent people abroad with drone attacks at a rate of 50 citizens for each targeted terrorist.

To the extent that we allow our biblical and spiritual heritage to legitimize our pursuit of blood and violence, we all share the blame for the way things are.

Peace be upon the victims and perpetrators of the bloody violence.

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3-Day Weekend

Exterior of Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Rome, Italy  

As the calendar gods orchestrated it, the upcoming 3-day weekend will witness the convergence of three unique events.

Next Monday is the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King.  Banks will be closed.  Mail will not get delivered.  Every major city in the U.S. has a Martin Luther King Boulevard or a Martin Luther King Drive.  In a domesticated way, we tend to honor fiery prophets once they’re dead.  If King were alive, he would have harsh words for fiscal cliffs and the way we accuse the poor and underserved for being takers from the system.  King would also have much to say about corporate creed, the tax system, our fondness for wars, and our violent culture.  King sounds a lot like Jesus.

This weekend is also the inauguration of President Obama.  On Sunday at noon, in a private ceremony, he will be sworn into office for a second term.  On Monday, the public inauguration will take place on the steps of the U. S. Capital.  The president will place his hand on Bibles once belonging to Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln.

The third event of the weekend is less known but gaining momentum.  On Saturday, the first National Gun Appreciation Day observance will take place.  The call to the faithful is found at www.gunappreciationday.com:  “On 01.19.13 go to your local gun store, gun range, or gun show with your Constitution, American flags and your ‘Hands off my Guns’ sign to send a loud and clear message to Congress and President Obama.”

It’s an attractive, well-designed web site.  Lots of red, white and blue.  The home page has a great shot (pun intended) of three females and one male enjoying a day at a local firing range.  A fair-skinned blonde is smiling as she grips her bright red (or is that a shade of cranberry?) pistol.  You just know she feels safe and secure in every situation.  I don’t see anywhere on the site that it’s supported by the NRA, but I imagine the folks at the National Rifle Association give their full support and plan to participate on Saturday.

What an amazing convergence this weekend!  Honoring the memory of a prophetic African-American.  Inaugurating the first African-American president to his second term.  Calling upon patriotic Americans to sharpen their shooting skills.

Is it fear that lurks in the DNA of some organizations?  The KKK was birthed in 1865 for the purpose of re-asserting the dominance of the white race.  The NRA was founded in 1871 for the purpose of teaching folks how to be better marksmen.  That the Civil War was over and more than 3 million former slaves roamed free must have made a lot of people nervous.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character . . . I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The Work of Christmas

Wood Carving in the Pantheon, Rome, Italy 

It takes more than a half-hearted effort these days to swat away the cynicism and fear.  Washington politicians can’t seem to get along or get anything passed, proving once again the need for kindergarten teachers to instruct them on how to play well in the sandbox.

The National Rifle Association’s VP spelled out his solution for avoiding another Sandy Hook massacre: a well-armed security guard in every American school.  Not fewer guns.  Not tighter gun laws.  Not a ban on semi-automatic killing machines.  The answer is more good guys with more fire power.

Apparently, people are heeding the call.  The Silver Bullet Firearms dealer a few miles from my house had its best year ever, spurred on by a record number of gun sales in the last ten days.  It’s no wonder the owners signed their recent Facebook letter of appreciation with a sincere “God bless.”  I don’t think I’m paranoid, but I’ve caught myself wondering as I pass people on the sidewalk: Who’s carrying a concealed gun and having a bad day?

Maybe it was the dark clouds of cynicism and fear that caused me to longingly stare at the article promoting cheap land in Europe in my recent copy of the AARP magazine.  “The value of cottages on some Greek islands is heading toward zero,” according to one real estate expert.  “Property prices have fallen as much as 75 percent in Ireland.”  I can live in an Asian country like Thailand on $500 a month.  The added bonus is that all three of these countries are safer.

Cynicism and fear have been around a long time.  We read in Matthew’s gospel that when King Herod heard of a child born king of the Jews, he was frightened and all Jerusalem with him.  Herod then tried to trick the wise travelers from the East into telling him the whereabouts of this potential rival.  Getting no response from the Magi who were eventually tipped off to his plan in a dream, Herod, as the story goes, killed all the male children under the age of two in the region.

As death lingers in the air, as grieving parents stand over the graves of their slain children, as Syrian citizens are killed by their government, as the unemployed wonder how much longer they can hang on, as folks on the east coast rebuild their homes, as another 30,000 children around the world die today because of hunger-related causes, the hard work of keeping the message of Christmas alive doesn’t get any easier.

I’m reminded of an encouragement from Dr. Howard Thurman, the first African-American to serve as Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University from 1953-1965.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among [all],
To make music in the heart.

The work of Christmas is worth doing.

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Our Gun Culture

What makes the United States unique among western nations?  In light of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting spree, the answer might not surprise you.  Of these nations, Americans kill each other with guns at a faster rate than anyone else.

Every day in America, at least 24 people are killed by guns. That’s close to 9,000 gun murders a year.  When you add to the dead those who are killed accidentally and those who commit suicide using a gun, the annual death toll is more than 25,000.

Of the 23 wealthiest nations in the world, the United States accounts for 80% of all gun deaths.  Americans own over 300 million guns; that’s about one per citizen (this includes private ownership, the military, and law enforcement).  We love guns – all kinds of guns – but we save our deepest affections for automatic and semi-automatic weapons capable of firing rounds faster than one can count. 

Some claim that easy access to gun ownership is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they framed the 2nd Amendment.  Some claim it’s our God-given right to bear arms, as many as we want and with little to no restrictions.  I don’t agree with either lame argument.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Japan has a population roughly one-third of the United States.  You’d expect that Japan would have about 3,000 gun murders a year compared to our 9,000.  Not so.  Japan has about 20 gun deaths a year.  In 2006, the number was 2.   

Using the U.S. ratio of population to gun murders, 35 million Canadians should be killing each other off at about 900 a year.  Actually, it’s closer to 200.    

India, with a population of 1.2 billion people (more than three times that of the United States), logically should have at least three times as many gun murders: 27,000.  In 2010, it had slightly more than 3,000 deaths by firearms.   

It’s not hard to understand why this is so: strict gun control laws.

Ironically, none of the aforementioned countries can match the U.S. when it comes to church attendance.  We lead the way in that, too.  Do you find it odd, as I do, that we don’t quote Jesus when looking for a country to invade?  We don’t quote Jesus when carrying out drone attacks over civilian populations.  We don’t quote Jesus when executing another prisoner on death row.  And we don’t ever quote Jesus when arguing about our “God-given right” to hoard guns.  I guess we don’t have to quote Jesus when we can quote the NRA.

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