Virtue Signaling

I recently posted an article entitled “God Hates Gun Violence” written by Christianity Today author Mark Galli. My heart is broken by the images of yet another school shooting and the loss of 10 innocent people. In the article, the author says, “We Christians should work to ban weapons whose main purpose is to kill a lot of people very quickly, to keep guns in general out of the hands of unstable personalities, and to ensure that everyone who buys and owns guns can demonstrate they know how to use and store them safely.” I spent Monday writing a blog about gun violence but then decided to put it on hold and do a lot more research. After my research my conclusion is that we cannot legislate an answer that will keep our schools safe. Every school shooting is unique. 

For instance, the 17-year old Santa Fe, New Mexico school shooter used a sawed off shot-gun and a 38-caliber handgun. Sawed off shot-guns are illegal already but they still exist. In New Mexico you must be at least 19 years old to own a handgun and 21 years old to have a conceal and carry permit. So legally the Santa Fe school shooter was in violation of the laws that are already on the books. 

The Parkland, Florida school shooter had a long history of documented mental illness and had been a threat to himself and others. However, no person took the initiative to use the Florida law that states that a “person who is a threat to themselves or someone else cannot legally purchase a weapon” (Fla. Stat. § 790.064(1); Fla. Stat. § 790.065(2)(a)(4). As early as February 2016 people were telling school administrators, peer counselors, the FBI, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Department that the Parkland school shooter was capable of carrying out such an attack. So legally speaking the Parkland, Florida school shooter was in violation of the laws that are already on the books. 

My brother, Nick Moon, was involved in a workplace related shooting on February 25, 2016. He was shot in the leg while working for Excel (Hesston, KS) by a person who worked with him in the paint department. Three people died and fourteen were injured.  The shooter was a convicted felon. In Kansas it is illegal for convicted felons to own firearms. The shooter was on drugs and distraught after receiving a restraining order from his girlfriend. In Kansas it is illegal for people who have domestic violence protective orders to carry firearms. In fact, his estranged girlfriend had police help her remove the weapons she purchased from the home they shared only to give the weapons back to him on another occasion when he threatened her. So legally speaking the Hesston, KS workplace shooter was in violation of the laws that are already on the books. 

In saying that we cannot legislate an answer that will stop school shootings, I am not saying that some of our laws do not need to be addressed. One of the things my research called to my attention is the fact that federal laws cannot be enforced by state and local officials. So if there is a federal law that is not picked up and matched by state law, it is pretty much useless unless a federal agent is enforcing it. For instance, in Indiana, if you commit an act of domestic violence against someone you don’t cohabitate with, or are not married to; you can still carry and conceal a weapon. If you are married to the person or if you live with the person you committed an act of domestic violence against, then you are legally unable to carry a concealed weapon. This is called the boyfriend/girlfriend exclusion. Currently, 29 out of the 50 states have closed this loophole but Indiana is still lagging behind. 

In Indiana, there is no law that says a person that is involuntarily committed into a psychiatric facility cannot own a firearm even though there is a federal law that states this. In Indiana, there is no law that says that if a person is found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity they cannot own a weapon even though there’s a federal law that states this. In Indiana, there is no law that says that if you have been found mentally incompetent to handle your own affairs you can’t own a weapon even though there is a federal law that states this. So there are obviously laws in Indiana that need to be passed in order to keep the public safe. 

The big question that many people are talking about is, “Would a federal assault weapons ban help decrease violent crime?” This is like asking, “Would an automobile manufacturer that closes in Detroit, Michigan decrease the number of automobiles on the road?” The answer is no, there are still the same number of cars on the road today as there were yesterday minus a few. It would take years to see a noticeable difference of cars on the road. During the federal weapons ban that spanned 1994-2004 the drop in violent crime was negligible at best. This is because the number of assault weapons on the street did not dramatically decline and people’s access to these weapons remained the same. 

I think that a federal assault weapons ban would help decrease violent crime; but in my estimation it would take 50+ years to actually see a difference and for a ban to be effective. I think a ban plus a law that takes the assault rifles off the streets would be most effective; but no politician would even come close to speaking this, little lone acting upon it. My estimation of how long it would take for a weapons ban to be effective may be low due to the oldest fireable weapon being a revolver from circa 1597. But as my above research bears out, criminals don’t obey the law and law enforcement can only enact the law when a law is broken. If a criminal believes an assault-style weapon would be most effective in the crime they are going to commit, they will procure one from an avenue other than the legal marketplace. 

Since I posted the Christianity Today article publically on our web-site people who don’t personally know me could potentially comment. Apparently it’s a thing now to tell pastors to “stick to preaching the gospel and not worry about social justice.” 

Pastor Sherman Burkhead (Boron, CA) responded by saying, “Christians should evangelize the lost and make disciples of all nations and stop pretending that evil doesn’t exist! Naïve virtue signaling is not God honoring.” I had to look up what virtue signaling actually is. It is “the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue.” 

Through parables and analogies Jesus used the cultural ideologies and politic of his day to bring about His Kingdom principles. Posting blogs, reading articles, preaching, and small groups are ways to communicate the Kingdom principles of Jesus. 

Let me be clear that in posting the Christianity Today article and this blog that I believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the God of a non-violent way. There is no amount of religious hopscotch that will stray my mind from Jesus’ central teaching in Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 5:38-42, and Matthew 5:43-45. 

In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus captures the common thought on retaliation “an eye for an eye” and turns it on its head saying, “don’t resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek turn to them the other also.” When I see Jesus’ teaching I reflect on the fact that this is exactly what He did for me and for you on the way to the cross. 

C.S. Lewis got it wrong in his essay “Why I Am Not a Pacifist.” He considers Jesus’ injunction regarding “turning the other cheek,” to not be intended to rule out protecting others. “Does anyone suppose,” he asks, “that our Lord’s hearers understood him to mean that if a homicidal maniac, attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, I must stand aside and let him get his victim?” 

To this I say, “Jesus would have stood in the way and been killed on behalf of the person standing behind him.” Hopefully, in the act of doing so, the killer’s heart would be so moved by the sacrificial act that it would lead him/her to change. I’m not sure that I’m spiritually mature enough to follow in my Savior’s footsteps and allow myself to be killed without retaliation for the benefit of someone else.  I do, however, know with absolute certainty that Jesus would not pick up a weapon whether it be a rock, a knife, a gun, or an assault rifle in retaliation to a threat for this is just not His Kingdom way.

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