A Vulnerable God Invites Vulnerable People

cartridges-2166491_960_720One of our first arguments was about gun control. Frank saw the reasoning to own a gun; I just couldn’t wrap my mind around needing protection of that kind. I have trouble imagining taking someone else’s life to save my own.

This week, my daily dose of Henri Nouwen arrived in my inbox. It was an incredibly timely reflection about laying down arms in order to practice communion. He says,

When we gather around the table and eat from the same loaf and drink from the same cup, we are most vulnerable to one another. We cannot have a meal together in peace with guns hanging over our shoulders and pistols attached to our belts. When we break bread together we leave our arms – whether they are physical or mental – at the door and enter into a place of mutual vulnerability and trust.

Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

I think this so perfectly captures my inability to understand arming myself. Nouwen goes on to say, “The beauty of the Eucharist is precisely that it is the place where a vulnerable God invites vulnerable people to come together in a peaceful meal.”

How can we practice peace and vulnerability if we don’t trust our neighbors? I understand my privilege to live in an incredibly safe neighborhood – one where we leave our doors unlocked and garage doors open. If I lived elsewhere, maybe I would feel differently.

At its core, though I think there’s value in trusting first. How can we love our neighbors if we hold a level of distrust toward them? How can we trust that God will care for us if we feel like we need extreme levels of protection to ensure this? How can we live in openness and faith if we cling to our fear?

I know that I fear other things – things that don’t require guns for protection but that do create a foundation of fear and distrust. Conversations about gun control and protection make me reflect on ways in which I act out fear rather than faith; when I rely on a foundation of mistrust rather than love.

I know there are no easy answers. Our neighbors are gun owners and if everyone were as intentional and cautious as they are, I would have no reservations about citizens owning weapons. I know there are lots of ways of interpreting the Second Amendment. I know that there are ideologies and layers that will take years of shifting and unpacking to reach an agreement.

But I do think, in the wake of tragedy like the one we just saw in Las Vegas, we need to examine where we find our trust and how we actively show our love to our neighbors.

(For an enlightening history of the Second Amendment, I’d highly recommend the book The Second Amendment: A Biography by Michael Waldman.)

How do you balance fear and faith? How does your faith guide your view on gun control and gun rights? Any books you’d recommend on this topic?

BackyardThis post is Day 5 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.