AIRING MY THOUGHTS
“I did not speak in secret . . .” (Isaiah 45:19)
Maybe it’s because my roots are in New York, where everyone just blurts out streams of consciousness. There is very little self-censoring or circumspection among the sons and daughters of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Puerto Rico, Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. What you see is what you get—or, in this case—what you hear. We’re all loud and unvarnished. Jews from New York are especially so.
Of course, I realize there is need for discretion—and even biblical support for concealing information. (Esther is just one story that comes to mind.) In any case, I’ve always favored telling it like is—letting my thoughts be known. In fact, I prefer to think out loud and get feedback to I can perfect my ideas. I did just that this past week in Branson, Missouri.
I was in the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” for the annual conference of the Evangelical Church Alliance International, one of America’s oldest associations of evangelical clergy. The “ECA”—as it’s known—is where I keep my ministerial affiliation. (In other words, it’s my membership in the ECA that empowers me to do all those ministry things like marry and bury people, preach and teach, and make pastoral visits to hospitals and other institutions.) I was re-elected this past week as chairman of the board of directors; it will be my second two-year term.
Being with colleagues, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ and in ministry is one of the most enjoyable things I do. During my 32 years of full-time Christian service, I’ve met countless thousands of pastors, missionaries, chaplains, and other Christian workers, and I find them all so interesting.
This past week I caused a few wrinkled brows among my fellows, though. In my annual Chairman’s Address I—well—addressed a very sensitive subject: Christian attitudes towards guns and violence in our culture. Now, I don’t take one absolute position on gun ownership and use. I realize the significance of the Second Amendment—but I also know it doesn’t trump the Second Commandment. The main point I made in my speech was that the ultimate authority for Christians on everything is not a legal document, not public opinion, and not politicians and political groups—but the Bible, the Word of God alone.
My point in addressing the gun issue was to open a prayerful, biblically guided, open and honest conversation about a critical issue that involves life and death, not matter which side you favor. Christian opinion runs the gamut from blanket bans (Anabaptist pacifists) to firearm enthusiasts (Christian Gun Owners Association).
Because of my own nuanced position on gun use by Christians, I’ve become the focus of a documentary film being made by Abigail Disney (of the famed entertainment family) and her Fork Films enterprise. Abby makes no bones about the fact that she’s basically anti-gun. She believes they only add to violence in society. I’m not with her on that score. Still, neither do I think that the panacea for every threat to personal wellbeing is a sidearm. I certainly don’t think that a semi-automatic weapon in the hands of a mentally ill person is a good idea. And, I most certainly don’t believe that being ready and able to shoot people dead is the best Christian answer to the problem.
So, we need to pray this through—search the Scriptures—and talk, honestly and candidly.
Neither Michael Bloomberg nor Wayne LaPierre can tell Christians what we should do on the question of guns and their use. I believe the final answer will come only from God, in a still small voice, consistent with Scripture.
The audio of my speech in Branson should soon be available at www.ecainternational.org . I’ll be very interested in what you think . . .