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On Thursday, the 14th of June, Flag Day of all days, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited a passage of the Letter of Paul to the Roman church. Specifically, he referenced the following:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Romans 13:1‭-‬4 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/rom.13.1-4.NIV

Sessions referenced this passage as he spoke to law enforcement during a speech in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He was commenting on his department’s zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration on the southwest border. This policy has caused controversy and dissension because it requires that children be separated from their parents and detained while the parents are arrested. It also requires detaining unaccompanied minors instead of release to other familiy members.

I am not going to tackle the thorny issue of whether or not children should be separated and detained because I consider it wrong. Period. The only passage of scripture I need for this reasoning is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is from the Law of Moses and reiterated by Jesus.

What I am going to comment on is the lack of insight and incorrectness of Session’s use of scripture in this manner.

First and foremost, while I believe any Christian in public service should neither deny nor hide their faith (or leave it at the door as some suggest), we should not quote scripture in “mixed company” or act as if scripture is somehow binding upon non-believers.

While all of scripture is “God-breathed and useful for instruction”, it doesn’t apply to believer and non-believer equally. Scripture was written to the church. In the case of the Old Testament, it was written to the nation of Israel. The Mosaic Law was binding on Israel only (with some rare cases involving non-Hebrew people living among the Israelites and taking part in ceremonial holidays).

Except for what we believe is the call that Jesus wishes to reach and include all peoples everywhere in His kingdom, most of scripture isn’t binding on non-believers. Therefore, it is arrogant of Jeff to reference a word from the Apostle Paul as if it applies to everyone or that it is useful for him to admonish non-believers concerning Paul’s words. Paul’s words admonish and instruct the Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ that lived in Rome (his audience) and by extension those of us that profess Christ.

Second, use of this passage must remain in context with what Paul meant it to mean for his audience, the Roman church. Paul wrote a church he had never visited. He knew very few of the congregants. But, the church lived in a turbulent time. Nero is Caesar. The great fire of Rome had yet to occur, but when it does, Nero will not just fiddle around, he will do what other politicians do; look for a scapegoat. He will find his scapegoat in Christians. It is written that when Nero began the persecution, he lined the roads with the burning bodies of Christians upon the cross. Therefore, Paul was urging his audience to not stir up any trouble unnecessarily. He does this by telling them to recognize Rome’s authority just as if it came from God.

While that may sound like a rough thing to say concerning Rome’s behavior towards Christians or any group they disliked. Roman Jews had just recently been allowed to return after being expelled by Emperor Claudius for several years. It was important that the Roman believers live as good citizens despite the bad actions of their government.

While I understand that some American preachers used this passage in the past to uphold slavery, I reject that in the same manner for the same reasons. We can only seek to understand the principle as it applies to us, the believers in America. We have to be very careful with literalness and legalism here (if you want to know more about what Paul said about legalism, read the 14th chapter of Romans and Galatians, it ain’t pretty).

The principle we can glean from Paul’s words here is to be good citizens, even when it seems difficult. We have to behave as if he (with me its not ‘as if’ but He really does) appoints our leaders. Do I like the way many in authority treat the church (universal meaning) or its members? Do I like believers having to go to court to defend their right to uphold their own faith? Do I like it that the electorate chose Trump? The short answer to all of these is, “No!” My nature is to fight, to have it fixed, to win out over those persecuting Christians. And, if you think that our persecution is less than others, you’d be right…and wrong.

We are still called to be good citizens of our cities, states, and nation even when we disagree with its policies (like separating kids from parents in immigration battles). Our system does allow us to band together and petition our elected officials to change their minds. Our system does allow us access to courts to defend our beliefs. Our system of laws does not allow us to hurt others, start riots, or any other sort of mayhem. We are called to be good citizens so that we don’t bring a bad reputation upon Christ, His Word, or His people. Yes, you can carry that out where it is headed, but remember, non-believer–while it is my belief that you cannot be held to my faith’s tenets in public, it also does not afford you to criticize believers. That is our job to handle, just as I am doing here.

While the bigger picture of illegal immigration is that the current “zero tolerance” policy is wrong, it is also wrong for Jeff to use scripture as a support for his enforcement of that policy. I use ‘Jeff’ because I’ll not consider him above me in this matter. He is an equal brother and I’ll talk about him that way. Paul’s admonition to believers to be good citizens applies to the Roman church that is his audience and can be extended to us as a good principle to live by. However, it cannot be construed to mean that when the laws allow us remedy that we should avoid that either, Paul didn’t.

It is true that the best quote from this portion of Romans would be good for all believers concerning immigration issues, “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others, has fulfilled the law.” We’d all be better off if we took care of those less fortunate than ourselves. God told Israel through the prophet Malachi that if they lived according to God’s intentions and brought their own sacrifice into practice that they would receive a bounty without measure. I believe if we as Americans did right by our neighbors that want to live with us and work that our GDP would be more than sufficient for all of us. I truly believe that. Why won’t you?

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I spend a lot of time on Twitter.  Possibly, I spend too much time there.  I’ve always viewed Twitter as a good social media platform for writers because it forces you to be precise and succinct about your words.  When you only have (had) 140 characters in which to say something, it drives you to think.  Lamentably, doubling the number of characters and adding features to help you write longer threads isn’t helping that Twitter virtue.

Lately, Twitter has become a virtual ideological and political battleground.  The right and the left spend lots of time behind their virtual defenses lobbing word and meme bombs across the DMZ inhabited by those in the center and the ones just there for dog posts.  And, so do I.

My primary issue that I support on Twitter is defense of the 2nd amendment.  I got into doing this just by listening to what others were saying and then responding when I thought there was a myth to dispel or another person that could use some support.

However, beyond gun rights, I’m pretty liberal in many respects, kind of a conservative liberal.  I don’t like the GOP because it seems to care little for the middle class.  Continuing to practice Reagan’s trickle-down economics is foolish (yet, Reagan was a favorite President).  I would prefer systems that care for everyone at every level of the economic strata (i.e. Universal Basic Income, National Healthcare, immigration work visas, etc.).  Add on to that the GOP’s penchance for legislating morality is ridiculous.

Yet, when I talk to a lot of people on Twitter, I find two different types of people that aren’t like me, but I still follow them.  Some are the MAGA Trump followers that say something really good about gun rights. Some are very liberal gun control folks that debate well and do so respectfully.

Do I agree with the MAGA folks?  Certainly not in many areas.  I dislike Trump.  I dislike his character and yes, his character and his behavior as a President go hand in hand.  Can’t have one without the other.  I will agree he has done very well on the foreign policy front, but I think his domestic policies just suck.

However, when I look at the profiles of many of the MAGA folks that I do follow, I find just very good down to earth people.  Many of them are new to social media, like me.  Many of them do not have millions (or even thousands) of followers.  So, by following them, I generally hear a good voice and I can support another person’s use of social media.

Do I agree with the very liberal liberals?  Certainly not in many areas.  While I want an immigration system that allows poor people from other countries to come to the US to work and build a better life, I don’t want them to do so illegally.  While I support a woman’s right to choose, I find the use of abortion as a birth control measure to be abhorrent.  It is OK for you to choose to be gay or transgender (many of whom are dealing with biology, not choices); yet, pushing measures to force me to abandon my beliefs in favor of yours doesn’t win me over.  Yet, when I find a liberal person, more liberal than myself, that can debate responsibly and respectfully, I consider it respectful to listen.

And, just a caveat to those that say many of things I would advocate for can’t be done, or are socialist, or communist; I just say bullshit.  We may have many obstacles in the way of accomplishing these things to establish the country we should be, but we can overcome obstacles.  Obstacles are easy.  Ordering your mind is hard.

We do ourselves a great (and grave) disservice if we listen only to those that are mimics of what we believe already.  By not listening to opposing voices we overlook the possiblity of discovering the idea that will make something work.  No. I don’t give an inch on my beliefs with others and I’m very outspoken about what those are.  I just know I have to think about what I believe and check to see if it is still holding up to scrutiny (mine, not yours). There are lots of good voices out there on social media.  It is work to weed through the noisy voices to get to the ones of quality, but it is worth the effort.

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Because of the age we live in, there are many people that do not own guns of any kind. This is not judgment, just an observation. I also perceive there are many people that can look back at parents and possibly grandparents to find that no one in their direct family ever owned a gun. I think it is also possible that quite a few folks can look to their circle of friends and discover that no one they know well owns or ever has owned a gun.

I get that, and it is a good thing in some respects. There is no compunction these days to need a gun of any type. It is good to know that so many people can feel safe enough that they do not need the protection of a firearm. However, that also leads to ignorance.

Now, before you crucify me for offending you or someone you know concerning ignorance, I am not using the pejorative use of the term ‘ignorance’, as in, “That fellow is ignorant.” On the contrary, I am using the term to mean a lack of knowledge. In more detail, I also view it to mean a lack of knowledge for something that is readily available.

It never fails that in any discussion on situations like mass shootings where an AR-15 is involved to hear one or more of the following questions or statements:

“Why do you need an AR-15?”

“Nobody needs an AR-15.”

You can also substitute the terms assault rifle, assault weapon, military weapon, or military grade weapon for AR-15. All of these are interchangeable according to most of our press and the non-gun owning public. However, if you’ll have a little patience, pull up your caffeinated beverage of choice and follow along, I’ll do my best to explain the answer to the question.

Please do remember that the opinion I give is mine alone and also my own experiences and observations. While many of my friends and associates will say similar things as I do about AR-15’s, that is not a guarantee.

First, I’ll use the simple answer for those that may have closed minds or closed opinions on the matter. I don’t “need” an AR-15. If this is all that you wish to hear, you can run along now and I’ll not expand your knowledge at all. Yes, that may be a bit blunt but I also know that there are folks that this is all they wish to hear. If you want to know why I put the word “need” in quotes, please read on.

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The news and social media outlets are ablaze with President Donald Trump’s newest proposal to mitigate the spate of school shootings the US has experienced. He proposes that teachers receive a bonus (I think the value would be $1,000US) to cover training to carry in the classroom. Some of those words are my paraphrase. There are many detractors and supporters on both sides, but the primary difficulty is that we keep using the wrong words and ideas to describe the issue.

I can’t speak for all gun owners or carriers. I can’t speak for all teachers. Technically, I am not a teacher even though I do hold a Masters in Education. That is because the sector is woefully underpaid for a craftsman of my experience to maintain a living being a teacher. I haven’t spent enough time in a classroom to be called a teacher, but that doesn’t mean I am ignorant of what they go through either.

My classroom time is limited to the year I spent substituting in my district after completing my education. Because of the favorable arrangement with my day job at the time, I was able to spend about 1 to 2 days every two weeks in a class, as well as a couple of weeks for some substitute jobs.

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Before I begin getting into my ideas about gun control, mass shootings, the alleged assault rifle question (and on and on and on), it is probably best to start with the why I think like I do, why I act like I do, which “side” am I on type of questions. Please feel free to refer back to this post when your Spock eyebrow goes up because of something I said. It will likely make better sense if you start here.

What is there about what I do or what I know that gives me any authority on the subjects of gun control or school shootings? That is a fair question and a good one, even if I asked it of myself. If you are going to listen to anyone on the debate, you should first find out what they know about the subject matter. Simply because you own a gun doesn’t make you an expert on gun control. Simply because you’ve survived a school or mass shooting doesn’t instantly make you an expert on gun control. Being an elected official doesn’t automatically make you an expert on gun control.

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I had planned to place this blog in a different order on a different day, but with the news that the Florida State Legislature voted against an assault weapon ban during the activism and protest of surviving Stoneman Douglas students, it is warranted.

First, before anyone gets started, I am not going to criticize the students for their protests nor their advocacy of gun control. Neither will I say that what they are doing is wrong or out of line just because they are young. They are Americans, first and foremost. They have endured a tragedy many of us will, hopefully, never endure. The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to not let anyone “despise” Timothy’s youth. So, on the contrary, I applaud what they are doing.

It does not matter that they protest against guns or advocate for more gun control. If you or I have grown so cynical in this world that you cannot see the expression of freedom in their eyes and voices, then we might as well find a cave and become hermits. The act of protest is foundational in our nation and its Constitution. We are a nation born in protest and rebellion against a government that sought our subjugation instead of seeing us as equal citizens. Many young men and young women have shed blood over this very fact from 1776 until today. Remember that.

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We all know too well the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen deaths, most teenagers and many other wounded because a 19-year-old ex-student carried a gun into the building and began shooting.

The tragedy of this is unspeakable. Yet, this isn’t the only one if its kind, just the latest. Regular media, social media, politicians, and the surviving students all want answers and have opinions. And, I’m no different. Why?

Some background before going further: I own guns. I carry a handgun, licensed, of course. I am a grandfather. I recently took my granddaughter to her school’s Dad/Daughter dance because her dad, my eldest son is no longer with us. I am a father and a husband. And, I am a Christ follower.

If this horrifies you or disgusts you to the point you cannot remain civil, you may check out now. However, if you are willing, I’m going to spend a while over some days or weeks, no real plan yet, talking about these issues.

These will be my own opinions based on my anecdotal evidence of what I know and observe. If I am observing incorrectly, leave me comment. However, I know that some Democrats will not like what I say. Some Republicans will not like what I say. Some gun owners and carriers will not like what I say. Some gun control proponents will not like what I say. Some atheists will not like what I say and some Christians will not like what I say. Probably some parents and teenagers will not like what I say. So, since I will likely anger some of every group, please join in my equal opportunity crowd.

Today’s post is a short essay that I sent to my pastor shortly after the shooting occurred. Yes, I stand by my opinions in it. Yes, you have the right to think differently. No, you don’t have the right to judge me deficient as a human being because I think this way. So, here goes nothing…

I sit here this morning after my first cup of coffee and listening to the chatter on the news feeds and social media about yesterday’s school shooting in Parkland, FL. It is horrific and sad to know that this is the level our society has dropped to in these recent years.

Why does this happen? Well, first, I’d refer folks to go and read Job. No, Job won’t give you any answers you’ll like or want. The real answer in Job comes when Job is called by God to answer God’s charges against Job. Yes, Job did make a mistake and God called him on it.

That answer is: God is sovereign and doesn’t answer to us.

Why does this happen? Now, I’d refer folks to go and read Genesis 1-3. You won’t like this answer either. It begins with, you guessed it, God is sovereign (chapter 1) and ends with humankind’s failure to avoid evil. There is a huge concept running around today, and it even finds itself in our churches: man is essentially good. Sorry, but that is a lie. Humans have proven over the millenia that there isn’t any goodness in us except that which comes from the Spirit of God through Christ.

Again, the answer is: because humans are evil.

Many, many of our nation’s children are raised without any moral compass. They are allowed to do whatever. At ages too young for their developing minds to comprehend, parents allow them access to video games, movies, songs, and other cultural items meant only for adults. Why, because everyone else does. Too many parents are trying to be their children’s friends when they ought to be their children’s parents.

We set ourselves up in our schools to fail. We have an utopian ideal of what school life should be like and by golly we are going to stick to that. While it was good intentions to declare all schools as drug and gun free zones, doing so without any sense of what can go wrong is incorrect. There are some schools and districts that use extra physical security to safeguard students, such as metal detectors and searches, but very few. Instead, we believe that a sign will deter a person bent on causing harm. Even those items may not stop all instances, but I still think it is a good first measure.

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