By now, most Americans not buried under a rock somewhere have become informed about the use of military rifles by two 18 year old civilians in the recent slaughter of 50 innocent Americans ranging in age from 9 to nearly 90. At last count 29 of those slaughtered have died, with the rest wounded in mind and body and millions more wounded in mind and soul.
It’s no secret any more that America has more guns, and this isn’t counting our enormous military arsenal, than it has people.
Shooting fatalities in my homeland today resemble auto fatalities back in my youth (the 1950’s and 1960’s). Back in that time, American leaders in Congress took bi-partisan action to regulate automobiles and restrict their use. Insurance was required. Safety standards enforced. Thankfully, no Constitutional Amendments were used to block such common sense reforms and the American Automobile Association never lobbied one of our political parties with threats of primary election opponents if such public safety legislation was to ever be enacted. Nor did any foreign enemy then launder political campaign donations to one party’s candidates through our AAA in hopes of ending our democracy.
But times have changed.
America has changed.
Indeed, America’s guns have changed from those used ONLY to kill game animals for food and sport to those used ONLY to kill other human beings. And from being concealed in clothing to now being carried openly.
So what’s up with that?
Why would America now want civilians starting at age 18, or any age for that matter, to be openly carrying weapons the ONLY use for which is the killing of other people?
Well, what’s your guess?
There are certainly those who would blame the problem of shooting deaths on mental illness, and to a large extent I agree with them. America today is awash in mental illness. I speak from the experience of having been a mental health therapist since the 1970’s. There’s little comparison between our levels of psychopathology then and now. We are many times worse off mentally than we were, especially among our younger citizens. We’re in the midst of an epidemic today, and I’m certainly not the only therapist to claim such.
One way to think about mental illness is that our minds place their faith in fear (anxiety) and their doubt in love (depression). Fear and love are both dominant yet oppositional forces within the human psyche. Untreated or unresolved fear takes on a life of its own and, like any other life-form, seeks to both survive and grow or evolve into more complex forms. Anxieties, phobias, obsessions, paranoid delusions. Out of these states of mind come cravings for control. For some Americans control comes in the form of religion, some in the form of money, some in the form of authority and power, some in the form of alcohol and other drugs, some in the form of hoarding possessions, some in the form of sexual conquest. And, yes, some in the form of guns.
Cravings for control.
Control over fears, right? But what if Americans fear other people? People who are different from them -- maybe darker skinned -- maybe speak a different language -- maybe have a different sexual orientation or gender identity? People who have a different religion or wear different clothing? People who have better educations or receive bigger paychecks? People with no paychecks -- or no housing -- or no religion? People who receive more love than they do? People who are more popular and receive more likes on social media than they do? People who are in authority? People who are in government? People who vote differently?
The list goes on.
Fears that go untreated and unresolved in the early stages but then become anxieties, phobias, obsessions, and paranoid-type delusions. And cravings for control.
Which brings us back to the problem of guns whose only use is to kill people. Killing is the ultimate act of taking control. So when control over our fears means control over the people we fear, guns become the weapon of choice much like alcohol becomes the drug of choice for many seeking chemical control over their fears.
If only America had a ready anti-dote to fear. An efficacious vaccine of sorts safe for everyone from the cradle to the grave. Wouldn’t that be great?
Well, we do.
It’s called loving influence. In terms of my own faith, and putting on now both my therapist and pastoral hats at once, Jesus Christ brought God’s loving influence into our world, called it God’s Kingdom, and established his church as the means to complete its development. Might, at this rate, take all of eternity to make it happen but maybe that’s what eternity is for. What better use of God’s heavenly Kingdom than to spread its loving influence in places like our earthly hell even if it does take a proverbial eternity to complete?
Nothing casts out America’s hellish and fearful control problem quite so powerfully as God’s perfect love. Love that always influences but never controls. Influences with but never controls over. Love that has all of eternity to work its miracle.
It’s the solution to America’s problem (the lethal mixture of our gun and mental illness problem) as I see it. And to humanity’s problem in general.
So how do you see it differently? I’m happy to listen.