February 2018 Blog
by Dr. Al Lindsey
As a retired physician, I know that education and prevention are powerful tools to maintaining individual and community health. Guns violence prevention is something everyone should know about to avoid gun injuries and deaths.
I want to share with you some news about a Season of Discernment/Listening that my church, St. John's United Methodist in Austin had this January.
The mass shooting at First Baptist, Sutherland Springs moved our pastoral staff to ask our Intentional Faith Development Committee to organize a series about gun culture in Austin and the U.S. We did this over the holiday season, and our event was held on Sunday evenings, Jan. 7th, 21st and 28th.
The first evening we had a panel of five church members from three different families, two folks being a married couple with very different views on guns and another two being from an extended family, also with almost diametrically opposing views. After each panel member shared his or her experiences with guns and hunting, we gathered as tables of six to eight to reflect on what we heard and shared. This was the format for the second and third events as well: a panel or speaker and then small group conversations. All sessions were facilitated.
The second Sunday our 3-person panel consisted of a gun store owner who teaches License to Carry classes and hosts a radio program; a local police officer who is a former Marine MP Officer; and the board vice chair of Texas Gun Sense.
The gun store owner talked about his inspiration for starting to do all he does with guns—a home invasion involving his parents in which one of the invaders was shot dead. The police officer told us about some of the laws and regulations Regarding guns in Texas and the U.S.; and the TGS Board Member talked about advocacy and common sense gun measures like universal background checks, as well as some of our successes and failures with the most recent Texas legislative session. Lots of questions were written and turned in, and many of them were addressed during and after the small group conversations.
The third and final event featured a Christian ethicist from the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, who posed two positions about guns (positions I would call extreme, on each end of the spectrum): one, position A, sees guns as a symbol of everything that is wrong with the U.S. and its values; and position B sees guns as the symbol of everything that is right with them. He discussed each briefly, then had each small group read one of the Scriptural passages he had selected. After the reading we were to apply our Scripture passage to one of the following mass shootings: the Omaha Westroads mall in 2007, the Aurora, Colorado theater in 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary in 2013, or the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in 2017. Again, there was not enough time to talk about all the questions and issues raised in our 90 minutes of time together.
I would be hard-pressed to say that our series answered many questions for the 40 to 50 folks who attended one or more of the evenings. However, I am totally persuaded that there was real listening that took place, and I am also pretty sure that we will have more conversations on this and related topics in the future, this spring and/or summer most likely. And we would encourage everyone who is reading this to consider doing something similar in your own church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or any other gathering of which you are a part.
I am an early member of Texas Gun Sense and 2018 is the 5th anniversary for TGS. The organization is needed now more than ever. I encourage everyone to view the TGS website and educate yourself about gun violence prevention.
As a reminder from a gun owner and hunter to others who own firearms, make sure your guns are locked up and the ammunition is locked in a separate place. Valentine’s Day later this month is a reminder to love and protect your family, lock ‘em up.
Al Lindsey, M.D. is a retired Family Physician, lifelong Methodist, gun owner, hunter, and Vietnam Veteran (U.S. Army Medical Corps. MACV HQ Saigon, Oct., 1967 to mid-May, 1969).