July 9, 2016

Gun – Violence – Peace

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 11:36 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Yet again our nation has been wracked by the bloody mix of guns, fear and anger. In one instance a loner, crazed by hateful thoughts, used a gun to kill many strangers. In another a police officer, frightened by seeing a gun, killed a non-threatening man in a car.

Far too often people with guns in this nation kill people they know, but we are more disturbed by attacks on strangers.  The most recent mass-shooting targeted police officers, and the killer invoked racial hatred as a motive. Thus this particular act of violence took on a particularly tragic quality. But in the end it is the same as other mass-shootings, a crazed person, acting as a free individual with a gun, wrought havoc on several fellow citizens.

Likewise, if Jeronimo Yanez or Philando Castile had not possessed a gun, that particular traffic stop could not have ended in death. Race was secondary to that situation. It adds to the fear and misunderstanding between people. If both men had been white and carried guns the situation was also likely to end in violent death, if slightly less so. It is the fear of violence and the way we use guns to amplify our that fear that must be opposed by the spirit of love. To paraphrase Christian scriptures, “We fight not against flesh and blood but the powers and ruling ideas of this troubled world.”

We, Unitarian Universalists, as a religious people, consciously dedicate ourselves to respond to gun amplified fear by working for Love and Justice, Dignity and Tolerance. Our goal is to counter the fear and terror created by these mass-shootings. Our goal is mot to merely end all the gun related violence in our nation, (and in our world). We want to create a spirit of peace. We have no one single method for undoing this violence. Some of us focus on gun control legislation, and others on raising awareness of our own biases. But in worship, together, we will represent our shared dedication by lighting a flame in a chalice. The flame represents the one spirit and truth that inspires us to use all resources available. We use our feelings of sadness, even helplessness, to support one another, and to create peace.

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February 12, 2010

Jesus with a Gun

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:29 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

What images come to mind when you say “Unitarian Universalism:” A chalice with fire burning in it; people marching in defense of love and justice; a group of diverse people endlessly discussing great ideas?  My favorite is of two parents (of any gender,) one of the two with an arm around the one holding the baby, while a minister touches the baby with a flower.  The religious power of images is undeniable.  That one just makes me smile.

By images I do not mean simply visuals, but ideas that are concrete enough so that a blind person can grasp their emotional and symbolic meaning.  Of course the power of an image depends heavily on  context.  For example, to the average American Lord Ganesha is a pretty weird-looking dude with his elephant head, multiple arms, roly-poly body and giant rat for a pet.  To the average Indian Hindu the image is a happy object of devotion, a most sweet and hopeful image of God and God’s abundant grace.  For many the image will immediately evoke stories and significant beginnings, like weddings or New Year’s Day.

In the Christian tradition images of God as Jesus have varied greatly, from a serene and serious and suffering lord with an otherworldly quality, to a kind and bearded guy in white robes.  I don’t know who first gave me this idea, some peacemaker and anti-gun violence advocate, but go and put the words “Jesus” and “gun” into a web image search.  Then laugh, (in a shocked and sad way,) at what comes up.  Ah the fun we can have with photo-shop software.

My favorite is Jesus with a child, holding a gun and saying, “No, you hold it like this.”  I thought the AK-47 in the famous “Jesus Knocks” painting was too much.  It seemed enough to have Jesus tapping on the door with a pistol: creepy and threatening.  Maybe it would be cool to see Jesus, like some police chaplains I know, wearing a pistol in seeking to serve and protect,  but the images online make clear to me how corrupt and skewed are the teachings of those who celebrate  “bring a gun to church day.”  Especially, in a world where UUs and many others have been shot and killed by crazy, anguished people who brought guns to church.  I want to uphold alternatives to violence and weapon wielding.

I turn back to the image of the child and the guardians of that child celebrating life in the face of all that makes it difficult.

March 6, 2008

A Gun in My Hand

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:50 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

When I was ten years old my father and mother made it clear that they did not like guns, but they also made it clear that knowledge was a better defense than avoidance.  Knowing I might someday encounter a gun they decided I would be safer if I knew how to operate and hold guns correctly.   So I spent some weeks learning how to carry and shoot a rifle and pistol.  For years I kept the paper target with three holes clustered just above and to the right of center as a token of my success and passing grade in the class.   

Today I am something of a pacifist and as time has gone on I have become quite unhappy with the plethora of guns in this world: most of them born of fear or hatred.  Then, some weeks ago a member of my church found he was slipping into a deep depression and, instead of killing himself, he got admitted to the psych ward of the hospital.  Eventually he and I spent some time with his caseworker who said that before he could be released he needed me to remove one particular risk of suicide from his home.  So that winter afternoon, armed with the knowledge of how to find a key and where to find the source of temptation, I went and took a gun from his house. 

Never in my days did I think that ministry would lead me to hold a loaded gun in my hand.  I took the bullets out and then began to wonder “what next?”  One voice in me wanted to throw it into the White River, where it might “sleep with the fishes,” or perhaps I could give it a nice burial in the deep woods somewhere.  The ten-year-old in me thought about how this was not a James Bond weapon, more something that might be carried toward a High Noon, and considered keeping it.  The practical voice said that I should sell it and give the proceeds to the church’s operating fund, but immediately another voice said, “It’s not yours to sell, you don’t want to sell it to the wrong persons, and who wants the church to profit from the sale of weapons? Rid the world of its evil!”  Still the practical voice insisted that “selling the gun for the church is what was suggested by the case worker.”  So here I am, with a gun hidden away (not at the church) and not sure what I can and should do with it.  

What do you think?