Voices: Waiting, watching and tallying the dead

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There’s a deadly intersection in town. You may live close to it. Time and time again, two cars collide, and someone is seriously injured. All too often, someone dies.

We know about this intersection, and we keep asking, “Can’t something be done?”

Of course, we know something can be done, and we know what that something is, but we don’t seem to have the power to make it happen.

We keep crying out for a traffic light, and we’re told a traffic study has to be conducted to determine the need for a light at that intersection. We’re told a certain number of fatalities are required before a light will be installed at that intersection.

In the meantime, we have to wait, watch, and tally the dead.

‘Can’t something be done?’

There’s another deadly intersection in town. You may live very close to it, or you may watch it from afar via the news. Time and time again, projectiles and bodies collide. People are seriously injured, and all too often, people die.

We know about this intersection, and we keep asking, “Can’t something be done?”

Of course, something can be done, but we have to conduct studies. We have to weigh the cost. We have to consider how much restriction is too much because we don’t want to impede the flow of our Second Amendment rights.

In the meantime, we wait, debate, and tally the dead.

The facts behind the problems

In reality, traffic lights don’t stop people from dying at dangerous intersections. That deadly intersection near my house is still very deadly.

In reality, gun control won’t stop people from dying of gun violence. Gun control may slow the count, but gun control won’t stop the killing.

Traffic lights don’t solve the auto fatality problem because traffic lights address only one part of the total problem. The larger problem includes two facts: vehicles are deadly machines if not handled properly, and people don’t always pay attention.

The larger problem includes two more facts: we don’t intend to give up our vehicles, and we don’t appreciate being blamed for endangering lives with them.

Likewise, gun control won’t solve the gun violence problem because gun control addresses only one part of the total problem. The larger problem includes two facts: guns are deadly weapons by design, and people aren’t always responsible with them.

The larger problem includes two more facts: we don’t intend to give up our guns, and we don’t appreciate the insinuation we could be to blame for gun deaths.

Fair enough, I suppose.

Searching for a solution

In reality, if we are going to deal with that dangerous intersection, we will need more than limits. We will need more than assault rifle bans, background checks, gun registration, licenses to carry, gun safes and trigger locks. We will need more than these topical ointments because the problem is more than skin deep.

We will need to deal with our own violent culture fueled by violent video games, violent music, violent movies, violent television, violent cartoons and comics and violent sports. We will need to face up to our love of violence and own up to the fact we don’t really want to give it up.

We will need to deal with mental health. Much has been said about mental health already. The fact is, we don’t know what to do with mental health or those who struggle with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, trauma, PTSD and a host of other unimagined challenges.

We will need to deal with broken homes and bullying and child abuse and neglect and all the things that lead people toward hurting others. We will need to do a better job of caring for the people around us.

We will need to deal with our own distrust and anger and desire for revenge and all the things that grow like weeds in our hearts, all the things that shape our minds, all the things that guide our thoughts, all the things that break out of ourselves and hurt other people. We will need to deal with ourselves.

In short, we must do the latter without neglecting the former, to paraphrase Jesus’ response to the Pharisees.

Becoming the solution

As Baptists, as Christians, surely we have more to offer than Second Amendment debates. Surely we have more to offer than calls for gun control, CHL classes and security teams in our churches and schools. Surely we have more to offer than cries for more mental health services.

As Baptists, as Christians, surely we remember we are what we are because we first recognized the larger problem was not out there but was in here, in our hearts. Surely we remember our cry wasn’t for moral policing but was for mercy, forgiveness and purification from all unrighteousness.

As Baptists, as Christians, we are what we are because we hope for more than simply the removal of sin. We hope for the replacement of sin with the presence of Christ.

Surely, as Baptists, as Christians, we can do more than merely wait, watch and tally the dead.

Eric Black is pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, Texas, and a member of the Baptist Standard Publishing board of directors.

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