Sunday, December 06, 2015

Stopping Mass Shootings in America: The Role of the 1st and 2nd Amendments

It seems to me that the 2nd amendment (right to bear arms)
killed no one in San Bernardino. 
Neither did the 1st (freedom of the press). 
But consequences of both cost lives and injury that day. 

So, I have two questions: 

1) Why do some politicians quickly attack American gun ownership, while pretending not to see how sensational media coverage contributes to each new tragedy? 

2) Is it not hypocrisy when the media excoriates gun ownership after each new tragedy, but does not criticize its own contribution to our national grief?

Here are some additional thoughts on these two questions:

The first amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom of the press.  It's an important addition to the constitution.  In addition to providing basic news coverage, the press -- and by extension, other media -- have the potential to keep governments and other institutions honest.  The media also has the potential to pursue its own agenda and vision for what America should become.  We have seen all of this.

In the days when the American Bill of Rights was being crafted, freedom of the press mainly meant "the press" -- newspapers and other circulars printed on a "press".  Circulation of these papers was mainly local, and distribution beyond the cities of publication was slow and non-local readership of the news small.  Non-local news was not quickly available for republication.

Today, of course, news of mass murder tragedies such as we have seen in America and abroad are covered quickly and can be known by majorities within the nation, and by large audiences around the world. Television, radio and the Internet provide almost realtime reporting. 

And this realtime reporting is often in gory detail. Rival media jockey for juicy tidbits. Those with the best tidbits and most viewers are rewarded well by advertisers.  Sensational news makes money for news organizations and investors.  Reporters learn early the old maxim, "if it bleeds, it leads".  News gathering and dissemination is mainly a profit-making enterprise.

Sensational news coverage provides a stage for killers to play out their evil.  In the case of terrorists, it's part of the feedback mechanism that keeps them on point.  The more sensational the reporting, the better was the attack.  

Bluntly, sensational reporting contributes to more injury and death.  Whether mass murder is at the hands of a looney, a local with a score to settle, or Islamic jihadis, sensational reporting paves the road to the next murder.   

That is the basis of my first question: Why do some politicians quickly attack American gun ownership, while pretending not to see how sensational media coverage contributes to each new tragedy?

Whatever the reasons for the dead air on this from some political leaders, it feels as if some coldly ignore the obvious problem of sensational reporting in pursuit of their own anti-gun agendas.  

There is no easy solution for this problem.  Must we infringe first amendment rights to solve this problem just as second amendment rights have already been infringed?  

Why aren't we talking about this right now?  Why isn't the media uniting to establish a set of best practices to solve this?

And that raises my second question: Is it not hypocrisy when the media excoriates gun ownership after each new tragedy, but does not criticize its own contribution to our national grief?

After each new set of murders, the media generally call for greater control of guns.  Pursuit of solutions is noble, but failure to examine its own culpability is irresponsibility and hypocrisy at best, and cold blame shifting at worst.

While I have read some good thinking on this subject by the media (see this guest article in the Wall Street Journal, for example), the coverage is microscopic in comparison to the the full-court press on guns.

It feels like hypocrisy.

Finally, I do believe there are ways to reduce the number of guns legally being sold to those who should just not ever have them.  Even if we only keep loonies and jihadis from easily purchasing firearms, lives will be saved.

But will massive gun control solve the larger problem?  One need only examine the much more stringent and largely useless French gun control in the Paris attacks.  It didn't seem to help.  How could it?  Gun control is a symptom...evil in men's hearts is the problem.

We need a more comprehensive solution of which the media must be a part.  And, like it or not, the right to keep and bear arms is still a fundamental right of Americans.

What do you think?  I'm interested in your thoughts on this.  Please leave a comment below!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Syrian Refugees: Yes

America should take in Syrian refugees. The ancestors of every single person in this country came from somewhere else. Every wave of newcomers has contained risky people....that joined some risky people already here. 

Some of my ancestors were refugees from economic hardship or religious persecution in Northern Europe. Not all of us have refugees in our family tree....but my guess is that most of us do. 

Arguably, we should admit these desperate people in part because OUR decisions contributed to their misery. OUR decision to withdraw from Iraq before Iraqis were ready opened the door to ISIS. OUR decision to back the opposition in Syria has deepened the misery in that country. 

I do think that refugee resettlement must be done in consultation with the states. Setting aside constitutional questions of questionable federal authority, it is just bad government for the Obama administration to push refugees onto the states with what appears to be minimal or non-existent consultation. 

And I also think we should take a higher road than simply accepting U.N. certified refugees as we are now apparently doing. Middle Eastern Christians and other refugees of minority religious and ethnic groups are under represented in U.N. rolls because many won't register for fear of persecution by Muslims. The higher road would be to seek out and open our arms to these who are most in danger. 

Yes. There are risks. Among these broken people are almost certainly at least a few ISIS jihadis. But we decided to live with that risk decades ago as we allowed Muslims from many lands to come into our county. Jihad is an article of faith for Muslims (although most Muslims would never take part in violent jihad). But what the majority believes is irrelevant....because all it takes is a few Muslims who believe in violent jihad to cause new grief among us. 

Finally, and most importantly, we should take them in because this is who we are: a nation that is made of many nations. Our national motto, e pluribus unum, is on our coins.  It means "out of many, one." We should take them in because once we quit obsessing over the horrific scenes in Paris, I believe we will realize our hearts are telling us that this is the right thing to do. Our love and compassion will finally compel us.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Train Up a Child in the Way She Should Go.....

Solomon was trained from childhood to choose wisdom above everything else. Is it possible that he was the only one God gave this choice of a lifetime to because he was the only one we know of who was trained to make the right decision? I think it is highly possible. If that is true, then what are the parallels for us as we teach the next generation? What are we drawing into the lives of our young people through our faith-filled training? In what manner are we raising the generation to come? Our prophetic decrees over them might actually attract opportunities from God. God is the ultimate steward, opening doors where they will be walked through the most.

When my children were growing up, I put them to bed by repeating these two charges night after night: `Remember, you are part of a team that is here to change the world,' and, `When you go to sleep tonight, ask God if there is anything that is impossible that He wants you to do.' It was my effort to raise children who know no limits.

This excerpt is from The Power that Changes the World: Creating Eternal Impact in the Here & Now a recent book by Bill Johnson.

Normally I quickly fall asleep. But, after reading those words last night, sleep came slowly. My heart was on fire with the implications of those words.

What if we trained our children from their earliest days that they are beloved sons and daughters of the King of Glory.....and that the King is in a good mood?

What if we trained them to believe they can have the righteous power of princesses and princes in the Kingdom of God?

What if we trained them to turn their ears to wisdom and apply their hearts to understanding as for hidden silver?

What if we trained them that it can be on Earth as it is in Heaven more than we have ever seen in the history of the Church?

And what if we trained them to believe they can be so very important in making that happen?

My heart is pumping hard with hope and expectation.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

133 Years of Marriage: One Family's Story

Today is the 133rd anniversary of the marriage of my great grandparents, Johan August Jonasson and Maria Bengtsdottir in Chicago, IL.   Theirs began a love story filled with hope that extends even to today.

Johan and Maria were both born in Sweden and emigrated to America, like so many Swedes of their day, hoping to find a better life.  The situation was tough in those days in Sweden, and many, many Swedes came to America -- more than a million from 1821 to 1930 -- a huge number from such a small country.

Francis Marie Dahlstrom Johnson, the daughter-in-
law of Johan and Maria, and my grandmother
My father remembers that his grandfather, Johan, had been married once before, but lost both his wife and their child in childbirth.  Sometime later, he met Maria, and they married and moved to the Door County peninsula of Wisconsin.  Among their children was my grandfather, Joseph Nathaniel Johnson, who married another Swedish girl, Francis Marie Dahlstrom.  Joseph, Francis and my father and his siblings were born in Wisconsin.  

Johan (who became known as John Johnson as it rolls more easily off American tongues) and his son Joseph were farmers who earned a hard living from the land, and from manual labor around the mid-west.  Joseph moved his family to Florida during the depression, partly because he was unable to make enough money to continue the payments on the farm, and partly for his health.  My father, Glen, was raised in Orlando and went to college in Ohio.

In Ohio, my father met Mary Ilene Davidson, and they married in 1949.  I arrived in 1950.  As an aside, my father and mother have visited Sweden several times, and my wife Linda and I also went to Sweden....for what became an almost three-year stay.  In that time, I visited the areas where my great grandparents lived and even Johan's small country church, the 800+ year old Church Kungslena.  The great apostle Paul speaks of the "great cloud of witnesses" who look upon us now from glory.....and I like to think our return to Sweden gives them pleasure.

Today, our daughter Katie has been married to Steve for almost six years.  They have a three year-old daughter.  And just two days ago, the most recent descendant of Johan and Maria arrived, the son of my brother's son and his wife.

This is the hope-filled part: in the 133 years since Johan and Maria exchanged vows, all but two of the marriages of their descendants continues today, or a parting has come with death.  

Was it luck that nearly all of these marriages survived?  Was it something transmitted down the family line of how Johan and Maria lived their lives together?  Was it their faith in God, a faith that has also been largely adopted by their descendants?  Was it a combination of these and other factors?

I suspect the answer to that is unknowable.  But with these eyes I have seen how the love and faithfulness of long-married couples impacts the generations that follow.....and even others around them.  And I have seen how shared faith in the Maker of marriage invisibly cements the bonds of life together.

And so I believe that the example of the marriage of Johan and Maria lives today in my marriage and the marriages of my kin because of what was passed down to us.  And I pray and believe that hope will live on in my children and their children.

This I also believe: all of us who marry can transmit a powerful legacy of family faithfulness.  If our forebears had good marriages, we can transmit that through our own marriages.  Even if they didn't, or even if our first or even second marriages ended in pain and divorce,  we can still begin a legacy -- or support a legacy in others still running the race -- a legacy that will last a century or more.  

Like Johan and Maria....married on this day 133 years ago.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Selling Body Parts from Aborted Children: A "Humanitarian Undertaking"?

I am so pleased that Planned Parenthood's public relations people have clarified that selling body parts from aborted children is actually a "humanitarian undertaking". And me thinking that selling children’s body parts is just one more evidence that Planned Parenthood is a heartless organization that kills 300,000+ unborn American children a year.

Silly me thinking that the dismemberment of unborn children represents depths of barbarity unplumbed since Hitler’s concentration camp doctors. In actual fact, slicing children apart and selling their heads, internal organs and other less-useful parts has, their PR people say, the "potential to cure disease, save lives, and ameliorate suffering."

Thanks for getting me straightened out, Planned Parenthood. You're awesome.

As an aside, I do not condemn any woman who has had an abortion. I do not know the individual stories and issues that led to that decision. If that is you….I have only love in my heart for you…..and honor for a fellow traveler through life….and compassion for the difficult places along the way. My contempt is focused entirely on Planned Parenthood and other organizations that profit from abortion.