Friday, April 11, 2014

The Obedient Government - III

Holy Scripture informs the purpose and actions of governing. 
Hence, GOVERNMENT IS TO

INSURE EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL: Equal justice means equal fairness for all: races, genders, classes, and abilities. Appropriate and equal laws for all. "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." (Amos 5:24) Justice levels the playing field so that all people are equally accountable, suffer fair consequences, and reap fair rewards.  Equal justice means economic equality. Equal justice means equal opportunity. Equal justice means equal educational opportunity. Equal justice opens one to the common life, the common good. No one is excepted from being part of the common life.  No one is exempt from the demands of the common good.  The standard of equal justice liberates and requires that all people nurture the common life and common good.  

LIFT UP THE POOR: There is to be enough for all. (Amos 4-6). "[God has]...lifted up the lowly; [God has] filled the hungry with good things." (Luke 1:52-53) We are to care for the stranger, those from other cultures, those who are outcasts. (Luke 10:25-37) We are to share our bounty according to need. (Acts 2:43) We are called to discipleship, to compassion, to generosity, to show mercy. And in the end we will all be judged according to our response to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, giving water to the thirsty, providing shelter, and visiting those in prison. (Matthew 25:31-46)  Debt relief will lessen or relinquish the burden of financial scarcity: "Every seventh year you shall grant  a remission of debts." (Dt. 15:1) We are to remember Cain's question: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9) and answer "Yes."  Life is not Darwin redux, survival of the fittest.  All humankind are united for mercy.

BE SUBJECT TO JUDGEMENT: The standards by which the character of government is grade are how well the hungry are fed, how well the naked are clothed, who well we welcome the stranger, how well we give water to the thirsty, how well we shelter the homeless, and how well we treat the prisoner.  Governments are to see themselves as "disarmed" (Colossians 2:15), accountable and subject to judgement, vulnerable to the needs of the people. No government is free to work its will exercising moral corruption, justified by a cold and merciless ideology, unbound from mercy's embrace. Governments are to remember the Barmen Declaration, which announced that first allegiance is to Christ (or to that which provides standards of justice, love, and mercy).  Governments are to also recall Bonhoeffer's concept of the "misleader": that leaders can be corrupted, committing bloody acts and unjust deeds, all the while justifying itself for the sake of order and protection.  Remember, the Third Reich lasted only 12 years.

 CARE FOR THE EARTH: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...." (Genesis 1:1), "[God said] let them have dominion...." (Genesis 1:28) To have dominion is to have the responsibility to care for creation.  Throughout the Creation narrative, we learn that God was pleased with what God had done, saying "And it was good" or "God was very pleased."  The Garden of Eden was a time and place of shalom, of harmony, of balance.  Romans 8:21 says "...creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay...."  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world...." We are to live towards the future when there will be a "new heaven and a new earth." (Revelation 21:1) Governments are stewards, caretakers of God's earth, creators of a balanced harmony. 

PRACTICE LOVE: It is significant that bookending Paul's treatise on government in Romans 13:1-7, are the calls to love: "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:9-10) And in Romans 13:8-10, we read: "Owe no one anything except to love one another....Love your neighbor as yourself....love is the fulfilling of the law." Paul is binding governmental actions to the love ethic.  Politics is captive to love for all.  Political action is to create a love culture for all.

CREATE PEACE: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity." (I Timothy 2:2) In Luke 19:42 we read: ""As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying 'If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!'" In Isaiah 2:4: "....they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war anymore." Once again from Isaiah: "The wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together...." (Isaiah 11:6) Governments are to create a culture of peace, of nonviolence.

NEXT TIME: What does it all mean?

Peace!

Ron





Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Obedient Government-II

GOVERNMENT IS

PROTECTOR: The Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are filled with stories of the Kings of Judah and Israel protecting their people against invaders, such as the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Arameans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and more.  In Romans 13:3-4, Paul writes, "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad....for the authority does not bear the sword in vain." It appears that there are times when governments must use a heavy hand to protect the good within their sphere.
     However, the government is to use the heavy hand in relation with the other functions which are to minimize or prevent any violent government actions.  Violence is to be the last resort of government. See the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6.  

PEOPLE CENTERED: Government is to respect the humanity of all.  As the Church says, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)  People are valued.  The Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31) sets the standard for honoring all humanity.  Paul writes in I Corinthians 12:26: "If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it."  Yes, Paul is addressing congregational culture, but the Church, the congregation, are the crucibles for governmental actions.  As the Church cares for people, so are governments to care for people.  Why?  Because all people are created in the Image of God.

CALLED TO GUIDE PEOPLE TO FREEDOM: The Exodus story found in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is a journey to freedom, a journey to the Promised Land.  After decades of oppression in Egypt as slaves, God led the People of Israel to new life.  Moses and the tribal leaders, the government, were responsible for leading them to Canaan. As the song goes, "Let my people go!" Governments are to lead their people to freedom, out of oppression, out of slavery, to a new free life.    

TO INSURE ENOUGH FOR ALL: The Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25 was meant to level the economic playing field once every 50 years, in an attempt to make sure all people had land and resources for life.  The wealthy and powerful were not given a forever license to scarf up all land for their own profit and use the rest of the population for their slaves or indentured servants.  In Amos 2:6ff, we read, "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals."  In Acts 2:45, we read that the People of the Way "...would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."  Everyone is to have enough for living.  Government is to insure that all people have enough for life!

TO GUARANTEE UNBIASED COURTS: We read in Exodus 23:2-3, "You shall not follow a majority in wrong-doing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit."  In other words, courts are to be unbiased in making their judgements. Leviticus 19:15 says, "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great."  Governments are to guarantee that the courts adhere not to ideology but to truth for the sake of the common good.  Lady Justice is blind!

TO EXPOSE EVIL: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly, but everything exposed by the light becomes visible." (Ephesians 5:11-12).  James 5:16 urges us to "...confess your sins to one another,...so that you may be healed." Healing comes through openness, through a mantra of "If you mess up, fess up." "The truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) Cover-ups are wrong.  To deal creatively with what is wrong and causing discord, the truth of what is actually happening needs to be engaged.  Governments are to insist on this practice.

NEXT: Part III and the Conclusion

Peace!

Ron 




Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Obedient Government
God ordains government.  God ordains government to help fulfill God's purpose: to make real the Reign of God. 

Previous blogs have focused on the purpose and character of the NRA, the National Rifle Association. A consistent theme among the leadership of the NRA is a fear of governmental control, the threat of a tyrannical government denying the unrestricted right to bear arms. Consistent with this theme is the rise of Libertarianism, near unbridled individual freedom, and the Tea Party mantra of getting the government off our backs.

Certainly, history is crowded with examples of oppressive governments.  Yet, governments have remained, for better and for worse.  Why?  Because inherent within people is the need.  The Biblical witness conveys this need, and lifts up how God fills this need.  God does not ordain every government, but God does ordain values and character that governments are called to bring to the table of life.  

The crucible of government is the Church, the Synagogue.  Each is a holy government, called to make real the Reign of God among followers who in turn reflect God's reign in their homes, places of work, and the wider world.  Holy values are to be carried into the political sphere, where they are to promote God's will.  What are some foundational holy values?  

GOVERNMENTS ARE TO REFLECT GOD'S WILL
Paul writes: "...there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed." (Romans 13:1-2) Similarly, we read "Therefore, be imitators of God...." (Ephesians 5:1a).  Governments have a calling to do what God purposes them to do because God has given them the authority.  It is authority with a huge caveat: Because you are of God, reflect the character, the will of God.  God does not give governments license to oppress.  Authority is narrowly defined: that your authority imitate Christ.  Or, in the words of Rabbi David Saperstein: "Because God says so!"

GOVERNMENTS ARE TO BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER
TO REFLECT HOLY WILL
Moses was directed by God to gather Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel to receive the Law of God.  (Exodus 24:1-14) These were leaders of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Jesus had a government of twelve disciples and he also sent out 70 advance preachers and organizers to prepare and gather people for his arrival.  (Luke 10:1-12)  Similarly, Paul organizes the church into a body with many members, many gifts, for the purpose of evangelizing the world. (I Cor 12:12-31)  The People of God are brought together by a Christly government to perform a purpose.

GOVERNMENTS ARE TO CREATE A PATH
The People of God, the Church, the Synagogue, are guided by laws.  Laws create a path.  Paths guide our actions.  God does not leave us alone to figure out life's calling and foundational values. Remember Yahweh giving Moses the Ten Commandments.  Remember the Holiness Code in Leviticus 17-26, which "...centers on behaviors and rituals that promote communal stability in the interrelated spheres of daily life and worship." (Brueggemann) Holy laws also fill the chapters of Deuteronomy.  Significantly, Moses is carved into the frieze above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court Building.  The Greatest Commandment reads: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.... and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39) Laws are a path. 

GOVERNMENTS ARE TO CREATE ORDER AND DISCIPLINE 
Centrifugal force throws us outward to wherever.  Government is like a centripetal force which draws people together, otherwise we would scatter to oblivion. Order and discipline are its' outgrowths. Paul writes: "Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Do you wish to have no fear of the authority?  Then do what is good.  But of you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain. It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:3-4) It is important to recognize that these verses are bookended by the admonition to love. (See Chapter 12 and verses 13:9ff) Those in authority are not given a blank check to oppress.  Their purpose is to love.  Similarly, in Titus 3:1 we read: "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone." Obedience to rulers and authorities is linked with gentleness, respect, and courtesy. This means that those who rule and are in authority are also to be held to the same standard. All things are connected.

The Biblical witness provides foundational values and a holy character which can ebb and flow between Church, Synagogue, and State.  The connection is grace-filled as they flavor each other.

More next time.

Peace!

Ron Letnes

Friday, January 24, 2014

Time for Action
"In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."
Proverbs 14:23

Criticism of the NRA ought be focused on its corporate leadership channeling its financial resources to influence legislative actions.  Its purpose is to promote the fraudulent abuse of the Second Amendment and obstruction of nearly all common sense gun violence prevention legislation, even that supported by its own rank and file membership, to the detriment of the general welfare.

How can this abuse be addressed?  How can the Church engage this life concern?  I would suggest that in order that progress be profitable and transforming, there need be talk and action.  Profit in this context is greater safety for all.  What follows is a plan for talk and action.

ENGAGE
A Conversation and Invitation to Common Sense Gun Violence Prevention Action 

PURPOSE
To open up conversation and challenge involvement towards 
common sense gun violence prevention

1.  WELCOME-STATEMENT OF PURPOSE-CIVILITY COMMITMENT
2.  DEVOTIONAL FOCUS: Song- (ELW-720 "We Are Called") - Litany-Prayer
         centering on Romans 12:2, Matthew 5:9, Luke 19:41-44, Philippians 4:8, 
         Luke 22:38, and Luke 23:51.
3.  OPEN SHARING:  Knowing that the focus of this event was gun violence prevention,
        what specific concerns brought you here?
4.  SHARING ON A PRIME GUN VIOLENCE EVENT DURING YOUR LIFE THAT   
        FOCUSED YOUR ATTENTION.
5.  REVIEW OF ELCA CHURCHWIDE POSITIONS ON GUN VIOLENCE
6.  GUN VIOLENCE FACTS: STATE-NATIONAL-INTERNATIONAL/Review of
        gun ads in magazines and online
7.  NRA FACTS AND POSITIONS: Safety programs, corporate influence, marketing,
        and character stories
8.  REVIEW OF SECOND AMENDMENT AND ADDITIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL
        AMENDMENTS
9.  PRESENTATION OF PROTECT MINNESOTA GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION
        POSITIONS
10.  OPEN CONVERSATION ON ABOVE EXPRESSIONS AND DEVELOPMENT OF 
          GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION ACTIONS
11.  INVITATION TO ACTION: Legislative research meetings, phone calling, letter
          writing, hosting an ENGAGE event, signing pledge cards, visiting legislators
12.  SENDING: Prayer and song ("It is Time")

It is important to frame the conversation Biblically and ecclesially.  We are the church, meaning we engage life through the Trinity and our Confessions, which lead us to engage and partner with life changing political actions for the good of all.  The chorus of "It is Time" sings:

It is time, it is time, it is time to say enough
It is time to say, "No more!"
It is time it is time, it is time to get tough
It is time it is time to restore

If any are interested in the full details of ENGAGE, I would be happy to send them online.  Write me at: ronletnes@hotmail.com.

It is time!

Peace!

Ron Letnes


Thursday, December 12, 2013

NRA and the Second Amendment
Part IV

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities;
for there is no authority except from God....Therefore, whoever
resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those
who resist will incur judgment.
Romans 13:1-2

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security
of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Second Amendment
United States Constitution

The foundation of the NRA's gun advocacy is in the Bill of Rights-Second Amendment, adopted on 15 December 1791 in Philadelphia.  The force of the amendment is in its interpretation. Historically, there have been two basic interpretations: 1) Gun rights within the context of a militia; 2) Individual rights.  The NRA stresses individual rights.  We need to understand both interpretations.

MILITIA:  What is a militia?  To quote Jack Anderson, "It is a body of citizens enrolled for discipline as a military force but not engaged in actual service except in emergencies, as distinguished from regular troops or a standing army."  It is with this understanding that six former U.S. Attorney Generals signed a letter which stated:

For over 200 years the federal courts have unanimously determined that the 
Second Amendment concerns only the arming of the people in
service to the organized state militia.  It does not guarantee
immediate access to guns for private purposes.

INDIVIDUAL:  The NRA contends that the 2nd Amendment grants permission for an individual to purchase, possess and use almost any weapon with no legal restrictions.  To support their argument, the NRA turns to the 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which overturned a Washington D.C. law that banned handguns for self defense.  The court said the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms for lawful use, such as self defense.  The result of this decision was this pronouncement by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA: 

Our Founding Fathers wrote and intended the 2nd Amendment
to be an individual right.  The Supreme Court  has now acknowledged it.
 The 2nd Amendment as an individual right now becomes a permanent
part of American Constitutional law.

It is important, however, to look at the details of the ruling. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia was careful to state that the Second Amendment is not absolute, and a wide range of gun control laws remain "presumptively lawful", including laws that :  1) Prohibit carrying concealed weapons; 2)  Prohibit firearm possession by felons, the mentally ill; 3) Possession in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings; 4) Ban firearms that are "dangerous and unusual"; 5) Impose "conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."; 6) Regulate firearm storage to prevent accidents.

Notice the caveats within the ruling.  There is no carte blanche individual right permission.  Therefore, laws can be written that provide for the "domestic tranquility and general welfare".  The NRA, however, will continue to push the individual right button as the true meaning within the Second Amendment. This bias needs to be rightfully challenged.  To quote former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger in referring to the NRA's Second Amendment myth, calling it "one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American people by any special interest group than I have ever seen in my lifetime." He continued: "Prior to Heller, the Supreme Court never recognized that individuals had an individual right to keep and bear arms".  Significantly, the dissenting opinion to Heller reinforced the historical opinion that supported guns for use only in the context of  militia and further stated that the decision does not limit government's authority to regulate civilian use in possession of firearms.

Recently, an editorialist for GUNS AND AMMO magazine (December 2013, p. 120) commented on the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. Quoting the amendment, Dick Metcalf wrote: "Note carefully: Those last four words say 'shall not be infringed'.  They do not say 'shall not be regulated'. 'Well regulated' is, in fact, the initial criterion of the amendment itself." The response by subscribers was so strongly opposed to his comments that he was relieved and replaced of writing responsibility.

I conclude there is significant weight to Constitutionally regulate  the sale, purchase, and use of firearms.  Furthermore, the NRA has fraudulently abused the letter and spirit of the 2nd Amendment to justify its position of  non-regulated individual right to bear arms.  The result has been catastrophic for the United States.

In an article published in the DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE, Monday, December 9, 2013, State District Court Judge, Mark Munger wrote: "We require duck and goose hunters to plug their shotguns.  They only get three chances to down a bird. Why do we protect migratory waterfowl better than our children?".

The NRA likes to quote from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution to justify their positions.  Here is what they leave out: "...establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,...promote the general welfare...." And "all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  There is more than ample justification for those in authority (as Paul writes) to write laws that guarantee good order.  Indeed, it is significant that the verses before and following Romans 13:1-7 speak of love.  He is saying that the prime function of government is to insure LOVE.   Proper laws and regulations concerning the sale, purchase, and use of firearms can and must point the way to greater love.  Failure to regulate only results in the judgment of death.

Peace!

Ron Letnes






Saturday, November 23, 2013

NRA and Business
Part III

Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy with a mail order rifle purchased for $19.95.  The rifle was advertised in the NRA's American Rifleman magazine.  During November 2013, the same month the United States is remembering the 50th Anniversary of JFK's assassination, this same magazine was advertising the following:

...high capacity concealed carry pistols, semiautomatic
military style assault weapons, including a mobil device
to aid the accuracy of snipers "that can take the guesswork
out of...long-range ballistic solutions."

The magazine also features a full-page ad presenting a
"Historic NRA exclusive offer from NRA corporate 
donor Universal Coin and Bullion to purchase a JFK
half dollar - - "the last circulating 90% Pure Silver
Half Dollar Minted in U.S. History" for only $11.95.

(For the record, UCB has given between $500K and 
$999,000 to NRA Corporate Partners and is a member 
of the "NRA Business Alliance.")
(Huffington Post-22 November 2013)

The point of the above reference is to cite the relationship of the NRA as an weapons business.  One of the main purposes of the NRA is to sell guns.  Furthermore, its marketing techniques challenge sensitive ethical boundaries, having the audacity to use JFK's assassination anniversary to market the silver half-dollar in the same magazine advertising high-capacity rifles helpful to snipers.  Was not Oswald a sniper?  Did not Oswald purchase his rifle from the NRA magazine?  

But business is business.  According The Rolling Stone magazine, "The NRA says it is not a trade organization.  Lie.  NRA patrons include 22 firearms manufacturers, 12 of which make assault weapons.  Industry donors, including Blackwater (now Xe), have funnelled up to $52 million to NRA bank account in recent years."

In 1995, Wally Arida, publisher of Gun Games, introduced his magazine at the NRA Convention.  "According to Firearms Business, Arida 'sees his magazine as a route for the industry to take a new direction in promotion and marketing.' He is quoted as saying, 'I'm trying to publish a magazine and build a whole industry around it.'" Arida asks: "Which gun is better for self defense? What bullet design causes the biggest wound channel?" And the NRA allowed him to advertise at their convention.  But, business is business.

Tom Diaz, in his book Making a Killing, comments: "The Violence Policy Center has documented financial links between the NRA and the industry, and the NRA and others are active participants in industry planning sessions.  The following conclusion from a 1993 Boston Globe series on the NRA summarizes well what is known about the NRA and the firearms industry: 

The bond between the gun manufacturers and the
NRA involves direct financial contributions, almost-
always-favorable reviews of newly developed products
in NRA publications like American Rifleman, and 
including NRA literature in the packaging of new guns.

Tom Diaz writes: "The United States is the world's greatest market for civilian firearms....Foreign gun companies have increasingly exploited the U.S. gun market." Now, look at the prolific marketing of weapons in the NRA's American Rifleman. But business is business.

The New Republic of 28 May 2013, reports that gun ownership is declining from 1/2 of American households in the 1970s to 1/3 of households today.  Senator Joe Manchin (Democrat from West Virginia and an NRA member), noted that "A recent Al Qaeda tape urged would-be terrorists to load up on arms at American gun shows."  And which organization is prominent at gun shows? But business is business.

The NRA is majorly involved in the business of promoting and selling all types of firearms.  Contrasted with its gun safety program called "Eddie the Eagle", is the powerful marketing of weapons. Indeed, this segment of the NRA is the largest part of its organization's reason for existence.  After all, business is business, regardless of the carnage it creates.

"By their fruits you shall know them."
Matthew 12:33

Peace!

Ron Letnes






Tuesday, November 5, 2013

N.R.A. and Values
Part II

Part II of this series on "N.R.A.: Testing the Spirits" will focus on values.  Values drive an organization, move it forward, provide the lens through which it activates its purpose. What are some core N.R.A. values?  I would suggest that the following values are on balance more expressive of the N.R.A. leadership rather than regular members.  Let's see some values.

INFLEXIBLE, ABUSIVE BULLIES:  Four respected national leaders resigned their membership saying: "[The NRA has become] very inflexible and almost radical; they appeal to a fringe element of gun owners." General Norman Schwarzkopf; "[I object to the] ludicrous and offensive implication that federal agents are encouraged to commit acts of violence against ordinary citizens." Congressman John Dingell; "They've become abusive, accusatory, sick, violent, threatening bullies.  They want absolute subservience, and they are not going to get it from me." Former Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell; "[I object to the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) being referred to as a bunch of] jack-booted thugs." Former President George H.W. Bush (1)

ANTI-RESEARCH: In 1995 the N.R.A. mounted a successful campaign to cut funding for the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control whose responsibility is to do research on why accidents and tragedies happen, believing that understanding the reason will help lead to higher safety standards and fewer accidents and deaths.  The reasons for their opposition: "They want to foster a negative image against law-abiding gun owners.... All their research comes to the conclusion that owning a gun is bad and dangerous to your health." Their research is "obviously flawed". (2)

Also criticized were two highly respected medical journals: The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association saying, "We have a problem with these organizations, too, for not holding the articles to their usual standards." (3)

RACIST AND DISRESPECTFUL: Jeff Gordon, N.R.A. Board Member, referred to the Japanese as "Nips" and suggested calling South Africans from Gauteng Province "Orang-gutangs". Comparing Los Angeles with Ho Chi Minh City he said, "LA and Ho Chi Minh City have declared themselves sister cities.  It makes sense as they are both Third World metropolises formerly occupied by Americans." (4)

Ted Nugent, N.R.A. Board Member and celebrity spokesperson, called Hillary Clinton a "toxic c--t".
"This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro." Also, "I met a couple of guys in line yesterday who go, 'Write something to my girlfriend, she won't let me go hunting'.  I wrote her something and I said, "Drop dead, bitch.' What good is she, trade her in, get a Dalmatian. Who needs a wench." (5)

INSPIRED "RIGHT TO CARRY" AND "STAND YOUR GROUND" LAWS: Stand Your Ground laws make it legal for a person who is attacked in public to use lethal force as a first resort.  A new study out of  Texas A&M found that "...lowering the expected costs associated with lethal force..." these SYG laws "...induce more of it".  In Florida justifiable homicides tripled between 2005-2011 because of SYG laws. (6)

STOKE FIRES OF FEAR: Wayne LaPierre writes: "Americans are facing the reality that they are on their own.... People are anticipating dangerous times and are responding in the only sensible, logical way possible - they are buying guns." "America's women are leading the way!... The more women who buy and shoot guns, the safer and better off we'll all be." (7)  The N.R.A. has run ads to promote gun purchasing: "Should you shoot a rapist before he cuts your throat?" and "If you are attacked on your porch, do you want your neighbors to be opposed to gun ownership or a member of the N.R.A.?" (8)

EXTREMIST-MILITIA MOVEMENT FRIENDLY:  "The N.R.A. has made martyrs out of two odd characters, not because either is particularly heroic, but because both came in the cross hairs of the BATF."  Jack Anderson is speaking of Randy Weaver, an avowed white separatist, and David Koresh, child sex molester, who is quoted as saying, "I am God's chosen instrument, and the laws that govern mere mortals do not apply to me." (9) The N.R.A. is consistently referenced in the Southern Poverty Law Center's magazine Intelligence Report which is dedicated to exposing right-wing extremist militia groups, as defending citizens' right to bear arms.  In fairness, the SPLC does not say the N.R.A. directly supports  violent militia actions. Yet, one needs to ask, why the linkage?  Even Jack Anderson asks for an investigation of the linkage between the N.R.A. and the militia movement. (10)

A word about the sources for the above commentary.  Jack Anderson's book, Inside the NRA, copyright 1996, is cited in numbers 1-5, and 9. Jack was a member of the NRA, a Republican, a respected journalist, and a dedicated Mormon, hardly the type of person who would have an ideological axe to grind. I find that what Jack wrote in 1996 is consistent with the present NRA actions.             The Rolling Stone, a 2013 article, is quoted in numbers 6-8.  The Intelligence Report is referenced to support Jack Anderson's inquiry.

Since this is the second commentary on the theme of "NRA: Testing the Spirits", connecting the NRA with a Biblical witness is necessary.  Hence, I conclude with words from the hymn, "Healer of Our Every Ill", ELW 612:

Healer of our every ill, light of each tomorrow,
Give us peace beyond our fear, and hope beyond our sorrow.

Too often the NRA leadership fails the test of being a healer, but instead foments fear, creates the rationale for justifying more violence, makes people into objects, and instills a spirit of "the enemy", us vs. them. I find these outcomes contrary to Biblical witness.

Peace!
Ron Letnes