I thought it might be a good idea to bite off more than I can chew. So……gun laws in America, what the heck is going on over there?
If you’re an everyday Aussie (especially one who remembers the Port Arthur massacre back in ’96) you’re probably looking at the hullabaloo that some folks are making over President Obama’s campaign to do something sensible about the gun policies of the U.S.
You’re probably thinking, “why can’t they see how dumb all these arguments are and just get rid of their automatic weapons like we did in the late 90’s?” It’s so wonderful to live in a country where it’s so ‘oppressive’ that we don’t have school shootings.
So why is there such a fuss around this thing. I’m no political scientist but for those of us who don’t know how America works politically here is the simplest way of explaining it. Beware; generalizations follow.
Yes, it is a democracy, but once you vote the bloke (or lady) in to the oval office they have enormous power. Of course there’s congress and parties and layer upon layer of nuance and political complexity but when you really (and I mean really) boil it down to its key elements, what you have in the US of A is: one person who is both head of State (like the queen/via our governor general) and head of government, (like Prime Minister Turnbull…….this week anyway, you never know when the PM might change in Oz.)
Head of state, head of government, is the one….head in the American constitution.
In many other countries thru history this hasn’t been a very awesome way of doing things. If you remove the process of nominations and elections this looks perilously close to what dictatorships look like.
The Americans though, realized this and imagined the worst thing that could possibly happen in their system of government: A president is somehow elected who turns out to be a complete maniac and orders the armed forces to attack his own people. Then they thought “hmmm it’s going to be tough for a president to oppress their own population if that entire population has as much right to bear arms as the military,” So this right to bear arms is included as the ultimate and final expression of a people’s liberty, even in the midst of a worst-case scenario.
If it was me, I would have simply divided up political power differently, but then again, I’m not in the situation where I am trying establish a sovereign union of states after winning a war against a foe representing the Monarch of England living thousands of miles away yet claiming the right to take whatever he wanted, from everyday people with no resistance. So yeah, you can see why after that experience they were a little bit like…. How can I put it… “don’t touch my stuff.”
Nonetheless, this is why the voices of the NRA and the like keep using words like liberty and freedom in their speeches. They’re not joking. To them, freedom means that no one, but no one can point a gun at your head without you pointing one back, turning it into an (ironically) Mexican standoff.
But here’s the point: an amendment which was essentially enabled to guarantee freedom amidst a certain political system has started to cause the very problem (death of the innocent) that it was designed to prevent. But, here’s the conundrum: in order to get rid of it, you’d have to change the political system and the distribution of power.
Let me say that again: in order to get rid of it, you’d have to change the political system and the distribution of power. America can’t just ‘do away’ away with the second amendment because to so means a ground-up overhaul of their entire political system.
Why am I going on about this?
Because there’s a massive lesson here for any anyone in any form of leadership and it starts by asking this question:
What policy/policies (written or unwritten) do we have in place that we know is killing us, but we’re keeping because it’s allowing us to stick to a system that’s ‘too much work’ for us to overhaul?
What are we putting up with in order to protect an unworkable, or outdated or just broken system?
As I work in a Church context, my examples extend from the same. There can be many examples as simple as keeping a ministry at an unrealistic time for our target audience in order that our systems of preparation are not disturbed on one hand right up to letting major decisions be affected by the desire to keep certain people, or a certain person happy even though we know that this is robbing us of effective ministry.
How many of us are needlessly putting up with something due to fear, laziness or exhaustion?
That is the temptation that you don’t hear lots of sermons on. But it is definitely a temptation. Ironically, it also means that often the first sign of positive change and Godly direction in a community is; complaining. Just ask Moses!
But again, speaking from a Church context, life is to short and eternity too long to let Satan win in this way. If you are running a ministry it is at least part of your job to remember that if Satan can’t destroy you, he’s happy to simply render what you are doing as ineffective.
But just know that if you let that happen, your target audience is, at best, going to be looking at you thinking “what the heck are they doing, why is this such a big deal?” -Just like how many confused aussies look at our (honestly speaking) good friends in the USA right now trying to tip toe around the issue of why any Tom, Dick or Harry shouldn’t really be allowed to purchase a military grade field machine gun with as much ammo as they want at a local gun show without having to show ID, if you go to the right seller.
This is why, bringing it back to my context, I try to start each year of uth@waratah by saying something like “Lord, the whole box and dice is in your hands, reveal what’s holding us back and get rid of it, and grant me, grant us the grace to do what is necessary.”
I really mean this. Even if it turned out to be something that ruffles our feathers like “Get rid of all Friday night activities and turn youth wholly and solely into a one on one ministry,” Or “Move the entire thing off base and run it in central Mandurah,” or “cancel all activities and pray non-stop for an entire year,” I would. Because life is too short and eternity too long to put up with any excuses preventing us from making the changes that need to be made in order to be effective stewards.
As it turns out, there’s going to be big, program-effecting changes this year at uth@waratah, starting off with
- 3 training, and collaborative solution-sharing sessions a term open to anyone working with youth/children’s ministry. (Even if they are from other Churches)
- A refocus on one on one bible reading and the goal of every single youth leader with a personal faith mentor and every youth leader mentoring at least one uth@waratah attendee
- A re-focus on publicity and effective invitation.
And that’s just the youth. Don’t even get me started about bible studies and music stuff.
But the best bit is this; even if it feels like your walking between two walls of water, if you simply do what needs to be done, ignoring the complaints, eventually even the naysayers make it to the other side…..if we just trust God’s directions.