Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.



There has been a groundswell among the American population in reaction to Sandy Hook. Here again, a mentally unstable person had access to considerable, legal firepower. It was George W. Bush who let the Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapon Ban (AWB) expire in September 2004. After eight years, four of them in Obama's first term, no significant legislation has survived congressional committee to reinstate the ban. How quickly will something pass the GOP-controlled House? Good question. It's already been battered on social and fiscal issues. Can the fragmented GOP dare to resist the gun lobby's marching orders to fight such legislation?

But even if legislation does pass Congress in such a fashion that it will be signed by President Obama, this will just be fodder for Glenn Beck, the AFA's Bryan Fischer, FOX News, and the like. Beck has already been telling his viewers to buy guns and ammunition. Now, he can say that he was right, while simultaneously saying that the Second Amendment is critical to protect ourselves from such madmen and the government. It will be interesting to watch them attempt to reconcile the morality of the availability of assault weapons with the strict constructionist constitutional right of individual liberties. Of course, Obama will be called a socialist and a harbinger of the antichrist, if not the antichrist, himself. Assault weapons must be kept available against such tyranny, to protect the Church, this idol they have fashioned for themselves.

The issue of assault weapons is only one of many. The deeper issue here is mental illness. Recent mass shooters have not been mentally sound. We can't even say they have "fallen through the cracks" because there isn't even a real foundation to help them. American culture must ask itself whether mental illness is something it wants to address at a national level and if there will be federal and state involvement for mental health screening. Of course, the Right will resist this tooth and nail. They will perceive it as a governmental attempt to evaluate each citizen to determine their mental fitness and put everyone under governmental control.

Big Pharma has peddled the omnipotence of medication, but that's not a viable panacea as a coping mechanism, regardless of what its advertising persuades. And it's not just violence in the culture. All cultures are violent and have historically been so. I think that members of communities worked together to ensure social cohesion to marginalize violence. American government has sought to eliminate violence through incarceration, but this is in sufficient. Cultural literatures and identities have permitted and endorsed certain forms of violence as an appropriate virtue to address particular issues. But American culture has raised violence to a primary coping mechanism. A decade of distant war can do that to a culture, too. Easy access to assault weapons enables the coping mechanism to be enacted broadly, swiftly, and efficiently.

If we are to really make a change, then there must be systemic change through legislation and cultural perspective. Was the bombing of Birmingham, Alabama's 16th Street Baptist Church and the killing of four small African-American girls enough to change the tide? It eventually got LBJ to sign the Civil Rights Act the next year in 1964. Will Sandy Hook inspire the same kind of cultural and legislative change? We'll see.

The Religious Right has adopted gun rights as part of its theological identity. Onward Christian soldiers. It is crusader language and action. It is a Constantinian approach to theogeopolitics, except from a perceived minority position. It is empire from within. It is a church militant that uses assault rifles, but why only there? Is it ad absurdum argument to ask if heavier weaponry, even landmines and cluster bombs are part of this church militant? Is this Christus Victor? 

Martin Luther King, Jr. should be our distinct, unique American model here. His Christus Victor is the victor over injustice and the champion of the poor, the needy, the ill, the mentally ill, the disenfranchised, the outsider, the stranger. This is the Christus Victor the Religious Right fears. Onward.

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By Burke
Bleak Theology A post-punk counterweight to joy.


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