Quotes

#wrongtobeararms

Friends, the post which follows was written following the events in Orlando last summer – I didn’t have the courage of my convictions to post it at the time partly as I know Christian friends, US citizens, who felt very strongly about their constitutional right to own guns. After the events in Las Vegas this past weekend, I cannot hold back publishing any longer. For ‘Orlando’ you could easily read ‘Las Vegas’.

God help us all.

-13 June 2016-

Friends in the USA, what follows is not my usual style of post, but the events in Orlando on Sunday, and the reaction I have seen to this atrocity both in the media and amongst the blogging community have prompted me to write. I have paused 24 hours, I have considered the fact that this is a highly emotive subject in your country, and that many who read this will continue to fiercely defend their constitutional right to own firearms. My only intention is to invite pause for thought, although my hope is that highlighting these shocking statistics will apply that thought to action.

I have read clichéd suggestions that “guns don’t kill, people do”. The evil in men’s hearts is certainly the ultimate cause of this and other gun-related murders; but why would you allow the evil in a maniac’s heart to be coupled with a lawfully-purchased murderous weapon in his hands?

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the city of Orlando, and a nation which, I would humbly suggest, cannot continue to ignore the appalling impact of guns on its society.

The type of AR-15 rifle that terrorist Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people and wound dozens more in Orlando has has been used in multiple shootings during this decade alone, yet the military-inspired semi-automatic rifle designed for civilian use is perfectly legal in most states.

FACT: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents (a mass shooting is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant).
Source: Mass Shooting Tracker

AR-15

Mateen was armed with a .223-caliber AR-15-type rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol – both legally purchased – when he opened fire at the Pulse club in Orlando early Sunday morning.

FACT: The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime. According to figures from the US Department of Justice and the Council on Foreign Affairs, 11,385 people died on average annually in firearm incidents in the US between 2001 and 2011. In the same period, an average of 517 people were killed annually in terror-related incidents. Removing 2001, when 9/11 occurred, from the calculation produces an annual average of just 31.

The AR-15 rifle is the civilian version of the fully-automatic M16 used by soldiers in the Vietnam War. Unlike the M16, users must pull the trigger every time they want to fire a shot. The most common versions of the AR-15 have been banned in a handful of states, including California.

FACT: There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012 (including occasions when a gun was fired but no-one was hurt).
Source: Everytown for Gun SafetyResearch

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers, said there are five million to 10 million AR-15 rifles in the U.S., a small percentage of the 300 million firearms owned by about a third of the US population. That is nearly enough guns for every man, woman and child in the country.

FACT: Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people were injured [those figures exclude suicide]. Those figures are likely to rise by several hundred, once incidents in the final week of the year are counted.
Source: Gun Violence Archive


Last October, gunman Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, used an AR-15-style firearm to kill nine people before he killed himself at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

An AR-15 model was used by married couple Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, when they killed 14 people and wounded nearly two dozen others at a work Christmas party in San Bernardino, California, last December. Police recovered two .223-caliber AR-15-type semi-automatic rifles after the couple died in a shootout with officers.

An AR-15-type firearm was used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which shocked the nation in December 2012. Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy, who legally obtained the firearms, at their home before he killed 20 children and six adult staff members at the school.

“It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did [in Orlando]: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease,” said lawyer Josh Koskoff, who is representing families of the Sandy Hook victims in a lawsuit, when interviewed by the New York Daily News.

That shooting renewed the gun debate in the USA, and led to calls for a ban on sales of AR-15-type firearms.

However, sales went through the roof, and the National Rifle Association boasted that its membership surged to around five million.

FACT: The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 – the most recent year for comparable statistics – was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1. Of all the murders in the USA in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.
Source: UNODC


US_homicides_guns

FACT: So many people die annually from gunfire in the USA that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.
Source: Politifact

‘He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.’
– Isaiah 2:4

Advertisements

‘Father’ by Edgar A. Guest

My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.

My father, in a day or two
Could land big thieves in jail;
There’s nothing that he cannot do,
He knows no word like “fail.”
“Our confidence” he would restore,
Of that there is no doubt;
But if there is a chair to mend,
We have to send it out.

All public questions that arise,
He settles on the spot;
He waits not till the tumult dies,
But grabs it while it’s hot.
In matters of finance he can
Tell Congress what to do;
But, O, he finds it hard to meet
His bills as they fall due.

It almost makes him sick to read
The things law-makers say;
Why, father’s just the man they need,
He never goes astray.
All wars he’d very quickly end,
As fast as I can write it;
But when a neighbor starts a fuss,
‘Tis mother has to fight it.

In conversation father can
Do many wondrous things;
He’s built upon a wiser plan
Than presidents or kings.
He knows the ins and outs of each
And every deep transaction;
We look to him for theories,
But look to ma for action”
― Edgar A. Guest

The Beasts of Caerbannog #NaPoWriMo2017 #GloPoWriMo2017

The most foul, cruel,
Bad-tempered rodents
Any knight ever set eyes upon;
These rabbits had a vicious streak a mile wide:
Born killers!
Baring huge, sharp . . . ,
Able to leap about . . . ,
Behold the strewn bones!
Enter their realm, trembling,
Besmirched with fear . . .
Then, run away!

Day 24 of Na/GloPoWriMo and today’s NaPoWriMo.net challenge is to write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art. The additional challenge was to base the poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. This quadrille poem (44 words) draws on the images displayed which seem to have featured in the margins of bibles, and is inspired by the art of Terry Gilliam, and a scene from one of my favourite films of all time, Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

Ni.

Futurama Wisdom from Philip J. Fry

When you do things right
Grace makes love seem effortless
People won’t be sure
You’ve done anything at all-
Second nature takes first place

written in response to today’s prompt at The Daily Post, drawing inspiration from the ‘Godfellas’ episode of Futurama

“You can’t lose hope when it’s hopeless. You gotta hope more, then put your fingers in your ears and go, “Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!… “
– Philip J. Fry

Courage for Compassion

Pause to consider
Our moral obligations:
The greater the wealth,
Great responsibility –
Find courage for compassion

written in response to today’s prompt at The Daily Post

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).”
― Mark Twain

‘The Echo’ by C.C. Miller

“Twas a sheep not a lamb that strayed away
In the parable Jesus told,
A grown-up sheep that strayed away
From the ninety and nine in the fold.

And why for the sheep should we seek
And earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger when sheep go wrong;
They lead the lambs astray.

Lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray.
When sheep go wrong, it won’t take long
Til the lambs are as wrong as they.

And so with the sheep we earnestly plead
For the sake of the lambs today,
For when sheep are lost, what a terrible cost
The lambs will have to pay!”

― C.C. Miller

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought” – Octavia E. Butler

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

‘Love After Love’ by Derek Walcott (RIP)

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

“I have never separated the writing of poetry from prayer. I have grown up believing it is a vocation, a religious vocation.”
– Derek Walcott, poet and Nobel laureate (1930 – 2017)

Quotes on Church Unity

“Church isn’t the sort of thing you can go to. You can be the church, you can become the church, you can even do church, but you can’t go to church. (Nowhere does the New Testament mention going to church.) One way of saying it is that church is the sort of thing that you become part of at the cost of your life. You’re the church whenever you’re with other Christians in such a way that you depend on each other enough that to do it you have to die to yourself. In that situation and almost only in that situation, can you love each other, serve each other, live in unity, and speak the truth to each other in love the way Ephesians 4 teaches.”
― John F. Alexander, Being Church: Reflections on How to Live as the People of God

“I don’t believe God wants our church life to be centered on buildings and services. Instead, God wants our churches—whatever specific forms our gatherings take—to be focused on active discipleship, mission, and the pursuit of unity.”
― Francis Chan, Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We Made Up

“When the people in a church dwell together in the unity of the gospel and together pursue the building up of one another in love, they are providing fertile soil for the roots of deep joy. But […]”
― Matt Chandler, To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain

“On the concept of unity- “Thatʼs right – Jesusʼ[s] most pressing concern before leaving the earth was our unity. He was looking ahead, to every generation of believer. And as he prayed, he made it clear that our witness as his body in this fractured , messed-up, chaotic world would depend on our love for another.”
― Ed Galisewski, A Simpler Faith: Hope For Those Who Struggle With Church

“I believe that there is still much hope for the church to attain deeper and purer doctrinal understanding, and to overcome old barriers, even those that have persisted for centuries. Jesus is at work perfecting his church “that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27), and He has given gifts to equip the church “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13). Though the past history of the church may discourage us, these Scriptures remain true, and we should not abandon hope of greater agreement…In this book I have not hesitated to raise again some of the old differences in the hope that, in some cases at least, a fresh look at Scripture may provoke a new examination of these doctrines and may perhaps prompt some movement not just toward greater understanding and tolerance of other viewpoints, but even toward greater doctrinal consensus in the church.”
― Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

“The church is constituted as a new people who have been gathered from the nations to remind the world that we are in fact one people. Gathering, therefore, is an eschatological act as it is the foretaste of the unity of the communion of the saints.”
― Stanley Hauerwas, In Good Company: The Church as Polis

“We tend to lament this seemingly endless parceling of Christianity (which, let’s face it, can indeed get out of hand), but I’m not convinced the pursuit of greater unity means rejecting denominationalism altogether. A worldwide movement of more than two billion people reaching every continent and spanning thousands of cultures for over two thousand years can’t expect homogeneity. And the notion that a single tradition owns the lockbox on truth is laughable, especially when the truth we’re talking is God.”
― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church

“Why is understanding church models essential in enabling a city’s churches to work together in unity? Without this understanding, there will be no catholicity in your city. Unless you accept the fact that there is not one exclusively biblical church model, you will not see the need for strong fellowship and connections to other denominations and networks, which usually embody different emphases and strengths than the ones that characterize your model. What’s more, there also will be no catholicity in your church, denomination, or movement.”
― Timothy J. Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

“Worship at its best is a social experience with people of all levels of life coming together to realize their oneness and unity under God. Whenever the church, consciously or unconsciously caters to one class it loses the spiritual force of the “whosoever will, let him come, doctrine and is in danger of becoming a little more than a social club with a thin veneer of religiosity.”
― Martin Luther King Jr, The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr

“…If a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing [for Satan and his devils to do] is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits”him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organization should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the [Lord] desires… In the second place, the search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where the [Lord] wants him to be a pupil.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

“No one is perfect—there are always going to be little things that people disagree about. Nevertheless, we should always get on our knees together and seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph 4:3)”
― John F. MacArthur Jr, The Master’s Plan for the Church

“Election has nothing to do with the eternal salvation of individuals but refers instead to God’s way of saving nations. It was a major mistake of the Reformation to have decided to follow Augustine in this matter, taking election to refer to grace and salvation. It manages to make bad news out of good news. It casts a deep shadow over the character of God. At it worst, it can lead to awful consequences in terms of pride, arrogance, superiority, and intolerance as the ideology of election takes hold. It causes the church to become, not a sign of the unity of humanity in the love of God, but the sign of favorites in the midst of the enemies of God.”
― Clark H. Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions

“Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things.”
― The Puritans

“Unity in the church will not happen if members have unforgiving hearts.”
“few things can destroy the unity of a church like gossip. A unified church is powerful. Gossip tears apart that unity and renders a church powerless.”
― Thom S. Rainer, I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference

“Sometimes it takes having differences, not understanding one another, and even being a little bit irritated by and bored with one another, to remind us that the church is a family and not a club. At its best, this family dynamic of the local church functions as God’s fertile soil for growing us beyond mere tolerance toward true expressions of love and unity.”
― Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides

“The level of rhetoric and discourse [in the election season] has been so divisive. I think it is important to remind believers that their identity is in Christ, and that we are called to unity and reconciliation. In my own church there are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We are wanting to call people to remember that only in Jesus is there ultimate hope.”
― C. Christopher Smith, Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus

“All Christians enjoy a unity of mission in which we have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Eph. 4:4–5). There is surely disunity in the visible church, but that is not as important as the reality of the unity that we enjoy by virtue of our shared communion in Christ.”
― R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s a Theologian

“It should be evident that there can be no true Christian sharing unless there is first an impartation of life. An organization and a name do not make a church. One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.”
― A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God

“Unity in the church is so important that the New Testament gives more attention to it than to either heaven or hell. God deeply desires that we experience oneness and harmony with each other. Unity is the soul of fellowship. Destroy it, and you rip the heart out of Christ’s Body. It is the essence, the core, of how God intends for us to experience life together in his church. Our supreme model for unity is the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are completely unified as one. God himself is the highest example of sacrificial love, humble other-centeredness, and perfect harmony.”
― Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

“I saw a lot of working class men and women – myself included – living a deeper, more thoughtful life than would have been possible without the church… The sense of belonging to something big, something important, lent unity and meaning.”
― Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

“The church is not simply a religious body looking for a safe place to do its own thing within a wider political or social world. The church is neither more nor less than people who bear witness, by their very existence and in particular their holiness and their unity (Colossians 3), that Jesus is the world’s true lord, ridiculous or even scandalous though this may seem.”
― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues

President Ronald Reagan on Religious Intolerance

“Let me speak plainly: the United States of America is and must remain a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. Our very unity has been strengthened by this pluralism. That’s how we began; this is how we must always be. The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, anti-Semitism, or bigotry of any kind – none. The unique thing about America is a wall in our Constitution separating church and state. It guarantees there will never be a state religion in this land, but at the same time it makes sure that every single American is free to choose and practice his or her religious beliefs or to choose no religion at all. Their rights shall not be questioned or violated by the state.

Remarks at the International Convention of B’nai B’rith, 6 September 1984”

― Ronald Reagan