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King: To find answers, first ask the right questions

POSTED: January 8, 2013 1:00 a.m.

During an interview on NPR, a UUC minister said of many Christians, “They keep giving me answers to questions I never asked.”

I agree. I’m not concerned about what happens when I die. I figure the ego dies along with the body, but I could be wrong. Perhaps an incorporeal soul survives, remembers and can communicate with the living.

But whether this is possible or not, everything corporeal about a human being does live on, diluted by time, of course, but never completely gone. The various atoms are redistributed. Individual’s deeds radiate out like the circles in a pond when a fish jumps or a stone is tossed. Eventually these waves touch all shores. In most cases their impact is imperceptible, but not always

Personal memories fade; historical memory becomes distorted by time and politics, but our oldest ancestors are still with us, in our genes and in racial memory. Physics tells us nothing is ever created, nothing is ever destroyed. It only changes form.

I’m not interested in the usual God questions. The only thing I’m sure of is this: Everything is connected, and all of us are accountable. The questions I want answered are not about God, but about human beings. What makes us do whatever it is we do. What make a man kill a room full of 6- and 7-year old children? What makes the school principal and the school psychologist run toward the killer rather than away?

The gun lobby wants us to believe, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But if the school principal and the school psychologist came in shooting, would there be more carnage or less?

This good-guy, bad-guy statement bothers me. It says we need more good guys with guns, but if you think about it, it implies we need fewer bad guys with guns. Furthermore, it assumes that people are either good or bad. It says nothing about what pushes them one way or another.

There is a disconnect between the question: How do you stop gun deaths? and the answer gun lobbyists give us: more guns. When you ask the wrong questions, you get the wrong answers. The National Rifle Association’s response to the Newtown massacre is at best, silly; at worst, shameful.

Some fundamental Christians have suggested that the recent massacres are linked to a decrease in religious observation in the U.S. rather than an increase of highly lethal weapons. They imply believers are just naturally good; nonbelievers are bad.

“Believe as I do, and you will become a good guy. Then arm yourself, and you can go out and kill bad guys.” This is, at best, silly; at worst, shameful.

If we want to reduce America’s murder rate we need a more basic and inclusive approach to the question of bad guys with guns, and this is a role the religious community can play if it will reach beyond creed and dogma. There is a common denominator in mass murders: The shooter ends up killing himself. In other words, he commits suicide. Apparently he lacks the ability to do it on his own so he creates a situation where he is forced into it.

Why do people buy guns in the first place? Because they are fearful, afraid of bad guys, of unnamed forces at work in their community, of being labeled weak and ineffectual. Being armed is a wonderful security blanket, but if you really need to defend your home, a good alarm system and doubled-barreled shotgun are quite adequate. Statistically, a handgun in the home actually increases the risk to the owner and his family.

However, facts don’t matter much when a person is deeply insecure. Here religion can help. The individual who appreciates the beauty and wonder of existence, and honors all living things does not want to blow anyone or anything away.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at


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