The Common Good

An Ash Wednesday Question

 What do we do? How do we stop this?

Police crime scene tape,  Luis Louro /
Police crime scene tape, Luis Louro /

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“Motorists and walkers scattered in terror Monday night as a gunman fired two bursts of bullets at passing vehicles near an Oakdale grocery store, killing a 10-year-old boy and wounding two other people. Click HERE for the Star-Tribune story.

We can‘t stop it. America is an arsenal with an open door. And any attempt to close the door is “unconstitutional.” Liberty, one of three basic rights outlined by The Declaration of Independence, is killing the other two. “Liberty” trumps not only “the pursuit of happiness” but “life” itself.

“At least two vehicles struck by bullets sped into the parking lot of the nearby Rainbow Foods at 7053 10th St. N. seeking help.”

Responsible gun owners did not do this. An irresponsible gun owner did this. But it would have made not one ounce of difference if the passersby had been armed. They were sitting ducks, like the ducks in a carnival booth. There is no protection against irresponsible use of a firearm.

Is the concern about violence in America – about life and the pursuit of happiness – equal to the concern for the constitutional right to bear arms? Can we talk about what is happening on the streets and in the schools across America without shouting that guns are not the problem – that people are the problem?

People are the problem. So are the lethal weapons like the one that made its way into the hand of the man who stands on a corner and fires at passers-by. These are not water pistols. These are not cap-guns. These are not bows and arrows. Can we talk about the problem of people using guns to kill their neighbors? Can we even have a discussion without the NRA holding us hostage?

Today is Ash Wednesday when Christians ponder the mystery of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ on the way to the cross.

“And while [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. …And they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’ “ (Gospel of Matthew 26:47-52)

In Luke’s version of the arrest, Jesus tells the disciple ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him.” (Gospel of Luke. 22:51)

“The 33-year-old gunman, who was in police custody Monday night, began firing a handgun about 6:10 p.m. while standing in the street near Hadley Avenue N. and 7th Street N….” – Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minn., Feb. 12, 2013.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the three core rights of the Declaration of Independence. Faith, hope, and love are the great spiritual values of the Christian tradition. Our freedom is not found in a weapon. It is found in Jesus of Nazareth for who was executed after the angry crowd yelled for the release of the other criminal, Jesus Barabbas, the armed insurrectionist.

It’s Ash Wednesday. At his arrest, the Jesus who is arrested by an armed militia tells his uncomprehending disciple to put his sword away: “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

“No more of this!” Please, for the sake of God, stop this!

Gordon C. Stewart is a social commentator, writer and radio commentator on Minnesota Public Radio's "All Things Considered" (MPR).  He is pastor at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, Minn. Visit him at

Photo: Police crime scene tape,  Luis Louro /

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