Yes, it is happening more

From a Harvard research study in 2014

These are hugely newsworthy events and we cannot expect them not to be covered, but it seems a reasonable conclusion that the idea of mass shootings has “gone viral” among the violently mentally unstable.  It might not help, to keep the shooter’s identity hidden, but it sure wouldn’t hurt.  And it really might help.  A lot of these people clearly seek infamy.  And, currently, they get it.

The buckets of the bible

Among the interesting responses to my recent post on Christianity and politics, Jon K. pointed me to this take on biblical interpretation from Methodist Minister Adam Hamilton.  I love it.  It rings so true to me:

In my upcoming book, Making Sense of the Bible, I suggest that there are three “buckets” into which scriptures fall:

  1. Scriptures that express God’s heart, character and timeless will for human beings.
  2. Scriptures that expressed God’s will in a particular time, but are no longer binding.
  3. Scriptures that never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.

Bucket one scriptures include passages like the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor.  They include passages that call us to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God,” and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”   Most of the Bible fits into this category – capturing God’s heart, character and timeless will for humanity.

Bucket two scriptures, those that expressed God’s will for his people in a specific time and circumstances but which do not express the timeless will of God, include the command that males be circumcised, commands regarding animal sacrifices, clean and unclean foods, and hundreds of other passages in the Law.  The Apostles, in Acts 15, determined that most of the laws like these were no longer binding upon Christians.

The idea of a third bucket, passages that never reflected God’s heart and will, is disconcerting to some.  It challenges some deeply held beliefs about how God spoke and continues to speak through the biblical authors.  Here are a few examples of scripture I don’t believe ever accurately captured God’s heart, character, or will:  Leviticus 21:9 requires that if the daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute she must be burned to death.  In Exodus 21:20-21, God permits slave-owners to beat their slaves with rods provided they don’t die within the first 48 hours after the beating “for the slave is his property.”  God commands the destruction of every man, woman, and child in 31 Canaanite cities and later killis 70,000 Israelites in punishment for David taking a census. These passages seem to me to be completely inconsistent with the God revealed in Jesus Christ who cared for prostitutes, commanded that we love our enemies, and gave his life to save sinners.

Yes!  Bucket one.  Most everything Jesus actually said (especially those great sermons in Matthew and Luke).  Buckets two and three, what other people had to say about Jesus and much of the Old Testament (clearly meant for a specific time and place).

The post linked here goes on to argue that biblical admonitions fall into bucket 2 or 3.  Sounds right to me.  But more importantly, I just love the idea of of looking to “Scriptures that express God’s heart, character and timeless will for human beings.”  And honestly, I think we all have a pretty good idea of what those are.

Photo of the day

From a recent In Focus photos of the week gallery:

A deer is seen in Richmond Park on the first day of autumn, September 23, 2015, in London, England.

Ben Pruchnie / Getty

Ted Cruz is evil

I don’t really write about the guy much.  But he’s pretty close to pure evil.  I find buffoon/evil, i.e., Trump, far more interesting.  Also, Cruz is nowhere in the polls.  That doesn’t mean he’s not a cancer on the American body politic.  Jim Newell in Slate:

Ted Cruz is the most cynical candidate in the presidential race. Congratulations to him—it’s an achievement.

It’s one thing for Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, or some other candidate from outside Washington to rail against congressional Republicans for not “fighting” hard enough against the simple mathematical problems that prevent them from repealing the Affordable Care Act or defunding Planned Parenthood. It’s quite another for Cruz, a sitting senator, to use his powers as an elected official to hold up the nation’s basic business on crusades that have approximately zero chance of success. If he wants to give rousing speeches on the Senate floor, fine. But the work he does to foil the Senate leadership’s plans (forcing them to develop months-long strategies to counter him), while stringing along like-minded House Republicans who maintain veto power over their own leadership, is a deeply mischievous ploy. He’s been at it a long time.

What’s worse, Cruz’s entire bad-faith campaign and its tactics are based on a contradiction: that this Congress should be able to achieve Republican goals without holding the White House but Republicans need a fighter like him in the White House to achieve those goals…

Ted Cruz is a bright guy. He understands that James Madison and pals didn’t design a system of government through which the party not holding the White House could achieve legislative progress by banishing federal workers to their homes for a few weeks. It is a system where the party that controls Congress is unlikely to achieve major legislative end goals that run directly counter to the president’s top priorities. But maybe Madison was just another Washington establishment coward who didn’t have the spine to fight.

So, why do I say Cruz is “evil” and not just cynical.  Because he is demonstrably not stupid.  He knows what he’s doing is manipulative, wrong, and bad for the country.  That’s far worse than just being an egomaniacal blowhard.

The horribly sad need to re-use old posts

So, the shooting yesterday.  I was reading various great takes on it, when I realized that they were takes on previous mass shootings.  Of course, they were as relevant and on-point as ever.  Much like the widely re-shared Onion headline yesterday, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.”  So, these are some really good posts that I somehow missed in the wake of other tragedies (and given the number of them, that’s sadly easy to do).

Anyway, James Fallows:

There will be more of these; we absolutely know it [emphases mine]; we also know that we will not change the circumstances that allow such episodes to recur. I am an optimist about most things, but not about this. Everyone around the world understands this reality too. It is the kind of thing that makes them consider America dangerous, and mad.

Fallows also quotes from Adam Gopnik:

The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country—Canada, Norway, Britain—has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do—as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue. Does anyone even remember any longer last July’s gun massacre, those birthday-party killings in Texas, when an estranged husband murdered his wife and most of her family, leaving six dead?

But nothing changes: the blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment—despite the clear grammar of its first sentence—is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed…

Only in America. Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it. In Europe not long ago it was the belief that “honor” of the nation was so important that any insult to it had to be avenged by millions of lives. In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers. The argument has gotten dully repetitive: How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free? You can only shake your head and maybe cry a little.

Seth Masket on what we should do:

They [the NRA] simply advocate for their members’ interests using very transparent political processes. As George Stephanopoulos famously said:

Let me make one small vote for the NRA. They’re good citizens. They call their Congressmen. They write. They vote. They contribute. And they get what they want over time.

The NRA does not own the patent on this formula. For those who wish to change the state of American gun ownership laws, the same approach should be used: If you see a politician supporting gun control, give her money. Volunteer on her campaign. Send her a letter thanking her, and then send letters to local newspapers praising her leadership. Make a particular stance on this issue the condition for your support in a primary election, and get your friends to do the same.

There’s no (pardon the term) magic bullet on this issue. It’s simply a matter of providing incentives to politicians. If supporting gun control is a heroic act, very few of them will do it. If it’s an easy way to gin up praise and campaign support, a lot of them will.

Gopnik’s post also takes Obama to task for not speaking out more forcefully.  That’s one thing that has changed.  Slate with some good highlights from Obama yesterday:

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds. Regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses who want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings, every few months. Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun safety laws, even in the face of repeated mass killings…

And of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere, will comment and say — Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together. To the body politic. I would ask news organizations, because I won’t put these facts forward. Have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who been killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade and the number of American who is have been killed by gun violence. And post those side by side on your news reports.

And my favorite part:

We collectively are answerable to those family who is lose their loved ones. Because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them. To reduce auto fatalities. We have seat belt laws, because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different? That our freedom and our constitution prohibits any modest regulation?

Oh, and Obama’s call for comparing gun and terrorism?  Vox took care of that:


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