There’s a movie I recommend to certain kinds of folks, folks who know there’s bitter with the sweet and can skip the sweet sometimes. It’s called Winter’s Bone. I saw it because it stars Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games, but don’t go by that. While Hunger Games is an entertaining fantasy, Winter’s Bone has an edge. You will like it more if you grew up like I did. I found myself wishing for folks long dead, like my dad, so they could see it too. It’s that good.
There is a scene where Jennifer Lawrence’s character is teaching her younger siblings how to shoot. She takes them out back and says, “Get down on your knees like you’re prayin’,” and then she proceeds with the shooting lesson.
I’ve been called a gentle soul. I cry at the movies and my daughters make fun of me. But I grew up in a house that had both Bibles and guns in it. There were a lot of both. We knew how to shoot; and we went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.
Our Lord tells us that if we are hit on one cheek we should turn the other. I believe that. It’s a hard thing, and I know because I’ve done it once or twice, at least in the metaphorical sense. Jesus also made a whip of cords and cleared the money-changers out of the Temple. When Jesus was about to be taken by the Romans, he recalled the scripture to say that he will be numbered among the brigands, so he asked his disciples whether anyone had a sword. One of them did.
We are taught the Lion will lie down with the Lamb. We’ve had an idea of what that would be--Peace on Earth--but is that right? Maybe the Lion is there to protect the Lamb? Maybe all the abilities we have are there for a purpose? I don’t know. Don’t quote me without the question marks. But ask the question and think about it.
Another movie I would recommend for the discerning viewer is Gods and Generals. From my point of view, it is about Stonewall Jackson. He was a man of deep faith who believed that God had a purpose for him. That faith made him a good soldier. It is not unusual for good soldiers to come out of that culture of Bibles and guns.
There have been a couple of stories over the last year that have brought me back into the culture of guns and made me ask questions about how it fits together with the Bible.
There was one about a young mother living in a trailer in the greater Oklahoma City area. A man seeking her recently deceased husband’s pain meds was trying to get into her home. After calling the cops and being told it would take twenty minutes for them to get there, she put a bottle in her baby’s mouth, picked up a shotgun, and blew her assailant away. I leave open the question of whether there is more here than meet the eye, but these facts as laid out present a clear picture.
Page 2 of 2 - More recently, there was the story of the twelve-year-old girl in Bryan County, Oklahoma. This is down in the Forks of Boggy where my dad was a boy. The girl’s home was being invaded for robbery or maybe even something much worse. She hid in her closet and, when he came to try to get at her, she shot him. I would be willing to bet there was at least one Bible in the house as well.
Things like this happen. There are bad people who prey upon the weak. Does the Gospel demand that we allow this to go unchecked in the name of nonviolence?
There was a time when I was on one side of the question and thought it was easy. I was then on the other and thought it was easy. I am now in process of going back to something more like my original position. The difference is that in the interim I’ve decided that maybe it’s not easy. Maybe the realization that there is struggle represents progress; maybe I am simply given to betraying my convictions; maybe I have none to betray.
We like things plain and simple. We want it all laid out in a decision tree with every question answered by yes or no, and at the end we want a remedy with all of the steps bullet-pointed. In reality, we are at times in situations where there are only bad alternatives from which to choose. One might look back over the situation in order to analyze how I got here, but here is where we are and there is no going back.
Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.