ZERO SUM GAME
“If you are not with me you are against me” Zero Sum Game. “If you do not accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you cannot have salvation” Zero Sum Game. “If you are for gun control you want to take away all guns and destroy the Second Amendment” Zero Sum Game. “If I am right you must be wrong” Zero Sum Game.
Zero Sum Game leaves no room for middle ground and has as its foundation the absolute decree that it is or it is not. Yet, my experience of the world is that the middle ground is most often where we encounter reality and humanity. Is it absolutely true that if you do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior you cannot know salvation? I don’t think so. There is room in the spiritual world for those who either do not know Jesus, or believe in some fiction about Jesus, or believe in other spiritual manifestations. I suspect that even atheists may have a shot at salvation. That said, I am a strident and adamant believer – duh, I’m a priest after all.
This idea of “zero sum game” is becoming more the norm today than ever before. It is permeating the cultural landscape of the United States. It is radicalizing our own thoughts about each other. It is an incipient sickness that is creeping into our political and social way of being. It manages to marginalize everyone that cannot or will not seek common ground. What is prompting this musing are the recent shootings in Parkland Florida. We are drawing our battle lines. The extremes are informing the center. It would seem that as of this writing young folk are rising up to carry a torch that pushes back against the dynamics of big lobbies. The beat goes on.
After the Pulse Shooting we all hoped for something different. But the red herring was that it was a gay club so it was a hate crime; the same with Emmanuel AME Church – a hate crime; it was a crazy man gone off the rails in Las Vegas and the litany goes on. But nothing has been done. If you are a shooter of color you are angry and if you are shooter that is white you are mentally ill. So it goes we polarize ourselves even with the facts or analysis of the facts.
The LGBTQ community above almost all other communities knows what a violent and harmful society we can be. Like our Afro brothers and sisters the LGBTQ community has experienced first-hand the violence of marginalization and neglect, of hatred and scorn, of demeaning behaviors that ghettoized an entire community. So the nature of violence is not new. It has always been a part of the human condition. St. Augustine would say it is the fall of humans aka the original sin of arrogance and pride that causes such violence, perhaps, and likely in one way or another that is true.
BUT, and it is a BIG BUT: We are also, according to this faith that I believe, made in the image and likeness of God both men and women. So, we have the capacity to love and create. I believe that most of humanity has such a capacity to love and to create in the finest way that we can think of such states of being or potential. I believe, honestly, that our natures are at war within each of us: the good in us pushing up against the bad in us. So, we share a common spiritual DNA. The LGBTQ community knows this, at least intuitively, better than most populations.
So, shall we neglect the children in schools who become targets of gun violence because it is not a Gay Club? Will we feel the pain or trauma as acutely? Perhaps not as acutely but the pain should and needs to be felt. Spiritual pain over loss is a way of our conscience telling us that something is terribly wrong in the world or in our lives. I believe it is the Holy Spirit whispering in our soul. Now we can suppress that voice or drink it away or like most of us become very angry and rail against “the target”, “the man”, “those people.” Or, we can gather up that pain and own it as a response to the violence that is upon us and remains increasingly upon us. Do you know how many people were shot and how many were killed in our city this past week? If not why not? Are we turning our sights to other things that are less troubling than the wholesale slaughter of even our own immediate geographical family?
21 people were shot in New Orleans over the past week and of them at least five lost their lives. What will so many people say? “They were violent offenders”, “they were thugs”, “it was all about drugs”, and like Mother Emanuel Church and Pulse there will be reason in our minds that somehow almost makes sense of it. But it doesn’t really. No matter how we try to understand it, killing outside or war and perhaps even inside of war, makes no sense. So let’s not try to make sense of it or to try and understand it. Killing is killing it is the termination of life by violent means and is absolutely an abomination to our humanity. No child is born a homicidal personality. We create them in many ways. Some of that dark creation history can be understood and addressed.
But today, today, what do we do and say about this present violence. Will it go the way of the ever changing news cycle? As a priest and believer I hope to God not. I appeal to you brothers and sisters, Republican, Democrat, political agnostic do not let this conversation end until some form of sanity begins to inspire us as a people. As a Jesus believer I know this: we owe a duty to the poor, disenfranchised, marginalized, and must love humanity in any way that we can, yes even our enemies and perhaps most particularly our enemies.
I also know this that guns are machines. They act upon the will of the owner. However, unlike fists or bludgeons, or bats it requires far less sensation. Most other tools of violence require movement, motion, a looking in the eye, a moment of consideration. A gun is quicker and much more efficient in its ability to inflict violence and damage. Simply pull the trigger and go. It also has the capacity, given our advanced ability to develop and design, to inflict violence on multiple subjects in the blink of an eye. As a priest, a believer in Jesus and his messages and commandments I must beg you to not withdraw from the community of humanity but to risk becoming a part of the case to be made for some sane gun control laws locally, regionally, and yes even nationally. In the 21st century things are different. I am sure, absolutely confident, that our founding revolutionary fathers would be disgusted with the state of our community and her citizens at this stage of the game. Even for those Enlightenment sages of the 18th century such national violence would seem pointless, a waste of the potential of the human to transcend its own basest instincts and perversions – the perversion of violence.
Become a part, as a Community that knows violence, a voice for reason and restraint. Yes, I am talking about the restraint of the larger Community to have and bear arms. Join me and others in forging a future that holds the promise of safe schools and safe movies and clubs – not militarized fortifications but sane places for us to cohabit. From one who knew violence like few do…he said, “I leave you with this last commandment, love one another.” Make it real.