Thoughts on Shooters Part 2

In Part 1 of this 2 Part article I shared my own experience being on the receiving end of an angry shooter’s gun. I shared this because everyone in the gun discussion has a bias and I want to be up front about mine. In part 2 I intend to address the issue of gun legislation. I believe this is the greatest source of confusion and conflict when discussing this issue because no one seems to know what laws actually exist at a Federal level.

I intend to ask and answer:

What Federal Laws currently exist?

What Federal Laws could be enacted to help prevent mass shootings?

I would also like to state up front that I am not an expert on these matters and invite dialogue about how others understand these laws to apply.  I’m very willing to update the article to reflect accurate information if I am missing anything relevant or if I have misstated anything.  Please engage with me on this.  I won’t debate but I will engage in respectful dialogue and brainstorming of how better to address this issue.

One thing that needs to be addressed is something that I mentioned in Part 1 of this article. Every state has individual state laws regulating guns (except my state which seems to have no legislation at all regarding guns). This means that you might think gun legislation looks a certain way and not realize that you are thinking of state laws and not Federal laws that would regulate everyone.

Some states have great gun laws and the more gun legislation the less gun crime. If you are in one of these states that is wonderful and it might help if you advocate for the rest of the country to have a similar experience to what you have in your state. It would be great to lower the number of gun crimes across the country! 

When it comes to Federal laws there are two primary laws that people refer to and these are important to understand because they do not cover what most people think they do.

The first is 18 USC Section 922 that regulates gun sales from Federally licensed sellers and stores.

This legislation requires that Federally licensed gun sellers and stores make sure they don’t sell guns to anyone they have a reasonable belief might be seriously mentally ill, underage, using drugs or other dangerous substances, or buying the gun to commit a crime. This seems like a good law except for two things most people don’t consider. First, this legislation does not prevent anyone from buying a gun who is seriously mentally ill, underage or buying the gun to commit a crime, etc. It only prevents the seller from selling the gun if they have a “reasonable belief” that these things are occurring. Second, the way this legislation has been enacted has resulted in it being a protection for the gun seller when something does go wrong after the gun sale. The stores, to protect themselves and show compliance with this Federal Statute, require the person purchasing the gun to sign a form that states they are not any of these restricted things and ask to see ID.  They are then protected from liability when they sell the gun.

That’s it. A piece of paper that says you aren’t SMI, underage, or intending to harm anyone with the gun, and after you sign they are protected and you are free to walk away with the gun. There is a background check that must be run, maybe, but we’ll get to that in a bit. And, to be fair, this is where the second piece of Federal legislation comes into play.

The other important Federal legislation is known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.*

One of the first things you should be noticing about this legislation is that much of it applies only to handguns – not other types of guns or weapons.

This is the legislation that requires a background check. That’s a good thing but there are also two major hindrances to the Brady Act preventing crimes that need to be addressed.

The first is known as the Gun Show Loophole.

The Brady Act applies to gun stores. It does not apply to private gun sales or sellers who operate out of gun shows. If you want a handgun and don’t want to undergo a waiting period related to a background check you only need to attend a gun show and purchase your gun there.

The other hindrance to the Brady Act preventing gun crime also applies to US Title 18 laws. Let’s look at the background checks that people have to pass in order to buy a gun. And keep in mind that they only apply to Federally Licensed Firearm dealers.

Everything You Need to Know About Federal Background Checks

Turns out the records that the FBI uses to run background checks are not always up to date, not always clear, and not always accessible. There are also limits to what triggers a rejection during the check. For instance, where there is a Federal ban for prior domestic violence this does not include non spouses so your state has to decide if they want to add that as a cause to deny the purchase. If they don’t then it is not going to prevent the person from buying the gun.

While the background check is supposed to be instant, sometimes there is a need to do more research and it can take longer. In these cases the government has 3 days to complete the background check or the seller is able to just send the buyer home with the gun. Unfortunately, “According to December 2016 Government Accountability Office report, the FBI takes a week to deny sales because of a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.”. So even though domestic violence is a reason to deny the gun purchase, the search for that information more often than not takes longer than the window of time in which it can be used to deny the purchase.

If you’ve been sent home with a gun and later it’s determined that you should have been denied the purchase the information is turned over to ATF and they get to try and find you and get the gun back. They aren’t very successful. “Retrieval orders are relatively rare: A NICS operations report from 2000 noted that of more than 45,000 default proceeds issued that year, approximately 5,000 resulted in a retrieval order.” And once the other is issued they still have to go get the gun.

“The gunmen in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting, Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre, and Virginia Tech rampage each had a history that banned them from owning firearms. Yet none were stopped, because of omissions and loopholes in the system.” That was as of the 2016 date of the article.

At the end of the day if you are a Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer (FFL) you are required to run background checks. But your state law may have exceptions about what customers are exempt from background checks among other things. In fact, only nine states and DC currently require universal background checks for all sales and transfers of guns.

The NRA has lobbied and fought hard against any type of a national database or “registry” of gun owners. This article from GQ addresses many of the realities of this but needless to say when a police officer needs to trace a gun it is not nearly as simple as they make it look on TV.

For one thing, because the NRA has fought against anything resembling a “gun registry” they have been able to keep all records for guns off of any computer database and they continue to be in paper or photo (they only got permission to switch from microfilm to PDF not that long ago . . . I know what microfilm is but I would bet most people younger than I am have no idea). This means any request to trace a gun requires digging through millions of records by hand and pulling hard copies of the records.

Not only that, but the Federal warehouse only stores the records of guns that were purchased at stores that went out of business and are no longer holding their own records. Until they go out of business stores keep all records in their own offices and when someone wants to trace the gun they call the Federal offices which have to track down the manufacturer, wholesaler, local store where the purchase was made and then call that store to have them dig through their files to find the record of who purchased the gun.

There is currently no federal waiting, or cooling off, period when buying a gun. Someone with no criminal record can go into a store, buy a gun and leave with it, with no delay

This site addresses many of the inefficiencies of the current gun legislation and I have appreciated looking through many of the pages as I’ve researched this issue. This particular page lists a few laws that I haven’t addressed, some of which are specifically drafted to protect gun sellers and gun owners, not the general public.

So what laws would help?

Before we jump into what I believe is a reasonable approach to gun legislation I want to address the argument the NRA has worked very hard to promote . . . That of the “anti-gun lobby.” There are organization that are invested in working to stop gun violence. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is one. They seek “freedoms from gun violence through research, strategic engagement, and effective policy advocacy.” (csgv.org). There is Everytown Against Gun Violence. There’s Brady. There are others. These organizations are not fighting to take away every gun or prevent gun ownership. They are advocating for reasonable legislation, like the Brady Act, that will help keep people safe.

This is a far cry from the National Rifle Association – a National Lobbying group that is funded by gun manufacturers and pays millions to lawmakers to assure that gun manufacturers, sellers and owners are protected. It is the NRA that has argued that allowing the Federal Government to have computerized centralized capabilities to trace gun sales would amount to a national “gun registry” and prevented reasonable record keeping or tracking of gun sales. Yet no one is opposed to police having the ability to trace a gun!

One reason that gun legislation is hard to advance is the rhetoric (“They want to take away your guns!” “They want to create a registry so they can know how to come and take your guns!). The other is that passing legislation is harder than resisting the passing of legislation. No movement is easier to maintain than movement.

That’s why this article is one of the most reasoned and reasonable arguments I have heard for what common sense gun legislation could look like.

The author of this article argues that we should take the statements of belief of the NRA itself and apply them as legislation to regulate gun ownership, sales and use. If the NRA really believes what they advocate they should have no problem with legislation based on their requirements for their own members. If those who belong to the NRA really believe what the NRA advocates then they have already committed to these ideals and should have no problem with them being legislated and enforced to do what they say they will do . . . Keep people safe!

With that said I want to address a few other stray issues that arise when this topic is discussed and call them out for the fallacies they are.

SMI – while no one wants a firearm in the hands of a person with serious mental illness, there is no support for the argument that all mass shooters are in fact dealing with serious mental illness. People who have SMI are more likely to commit suicide than homicide and that is enough of a reason to keep guns away from them, but when someone with SMI does commit homicide it is wrong to blameshift and try to argue that their SMI is the reason for the gun violence. If they did not have a gun they would not have committed gun violence. This is also an illegitimate argument until those who want to shift the conversation to SMI when the topic is guns are willing to discuss treatment for those with SMI as a separate issue. Until we are having that discussion as a nation I don’t believe anyone cares about SMI except as a scapegoat for gun violence.

Because there is no evidence that every mass shooter is diagnosed with SMI we have to deal with the many other issues that might lead someone to become a mass shooter. We must face that there are angry young men (and women, but primarily men) who want to murder people. The reasons are many and we do need to acknowledge a breakdown in the fabric of our society in many areas. For two decades I have worked with families to help equip and empower them to parent with attachment and effective positive discipline (the method I developed and taught is called Grace-Based Discipline). By all means let’s start talking about what to do about these areas! In the meantime, we need to acknowledge that there are people who want to do harm to others and let’s have the common sense to commit to keeping guns out of their hands.

Let’s also stop trying to argue that people kill because they don’t have Jesus. There are people who profess faith who commit all manner of heinous crimes and there are lots of great decent atheists who believe it is wrong to take a human life. The idea that those without Jesus are amoral is pure mythology. I have one friend who is an atheist and finally started telling people if the only reason they weren’t raping and murdering is because they believe in Jesus they should never ever question that faith! Rather, hold onto it for dear life because the rest of the world does not need to be subjected to you without that faith. In truth, several of the most recent mass shooters have been involved with white supremacist groups that profess to be White Evangelical Christian organizations. While I would argue that they are not Christian in the pure sense of the word (follower of Christ) as their actions have no resemblance to anything Jesus did or taught, this does not change that they were involved with faith professing organizations.

“No Gun Zones” are not a cause of mass shootings. First of all, whether you consider the firearms present at the school in Florida adequate or not, the school was not a No Gun Zone! So then the argument shifts to there not being enough guns, but there were multiple sheriff’s on duty present by the end of the shooting and no one did anything. Apparently the next logical argument is to say that the teachers inside the school should have had guns, but there is no evidence that armed teachers would be an effective deterrent or defense in the case of an armed shooter. Certainly there is no evidence that they would be more effective than the police who were present!

Not only would we be asking someone who has devoted themselves to caring for students to suddenly shift gears and kill one, but what happens when multiple teachers with guns run into the situation and students are caught in the crossfire. Let’s not forget that in the states that require concealed carry permits and the training that goes with the license (and this is NOT a requirement in every state!) the concealed carry permit training does not include armed shooter training. This is an expert level training course that is very expensive and, even when it has been applied for the purpose of arming administrators and teachers in school settings, it is not foolproof. Highly trained Marines shoot with 18% precision and police officers shoot with 30% accuracy. While someone will inevitably speak of sharp shooters I would respond no one has suggested training public school teachers to be sharp shooters.

The reason a mass shooter chooses the place they do is not because of how many guns may or may not be present. Rather, they want to target specific people who are in the place they select or they want to do the most damage in the least amount of time. In the case of the Florida school shooting the young man went to his former school campus and hunted down his ex girlfriend (who he had stalked) and her new boyfriend.

Let’s also consider, on the topic of arming teachers, that unless we are going to arm them with an equal firearm – typically an assault weapon like the Armalite 15 – we are asking teachers to defend themselves and students with a less accurate and less capable firearm. Which brings me to my position of restricting public purchases of assault weapons. If someone is going to attempt a mass shooting I want to make sure they do so with a less accurate and less capable firearm! I want them to have the ability to kill less people before they are stopped. I want them to be hindered not aided by the firearm power.

I also want to address the argument that says if you make laws about guns you will only keep the good guys from having guns. The bad guys will still get them. To this and every variation on the arguments of why we shouldn’t have common sense gun legislation I say this:

At this point the bad guys are buying their guns legally and an angry good guy might become a bad guy. It would be great if this was a black and white hat issue but it isn’t. Laws don’t ever get passed to prevent all crimes of that type – rather they are passed so that when they are violated there is a law in place to make the action criminal and hold the person accountable. Currently the mass shooter who uses an AR15 they bought at a gun show in a state that doesn’t require any background checks at gun shows purchased their gun legally and didn’t do anything wrong until they used that weapon to kill someone . . . Something, I might add, we have a law about! If we put common sense gun legislation in place then we have several opportunities to stop the mass shooting before it occurs and we have more leverage when we do bring charges against the person to force their hand for sentencing and when lots of people are dead that is a good thing.

In Conclusion, I propose that there are very simple steps we could take to protect more citizens and keep weapons out of the hands of potential mass shooters.

First, I would support a waiting period during the background checks that would be long enough to include a chance to catch those who too often end up with guns that ATF has to expend resources to track down. Especially because this often includes those guilty of domestic violence, and this has been shown as a correlated factor to mass shootings, I believe this would save lives. I would also expand the records of domestic violence to include non-spouse individuals including family members and girlfriends.

Second, I would raise the purchase age for guns. Assault weapons and rifles can be purchased by 18 year olds and as has been pointed out by many of the surviving students in Florida there is no reason someone we deem not old enough to buy alcohol should have easy access to an assault weapon. I would propose 25 is a reasonable age for anyone not serving in the military or police force and properly trained to handle their weapon. That is my personal comfort level as it waits until the brain is fully developed before we allow ownership of guns.

Third, I would support enacting the NRA’s requirements for membership as common sense gun legislation as outlined in the article that I referenced above. There seems no reason to suspect that the NRA would argue against its own standards.

Fourth, I would bring the record keeping for such an important issue into the 21st century and create a centralized record system for gun licensing and tracing guns. I would require everyone who wants to purchase a gun to go through some level of gun safety training and obtain a license. There is no reason that we have less requirements for gun ownership than we do for car ownership or use. I would also propose regular renewals, as we have with driver’s licenses. It has been acknowledged by all that we need to regulate automobile use because it can take lives if we don’t make sure people know what they are doing. Clearly this is the case with guns as well. Additional liability insurance might be another thing to be discussed here.

Fifth, while I know many will disagree with this suggestion, I would like to see some discussion for accountability of those who sell guns.  When someone works in any capacity that serves alcohol they are subject to Dram laws.  These laws allow the victims and families of victims harmed by someone who is drunk to sue any establishment and the individuals who served the person alcohol because of the contributing role they played in the crime.  This means when you’re serving alcohol it’s more important than ever to make sure customers aren’t drunk already or leaving your facility with access to a vehicle.  If gun shop owners and the people who worked there, not to mention gun show owners and those who sell at their venues, were going to face potential lawsuit if someone committed a crime with a gun purchased from them it would make sense that they would take screenings and background checks even more seriously. There is no Constitutional protection for those selling the arms people bear.

Ultimately it is ridiculous to argue that requirements for gun ownership that allow for safe gun ownership and the security of all citizens who come in contact with gun owners is in any way a violation of the 2nd Amendment. Nowhere are we guaranteed the right to unfettered and unhindered access to all of the weapons of every type that we want with no oversight. We need to stop pretending that the right to bear arms that was included in the Bill of Rights by the Founding Fathers was intended by them to take precedence over the right they acknowledged was endowed by our Creator – the right to Life.

* I am very aware that Wikipedia does not qualify as a primary source but it offers a succinct summary of some things and usually includes links to primary sources. As with all sources, I strongly encourage those who wish to study the issue more to purse that and make sure they are satisfied with the information.

 

Thoughts on Shooters Part 1

I led quite an adventurous life when I was younger and I have a lot of great stories. Several of them I’ve only been able to tell before because I’ve detached myself from them over time. This has been one of them.

I’ve been very distraught by the most recent school shooting in Florida. Actually I’ve been distraught about shootings for years and began getting angry sometime between 2016 and 2017 as mass shootings in the US began to increase in frequency and patterns became more and more obvious.

In full disclosure, I homeschool my children. Other than the fact that we live across the street from a public school I have no personal investment in what policies schools enact. That said, I care deeply about what happens to children who attend public school because these are my neighbors, and children of my friends and family and, well, I’m not a crap person who thinks that only my life and my immediate circle matters.

So why have I been growing increasingly troubled by the shootings? This is the question I asked myself as I reflected on why I was investing so much on Facebook to this topic.

From somewhere in the back of my brain came the very clear thought working its way to the front of my brain . . . Because you know what it’s like to be shot at and if the guy who shot at you had an AR15 you would be dead.

Yep – my brain was protecting me from that and as soon as I asked the direct question and it answered me I felt weak inside and it all came slamming at me.

See, years ago . . . Gosh, probably 24 years ago now? . . . I was at a local bar with my boyfriend and a friend of ours playing pool. Our friend went to the bar to get us drinks and when we got annoyed he wasn’t back yet we looked and he was there making out with a strange female. This wasn’t anything unusual for this friend so we rolled our eyes and went back to our game.

Not long after he walked up and when we were asking where our drinks were he cut us off and said we needed to get the hell out of there . . . IMMEDIATELY! We asked him what was going on and he grabbed us and started heading to the exit. He frantically told us that woman’s boyfriend came out of the bathroom and saw them kissing and said he was going to his car for his gun and he would be back to kill him and his friends.

Yeah, we were running at this point.

As we hit the gravel parking lot we saw the guy digging through his glove compartment and we headed straight to our vehicle. Then we heard him yell and I glanced back to see him aiming at us. I just remember sheer terror as I screamed and froze. My boyfriend pulled me to the ground and we crawled under cars through the gravel parking lot trying to get away. By the time the whole thing was over I was cut and bruised on my hands and knees and my throat hurt from screaming.

It’s a great story when I drive by the place with friends and family today and say, “Hey! That’s the bar where I was shot at in the parking lot!” Because it’s intense, it’s got drama, and I survived. In fact, someone inside called 911 (this was before cell phones so they had to get the bartender to use the land line) and the police showed up and even before that some guys were able to tackle the guy and detain him until the police arrived.

It’s the story of the time I was shot at in a parking lot and not the start of my eulogy because the guy had a handgun. He wasn’t able to shoot as many bullets as he would have if he had an AR15 or another assault weapon. He wasn’t able to aim with the accuracy of an AR15 or other assault weapon. He had to take wild aim and shoot a limited number of bullets from his handgun.

So I hear the stories from the children inside the school where their shooter didn’t have a handgun but rather DID have an AR15 assault weapon and I hear about the 17 children who died in the school that day and the various sheriff’s deputies who didn’t enter the school because of the danger and I am taken back to that night when I was screaming and crawling through gravel as some jealous idiot took wild aim at me. I think about the moments I lived with the reality that I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.

I hear everyone making excuses or trying to blame shift away from guns to answer the question of why we have so much gun violence. I have no idea if the guy who shot at us was mentally unwell. I know he was drunk. I know he was a very angry white man with a gun and that seems to fit the parameters of mass shooters that we see most often.

Then I see this graphic that shows the correlation between gun violence and gun legislation that shows I live in a state with absolutely no gun laws. In 24 years since I was shot at in a parking lot we have not enacted any gun legislation. And now I’m pissed!

Yep – if we didn’t have guns we would still have violence. I get that. But we wouldn’t have GUN violence and that is what I want to stop! Even if we get rid of some of the guns – like the assault weapons so loved by mass shooters – people would still shoot at people with guns. And I have been there. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but with a handgun as the weapon it’s far more likely you can get away and the person can be stopped by others who don’t need guns to do it and who will live to tell that story as well.

Because somewhere out there are some guys who drive past that bar and tell the story of the night they took down a shooter. And they lived to tell the story too.

Please read Part 2 of my Thoughts on Shooters as I intend to address the existing Federal Gun Legislation. I believe that much of the disconnect in discussing this issue is confusion over what legislation does and doesn’t exist.

Announcing Thomas Talks!

I am so excited to announce that ThomasTalks.net is live! This is the culmination of my life’s journey and working for 3 years with a ministry coach and a team of amazing women who God has brought into my life to help me on several projects — I’m so grateful they have continued alongside on this one!

Please, check it out! If there is anything you would like to see addressed there, or you would like to talk to me about contributing there, please let me know. There will be memes and voices and I hope it will be an encouragement to many of you as you navigate the journey of life and ask questions about how faith impacts who we are and what we do.

On Complementarianism . . . or, “But I know a marriage that . . . “

I’m excited that we have launched Thomas Talks and I’m moving some articles over there! http://thomastalks.net/2017/06/22/on-complimentarianism-or-but-i-know-a-marriage-that/

Thoughts on Shabbat

I’ve heard people argue that women weren’t expected to observe lots of Torah because it was sexist and they had to take care of children. it is true that women were excused from the obligation of certain things in Torah because of caring for the children, but it’s more that God views caring for the needs of children and the elderly as most important. God doesn’t consider these things work!

Everyone in Israel — Jew and the sojourner, the servants and the animals, was expected to rest. It isn’t just for Jewish people. In fact, Sabbath means “rest.” And it’s commanded, but it’s a gift and an invitation extended to us. God finished creation and then rested and invites us to rest with him in his completed work. I’ve most loved the analogy that it is like a date day with God. That God set aside a day to spend with us and invites us to join him in what he’s doing and we either show up or don’t.

Shabbat is a "date day" with God

Shabbat is a “date day” with God

Lots of people ask me “what is work that we have to avoid?” I tell them Scripture speaks of not engaging in buying and selling in the market, not lighting a fire, and not doing your every day work. And then I tell them, “You know when you’re working.” Sometimes I start something and then realize I’m working so I stop 😛 Jesus spoke about the acceptance that if your ox falls in a ditch on Sabbath you pull it out. A friend once shared that her father added, “If your ox falls in a ditch every Sabbath, fix the fence.” 😉

When we were able to faithfully observe Sabbath it was a wonderful time in our lives. Moves, pregnancies, near death experiences, life . . . honoring Sabbath changed a bit in what it looks like, but here’s what I learned . . . being able to really rest took planning. I cleaned the house over the week and kept to my routine and knew what we were eating on Sabbath and kept to fresh or crock pot meals so that I didn’t have to work at food prep. Some weeks now I just intentionally set aside work that didn’t get done in advance – if I couldn’t be bothered to do it over the last 6 days it will keep for one more 😉

I love that it’s forbidden to fast on Sabbath — it is a day of love – loving God, loving your family, loving your neighbor, loving yourself!

I love the quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel from “The Sabbath”:

“One who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screen of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man.”

One of the things that I love is that the New Moon celebration every month is also a Shabbat — for women only! Women aren’t allowed to work that day.

I think our culture has so completely abandoned the appreciation of rest in the shadow of the Protestant work ethic. We need to rest. We were created for it.

Privilege is what we have to share

Privilege comes in a variety of areas of life and is not the same as “perk, benefit, blessing, gift, or unearned anything.” Privilege is potentially damaging to the people who have it if they don’t handle it appropriately, which is why it’s important to some of us to talk about it. It isn’t anything to feel guilty about. It is simply the reality that within cultures there are some things that come with inherent value that the people who have it enjoy without thinking about it but those who don’t have it are aware that they don’t have it. That isn’t an excuse, or a justification for being a victim, etc. Usually it’s in the area of the things that we wake up not having to think about or be aware of. We may or may not have done anything to get it. But we have it and it has value.

One example (and by no means a defining one, but it is a relevant one and it resonates with me because my undergraduate degree is in theatre) is how represented you are in media. White men are everywhere — they are the majority of heroes, main characters, romantic leads, historical characters movies get made about. Prior to discussions about privilege and representation most black characters were slaves, bad guys, minor characters or not represented at all. The impact of growing up seeing yourself as the hero and the main character in every setting has an affect on you — just like growing up not seeing yourself adequately represented, or only represented in relation to the main character, has an impact on you. It’s not white men’s fault that they were the ones most represented, but they benefited from that. That benefit is the privilege. All they did was watch the movie — and they got to see themselves portrayed in amazing ways. All the time — every movie.

This is a systemic issue — and there are lots of privileges that are granted to all different people depending on their subculture and personal accomplishments. But the issue isn’t about blaming privilege or people with privilege — it’s about what we do with our privilege. And until we acknowledge the areas where we have privilege we are not doing anything productive with them. It takes humility to consider where we might have been granted something unearned, undeserved, and unsought that others had withheld. And when we engage honestly and humbly with the issues we see that there are ways that we are empowered to help others.

Just as an example, if I’m in a group where someone makes racist jokes I tell them it’s not okay. I don’t expect any person of color present to stand up for themselves because clearly the person telling a racist joke isn’t interested in hearing from a person of color. There is no respect there. There is no privilege granted them in that position — they could speak up, they have every right to speak up, but I’m not in the group being demeaned so I’m going to say something. In the same way, when people are denigrating women I don’t hesitate to speak up but I’m also grateful for the men present who step in and call it out. A man who demeans women is less inclined to listen to a woman than they are a man — so when a man says it’s not cool that carries more weight to someone who listens to men and not women.

Think about the Beatitudes — they aren’t just words of encouragement to those who are down on their luck until God sees fit to bless them and change their circumstances. They are pearls of wisdom for how we are to live. Meek, humble, merciful, peacemakers.
When it comes to privilege if we can stop being defensive and honestly and humbly consider the areas where we are privileged we can engage with meek humility and seek mercy for all as we try to be peacemakers. Jesus had the privilege of being the Son of God and he did not think it worth holding onto but he came to earth and endured what humans do when we’re confronted with holiness — and died for us so that we might live. He laid down his privilege.

Privilege is what we have to share

Privilege is what we have to share

So this isn’t about victimhood anymore than acknowledging our struggle with sin is victimhood. And I don’t personally need anyone to acknowledge their area of privilege in order for my life to go on exactly as it has and will continue to go on. But I know from experience that when we can acknowledge our areas of privilege and lay down our lives for those who don’t have that privilege, and if we all did that for each other, we’d be living in a much better world. I know that because it’s following the example of Jesus.

I know you think we agree

Not on everything, but on what the Bible says everywhere. At least, that’s your thought if you believe there is a “clear and obvious meaning of the text.”

You think we read any portion of text and we all know it says X and that means if I do Y I have obviously rejected the “clear and obvious X meaning of the text” and I am rejecting Scripture.

I know that’s what you think because that is how you have behaved. It comes out in how you talk to me. It comes out in how you post to me. It comes out in your dripping sarcasm in that Facebook group. I’m not blind to it — I’m ignoring it. (Or, sometimes, just calling it out and letting you know I’m okay with it.)

I don’t take offense because I get that you think we agree.

I’m writing this to make it very clear to you that we do NOT agree. bible-428947_1920

For decades I have been studying the Bible — taking it very seriously, learning how to read Hebrew and study in the original languages, learning how to use study tools, learning everything I can about the culture in which it was written and the context around the verse in question, getting a Master’s in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, and studying for my career — and sometimes where you believe it says X I am convinced to the core of my being and the depth of my soul and the fullness of my mind that it says Y.

You are free to disagree with me but know this . . . I disagree with you and I believe you are wrong.

I’m comfortable with that if you are. I feel no need to be right and have no interest in trying to prove you wrong. I believe you have come to your belief with what you’ve done to get there and that’s fine with me. If you believe it says X then you definitely need to be obedient to X. That is your conviction.

I believe it says Y. I must be obedient to Y. I answer to God for Y. I’m not going to do X just because you said I have to.

I’m writing this to share with you the real issue here . . . if I do X it will be out of fear of men. If I continue to do Y it will be out of respect for God. I’m going with God.

I’m willing to continue sharing. I’m open to hearing how you concluded it said X. I love engaging in dialogue with people and many times as they share their process I learn new things and I may end up respecting their position more. I am willing to share my process and how I understand the text and why. We can get to now each other’s opinions.

If you’re open to that let’s do it! If not, I respect your choice and we can end this dialogue. Perhaps our path will cross again. It will be interesting to see where we are if that happens. I wish you well and pray blessings on you.

Ephesians 5 . . . husbands/wives and Christ/Church

A human has a head with a brain and a body with a heart. If either is dead the person is dead. In Ephesians, Paul explains that, for the purposes of the analogy he is making — AFTER saying that all believers are to submit to one another — the man is the head of the person and the woman is the body. This fits with the idea held at his time that the man was closer to the mind of God and the woman closer to the heart of God . . . it also fits with the belief also held at his time that the heart was the ruling organ of the body and the Jewish belief that women intuitively understand things about God that men need to study to learn.

The human — who was one person until divided into two and then called to be Echad — a word that translates “one” but which is not “singular one” but is more like “one bunch of grapes” or a plural, multi-faceted one. I express it as plural unity because it is the word for the two shall become one AND the word used when Moses says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Just as Jesus said “I and the father are one” and he explains that he hasn’t do anything the hasn’t seen the Father doing. They function in plural unity.

One bunch of grapes

One bunch of grapes

And that’s important because Paul ends the section of Ephesians 5 with this statement “29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (yes, there is one additional verse here but it’s a practical summary moving back from the analogy and it’s been twisted so much that it warrants it’s own discussion)

Jesus loves the church how? By sacrificing, laying down his life, redeeming, and loving us thoroughly! Men — imagine your wives are like your own body — imagine you have literally become one flesh with them. That’s the mystery and that’s the picture — as well as you do this, that’s the picture you are giving to the world about what the relationship between Christ and the Church looks like. Your picture will be imperfect, but that’s what you’re aiming for.

Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church

So Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church. And just as the church is supposed to strive for plural unity with Christ, that is intended to be expressed to the world when they see husband and wife functioning plural unity — the picture we give is what they will understand. And where we fail we destroy the picture . . . kind of like how Moses struck the rock and destroyed a picture of Messiah and the Jews know they needed and credit with their errors from that point on.

Women and Men really can be Friends

I know that most messages in our culture are saying the opposite. I know that everywhere we look we’re told that men and women can’t be friends.

Sam and Diane (Cheers)
When Harry Met Sally
Selfie (for the Millennials who might now know it was a modern adaptation of the classic My Fair Lady which also fits the list 😉 )

The reason that most books, tv shows and movies appear to be sending the message that women and men can’t be friends is that they are primarily about the two main characters who ultimately get together. This is why we watch — we like the romance, we like the idea that two people will find each other in the midst of the crowds of people we interact with on a daily basis.

The two finding each other is the crowd is so exciting is because it’s not our experience with everyone. We don’t fall in love or into bed with every person we meet. Which means that everyone we don’t find that romantic connection with has the potential to be something else . . . a friend.

women and men really can be friends!

women and men really can be friends!

Let’s be honest, it’s not cool to hang out with people who don’t have integrity and you don’t want to be romantically involved with someone who lacks integrity either! Just avoid them! And if you only hang out with people of integrity you can have wonderful friendships whether they are women or men.

Thomas Talks about Contentment

There comes a time where you have to acknowledge your limitations and rely on the people who God has put around you to shore you up. When you cast the vision that God put in you and trust that the people it relies on are going to catch the vision and do what they need to do to see that vision realized.

In this case the vision is for something I’m so very excited about — Thomas Talks.

The people I need to rely on are the amazing team of women that God has brought into my life over the years who understand, much more than I do, what it’s going to take to get this going the right way. I’m so grateful they believe in the vision and see what God is doing — but of course they do, God brought us together to do this!

Thomas Talks is a Reconciliation ministry.

What does this mean?

1) Thomas Talks is purposed to make amends where people have been wounded and wronged by those who claimed to be representing God — whether institutions or individuals. If someone was wounded and wronged then the one(s) who came to them were not representing God — whether correctly or at all. We want to remove unnecessary obstacles to God that have been put in people’s lives. What comes of that we trust the Lord and the individual to work out and while we’d be honored to be a part of that, we believe it’s inappropriate to create goals for other people’s lives.

and

2) Thomas Talks is about open and inclusive dialogue about anything related to Biblical faith. In too many faith communities there isn’t a respect for questions and those who have them are deemed trouble makers, doubters, and, if they are women, Jezebels. This is wrong and God is bigger than our questions! We believe questions are valid and are often an expression of faith, rather than doubt. We say ask the questions — and then get good information as you seek out the answers. We also say that too many people have been arguing about the right answers to the wrong questions and we want to help you ask better questions!

We want to provide comprehensive answers to questions that include what is really found in Scripture (in context) as well as the history of how issues have been dealt with over time and encouragement for how to shine God’s love and truth into those situations today. Towards these ends we are committed to collaborating with amazing people and ministries who are addressing relevant and important issues — and doing it well.

We have a website that I’m so excited about! ThomasTalks.net As it turns out, to get us started correctly it’s going to take a lot more talent and skill set than I bring to the table. We opened up a membership chat room right after the election because we wanted to make our space available, and several people joined. In the end, it was easier to move that to a Facebook group, but right in the aftermath I was so grateful for that space! We’ll use it again. In the meantime we have put out information about a Pre-Inaugural Time of Meditation and Prayer that we co-hosted with Imagine Yoga in our local area. Eventually we want to provide resources and encouragement for similar types of meetings that people might want to hold to address various issues. Goodness knows there is no shortage of issues right now!

While I give my team the time they need to build the site in it’s entirety and correctly I’m focusing my energies on growing the community. As I mentioned, we’re on Facebook. We’re a closed group, but you can find us and we’d love to have you if you need this kind of space. I’m also going to be blogging here more while I wait. The goal will be to move the articles from here out onto the Thomas Talks site so many of them will be written with the goals of Thomas Talks in mind. Feel free to comment and engage with me. I keep the comments moderated but I really do approve them! Just want to keep out the very clever spammers and the people who troll around without good intentions. We don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives so I try to keep it out of yours.

In addition, if you have a ministry (blogging, books, speaking, music, whatever) and you think that your heart meshes with what we’re trying to do here, reach out to me. Post a comment or contact me through the group on Facebook. I want to know about you so I can let others know about you. When people want to find good resources I want them to be able to!

So there it is. We’re in the stage of moving towards and I’m accepting the things I cannot change and working on what is mine to do. In the end I am convinced that God’s timing is going to be perfect and what God has called us to do will be amazing. I don’t want to do it in my own strength anyway. I just want to put my strength towards what I can do today.

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