Thinking back over my lifetime, I’m amazed at how common rhetoric around firearms has devolved from the subject of gun safety to gun control to gun violence.
I was sitting by the shore of our favorite lake watching the sunset when the news came to me across the internet. There was an active shooting at our Eden Prairie shopping mall. A young man died. It was the second shooting death in a Twin City shopping mall in just a few days. In a flash, my pastor’s mind rifled through memories of deaths by gunfire way back to my youth.
Gun safety class was offered to any and every kid when I was growing up in the 1950s, but my brothers and I never signed up because we were farmers and more focused on gathering than hunting. Instead, my first life lesson about guns happened not intentionally but by accident.
When everyone in our family returned from a trip to town, we discovered the hired man had accidentally discharged Dad’s .22 rifle in our farmhouse dining room, leaving a 2-inch bullet scar on the top of my mother’s best piece of furniture … the buffet.
The buffet bullet that then lodged in the door jamb was never removed, and the scar remained on the buffet as an everlasting gun safety lesson for our whole family.
Gun control became the rising issue as I grew a little older and experienced the accidental injury or death by gunfire of seven different friends or neighbors by the time I was a youth minister and then a youth pastor in my 20s.
Because I verbalized my distress about these tragic losses, I was invited to prepare a workshop on gun control which I presented at several large statewide annual church youth gatherings and conventions.
Years later, after living and serving as a pastor in our Eden Prairie community, I voiced my urgent concern at our city’s public hearings about a third local gun seller being approved when we already had Arnzen Arms and Gander Mountain stores in our city.
Of special concern to me and others was the approval of a gun store inside the shopping center. There weren’t gun stores inside any other shopping centers, according to my awareness.
Gun violence has now quickly become the crisis of the day that occupies our news space, endangers our children, threatens the safety of our public space, and worries our minds and that of every security and police officer.
Around the metro are known dangerous neighborhoods, communities and areas, but there is no border or boundary blocking out guns or ghost guns or gun violence. Metal detectors are a welcome sight but, at the same time, a sign of our public anxiety. Pop-up memorials that remain serve as signs of the violent times in which we live. We see the increased prevalence of gun violence in the news, but also in the movies and on TV, in social media and video games that “entertain” even the youngest among us!
I couldn’t sleep after this news that came at sunset! Great book titles about despair by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in the 1840’s – “The Sickness unto Death” and “Fear and Trembling” – occupied my sleepless mind!
But then, God brought Bible passages to mind, too, like “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). Hymns danced into my dreamy mind, like “I’ve got Peace like a River – It is Well with my Soul.”
Finally, it was 4:45 a.m., and after a stop in the bathroom, I opened the windows to let in the sounds of the loon chorus at dawn. The 10 of them on our lake began with mournful calls to each other, followed by loon laughter that reminded me of the words of the psalmist, “Joy cometh in the morning!” (Psalm 30:5). Thanks be to God.
Editor’s note: EPLN contributor Pastor Rod Anderson serves on the EPLN Board of Directors. Anderson is the former senior pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. If you would like to contribute a faith-based column to EPLN, email email@example.com.