Magical Thinking on Safety and Security

This week the debate over gun control continues in the light of the Newtown massacre. While I struggle with my own thoughts on this issue, what I keep seeing in the battle is a deeper and shared value – security.  Some who favor gun restrictions want to protect us from a violent person or group with a gun. Those who argue for the rights of gun owners argue, in part, that possessing and using personal firearms protects their families and friends from harm.

What I find myself thinking is that they are all wrong. Much of what seems to promise safety does not, what seems to assure peace is illusory.  In some ways the horrible shootings in Newtown raise the same insecurities and fears that 9/11 did. And we want to do something about it – to protect ourselves from harm and to guarantee that such unimaginable evil does not happen again.

But it will happen. Thousands of years of human history – and the same human longing for peace and security – demonstrate the illusory nature of the promises of safety and security. Guns won’t keep bad things from happening. Neither will gun restrictions or better mental health care or any other things that we hope will shield us and those we love from harm.

The answer to which I keep returning is faith. Paul tells the Thessalonians “When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!” (1 Thessalonians 5:3 NRSV). Paul is talking about the Day of the Lord but the principle applies. No human promises of peace or safety are permanent or effective.  But the peace of Christ trumps the violence in the human heart. The order that the Creator brings to human life and relationships can stand even in the face of incredible, overwhelming chaos.

Helen Keller is quoted as saying

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. . .Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. . . Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

We cannot avoid danger however hard we try. But we can rest, trust, and live in the God who travels with us on the daring adventure with all of its danger and chaos.



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