Swords into Ploughshares – Episcopal Cafe


My dog, Bones, is a wire-haired pointing griffon. Pointing Griffons are hunting dogs, only I do not hunt. I hike. I run trails. I spend a lot of time with Bones outdoors. This morning, Bones and I trekked through fresh snow around a long block. Ever the hunter, I watched Bones stick his nose deep into snow to sniff-out prey – voles and mice – and to locate the olfactory residue of deer or elk. A couple of weeks ago, Bones chased a herd of deer up and over the crest of a mountain, returning with his tail wagging as though he’d had some sort of doggy spiritual experience. A few days later, he actually captured a vole that had made the fatal mistake of sticking his head out of his hole. 


As for me, I am not a hunter. Hunting courses like blood through Bones’ veins, not mine. The concept of stalking prey is anathema to me. The violence required to make a kill feels somehow wrong. The explosion necessary to thrust a bullet through a gun’s barrel, even to chase a clay pigeon, itself feels violent, and I wince at violence. I thrive on soap operas, dramas and romantic movies, not Quenten Tarantino movies. Not movies with horses heads left in beds. [The Godfather] I realize that not everybody has the same aversion to violence as I do, but in my mind, explicit violence damages the soul.


Perhaps that is why I find the second amendment to be such an enigma. The concept of a fundamental right to defend oneself against an overpowering and intrusive government makes Lockean moral sense, but practically the notion of using a gun to defend one’s home makes little practical sense when governments can obliterate entire city blocks using drones. What good is anyone’s gun in that situation?


In the movie, An American President, the President, played by Michael Douglas, attempts to balance political expediency against his own personal anti-gun philosophy – until, that is, the end of the movie when he, by love of woman, recovers his political courage. “… I will go door to door if I have to, but … I’m gonna get the guns,” he boasts to the press.  


He’s wrong. He’s not gonna get the guns; God is. The prophet said so. Only, in Isaiah’s day, it was the swords. “He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.” [Is. 2:4,5, Jer. Bible] 


Abraham Heschel writes in his first volume of The Prophets that, to God and thus to Isaiah, any implement of violence is an abomination. Period. The sword is an abomination and violence is obscene. What seems inconceivable to us is a certainty to the prophet: war will be abolished. 


People will stop seeking war because they will seek a knowledge of the Word of God instead. A passion for God will supplant blood-thirst. It will no longer be about war, but human kindness.


I’m wary of wading into the gun debate, and that is not my intention. Just because I do not hunt does not mean that I do not eat meat (and violence, I acknowledge in my duplicity, is required in order for me to eat meat), or that I object to hunting. On the other hand, the eschatological peace of Christ is antithetical to the very existence of guns with their violent explosions, if the prophet is to be taken seriously. The lion and the lamb will lay down together, mercy and peace will kiss. In that sense, vegans win the day. Animals will no longer fear other animals, including humans. The eschaton. 


Until the eschaton, though, I will pray while Bones preys, keeping company with him on our walks. And you can bet that, among my several prayers will be one echoing the prophet,  that violence will cease in the land, and that somehow, some way, the Second Amendment will no longer serve as a shield to protect the violent or as a vehicle to facilitate violence – whether it should continue to exist, or not. 


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