What I learned from make believe guns
The first story was last week. A six-year-old boy was suspended from school for bringing a gun-shaped Lego he built onto the school bus. He was cited for “traumatizing” his fellow 6-year-olds with this fake gun which was only slightly large in size than a quarter. You can make a more convincing “gun” with your thumb and forefinger.
Then yesterday there was a second story. In this one an eight-year-old brought a Pop Tart for lunch and munched away at it till the remaining shape was also akin to a handgun. He too was suspended for his effort. I saw the picture of the Pop Tart art and frankly it didn’t strike me as all that dangerous.
The interesting part of these stories is that these two little kids have become heroes of the pro-gun rights camp. The puzzled look on the face of the eight-year-old when he was told that he had received a complementary lifetime membership in the NRA was priceless.
These two kids have, sadly, been caught up in the controversy around gun rights in America, an issue I feel sure neither spends a lot of time thinking about. Zealous school administrators, eager to prove their diligence to protect children, stress a zero tolerance policy that includes tiny Legos and chewed Pop Tarts. Gun rights advocates comb the news for stories of such over-reactions to mock them and build “they are coming for your guns” conspiracy theories.
So what do I, as an evangelical, have to learn from this? Well, for me, the lesson has nothing to do with guns. Simply put, you can’t win your point through legislating behavior; you have to do it by getting agreement with your beliefs. These schools were able to enforce compliance with their policies. But the result is that the gun control advocates, in the minds of many, look bizarre and out of touch. The net effect on their cause is negative.
Mayor Bloomberg of NY is learning this the hard way. He and his friends are targeting senators who killed the last gun bill with negative ads. In response, the attacked senators are airing their own ads saying no NY billionaires or Washington lobbyists are going to sway them! They are only going to listen to the people of their good old home state. The result is that in some cases these senators are seeing their popularity go up. Bloomberg needs to win the hearts and minds of people to his cause, not attack those who differ.
It is the same for evangelicals and their issues. Do you feel abortions need to be eliminated? Don’t focus on closing clinics, focus on convincing people one-on-one that this is the right decision. Do you oppose same sex marriage? You need to make your case to the people explaining why, again one-on-one.
I continue to believe that evangelicals do not do this simply because it is harder. It is much easier to try and get a law or policy than to actually convince people you are right on a case-by-case basis. But when the next issue that comes up where we are tempted to rally around some grand cause, let’s take a minute and remember the Pop Tart guns and ask ourselves if this is the right way to go about it.