This is the latest installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.
When the carnage was over you could hear the cellphones ringing You could smell gunpowder in the air On the bloody ground the LEDs were blinking Deliver us from evil, thoughts and prayers
They’re lined up on the playground, their hands all in the air See it on our newsfeed and we cry out in despair They’re counting up the casualties, everyone’s choosing sides There’s always someone to blame, never anywhere to hide
Thoughts and prayers Thoughts and prayers
This white noise in my head, I think I need a filter A pressure valve to keep from blowing up And when the shit comes down I pray I can rise above it Hold me closer when I’ve had enough
Thoughts and prayers Thoughts and prayers
Glory, hallelujah You are in our thoughts and prayers Glory, hallelujah You are in our thoughts and prayers
The Flat Earthist realized as he flew through the skies The curve of the horizon as he fell He saw the world was round just before he hit the ground And gravity called out to close the deal
When my children’s eyes look at me and they ask me to explain It hurts me that I have to look away The powers that be are in for shame and comeuppance When Generation Lockdown has their day They’ll throw the bums all out and drain the swamp for real Perp walk them down the Capitol steps and show them how it feels Tramp the dirt down, Jesus, you can pray the rod they’ll spare Stick it up your ass with your useless thoughts and prayers Stick it up your ass with your useless thoughts and prayers
Glory, hallelujah You are in our thoughts and prayers Glory, hallelujah You are in our thoughts and prayers Glory, hallelujah You are in our thoughts and prayers
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28)
Generations of Evangelicals have taken these verses and others to mean that the Christian God has given the earth and everything living upon it to them for their use; that they are to have dominion over the earth; that everything on earth is given to them by God for their use and benefit; that human need, want, and use comes before anything else. Don’t like this human-centric view of the world? Blame God, Evangelicals say.
Want to understand why millions of Evangelicals have zero concern over global climate change/warming, endangered species, or immoral capitalism? You can trace their indifference back to the belief that mankind is the ruler of planet earth and that they are free to use it any way they want. There are Evangelicals who have embraced a more nuanced view, believing that God gave the earth to us to be stewards over, and not to exploit it for our own needs, but for the most part, God’s chosen ones believe that the earth is theirs to use, abuse, and misuse.
Ask Evangelicals what will happen when this world is all used up and they will likely tell you that such a scenario will never happen or that God is planning to make a new Heaven and a New Earth, so there’s no need to worry. 2 Peter 3:10-13 says:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
See? Don’t sweat it. Someday, Jesus is going to return to earth and make all things new. Until then, consume, consume, consume! More than a few Evangelicals believe global warming is a myth, burning coal is okay, and there is plenty of oil in the ground to fuel the world’s ravenous crude-oil-driven economy. These same Evangelicals put a man in office who is the epitome of their humans-first, it-all-belongs-to-us, Praise-Jesus, worldview. Donald Trump and his cabinet see the earth as a resource to be raped and pillaged by Wall Street and hedge fund managers. Just look at what Trump and Co. have done to the EPA and other regulatory bodies. Left to their own devices, these cretins will return us to the early days of the Industrial Revolution. The problem, of course, is that the Industrial Revolution unleashed a ravenous monster that envisions earth’s resources as things to be used and exploited. Praise be to the Christian God who gave us these things, right? Where will this God be when wells run dry and the oceans are vast lifeless landfills? Where will this God be when global climate change causes coastal flooding and crop failures? Where will this God be when our air becomes toxic and gas pumps run dry? Look at how the earth is presently ravaged by war, violence, disease, famine, and drought. Look at how the United States increasingly uses military intervention to maintain the American way of life. Listen to the rumblings of war all across the globe. Does anyone really think that the Christian God is going to take care of things; that as long as we believe in Jesus and the Republican God, all will be well?
Evangelicalism is not a harmless religion. Some of its beliefs have real-life implications. Believing that the earth is theirs to exploit, leads to all sorts of dangerous behaviors and government policies. Most Evangelicals are Republicans and call themselves conservatives. Are Evangelicals really conservatives? What exactly are they conserving besides their peculiar religious beliefs and the so-called American Dream? Mainline Christians, progressives, and other socially conscious Americans are the forces behind conserving our planet, not Evangelicals (with few exceptions). Where are the Evangelicals who think war is a bad idea? Where are the Evangelicals who put the environment and the future of the human race first? Where are the Evangelicals who think that life after birth is just as important as human zygotes? Everywhere I look, I see Evangelicals promoting violent, perverse American capitalism. Their churches are often mini-businesses operated just like corporations. These same Evangelicals, when faced with owning the bloodshed caused by their rabid support of the NRA and the gun lobby, blame everything but the means of violence (guns, ammunition) for the carnage and death played out daily in American schools and communities.
Contrary to what Evangelicals think the Bible says, the earth is not ours to use, misuse, and exploit. It is a finite resource that must be managed and cared for, lest we cause our own extinction. Frankly, it may be too late. We may have set things into motion that cannot be undone. That said, we don’t know this for certain, so we need to do all we can to combat global warming. We need to stop giving corporations the unrestrained right to exploit our planet. Most importantly, we need to turn out of office politicians who put the needs of their donors and corporations before the needs of the planet. Our future depends on us, in the present, doing the things necessary to ensure our survival. Believing the earth is big playground given to us by God will only hasten our demise. This is why Evangelical zealots must be driven out of office.
Bruce, are you saying Evangelicals should be banned from serving in government? Of course not. What I am saying is that their religious beliefs and theocratic tendencies must be checked at the door. People running for office should be asked about their religious beliefs. A candidate who believes the earth is 6,023 years old and was given to humans to do what they want with it is unfit for office. That such a person is currently the head of the EPA is almost beyond belief. A few days ago, I read a story about a new coal mine opening in Southeast Ohio. I thought, are you fucking kidding me? It’s 2018. No worries, Americans. This dirty coal will be shipped overseas. It won’t pollute our air! Sure, it won’t. Evidently, in the minds of coal lovers, the United States is a self-contained world, not affected by what happens outside of its borders. They are right as long as the wind doesn’t blow. Since the wind does, most assuredly, blow, Asian coal burning will affect the United States. (A good example of the drift effect is raised levels of radiation in the eastern Pacific after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.)
Many Evangelical beliefs are harmless. If they want to believe Jesus is a God who was born of a virgin, died, and came back to life three days later, I don’t care one way or the other. If they want to believe prayer changes things and the Bible is a God’s rule book, who cares? However, other beliefs of theirs cause real, material harm to our planet. We must not continue to let these beliefs infect our government and its agencies. The best way to keep their beliefs from causing harm is to keep them out of office. The only way to do that is to expose harmful beliefs and vote. Evangelicals are in the minority in the United States. Their undue influence on the political process and government policy will come to an end when voters use the ballot box to send them home (regardless of party affiliation). Religious beliefs belong in the church house, not the White House. Again, I am not suggesting that religious people be barred from office. Such thinking is unconstitutional and un-American. That said, the United States is a secular country, and we expect our leaders to put the people before anything else, including God and church.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
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The latest school massacre took place in Florida. A nineteen-year-old former student opened fire as school was dismissing, killing seventeen students and teachers. I watched one of the cellphone videos that was shot during the shooter’s maniacal rampage. I listened as teenagers whimpered and screamed, hoping that they would avoid injury or death. I wept as I watched the video, but my sorrow quickly turned to anger. I knew that before the sun rose on a new day that several things would happen:
Democrats would call for stricter gun control laws.
Republicans would say now is not the time to talk about stricter gun control laws.
The NRA would decry the shooting, but reject any and all calls for gun control reform.
Evangelical Christians would flood social media with “thoughts and prayers” comments.
What do we know about school shootings? Is there a pattern or some sort of common denominator? You bet there is. Let me list a few of them:
The shooters are overwhelmingly young, white male students. Many of them come from dysfunctional homes.
Many of the shooters had mental health problems, often untreated.
The shooters were either bullied or viewed as social outcasts, not fitting into the cliques that dominate public school life.
The shooters used the internet to access materials that helped them plan the shootings.
The shooters used the internet to research past shootings, often finding inspiration from the carnage perpetrated by other shooters.
The weapon of choice is the AR-15 or similar type guns.
Most shooters used large capacity clips for their weapons of choice.
Most shooters had large amounts of ammunition on hand.
Now, after reading this list, is there anything that our government leaders can do to put an end to the violence? Yep, there is, but unfortunately, thanks to the NRA and a number of congressional Republicans, what should be done will be ignored. These cowards will, instead, call for armed school guards and extensive school security. Some of these NRA-fearing men and women will even call for the arming of school teachers and custodial staff. After all, what better way to put an end to school shootings than add more guns to the equation, right? What could possibly go wrong?
The NRA — a Chihuahua-sized group with a Rottweiler bark — and its lackeys will remind Americans that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, suggesting that gun ownership without restriction is a sacred right that must never, ever be infringed upon. Democrats will point at the Trump administration, blaming them for doing nothing about school gun violence. They will rightly point out that a Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation that made it easier for people with mental illness to purchase firearms. What these self-righteous liberals forget is that Democrat Barack Obama inhabited 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for eight years, and in his time there nothing was done to meaningfully combat school shootings. So please, stop with the political finger-pointing. Both parties are neck-deep in the blood of school children, and they should be ashamed of themselves for their paralytic inaction.
I grew up in a home where shooting firearms were very much a part of life. My dad was a police reservist, and my brother was the Marshall of Tombstone, Arizona, for many years, and also a detective. I started shooting guns and hunting while I was still in elementary school. I bought my first gun — a bolt-action Mossburg .410 with a modified choke — at the age of twelve. I, at one time, owned numerous shotguns, high-powered rifles, and a smattering of handguns. When I was a young man, my dad owned a gun store in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked in the store from time to time, and on weekends I would accompany my dad as he set up tables at area gun shows. Dad’s store gave me access to a plethora of firearms to shoot, everything from a .458 Winchester Magnum to a .22K Hornet. I enjoyed hunting and target shooting with my dad, one of the few things we did together.
I wrote the above so that unaware readers would know that I am not some Commie liberal out to take away everyone’s gun. I do not currently own any firearms, choosing instead to do my shooting with a camera. That said, I don’t look down my nose at people who own guns, nor do I think they are to blame for school shootings. Solving gun violence in schools requires political courage and moral certitude. It requires our rulers to act in the best interest of the people, and not the interests of the NRA, Winchester, Remington, Smith and Wesson, or Glock.
Some of the people killed in the Florida school shooting
So what can be done?
First, universal background checks must be strictly enforced, connected to a nationwide database. Gun purchasers should be screened for prior convictions of violent crimes, especially domestic violence. Gun purchasers should be screened for mental health issues. Mental health providers should be required to flag patients with mental health issues which make them a danger to themselves or others. The U.S. military and the VA should be required to flag all soldiers who are being treated for PTSD or other mental disorders that make them a danger to themselves or others.
Second, all guns should be licensed. All new purchases should have a seven to fourteen-day waiting period, allowing sufficient time for background checks to be performed. A database of those who purchased and those who owns guns should be available to law enforcement.
Third, all open-carry and concealed-weapon laws should be repealed, putting an end to the Wild West mentality in many states and communities. Only law enforcement should be permitted to carry firearms in public.
Fourth, the manner in which the government and insurance companies handle mental health treatment must be changed in ways that make it possible for people to get prompt, ongoing, and comprehensive care.
Fifth, school leaders must address the ongoing bullying crisis in public schools. Teachers must be taught to be aware of bullying and to take steps to stop it when they see it happening. While I suspect it is impossible to put an end to cliques, school must do a better job fostering inclusiveness. Perhaps it is time to put an end to the jocks-rule mentality that dominates most schools.
Sixth, semi-automatic firearms such as the AR-15 should be immediately banned. Any firearm capable of firing large volume bursts should be banned. There is no legitimate reason for anyone to own military-style firearms.
Seventh, large (high) capacity magazines and clips should be immediately banned. There is no legitimate need for owning guns with large capacity magazines, nor is there any reason for owning clips holding dozens of rounds of ammunition. It also goes without saying that bump stocks such as the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre should be outlawed.
Eighth, politicians should be banned from taking financial or in-kind donations from the NRA and the gun lobby. The NRA, along with the Ted Nugents of the world, are part of the problem. These promoters of the means of violence should not be given larger-than-life influence over the political process. (As my editor mentioned to me, this would surely not pass constitutional challenge. Fine. Let’s reverse the effects of Citizens United. Let’s make public the names of ALL campaign donors. Let’s ban corporate donations, soft money, and the other endless ways politicians hide who and where donations are coming from. In fact, let’s federally fund elections and limit campaigning as Great Britain does to a short time before time election day. In other words, GET THE FUCKING MONEY OUT OF POLITICS!)
If the United States wants to put an end to gun violence in general and school shootings in particular, it must look at how countries such as Great Britain and Australia have crafted their gun control laws and act accordingly. Tinkering at the edges, making meaningless, superficial changes to gun laws is not the answer. The rest of the Western world looks at the United States and thinks that the Yanks have gone bonkers. Can they not see what must be done to put an end to gun violence in their schools? Those of us who don’t suck at the teat of the NRA know what must be done. It is up to us to force our political leaders to stop the blood flowing in the hallways of our schools. If our elected officials won’t act, then it is time for us to get men and women who will. Doing nothing or next to nothing is not the answer.
This is the one hundred and sixty-sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of a Christian couple singing about how God views firearms (and killing).
On Sunday night, a domestic terrorist, using weapons suited for battle, took aim from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel and rained bullets down on a country music festival – killing at least 58 people, wounding more than 500 others and sending a crowd of 22,000 fleeing in panic.
The headlines scream “worst gun massacre in modern history” – and indeed, the massacre surpasses the death toll at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just last year.
But Las Vegas was also the third deadliest modern terror attack on American soil, trailing only 9/11 and the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
America needs to confront this terrorism – and the forces that enable it.
Some definitions of terrorism hold that the violence must be perpetrated toward a political end. We do not yet know the motive behind the targeting of defenseless civilians at a music festival. The alleged gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, is dead, and the logic of his attack may have died with him. But if a man who brings more than a dozen weapons into a hotel room for the express purpose of exterminating innocent civilians – and prompting tens of thousands of others to flee for their lives – does not qualify not a “terrorist,” then the word has lost any functional meaning.
Mark Kelly – the retired Navy captain and astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords – underscored this idea on Monday. “This is the worst-case scenario. It’s haunted our dreams, that we would wake up to the news of a massacre like this: weapons of war, in the hands of a determined killer, with a tactical advantage. This was an ambush if there ever was one,” he said. “This was domestic terrorism.”
The Las Vegas massacre also plainly qualifies as an “act of terrorism” as defined by Nevada law – encompassing “any act that involves the use … [of] violence which is intended to: Cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”
The category error – labeling terrorism as “gun violence” – has dire consequences. America is at war with terrorism. We have made peace with gun violence.
In this country, we move heaven and earth to root out terrorism. We’ve launched trillion-dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our Congress passed the the USA Patriot Act, and we have curtailed our Fourth Amendment rights – trading freedom for FISA warrants and other encroachments of a surveillance state. We endure the indignities of airport scanners and pat-downs, and perform the security ritual of removing our shoes and belts at TSA checkpoints.
But when terrorists attack with high-capacity rifles, our moral clarity – and our national will to action – falters. Part of this category error is driven by racism. We call white shooters “lone wolves” and not “terrorists.” Regardless, we are enduring terrorist attacks on our own soil. They are hitting soft targets: schools, nightclubs and now music festivals.
Despite the carnage, we have done nothing at the federal level to restrict access to war-bred assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. This is a political problem, not a Second Amendment question. Despite what the NRA claims, U.S. courts have repeatedly held that these weapons are not constitutionally protected.
America’s national inaction comes in the face of our enemies laughing at us. Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups have openly called on would-be jihadists to build an arsenal by exploiting America’s lax gun laws, as I detailed after the Orlando attack:
“A terrorist manual discovered in Afghanistan in the early 2000s titled ‘How can I train myself for Jihad’ encourages would-be terrorists to obtain military-grade weapons in America: In ‘some states of USA,’ it reads, ‘it is perfectly legal for members of the public to own certain types of firearms. If you live in such a country, obtain an assault rifle legally….’
“A 2011 Al Qaeda recruitment video included similar advice: ‘America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with [an] assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?'”
America’s soft underbelly is vulnerable to terrorist attack because of the political power of the National Rifle Association. Full stop.
And we have never had a president more indebted to the NRA than Donald Trump. Trump took office thanks to more than $30 million in NRA spending on his behalf. Appearing at the gun lobby’s national convention earlier this year, Trump thanked the NRA and promised to advance its agenda. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” he said.
On Monday, President Trump piously quoted the Bible and condemned an “act of pure evil.” But he made no promise of federal action or intention to prevent future bloodshed. The president only directed that “our great flag” be flown at half mast. In the War on Terror – as prosecuted at home, against those who would commit atrocities with guns – the president might as well be waving a white flag of surrender.