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Do Evangelical Beliefs Cause Suffering?

skunk

I paint with a broad brush in this post. If you are not one of “those” Evangelicals, then feel free to ignore what I have written. Or better yet, please explain to me why you are still an Evangelical. Surely, you don’t believe you can rescue Evangelicalism from itself.

My two favorite preachers are Jesse Custer (played by Dominic Cooper) on AMC’s hit series Preacher and Sidney Chambers (played by James Norton), an Anglican priest on Grantchester, a British period drama rebroadcast on PBS. Both men are doubters, preachers who understand the temptations of the flesh, and even, at times, give in to their wants and desires. In other words, unlike many of the self-righteous Pharisees who claim they speak for God, Custer and Chambers are worldly and quite human.

Both men question God’s existence, whether he answers prayer, and they wonder out loud if faith in God does more harm than good. Recently, I watched the four latest episodes of Grantchester. A repeating theme in Sidney Chambers’ struggles with faith is whether certain religious concepts (beliefs) cause suffering. Chambers is romantically involved with a woman, yet struggles with the vows he made to God and the church. This tension between desire and religious belief causes what Chambers calls suffering. It’s religion that says, thou shalt not have, yet supposedly the very God who says thou shalt not is the same God who created us with the desire for sexual intimacy and fulfillment. Chambers wants what he wants and, ignoring his beliefs, carries on a torrid affair. In the end, though, his commitment to the church and his desire to help others cause him to end his relationship with his lover. Whether Chambers will stay true to his calling until the end remains to be seen.

As I watched Grantchester, I pondered the notion that certain religious beliefs cause suffering, not only for ourselves, but for those who are close to us. I am an atheist, yet I readily admit that religious beliefs can and do provide many people with a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction. Viewed from an economic/cost-benefit perspective, Christians benefit from being part of a church and holding beliefs in common with their fellow congregants. As long as the benefits outweigh the costs, people will continue to engage in religious activities. It’s when the costs outweigh the benefits that people walk/run away from organized religion. When Christian faith becomes more of a hassle than it’s worth, people stop attending church; they stop giving their money to religious causes; they stop devoting time to religious exercises and activities.

Suppose you have a hamburger joint you love to frequent. You love their hamburgers, and their fries are awesome. Several times a week, you eat lunch at this hamburger joint, always using the drive-thru. One day, the restaurant staff messes up your order. You think, well, that happens from time to time. However, as time goes on, the staff continues to mess up your order — often putting cheese on your burger, even though you ask them not to. You complain to the manager, who says, I will make sure your order is made correctly. Here are a few coupons to compensate you for our mistakes. Great, you think. Problem solved. Unfortunately, the restaurant staff continues to mess up your order. And not only that, drive-thru wait times have doubled. One day, you wait fifteen minutes just to get your order, only to find out that for the millionth time they have put cheese on your hamburger. That it! you say. I am not going to eat here anymore. And off you go, searching for a new “best” hamburger in town. What happened? The costs (the wait time, wrong orders) outweighed the benefits (the “best” hamburger in town).

So it is with people and Christianity. For an increasing number of Americans, the costs of believing outweigh the benefits. Many Americans want to be viewed as kind, compassionate, thoughtful people. Who among us doesn’t want to be liked and respected? The problem for Evangelicals is that their commitment to Bible literalism and inerrancy forces them to defend behaviors and beliefs that are now considered immoral or indecent. In particular, younger Evangelicals have a big problem with how their pastors and churches treat LGBTQ people. They also have a problem with the increased politicization of the pulpit. Evangelical leaders are now calling for the abolishment of the Johnson Amendment — a regulation that forbids churches from partisan politicking as long as they are tax exempt. Taken as whole these things. and others, cast Evangelicalism in a bad light. Non-Evangelicals believe that Evangelicals are hateful bigots, even though many of them are not. Not wanting to be tarred with the same brush, many Evangelicals leave their churches — and some pastors leave their jobs, seeking out friendlier, more accepting churches.  For these Evangelicals, the cost of believing outweighs the benefits.

The fastest growing sector of belief is that of the NONES — people who are atheists, agnostics, or who are indifferent towards religion. Evangelicals, in particular, are hemorrhaging younger adults. Evangelical talking heads are frantic over this generational loss. Well, except hardcore Fundamentalists. In their minds, quality is better than quantity. Sure it is. Just wait until the church pews are filled with aging, white-haired senior saints. You know, the Southern Baptist Convention. Once these people die off, then what? Without young adults, death is certain.

Gen X’ers and their parents love to bash Millennials; the snowflake generation they are called. Whatever shortcomings Millennials might have, one thing is for certain: they don’t have much love for organized religion. Why is this? Why are Millennials anywhere but church on Sundays? The blame squarely rests on the shoulders of Evangelicals and their cohorts in the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other conservative religious sects. These sects generally speak with one voice when it comes to issues such as premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion, same-sex marriage, and the matters affecting the LGBTQ community. It is this group who put Donald Trump in office, and most of the Millennials I have spoken to hate the President. They hate his treatment of undocumented immigrants, women, and LGBTQ people. They see his racism, bigotry, and support of the rich. And smack dab in the middle of this mess, Millennials see Evangelical Christianity.

Everywhere thoughtful people look, they see the suffering caused by religious beliefs. Evangelicals tell all who will listen that their God is the one true God and the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It is in the Bible that God — not man — sets forth how humans are to live. Never mind the fact that the last words of the Bible were written two thousand years ago. In the minds of Evangelicals, the words of the Bible are as fresh and relevant the latest New York Times bestseller. They have convinced themselves that the Bible is unique, that it is different from all other books. Its words are inexhaustible. According to Evangelicals, someone can read the Bible from cover to cover hundreds of times and never exhaust the wealth of materials found within its pages. If you only own one book, Evangelicals say, let it be the B-i-b-l-e.

What suffering, you ask, is caused by Evangelical religious beliefs? Beliefs are benign, hurting no one, many Evangelicals think. Tell that to LGBTQ people who have been hounded and attacked by Evangelicals, all for demanding equal protection under the law and the same civil rights heterosexuals have. Tell that to Transgender people who have faced attack and ridicule over which bathroom they use. Tell that to pregnant women who want to terminate their pregnancy  but can’t have one because Evangelicals have closed down clinics and defunded Planned Parenthood. Tell that to people who want to die with dignity but can’t thanks to Evangelical opposition to euthanasia. Worse yet, Evangelicals are generally war-mongers, supporters of the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, anti-immigrant, and anti-social safety net. It seems that the only lives Evangelicals care about are those still in the womb. Perhaps it would be better for me to point out which Evangelical beliefs don’t cause suffering and harm. Certainly there are teaching the Bible worthy of emulation and practice. The Sermon on the Mount comes to mind and does Matthew. Imagine how differently non-Christians might view Evangelicals if they dared to actually walk in the footsteps of the Jesus they say they love and follow?

Twenty-first century Evangelicals are quite free with their pronouncements about morality. Not content to just express their opinion, Evangelicals preface their moralizing with, THE BIBLE SAYS or GOD SAYS. In their minds, when God speaks, all discussion is over. There’s nothing worse than an Evangelical armed with certainty — a surety that breeds arrogance, bigotry, and hatred.  In the 1970s, thanks to Moral Majority, Evangelicals got a taste of what could be accomplished with political power. Now drunk with this power, Evangelicals are demanding the United States be returned to its Evangelical roots. A people who once believed in a strict separation of church and state now act as if such a thing does not exist. President Trump, knowing that eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for him, goes out of his way to give God’s chosen ones the desires of their hearts. His cabinet is stocked with Evangelicals, most of whom have little experience in government.

Yet, despite their gain of political power, Evangelicals helplessly watch as their churches decline in attendance and their congregations age. Instead of asking why this is, Evangelicals double down on their moralizing. Life begins at fertilization! Abortion is murder. Homosexuality is against God’s order! It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Marriage is between a man and a woman!  God is anti-LGBTQ! God is pro-death-penalty, pro-war, and pro-gun! Whatever the Republican talking point is for the day, you can be sure Evangelicals support the matter. GOP=God’s Only Party! God is a Republican! God! God! God! God!

Well, God dammit, how about we start paying attention to how much suffering these beliefs are causing? Millennials are paying attention, and that’s why they are exiting churches stage left and right. If Evangelicals have their way, abortions will, once again, be performed in back rooms and alleys. If Evangelicals have their way, LGBTQ people will be driven to the utter darkness of the closets from whence they came. If Evangelicals have their way, atheists will be silenced and God returned to his “rightful” place in public school classrooms. Yes to school prayer! Yes to Bible reading is the classroom! Yes to creationism being taught in science classes! Yes to churches, pastors, and parachurch groups having ready access to public school students! What Evangelicals want is a return to the glory days of the post-World War II 1950s. No matter how much suffering such a move causes, all that matters is that Evangelicals (and ostensibly, their God) get their way. Unwilling to pray and wait on God, Evangelicals have turned to politics to gain their desired objective. In doing so, they have forsaken whatever moral ground they once held. The moment Evangelicals voted President Pussy-Grabber into office, their moral authority was gone.

All that’s left now is a bloody political struggle for the future of our Republic. Key to this struggle is making sure Millennial and Gen Xers’s alike see the suffering cause by religion. Evangelicals are supposedly having their own #metoo moment. It’s hilarious (and oh so sad) to watch Evangelicals attempt to find final their moral voice. Evangelical sects, churches, and leaders have been covering up sexual misconducts for as long as I can remember. And now, all of a sudden, they have found their conscience? I don’t think so. Their current self-flagellation is all about appearance, about showing the public just enough contrition to make people think that Evangelicals are serious about sexual assault and sexual harassment. They are not. If they were, Evangelicals would, with great haste undo the huge mistake they made the first Tuesday in November 2016.

That’s not going to happen. Evangelicals are addicted to political power, and the only way to undo the suffering and damage caused by their beliefs is to strangle the life out of their churches and centers of power. Evangelical beliefs must be driven out of the public square, onto the fringes of American life. Evangelicals are free to preach their beliefs in the public square, but their sermons must not be given a pass. The suffering they cause must be exposed and preached from the mountaintops. Our future is at stake. Millions of Evangelicals support bombing Iran, nuking North Korea, and deny the existence of global climate change. Left to their own ways, Evangelicals will turn the world into Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, The Road, or the latest sequel of the Mad Max movies. In their minds, no worries! Jesus is coming soon! Who cares what happens to the world. For those of us without such deranged eschatological ambitions, we must continue fight against anything that increases suffering. And from my seat in the atheist pew, Evangelicalism is a religious form of BDSM, with the only difference being the pain and suffering caused to others is not consensual. Evangelicals despise multiculturalism, and if truth be told, many Evangelicals are out-and-out racists. What they want is a white monoculture where their religion reigns supreme. Those of us who want the world John Lennon spoke of in Imagine only have one choice: we must push back and fight until the enemy to vanquished. We must no longer give our silent consent to ignorance and bigotry. Picture for a moment what the lyrics of Imagine might say if Franklin Graham, James Dobson, John Hagee, or Robert Jeffress wrote them. Is that the kind of future we want to leave for our children and grandchildren? I know I don’t.

As I re-read this post, I thought, people who don’t know me might conclude that I really, really, really hate Evangelicals. Let me be clear, I don’t hate Evangelicals as people. It’s their beliefs I hate. I love polecats. Cute critters. But, get too close to one and up goes the tail and you’ll soon be covered with N-butlymercaptan — an awful-smelling chemical spray that is very hard to get off your skin and clothing. Evangelicals are like pole cats. Nice people, as long as you don’t get too close to them and let them spray you with their N-Godsays beliefs. And it’s not even the beliefs, per se. If Evangelicals want to follow their peculiar interpretation of what they believe is God’s infallible Word, so be it. Think abortion is a sin? Don’t have one. Think same-sex marriage is a sin? Don’t marry someone of the same sex. Think adultery is a sin? Fine, keep your dick in your pants or put an aspirin between your legs. Think _______________ is as sin? Don’t do it! No one, I repeat NO ONE, is keeping you from being the most holy, sanctified person since the man, the myth, the legend, Jesus, the Christ. (There is ZERO persecution of Evangelicals in America, contrary to the hysteria preached from pulpits.) That’s how it works in a secular state. Evangelicals are free to be the best little Jesus-lovers they can possibly be, and atheists are free to live, lust, luxuriate, and love until death comes calling. How atheists or Evangelicals conduct their private lives does not materially affect the other. Again, that’s what’s so great about living in a secular state, one that places great value on freedom of and from religion. It’s when Evangelicals demand preferential treatment for their religion or demand that the Bible be codified into law, that people such as myself have a problem. I cannot and will not idly sit by while religious extremists turn the land of the free and home of the brave into a theocracy. Don’t tell me that’s not your intent; I know better. True-blue Evangelicals will not rest until King Jesus sits on the throne, not just in America, but across the world. I remain your neighbor, Evangelicals. You are indeed a pretty sight. But as the wind blows, I get a whiff of your smell. Then I know I must not rest, lest polecats take over the world.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor John Elleson Running for Congress, Has a Sketchy Past

john elleson
The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

John Elleson, an Evangelical pastor, is running in the Illinois Republican primary, hoping to win an opportunity to challenge U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky in November’s general election. According to the following Chicago Tribune story, Elleson has a sketchy past.

Kim Janssen, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, writes:

Arlington Heights pastor John Elleson, who is making a bid for Congress, risked the ire of multimillionaire televangelist Joel Osteen by including Osteen in a recent TV ad without Osteen’s permission.

But Osteen isn’t the only fellow pastor Elleson has upset over the years, court records show.

Elleson — who’s running in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky in November’s general election — was ordered by a judge to complete 150 hours of community service and to return $49,000 in benefit payments he’d improperly collected after pleading “no contest” to a first degree theft charge in Hawaii in 2003, court records show.

Prosecutors alleged that Elleson and his wife, Suzanne Elleson, who pleaded “no contest” to second-degree theft, had lied about how they were feeding teenagers who attended a religious drug addiction rehabilitation service Elleson ran, so that they could illegally squeeze extra money out of taxpayers.

According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the state probe of Elleson began after a teenage client alleged the Ellesons required him and other clients to apply for benefits, then turn over their benefits cards to Suzanne Elleson or face being kicked out of the program.

That wasn’t the end of Elleson’s problems tied to the rehab program. After the church that had hired him to run the program fired him for his “contentious and noncooperative spirit” and his “assumption of dictatorial authority over an assembly,” Elleson was sued by the church for continuing to use their “Teen Challenge” trademark without permission.

A judge found that Elleson had “willfully engaged in . . . deceptive trade practices,” ordered him to stop and told him to pay the church’s legal costs.

Elleson has fought with a neighboring church in Illinois, too. According to a 2010 lawsuit, Arlington Heights police were, on more than one occasion, called to intervene in a dispute Elleson’s Lakewood Chapel had with the Bethel Pentecostal Church of God.

Elleson sold Bethel half of his church, but after his plan to build a wall dividing the worship area into two was rejected by the village, he “repeatedly interrupted” Sunday services at Bethel by cutting off the electricity to the public address system, removing microphones from the podium during services, and by playing loud music and projection screen TVs during services, according to the lawsuit.

A Cook County jury sided with Bethel, ordering Elleson’s church to pay Bethel $257,600, plus costs.

….

He described “the Hawaii thing” as “an unfortunate time in our lives,” and said he would not have been charged under current law.

“Everybody who knows me, knows I am an open book,” he wrote. “I have nothing to hide. I have shared everything you mentioned, opening with the church I pastor, and anyone who listens to my recorded sermons.”

He added, “In every one of the things you mentioned, there are no rifts with any of the people today. In life you will have conflicts, but we have tried to bring peace to every situation when possible.”

Elleson wrote that he was “not aware of” a 1998 criminal damage conviction he holds in Cook County, according to court records, which indicate he plead guilty to the misdemeanor.

“I have a clean record,” he wrote.

Elleson is the pastor of Lakewood Chapel in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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Many Evangelicals Believe the Earth was Given to Humans by God and it is Theirs to Exploit

rick santorum quote dominion earth

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.

anne coulter quote rape the earth

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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Thoughts and Prayers Won’t Solve Gun Violence

thoughts and prayers
Cartoon by Kristian Nygard

Mass Shooting in the United States from 1990-February 2018

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mass shootings 2

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Source: Mother Jones

Three decades of mass of shootings; over 300,000 homicides; over 600,000 suicides. According to Wikipedia, 1.4 million Americans have been killed using firearms between 1968 and 2011.Wikipedia also states:

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the U.S. had 82 percent of all gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed by guns, 91 percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed by guns. In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs.

By some estimates, Americans own over 300 million firearms, yet most households and individuals do not own a gun. Surprisingly, at least to me, is the fact that most Americans are reticent about banning guns or enforcing strict firearm laws. This disparity shows how effective the NRA and gun lobby are at getting their message out. Like it or not, the United States is a nation of guns. Add to our personal weapon caches the vast weapons of violence, carnage, and death used by our military, and it is hard not to conclude that we are a violent people who love weapon of mass destruction. The U.S. government searched everywhere for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They, of course, found none. Perhaps the search for such weapons should start here within our borders and homes.

What is needed is comprehensive gun control legislation. (Please read Another Day, Another School MassacreBruce, you are WRONG! Guns don’t kill people, people do! Really? Are you so stupid that you cannot see the insanity of such an argument? Cars don’t kill people, people do!  Yet, we have all sorts of laws and regulations that govern car ownership and use, including testing and licensing requirements. We wisely, in the name of public safety, regulate automobile ownership and use, yet many gun owners demand the right to own any kind of firearm, without restriction. Such thinking is a threat to public health and safety in much the same way as are people driving unlicensed, unregulated automobiles on highways, streets, and country roads.

Month after month, year after year, angry, often mentally ill, people use firearms to slaughter their fellow Americans. Every time such carnage happens, Republican/conservative political leaders offer up “thoughts and prayers” while reminding us that guns are not the problem. If the outrage from the survivors of the latest school shooting is any indication, younger Americans are waking up to the reality that guns ARE the problem. Emperor NRA stands before them and says, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct and banning guns won’t stop mass shootings. These angry students wisely reply, BULLSHIT! They can see that the Emperor has no clothes. They see, oh so clearly, that unrestricted gun use and ownership is one part of the problem, along with the lack of mental health care for troubled teens and adults.

These young people are saying, NO MORE THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS! We want immediate and decisive action on gun control. It remains to be seen whether their outrage can be turned into a movement, one that perhaps mimics the student anti-war protest movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, protesting students helped to bring an end to the Vietnam War — a decade of immoral American violence and bloodshed in Southeast Asia. I hope that today’s protesting students can put such pressure on the U.S. government that it will force our political leaders, after hundreds of thousands of firearm deaths, to finally enact strict, comprehensive gun control laws.

Bruce Gerencser