Guns and Immaturity, Part 2
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother … and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me… Matthew 10:35-37
Immaturity expresses in countless ways when it comes to gun ownership and violence. Immaturity, as I use the term here, refers to a limited ability to see beyond one’s individual, physical and/or social environment. It is the unwillingness to consider options beyond what one thinks will bring the quickest satisfaction for whatever need one has, whether it is to quash a threat or fulfil a desire. As individuals in our society have become more isolated due to COVID, due to distance and online learning, and due to social media and texting becoming increasingly the norm for interpersonal interactions, we now receive severely limited samples of the lives of others. This limited sampling extends to our government where two political parties wield the vast majority of power, limiting our political options to those that serve one or both parties. The fewer the number of options we perceive available to us as individuals, the more immature our thoughts and actions become. The fewer the number of options we perceive as a society, the more immature society becomes. Likewise, the fewer the number of options for spiritual formation offered by our religious institutions, the more immature our spirituality becomes. And immaturity on these fronts leads to defensiveness, sometimes to the point of violence.
Typically, we think of maturity as something that increases with time, both individually and culturally. That appears not to be the case today. Rather, we seem to be digressing. Except for an occasional wave, we do not know our neighbors. We sacrifice time-worn perspectives by increasingly hoarding and isolating our elders into nursing homes. Even our churches present a limited gospel when compared with the expansive, inclusive, service-oriented life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. When we know so little about our neighbors, when we lose the wisdom of our predecessors, and when our religious institutions lose sight of their purpose by shrinking into modes of self-perpetuation, we become ignorant of vast swaths of reality existing outside the small portion of the world we allow into our experience. We fail to notice how the walls of bias, prejudice, and harsh judgment hem us in. We limit our social events and media attention to that which supports what we already think and how we live. As such, we learn little that is new and lose much of what we once learned. Our options and choices for doing right and good shrink to a miniscule portion of the available options and choices. And we sometimes feel we must violently preserve and protect our tiny understanding of right and wrong to keep the small world we know from collapsing. We have lost the ability to envision a broader, grander, and more inclusive life.
Jesus’s warnings against aligning too closely with one’s family, as quoted in the epigraph, had to do with the common tendency to define and restrict one’s world to the limited context of a small, homogeneous social unit. Many of the social units of his day were tribes, precursors to today’s gangs, where one found safety and acceptance in a small, tightly-knit, exclusive group. When we place our loyalties with a single family, tribe, race, or nation, we align ourselves against other families, tribes, races, or nations, and they become our enemies. We forget that they, too, are children of the same God. When we adopt shrunken views of right and wrong, good and evil, acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and life-styles, our way of life becomes easily threatened because its foundation is unstable. We believe we must staunchly defend more of the little we find acceptable in order to hold together the limited world-view we have contracted into. Jesus pulled his followers out of their homogeneous groups and taught them to live a less-threatened, more tolerant-of-others life. He taught that we are to love our enemies, not prepare to kill them. Others do not threaten but expand us.
How different would our world be if we expanded our views of what is possible, what is acceptable, and of what does NOT threaten us? Our immaturity makes us frail, scared, and constantly defensive. It is easy to think and act like we know it all when the world of knowledge from which we draw is small. It is lazy and immature, however, to assume we possess all, most, or even a top tier of knowledge. Jesus invited people out of their small social units into a larger reality that did not necessarily exclude their former social units, but widened their perception and acceptance of reality so they could include other, and eventually all social units. That is the sort of maturity that is sorely lacking today.
This is the 7th in a series of Life Notes titled Guns, Mental Illness, and Jesus. The opinions expressed here are mine and are not intended to imply the agreement or support of other individuals or organizations. If you wish to respond to my thoughts, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.