In Gun We Trust (America’s Deadly Equality)


A black man slumped over the front seat of his car after a routine Wednesday traffic stop in Minneapolis.

A white police officer laying in the street following a peaceful Thursday protest in Dallas.

And red. Lots and lots of red.

This is America.

This is who we’ve become.

This is the collateral damage of our religion.

This is the rotten, stinking fruit of our shared faith.

This is the bloody yield of our worship of guns.

This is what happens when deadly force is placed in our flawed, fearful, quivering hands and allowed to do whatever it wants to.

The trigger only has one purpose: to be pulled.

The bullet only has one purpose: to penetrate.

The gun only has one purpose: violence.

And so, violence is what we have in more abundance than any country on the planet.

We have a sickening, growing global monopoly on death.

We can dance around it and talk in evasive semantics about “people killing people”. We can debate legislation and hunting and safeguards and self-defense all we want, but the truth is right there in pools of crimson filling our streets.

And it’s on our collective hands now. This is what we’ve chosen. We’ve chosen death.

Somewhere along the way, a professed “Christian nation” decided that we all get to choose who deserves to die and why we’re justified in taking that life. We kill and then we create whatever narrative we need to bless the violence we’ve exacted:

He was reaching for a gun.
She was running.
The police have it coming.
He has priors.
I was frightened.
This was a bad guy.
Someone has to pay.

He was deemed a threat.
He cut me off.
She was acting erratically.
Now they’ll listen.

This is the American way now and all of America has to lie in this bloody bed together.

The greatest myth we’ve allowed ourselves to believe is that the answer to our ills is ever a “good guy with a gun”. We all believe we’re the good guy.

None of us ever imagine that we are the danger, that we are the evil presence, that we are the impulsive, hateful, unhinged ones out there. We all consider our motives pure. We all consider our cause righteous.

And when we want to be the good guy and still kill people we find a way, and we find others who will line up to tell us we were right to pull the trigger. Those other bad people weren’t of course—but we were.

Death and death and death and death. 

This is what idolatry is: It makes God into the hateful image we most desire and joyfully bows down to it. 

Jesus and Martin Luther King and Gandhi all tried to show us what goodness really looks like. They all tried to give us a bloodless path to walk.

Each lived a life where the boldest and most redemptive force wasn’t force at all. It wasn’t power or retribution or eye for eye. It wasn’t aggression or malevolence—or even self-defense. It was the absolute defiant refusal to respond to violence with violence. It was peace even in the face of death. It was counterintuitive love as the last and loudest word.

They modeled a life that didn’t require a gun.

But that life doesn’t get us off. It doesn’t scratch the trigger finger. It doesn’t let us be cowboy and savior and executioner and judge and tough guy. It doesn’t allow us to wield the kind of deadly power we’ve decided we’ve earned. It doesn’t let us win a holy war.

America has always made claim to Equality, and maybe now we’re finally there. We now all get to kill people when it suits us. This is the freedom we’ve now taken hold of. This is what the Home of the Brave looks like: a killing field.

The truth is black lives don’t matter, and cops don’t matter and Muslims and gays and kids don’t matter because those who believe they don’t matter can pull the trigger and remove them in an instant and feel perfectly patriotic and perfectly righteous in doing it. 

The families of black men and school children and police officers and spouses don’t give a damn whether their killers believed they were good guys or not. 

Their loved ones are dead just the same.

Their bodies are lifeless just the same.

Their blood is on our hands just the same.

America, this is where we’ve chosen to place our faith: In our own trembling, hands with a finger on the trigger.

And unless we choose a different path, this daily death is our kingdom come.






58 thoughts on “In Gun We Trust (America’s Deadly Equality)

  1. Pingback: New post In Gun We Trust (America’s Deadly Equality) - WTFery

  2. Excellent, truthful words, John. Our kingdom has become a killing field that despairs me in words I can’t even say. Another deadly shooting. I’m so afraid for this country, for the people who feel that freedom means hate and bigotry and murder. It’s scary.

    • If I might suggest, stop using buzz words like “hate” “bigotry” to describe people with a different perspective. No one in their right mind likens “freedom” to hate or murder.

      • Dan…you said it best: no one “in their right mind” equates freedom with hate and maybe, the resulting murder, but legions who follow trump’s rhetoric and accept it as truth, do happen to think and feel just that. Since the election, these people feel it is their right (and maybe their duty) to police and bully those who are not like them, and the news is full of their actions. We see the results everyday now. There is no conscience involved in their actions. Think about that for a while.

  3. Your tagline “Stuff That Needs to Be Said” is so accurate. And I’m glad you’re a white guy saying these things. I live in Arizona and saying these things out loud could get your killed … at the very least, ostracized. THANK YOU!

  4. It’s striking that the Lord’s indictment against the people of Noah’s focused on their violence.

    And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. – Genesis 6:13 ESV

    And we wink at it on our TV’s in our movies and in bleeds into our streets.

    Thanks John.

  5. Your express exactly my feelings as an immigrant from Europe 20 years ago I am increasingly horrified by the war zone the USA is. Always has been. A culture of death. The golden calf being danced around is the Smith and Wesson or the Glock. I stopped reading newspapers here but then you can’t avoid the news on line. God bless America, some people keep saying No higher power is going to save the US people from their own stupidity. Or their own paranoia. The USA is not part of civilization, that is for sure. A failed state, we are getting closer to that status.

  6. While today’s instant information access dwells on and glorifies all things awful and strikes fear the minds of those glued to their screens of every size plus the print media, we are driven into frenzy of feeling like the world is out of control.
    Why are people so obsessed with one kind of terrible death and harm but non-plussed at other preventable death and destruction going on around us every day?
    Nothing is different today than in all of history except access to information as it happens.
    John P. I get what you are saying but today you have joined the fearful. Why not instead begin healing, peace, respect and kindness.
    “Woe is me” will not change anything except make one more fearful.

    I agree that guns used as forceful, destructive choices of those who are themselves bewildered and out of control is un-American.
    I don’t know the answer but I do know violence isn’t and neither is removing our freedoms of choice.
    What is needed is a unifying purpose that brings people together and that cannot happen until prejudice, bias, hatred, bigotry, homophobia and all other descriptions of thoughts and actions that tear apart are converted into love.

    • Life is our unifying purpose. Prejudice, hatred, ignorance, homophobia, etc. are simply nasty side-effects that some people experience from the authoritative prescriptions of man-made ideologies. When we tear down these mental obstructions the love of life becomes visibly clear.

  7. Some of your posts are very thoughtful. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. I understand and feel your frustration, but restricting guns does not get at the root of the problem.

    If we were able to magically take guns from every person in this country, killing would continue. Only the killing would be carried out with knives, hammers, poison, etc. Then we could try to rid our country of knives, hammers, and poison, but we’d still not be addressing the root of the problem.

    Racial and economic injustice will continue to result in frustration, hopelessness, and violence until it is resolved. There are things we can all do, but until there are systematic changes at the legislative level, very little will change.

    A focus on guns only distracts from the real problem.

    • i think some people hear “gun control” and think it means “no guns unless you’re lucky.” I agree if we were more careful about who is issued guns and educating people on what they’re for, that would be one way to decrease gun deaths. It’s not the only way, but it’s certainly true that someone who’s not right in the head should NOT have access to a deadly weapon if at all possible. It would be easy for someone like me or most of you to get a gun, but I think you should just have special training and all that first, so it’s not about saying only a few people should have guns. Just make it a more serious deal to acquire one. And yes it will take getting to other root causes to solve these issues. But the fact is, to fight violence with violence in any situation is wrong, and it’s one of the toughest lessons to accept. We like to think sometimes peace is not an option. It’s an high calling to follow Jesus so it’s not always going to be easy, but we have faith that it’s worth it.

    • no, it addresses one of the many issues causing death.

      i am australian. we don’t have a history of mass killings, and after the last mass gun killing in the 90s we legislated to ban certain guns. since then there has not been a mass gun killing. not one.

      yes, people continue to kill, but not on the scale we see in america.

      to argue that gun control is a distraction is the real distraction.


      • The US also also restricts certain guns, certain magazine sizes, and certain ammunition.

        Yes, we could restrict more here, but if we are not willing to correct systematic racial and economic injustice, it won’t matter.

        The racial problem in the US dates back to slavery and it won’t be solved by banning guns.

    • What do you think is the root of the problem, Peter? Most people aren’t willing or able to dig so deep, and we need to. Not with arguments and egos, but with sincere attempts to understand and resolve. It’s far beyond systemic changes at the legislative level.

      • I said in my comment what I think the root of the problem is “racial and economic injustice.” It appears you disagree. What do you think the root of the problem is?

    • I hear you, but while someone might kill three or four with a knife, he/she could kill thirty or forty in the same amount of time with an automatic weapon. This has been, I think, a huge factor in the significant number of deaths we have witnessed in mass killings.

      • Patrick, automatic weapons are illegal.

        Of course a person armed with a semi-automatic can kill more than a person armed with a knife, but if we continue to focus on weapons rather than the root cause of the problem, there will be very little progress.

        • What a horrific thing to write off as the cost of business of freedom.

          “Well sure, 49 people instead of 3 or 4. But … y’know … that’s just gonna have to do until we, oh, I don’t know … solve ALL RACIAL AND ECONOMIC INJUSTICE IN THE WORLD.”

        • Yes, Patrick, automatic weapons are illegal, but still available to those that really want them. They are sold, under the table, at gun shows, on the internet, out of garages, trunks of cars….easy to obtain. I know folks that have them and it frightens me. Gun laws do help, but there are parts of the country, where people are heavily armed and trained for warfare…whole families (children included) and would-be militia, just waiting for something to happen that tweaks their sense of justice. Not sure what the answer is for most of America, but stricter gun laws and enforcement would help. Australia is an example, but it’s not happening in this administration, so hold your loved ones close and pray for a sanity that I don’t see arriving soon.

    • You could at least have a hope of slowing down the carnage. James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 20 in less than 10 minutes when he unloaded his frustrations on innocent movie-goers in Aurora. You don’t get that kind of casualty tally when you go off with a hunting knife or nun-chucks, and it’s easier to disarm some loon with a hammer than one with an Uzi. Yes, there are other causes, but if I hit you with my fist, you’ll be in a lot better shape than if I hit you with a .44 bullet. You can’t even really cite mental health as “the problem” since the current administration just made it easier for the mentally ill to buy all the weapons they want.

  8. Unfortunately, violence “is as American as apple pie”.
    Unfortunately, violence saturates the human heart and soul.

    There is the violence in the day-to-day interactions we have with each other – the middle finger given to someone who cut us off on the freeway, or slipped into the parking space we were waiting for at the mall.
    There is the violence in the postings on social media and blogs – and I have felt the anger rising up at seeing something posted that I disagreed with or felt threatened by.
    There is the violence in our political process – the opponent cast as Demon Spawned From The Heart Of Tartarus and his/her supporters as Evil Incarnate.
    There is the violence within families and neighborhoods
    There is the violence between nations, and those not part of any specific nation, but who attack indiscriminately.

    Violence is rooted in anger which is rooted in fear…

    “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda (Star Wars)

    “I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

    – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (Dune)

    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

    When humankind decides to face its fears – fear of deprivation, fear of The Other, fear of the unknown – I think a good deal of violence will be abated.

    Will humankind decide against Fear?

  9. Are you looking for a good investment? Invest in the black market of gun sales before they become illegal because, like with drugs, the profits will soar. We never learn. Guns don’t kill people, people do and yes, it’s people without faith. As a nation we have lost our way spiritually. Materialism and me-ism has us be the throats. It won’t be long now before this country erupts in total violence and out of that will come peace; until the next eruption. How do I know this? Simple! History tells us what’s about to happen. Life is not linear, it’s circular. But for those with faith; don’t worry, you’ll be going on the next journey. For those without faith, fear is a reasonable emotion.

  10. All this gun and IED violence is just plain sick. I do not care who is doing it. It is just plain sick. After staying up all night to get the fine details, it is all jut sick. Jesus said that only the sick need a physician. Well, here we are America. Is there a doctor in the house?

  11. I have to say I was expecting this violence toward police as people can only be pushed so far. When I was in the US Navy the police in Southern California targeted military personnel as we were easy targets. They’d go after us for the most absurd infractions an example being I was threatened with a jaywalking ticket due to my toes sticking out past the curb at a crosswalk. Anything worse and they’d call out the SWAT team & helicopters.

    Not too long ago I was stopped at a police checkpoint and I asked the cop for “probable cause”. His reply; “It’s in the Constitution”. What an idiot.

    Later I was in a 3 car accident caused by one of the other drivers. When I went to the police station to obtain a copy of the report I saw no charges had been filed. I asked the cop on duty why not and he replied “we didn’t see it”. Guess he never heard of investigating a traffic accident.

    BTW, I’m a middle aged white guy and no I do NOT trust police.

  12. Pingback: A Cesspool of Hate | Heretical Love

  13. Pingback: In Gun We Trust (America’s Deadly Equality) — john pavlovitz | survivor road

  14. In the engineering, technical and medical world when something doesn’t work the focus is on solutions or completely re-engineering.

    In social and human problems we focus on the problem, over and over and over. We glorify the problem, huge amounts of money are made by focusing on the problem. Human problems are cash cows for the media and for-profit enterprises.
    Solutions – not so much! If this was reversed much of social ills would fade away in a decade, that is if everyone really cared about solutions.
    It won’t happen because solutions don’t pay the bills at xyz radio and TV stations or magazines and for crying out loud the public won’t hold still for boring positive news.

  15. What an interesting poem! What an informed article! What’s that? Gun violence is actually down in America?! Well surely that can’t be factual, look at all the shootings on TV! Wait, you’re telling me that the mainstream media has covered more shootings this year than in the history of television!? Because death sells? Huh, maybe the problem is the media giving attention to cowards?
    Gun violence is not infinite, but violence is, and guess what? It existed millions of years before the invention of the gun.

  16. I think its disgusting that they are allowed to carry guns. It seems to be the reason that guns are to blame for whats going on. That’s why I believe that police are so quick to draw their guns. We seem to be living iin a violent society . What will Jesus do when He comes

  17. Your words are an expression of heart (obviously yours but mine too).
    I post so many of your blogs but I often hear crickets. That said, we can’t stop fighting the good fight. Words form and our words have to counter the hateful ones. We’ve already seen demonstrated how the proliferation of violent speech insights the same. In the end I do think we’ll be judged on the lovingness of our hearts and actions. And being that now can help change the world. Whether or not our personal efforts will save the world, that’s another story….but not the end of our story.

  18. Violence occurs, but we must recognize the difference between holy judgment on sin and our own personal vendettas against those we dislike, which is the inevitable outcome of pride (Psalm 73:6). While men are more prone to accept violence (especially as cultures depict real men as those who never cry, always have a plan, and carry a gun), the wisest man of all time wrote, “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31). Prayer and patience beats violence and anger on any day.

    Psalm 73:6 (NKJV)
    6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
    Violence covers them like a garment.

    Proverbs 3:31 (NKJV)
    31 Do not envy the oppressor,
    And choose none of his ways;

  19. This is the story of mankind, not just America. This country was
    founded with violence and it will only escalate till we are humbled and
    fall. The only power we have is to forgive and be kind to the man next to us and often it is the toughest with family and ex-mates. Being human is a pressurized journey, only receiving the words of Jesus and the prophets can keep our violent nature at bay. All of the ages have
    felt the same as we now. We must take refuge in our faith, do what we
    can for those around us and feel joy as we share the good.

  20. He (my late husband, aka The Montana Farm Boy) grew up on a farm in Custer, Montana, and probably didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me until he moved away.

    I grew up in Philadelphia, PA, and often got a lot of racial crap … In Philadelphia, Boston and other Eastern cities, you learned what streets NOT to cross and what neighborhoods NOT to be in if you belonged to a different ethnic or racial group.

    Our differences didn’t stop us from getting married; they didn’t stop us from acknowledging that he was a 5’9″, Old, Tired, Decrepit White Man With No Butt (he’d crack up every time I’d call him that) and that I am a 6’2″ Black Woman with a deal of steatopygia (fancy term for having Serious Butt). We acknowledged our differences and the occasional stares we got.

    America has done a long dance of avoidance around its racial and ethnic issues – and the more we try to avoid dealing with race and ethnicity – the more we will continue to see black men killed by police , Latino-Black conflicts, First Nations struggles with poverty and substance abuse, Asians having to live up to a ‘model minority’ standard, and a default assumption of racism by anyone with blonde hair and blue eyes.

    I think America needs to take a page from South Africa and have a series of Truth and Reconciliation hearings where there will be the opportunity to have a frank, painful, honest and open airing of racial and ethnic resentments – will it solve everything? No, but sunlight can go a long way in disinfecting the mold of hatred.

  21. Pingback: Use Your Words - Jason C. Stanley

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  24. “Jesus and Martin Luther King and Gandhi all tried to show us what goodness really looks like. They all tried to give us a bloodless path to walk.” And all three were assassinated. Too much fear – of change, of truth, of difference – is almost invariably deadly when humans are involved.

  25. Thank you for saying (putting into writing) what needs to be said and for saying it with all the necessary conciseness called for today.

  26. Several people have asked me why fundamentalists seem to worship guns and give greater allegiance to their interpretation of the 2nd amendment than they demonstrate for the teachings and example of Jesus. I don’t have an answer, but your comments certainly describe the results of this idolatry.

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