This morning’s Star Tribune front page “Debate Triggers Show of Weapons” and the accompanying photographs are chilling. There are two photos. In one a young man with a loaded Glock strapped to his waist stands with arms folded, looking defiantly smug while he waits to testify about before a legislative committee in the Minnesota State Capitol. In the other two men sit at the hearing table with microphones. One reads from a manuscript; the other covers his face with his left hand as though he can’t believe they’re even discussing this.
I identify with the man with the hand covering his face. I don’t understand the man who brought the .40-caliber Glock to the hearing loaded with 15 rounds. Why would he do that?
“You have to be your own hero on your own white horse” is the way he explained it. He feels safer with his Glock.
Put next to that the statement of Pope Francis, as reported by Vatican Radio: “Faith and violence are incompatible.”
The Pope was preaching on the exact text often used by those who believe that violence and division are compatible with Christian faith. The text is Luke 12:51 in which Jesus asks, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” The division, as interpreted by the Pontiff, is between living for yourself or living in the light of God. Here are Francis’ words:
“The word of the Gospel does not authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is just the opposite: the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible”.
The halls of a legislature are intended to be sacred spaces where differences are resolved for the sake of the greater good, where my self-interest and your self-interest, as they are perceived by elected representatives, are expressed and resolved peacefully without intimidation. The chambers of representative democracy are the last place where any legislator or innocent visitor to the State Capitol should face the explicit or implicit intimidation of someone with a Glock.
Faith and violence are incompatible… so are democracy and intimidation.