“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”― Theodore Roosevelt
A couple of weeks ago I was reading one of our Portland weekly newspapers, and I came across the story of a girls softball team from the Portland area trying to raffle an AR-15 rifle. Since then, I won the raffle and the story has been written and broadcast across the country. Local news stations approached me to talk about the raffle and the gun, and both local and national newspapers picked up the story.
The feedback has been overwhelming. I never expected this action to get so much attention and by and large the feedback has been positive. I have gotten emails and voice mails from across the country thanking me for this action. Families that have lost loved ones to gun violence have let me know that they support me and that means a lot.
On the other hand there are the critics and trolls on Facebook pages and news website comment sections, lobbing their hate and vitriol. First let me say that I have seen almost none of it. My discipline of never reading the comments has been almost complete in this instance. But I have seen a few and I know that other people might be reading the comments and feel the need to defend me. Rather than spending your time behind a computer fighting with people you will never change, go outside and enjoy your life. Play with your kids, drink a beer with your friends, in the words of Wendell Berry “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts”. Do not let your heart be troubled by anger directed towards me. If you want to respond, post a link to this blog and leave it at that.
It has been a surprise to witness how upset people have been about what I have done. I used money given to my discretionary fund at Christ Church Episcopal Parish to support a girls softball team and to take an AR-15 out of society. No one from Christ Church has asked for their money back. In fact more money has been donated from both members and non-members than was actually spent on buying raffle tickets. That money will be used to support work that reduces violence in our world and builds community. How supporting kids sports or reducing America’s gun arsenal are in contradiction of what church funds should be used for is beyond me.
Many of the critics of this action believe I could have used this $3000 more effectively and have suggested many different ways including, feeding the hungry and helping those in need. Christ Church is a founding member in Portland of an organization called Potluck in the Park. Every Sunday morning during services, teams of parishioners are in our kitchen cooking meals that help feed 300-500 hungry people in Downtown Portland. Christ Church raised $70,000 in one night last year at our annual auction. All that money is used to support another 15 outreach projects in our community and in the world. We support schools in Uganda, health clinics in Peru and clergy in Namibia. We build homes through Habitat for Humanity and provide transitional housing through Lake Oswego Transitional Housing. We are also on the board and support William Temple Thrift Store in Portland. Christ Church lives its beliefs, and we work every day to build up the kingdom of God. We are a group of committed Christian disciples following the call of Jesus Christ.
It seems like a lot of the energy around this action is about the gun being destroyed. Some people believe it is just a silly stunt. “A gun is an inanimate object” they say. “My guns have never walked out of my house and hurt anyone”, say others. Fair enough. So why is there so much anger and hatred about me destroying an inanimate object? What about this action could possibly make someone so angry that they would tell me I should kill myself?
Here is what I know, inanimate objects hold emotional power.
Your grandfather’s watch and a love letter from your spouse are inanimate objects too, but they also mean more than that. In our gun worshiping culture, destroying a gun seems to be the equivalent of burning the flag. I am seen by some as un-American for even suggesting that there should be one less gun in the world. It seems to me that the people who are screaming the loudest about guns having no power are proving just the opposite. Evidently guns can get people to spend hours on their computers writing hateful messages and cause otherwise decent people to act in ways their mothers would probably not be proud of.
Why I’m Speaking Out
It’s hard to believe that people on the internet know me so well. In the past 2 weeks I have been called every name you can think of. Most of these names suggest that my intelligence is lacking and that I don’t know what I am talking about. Looking at the comment section is like walking into an insane asylum and starting to believe you are the one who is crazy.
I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up shooting rifles on my grandparents farm in Vernon in Lamar County. I learned how to handle a gun and was taught how to safely treat firearms. I went to school in West Birmingham and Homewood, graduated from UAB with degrees in History and Political Science, went to law school at Birmingham School of Law and practiced law in Birmingham for four years. While in law school I owned a nickle-plated, Smith and Wesson .357.
Then I moved to New York City for seminary and started school on September 11th, 2001. Yes, 9/11.
I was at Ground Zero, and worked there supporting the first responders. I moved back to Athens, Alabama after seminary where I had the pleasure, as the rector of St Timothy’s Episcopal Church to counter protest the KKK. Then I moved to Namibia in Southern Africa for three years to help train clergy in the Anglican Diocese of Namibia. I moved to the Portland area five years ago and have been the rector of Christ Church for 2 ½ years. If you want to know who I am, ask. If you think you know who I am, think again.
I am a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ. I was baptized as a Southern Baptist in Alabama and never remember a time that my mother and grandmother did not have me in church. I later became an Episcopalian, and then a priest. I am committed to the gospels and my favorite verse is Matthew 25:31-46. I am committed to the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church, especially our commitment to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. I have always been called to live my faith and not merely talk about it as a disciple of Jesus. You don’t have to agree with me, but please don’t question my commitment to my faith.