As a boy in Stafford, KS, learning how to shoot a rifle was a part of growing up. I got proficient with a 22 caliber single shot rifle and could down a rabbit at a good distance. In Scout Camp, we got excellent instruction using NRA materials and learned the golden rule of shooting: Never raise your gun unless you intend to shoot. So with more practice, I could raise my rifle and put five bullets into a nickel size bull’s eye at fifty feet. It was the only sport I was ever much good at. However having become a sharpshooter, I got immediately bored with the activity and never pursued shooting again nor did I want to kill rabbits anymore after also wounding a few, hearing them scream and clubbing them to death. Yes, I figured out that putting bullets into live objects was in fact about killing.
About the same time at twelve years old, I fell in love with the Episcopal Church on one visit to a little chapel in Larned, KS where the Shahan’s took me to worship while my brother was in the hospital there to have his tonsils out. The priest actually asked me to help serve, an exotic activity for a Methodist kid but one who had already kind of liked taking Wesley’s communion twice a year. The priest was a very nice man serving in a pretty chapel with a small congregation of eccentric Episcopalians on the prairie. I fell in love with it. When we moved to Oklahoma City three years later, first my Dad and I attended St. James in Capitol Hill; then Mom and Bruce followed. By that time guns were hardly even a memory as I had found a great new life and the meaning of life. I felt like I was really growing up.
Well fifty years have passed. The NRA has more members by about a third than there are Episcopalians. It has grown like crazy and has lots of money to do public relations and publicity. The NRA can aim and shoot so well as to slay the popular will for background checks and get our whole federal legislative process bent their way. That is impressive, this organization so full of mission energy that they can aim at and kill any opposition. Don’t point at anything you do not intend to shoot: a evangelical mission statement that they make work.
Well five decades have come and gone. In 1963, the Episcopal Church was about the size the NRA is now in membership. We were full of mission zeal and record breaking confirmation classes, fifty one year at St. James in Oklahoma City with our zany Detroit Irish priest, Fr. Wellwood, who had run with Jesse Owens for the Olympics. At that time there were a lot of wild priests who had chosen the Church over all sorts of other fascinating potential first careers. . . . That was the time of global mission called Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence, liberating colonial Anglicans into new national churches from which Anglicanism has exploded in the southern hemisphere. That lead to the last spurt of growth with Venture in Mission, directly an outgrowth of MRI, the largest single mission funding in North American Church history.
About thirty years ago, the tide went out in the Episcopal Church. The spiritual climate change brought in a new wind on the land, one where guns get more mission power than our take on New Life. . . Wonder what happened. . . .