Government & Politics Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion wp-export

The face of evil

(RNS) — “Let’s pray for wisdom,” said Vice President Mike Pence after the slaughter in Parkland, “for all in positions of authority that we might find a way to come together as a nation to confront and end this evil in our time once and for all.”

Amen, brother. But what, exactly, is the evil we are supposed to confront and end?

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, speaking at the 2017 CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland.

St. Augustine thought of evil as the absence of good, and if there’s anywhere that good is absent in our ongoing struggle with gun violence, it’s the National Rifle Association.

Take bump stocks, those cute accessories that allow a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic one. After they were used by Stephen Paddock to kill 58 and wound 851 on the Las Vegas Strip Oct. 1, there seemed to be a broad consensus in Congress to ban them.

Then the NRA stepped in said no, it couldn’t support the proposed legislation, it would rather have the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms look into regulating the things. And so it was announced that the ATF was conducting a review. And nothing happened.

Until Tuesday, that is, when Donald Trump, ever sensitive to the winds of public opinion, told his attorney general to order bump stocks banned. Did the NRA know that the attorney general might not have the legal authority to do so? Of course it did.

Once upon a time, the NRA worked with the federal government to devise decent gun laws. But since the 1970s, it has been all about helping gunmakers move as much of their merchandise as possible, all in the name of protecting the “civil rights” of gun owners, and as an integral part of the culture war that continues to poison the country.

The NRA is a cancer on the American body politic that needs to be removed from public influence. No, I’m not saying what that spray-painted billboard in Kentucky has delighted NRA officials by saying.

Let it live.

The kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have the right idea. Vote against candidates who take money from the NRA. Vote against candidates whom the NRA endorses.

Let it live but throw its minions out.

For as Augustine wrote, “In the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil.”

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About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

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