It’s funny when I feel compelled to reference the Bible. Please don’t jump to any conclusions about me. No matter what your belief system is, these stories are the myths that shape the morality of our culture. One such story is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It appears in Genesis, so it’s read by Jews and Christians. It’s in the Qur’an, although without an indulgent God. Nope, this isn’t going to be a post about homosexuality or even the morality of the people who lived in those cities. What I find fascinating is the way the story unfolds between God and Abraham.
Here’s my version.
God is like a parent who hears a ruckus afoot, so he decides to come and check it out (and for this story, I’m going with a he pronoun). As in, “Don’t make me come down there!!” So he’s checking it out, in a side-by-side way with Abraham and muttering about how bad those people are and that they gotta go. God hesitates even mentioning his plan to Abraham, I assume because he knew what was coming next. Abraham starts testing him: maybe sensing something in God’s current mood, or maybe out of linger resentment over that whole “kill me a son” thing.
Abraham asks: What if there are fifty good people there? Would you destroy those fifty good ones just to make your point?
Nope. Fifty people would be enough to spare the city.
Abraham gets sassy. How about five less than fifty? Would that be enough to save them all?
God says, Ok. The cities stay if there are forty-five good people.
Abraham, growing impudent, pushes his luck and keeps lowering the bar. He bargains God down to ten people, then goes home.
Apparently, that wasn’t low enough. In the next chapter, two angels come for a test and are solicited for sex by men. Lot tries to calm them down by offering up his daughters, but no such luck. Smiting commences. God warns Lot and his family to get out, because apparently pimping your girl children doesn’t get your disqualified from the “righteous” list. Lot’s wife turns to view the destruction and as punishment gets turned into a salt lick. Dang.
Who needs Hollywood movies to fill up on violence?
But here’s the point: I’ve no idea how many people lived in cities in the days of Abraham, but I think it’s fair to assume that 10 people would represent a small portion. Was God doing math in his head? Did God have some sort of bottom-line number in mind like car dealers during negotiations Was ten his “invoice price?” Or is there a larger lesson?
Last week I thought we’d been humbled into considering who we are in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting but the acrimony is filtering back in. Including mine. One of the many oft repeated lines that gets my blood a-boiling is that guns won’t fix this because people who are intent to kill will always find a way.
Perhaps, but you only need to look at December 14th to see that the means of the attack matter. We know about the death toll at Sandy Hook Elementary, and that only two people were shot and survived. Buried in the reporting of that horror was another story. The same day, there was an attack on a school in China, where the attacker used a knife. Twenty-two children were stabbed, in some cases body parts were severed. Horrible, yes, But how many children died? None.
I am perturbed by the fatalism I hear, the excuse du jour from people unwilling to give up their gun love. As if only an eradication of death is acceptable. As if a 50% or even 25% reduction is pointless.
Before you get your “Constitutional Rights” hackles up, remember that we allow our right to free speech to be subjugated. Famously, you can’t yell fire in a movie theater. Newspapers can’t commit libel. Our right to free assembly is subject to the filing of permits. We have a constitutional right to vote — unless we’ve committed felonies or lack proper identification in some states. In all these cases, absolute personal rights are mitigated in pursuit of a greater good.
So I ask people who are so-far unwilling to budge on the issue of gun ownership: what is your invoice price? If limiting your access to weaponry would save 50 lives, would that be enough to make you rethink your point of view? Five less than 50? What about just one?
What can I do to get you in this car today?