Turn on the television or open social media and the news of violence is everywhere. In today’s episode, we’re exploring violence, particularly gun violence, with two justice and public policy professors from our Ann Arbor campus. Tune in to hear their thoughts on where this violence originated, what’s perpetuating it today, and the role that guns play (or don’t play) in the midst of it all.
Daniel Chlebos is an assistant professor in the Department of Justice and Public Policy at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Dan has an extensive background in law enforcement in Kenosha County, Wisconsin where he started out in patrol, moved up to investigations, and ultimately became the police chief. Today he continues to train law enforcement officers and consult for attorneys while teaching law enforcement/pre-law classes at CUAA and hosting the radio show Justice with Honor on 1290AM WLBY.
Frank Rubino is currently an adjunct professor at Concordia University Ann Arbor where he works alongside Daniel Chlebos in the Department of Justice and Public Policy as well as teaches several classes in the Department of Psychology. Following his career in law enforcement, Frank became a licensed clinical psychologist and opened a private practice in Michigan where he treats individuals struggling with substance abuse, trauma, addictive behaviors, and more.
- Are guns to blame when it comes to violence or does gun violence find its origin elsewhere? Are guns simply neutral tools defined by the hands that wield them or are they violent by nature? Listen in at 14:25.
- Is gun violence a political issue? Should it be? Our guests share why they think it’s a smokescreen for power. Listen in at 21:00.
- As a country, we’re obsessed with violence. Our movies and video games are filled with it, we gravitate toward news of it, etc. What role does this play in perpetuating the cycle of violence? Listen in, starting at 29:45.
- Is fatherlessness to blame for violent children and teens? Our guests share their opinions on the connection they see between fatherless homes and boys growing up to become violent. Listen in, starting at 34:00.
- Should schools have zero-tolerance policies or do those end up harming or putting students at a disadvantage more than they help or prevent violence? Listen in at 39:40.
A Few Mentioned Items
- Justice with Honor radio show: catch the show on the first three Tuesdays of every month at 9:20 a.m. on 1290 AM WLBY.
- Frank Rubino’s clinical practice: learn more about him in his Psychology Today profile.
- Johnson’s Great Society
- The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act
- Mass stabbing in China in March 2014
- Port Arthur Massacre in Australia; the mass shooting that changed Australia’s gun laws and the effects that the firearm ban has had in subsequent years
- A few quick facts about crime in the U.S., including the decline of violent crime
Frank Rubino: You look at people who have power, and when you’re powerless, you want power. These young men are hurt, they’re angry. The big part is they’re alone. Isolation is one of the worst things that we can do to a human being. In fact, if you think about it, the greatest punishment next to execution that we have for people is solitary confinement. We know this is torturous to people, and this is what happens with our teenage boys. They are isolated from their families, from their communities, and I think this is what’s creating these young angry men. Most of the time, they’re turning that inward, drug abuse, suicide, etc. Sometimes, they turn it outward, and we wind up with these events.
Michael: Welcome back to living uncommon podcast, and boy, do we have a doozy today.
Dan: We do.
Michael: Folks, if I may call you folks. We have never had more debate and discussion internally about any topic like we’ve had today. Are we still friends? Are we all still friends?
Dan: Were we ever friends?
Michael: No. Angelina looks very hesitant. She’s giving me the side eye.
Angelina: I like to channel Ron Swanson when it comes to having friends in the workplace. You use the wrong name every now and then just let them know that we don’t know each other as much as we think we do.
Dan:: That’s good, yeah.
Angelina: We can still be friends.
Michael: We’ll get to it.
Dan: We don’t need to open with the controversy.
Michael: We can just do some topical things. What happened in your week, Dan? What’s a witty observation you had, Angelina?
Dan: We were just talking about how much we love fall. It’s finally fall in Wisconsin, and I think we’re all super stoked about that.
Michael: 99,000 podcasts out there, and people want to tune in to hear people making small talk about the weather.
Dan: Well, it’s not weather, it’s more about the season, and we love Halloween.
Michael: I hate Halloween. I hate it. It’s my least favorite holiday. I just told my daughter that yesterday.
Angelina: How do your kids feel about Halloween?
Michael: They like it. They’re gonna go. What are they doing this year? My daughter’s Little Bo Peep and my son is Batman. He’s actually literally been wearing the Batman outfit every day since we got it, which is like two weeks ago.
Angelina: As you should.
Dan: You have to do that.
Angelina: I was gonna say, do you guys dress up when you go with your kids?
Michael: I’m on door duty, so my wife goes out with them, and then I hand out the candy. Dan: We don’t have trick-or-treat in our neighborhood, so, we have to leave to go find some trick-or-treat. Most of the neighborhoods in the city don’t have trick-or-treat. It’s a safety issue. Kids go elsewhere, especially to the suburbs where you can… This is like the holy grail of trick-or-treat, right? There’s this rumor that somewhere people are giving out full-size candy bars. So, every kid in the city wants to go out to the suburbs where they can get full-size candy bars. I don’t know. I’ve never seen a full-size candy bar.
Michael: They do in my neighborhood. The houses along the lake, they do it.
Angelina: What’s the age cutoff for someone who can go trick-or-treating?
Michael: I don’t give things to people who are over the age of like 11.
Angelina: I’m out.
Dan: As long as you’re in costume, you can get candy.
Michael: I’m not going to give that to an adult who comes to my house.
Dan: I will. As long as you’re in costume. If you’re just a kid showing up with a garbage bag…
Michael: This is a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, you know that?
Dan: Is it, really? Nevermind then. I’m trying to think of the last time I dressed up. I may have worn a piece of costuming. Occasionally, I’ll wear a rubber mask when I take my kids trick-or-treating, because rubber masks are nice. A monster mask, or something. When we were kids, we used to build a haunted house on our porch. It was a haunted porch. There’s a big walk-in porch, and there’d be a little path through it that we would designate, we would section it off with garbage bags. We did it for many years, and then, one year, the whole thing collapsed because kids got backed up in one of the garbage bag tunnels. We had a guy at the other end of the porch with a chainsaw and a hockey mask, that’s the classic, right? You have to come out of this garbage bag tunnel. There’s a guy with a chainsaw and a hockey mask. No kid wanted to leave the tunnel, so, they just kept backing up. The tunnel got clogged, and the whole thing collapsed and fell apart. So, we shut down the haunted porch. That was when we were seniors in high school. That was the last year we did it.
Angelina: Did you charge admission?
Dan: Nope, just a fun thing. What my goal would be was be for some day, let’s say now. That was 1994, so, let’s say now some parent with their kid walks by at my parent’s house and thinks, when I was a kid, that house was haunted. That’s what I want, that old time Halloween legacy, and that’s why we celebrate Reformation day on October 31st.
Michael: If I didn’t live in a neighborhood and have kids, I would abstain Halloween and just scowl out the window.
Dan: What about its origins as a Christian holy day? All Hallows Eve, right? All Saints Day the following day.
Michael: Folks, we’ve got bigger issues to talk about.
Dan: Do we?
Michael: We do. We’re beating it around the bush. That’s what’s happening right now. Well, let’s just talk a little bit about these little things that are going on. We’ve got real issues. This is actually a really good a podcast. It’s gonna prompt a lot of discussion, and we hope that you’ll be part of that discussion. You being the people that listen to this show. We had a discussion with Dan Chlebos and Frank Rubino from Concordia University Ann Arbor. They’re part of the jpp program there, which is justice and public policy. They’re both ex police officers. They’re interesting folks and will spark some discussion for sure. We’re looking forward to having that with you and having that amongst each other.
Dan: All right, roll ‘em!
Michael: All right. Welcome back to living uncommon. We’re joined here today by Frank Rubino and Dan Chlebos from Concordia University Ann Arbor. They are two professors in our justice and public policy program and have really interesting backgrounds in law enforcement, psychology, and really working with the communities. I’d say that’s a fair way to characterize it, but, why don’t you give yourselves both an introduction. Frank, we’ll start with you. Tell us a little about your background.
Frank: Okay, sure. I am a professor here at Concordia, a visiting professor. I started out in police work. I did 19 years as a police officer and then made the switch to psychology. I became a clinical psychologist, and I focus a lot of my work on trauma, and I do a lot of substance abuse work as well. I do a lot of work with with first responders, with returning veterans, etc. I’ve got a unique history in terms of law enforcement, with mixing a little psychology with it.
Dan C: My career actually started in Wisconsin. I ended up as a chief of police. I was a commissioned lieutenant, worked my way up through the ranks, worked special cases with Secret Service, FBI, captured Secret Service’s most wanted. I worked hard at what I did. I paid attention, did all the classes, conducted all the classes, went to classes where I would learn either fingerprinting, or interviewing techniques, or whatever it was. I was in that class, and it helped develop my skills and allowed me to become promotable, as they say. After I left law enforcement, which I really never did, I have my own business where I act as a consultant to municipalities and police agencies. I still do a fair amount of police training, both in soft and tactical skills, and wound up here at the University. I actually graduated from Concordia Ann Arbor with a degree in HR administration. The opportunity presented itself, and took over as the division lead for the justice and public policy program and revamped it from scratch, in essence, a few years back. I’ve been around here about 12 or 13 years, both full and part-time, about 8 years or so full-time.
Michael: One thing we’re always curious about here is your faith background as well. Frank, talk to us about you experience as a man of faith.
Frank: Sure, I was born and raised Catholic and spent all my education life in private schools, all the way up through graduate school. I’m no stranger to that, and I think, in terms of faith, that was a part of what I think got me through my law enforcement career, in addition to getting me through life. It’s been a part of how I’ve seen the world, experienced the world, and a part of what….I always thought that law enforcement was a calling, not just a job. I certainly believed, and still believe, that psychology is the same way, treating people that way. I looked at my job as a police officer as saving lives, but as a psychologist, almost saving souls, in a way. It was an easy transition coming to teach here and being able to meld and blend in the idea of faith with education. I’ve always thought that no education is complete without education and faith. It’s been a real joy to be able to bring that part of myself and not have to hide, or worry, about that and being part of what I do.
Dan C: As Frank, I started out as a Catholic, got kicked out of that church, just kidding. Just through, what I’ll say is a natural progression, I’m now affiliated with the Church of God out of Cleveland, Tennessee is where their home base is. It’s interesting because in the classrooms, we always blend the educational experience, the book knowledge if you will, with our religious experiences. It gives us the opportunity to also explore what the kids are thinking, where they’re coming from. It’s an interesting arena to listen to them talk of their experiences in how it relates, or how it might relate, to police work. As with Frank, and I absolutely agree, that if it wasn’t for believing, and knowing, that God is there with you every step of the way as police officers, I don’t know where we’d be, frankly. I recall one time things were getting a little stressful to say the least, and I’ll be very brief, at one point in my career, I uncovered some information that caused myself and my family to go in FBI protective custody for a period of time. It was quite stressful, and as it was moving toward that particular juncture, I remember walking into a church about 1 o’clock in the morning, going off air for a few brief moments, sitting in the back row, and just saying, “Ok, God. It’s you and me. There’s nobody else in here at this hour. How about you come down off the cross, you sit in the back row, and get a good perspective of what’s going on.” Basically, I just turned it all over to him. You know, things worked out. You have to have a foundation. You have to have a belief system, a belief in something. Religion really fills that void.
Michael: The topic of today’s conversation revolves around violence and gun violence in America. There’s so many opinions about this, and people from all sorts of backgrounds have answers, they have a viewpoint on what should be done with guns, what guns are for. You have a unique one, in the sense that you spent decades in law enforcement. Oftentimes, I would assume, and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but a gun could even be something that you looked at as a way to just make it through your day without dying, quite frankly. I’m curious. I want to hear your opinions. Just set the table about your perspective on guns and your relationship to them through the years.
Frank: Well, I am a full supporter of the right for people to keep and bear arms. I’m not afraid of them. I’m not afraid of them on the street. I was never afraid of them when I was a police officer. I look at firearms as a tool. I don’t think they’re essentially good or bad. They are neutral. They’re just an item, just a tool like any other tool. They can be used for good, they can be used for evil, they can be just neutral. I don’t have a problem with them. I don’t have a problem with people owning them. I don’t have a problem with people owning lots of them. I don’t have a problem with the type of guns that people own. I don’t have a problem where they carry them, or where or when they possess them. I simply don’t. I think, if you commit a crime, you should be punished for your crime, completely separate from the type of weapon that was used. That’s where I stand. I have a very open view of that. I think that it’s something everybody should have the right to own, for the most part.
Dan C: Frank and I are not going to disagree on this subject. Actually, we rarely disagree on too much, but it’s a parallel viewpoint. I absolutely agree with everything Frank said. It’s a neutral topic, as far as I’m concerned. I like the analogy of, “it’s a tool.” It’s just like anything else that we could possess. In terms of regulations or laws, in some regards, I think we’ve overregulated. Adding more is certainly, in my opinion, not the answer. There’s different things that we really should be looking at. From that viewpoint, it’s the person, it’s the tool. There’s no difference between that and picking up another object and using it as a weapon.
Michael: I’m curious. You said regulation wouldn’t be helpful at all.
Dan C: We’ve already got regulations.
Michael: But, the public is in full support of things like mandatory background checks, for instance. Some people can view it as questionable with the types of weapons that are being sold, maybe in private sales, like gun shows and things like that. Is there anything that can be done to restrict access to dangerous weapons for people that are dangerous? Is there a way to do that?
Dan C: You just hit on it, dangerous people. It’s like we’ve identified a symptom. We’ve not identified the root cause, or the problem. In my estimation, it goes back to the person and their mental stability or instability. It has little to do with, “let’s slap on some more regulations.” This is almost a canned answer that will affect the good people. We have to look at those that are stressed, that have PTSD, that are warning signs that there is potential for something bad to happen. In essence, we’ve really ignored that through the decades. We have legislation upon legislation back from as early as the Brady Act. Moving forward, that’s been, as they call, shepardize. It’s been updated. Look at the results. The results are basically the same. That has not been effective. Now, we have to look at a different way of addressing the issue.
Frank: I think, also, when we start to look at universal background checks, you’d have to have a background check in order to buy a handgun. You have to have clearance. It’s illegal to sell a handgun without one. Less than 4% of all gun violence is done with long guns. That’s just the case. In fact, more people were killed with hammers last year, year before, than long guns. It becomes a political issue. “It’s a big scary rifle with some plastic on it,” and that becomes the focus. I oftentimes think, “why don’t we just outlaw murder?” If they would just pass a law that said that murder is illegal, then the problem would be solved, right? Of course, that’s silly, right? There are plenty of laws against killing people. We’re focusing on the type of weapon used. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. More people are killed in car accidents every year. We’re focusing on a certain type of tool, and I think that becomes a problem. Of course, I think, the other issue of it is, at least on the national level, our legislators don’t know a whole lot about firearms. They talk about the banning of specific types, and it’s clear when they talk about them, they really don’t understand what they’re talking about. If we’re gonna look at the political aspect of it, then sure, let’s have this conversation about what type of guns, how many bullets are allowed to hold, and all this kind of stuff. Then, there’s a reality of it that says, “Okay, well, why are people doing this in the first place? Why are people killing each other, irrespective of what way they’re doing it?” Those are the questions that simply aren’t being asked enough, in my opinion.
Dan: I wonder, when we talk about the political landscape right now, everything is extremely divided along partisan lines. If you look at the numbers, it’s something like 80% of people who are Democrats think that we need more gun regulation. It’s the opposite on the other side. It’s around 80% on the other side that think that we either have enough, or need less, gun regulation. Why do you think there’s a strong partisan divide? Where does that come from?
Frank: I think that anything can become a political issue. I don’t think that gun violence is particularly political, much like I think some of the other hot-button items aren’t political. I don’t think abortion is a political issue. These are different. Anything that can cause someone to be divided into camps, that’s what our political system has developed, or morphed, into. That way, you can ick your finger, test the wind, see which way it’s blowing, and the people around you, and decide more strategically where you want to fall. I don’t think the politicians really care one way or the other about these issues. I really don’t. In fact, it’s interesting. The same people who will say that we need to eliminate firearms, “I’m coming to your house to get them,” are surrounded by men with firearms. In their heart, if they believed that that firearms were bad, they would not allow any protection around themselves. They’d have guys with swords around them protecting them. I think the political aspect is really just a smokescreen for power.
Dan: Can you say a little bit more about what you mean by a smokescreen for power? What power are we talking about?
Frank: Becoming elected. I think that if a national poll was done today and it said that 90% of Americans fully support all gun ownership, this would no longer be a political issue because everybody would be on board. That’s what I mean. I think the politicians will say whatever they need to say to get elected. They will do whatever they need to do to stay in power. I think this has been a really good issue for politicians because it’s become so polarized. We have a love affair with firearms in this country. You can’t watch a film or anything without the outrageous use of firearms. By the way, they’re always misused for the most part in film.
Dan C: To add onto what Frank said, ask yourself this, after there’s been a quote/unquote mass shooting the “excitement,” if you will, of that event lasts for a couple days. Then, it wanes until the next one. Then, the public outcry hits the political front step, and they then take up their charge, and “Yes, we’re behind you, and we need to to get involved in this.” Then, it fades out again. It’s like the hamster on the wheel. It just keeps repeating itself, and repeating itself, and you have to ask yourself, “Why is it, if you’re on the political end of the stick, why are you waiting til the next event?” Why haven’t we already addressed this? This is nothing new. I mean, you go back to Columbine and a few of the ones even before that, even when Brady got shot. There was a massive house outcry, and we sit on it because we’re addressing the wrong root cause.
Dan: Looking at mass shootings, however that’s defined, people often point to what Australia did after they had a mass shooting. It was the 80s, I believe. In the 70s or 80s, they effectively banned firearms from everyone. I think they did a buyback program or collection program. Do you think that was the wrong move? Is this something that could possibly work to reduce the amount of firearms in the hands of the public? Or, is America just too different? I think we have a love affair with firearms, it’s just too different culturally.
Dan C: Correct. We are way different than most other countries. One is, our Constitution allows us. We have the foundation of the the frontier that’s behind us. If we were to institute a buyback program, if you’re a bad guy, would you turn in your gun?
Dan: It depends on how much money, maybe.
Dan C: I was going to say, I don’t think there’s enough money for that weapon.
Frank: Well, I think the other thing is, people oftentimes will point to Canada and they’ll say, “Well, you can’t own handguns in Canada. They don’t have much crime.” I always say, “that’s true.” You can’t own handguns in Mexico either, and the murderous place on the planet is Juarez, Mexico. It’s a cultural thing. Not that we have a culture of murder. I think we have a culture of celebrating murder. The last one I remember, I was watching the news, and the gal who was talking about it almost came out of her chair with glee to be the first one to report, “There’s the shooter being led into the police department.” It went on to say, “This is exclusive. We’re the first look.” I thought, this is sick. This may sound controversial, but I think these school shootings are mostly caused by the media. The first time, when Columbine happened, we were all shocked. All of us were shocked. They turned it into such a circus nationally that it became the ultimate goal for people who are disaffected and angry. In fact, the last one, and this is a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much, the guy’s talking about it, he says, “This just in. The last one just died. Now, this is the most deadly.” I thought, we’re keeping score for these guys. We’ve set the bar for them, and everybody knows what the bar is. The body count has to be at such in order to be the top guy. We’re creating this. Again, it’s not the most popular opinion, but I think that these are local stories, and they should stay local. That’ll be the end of it, and they should never name these guys either. We should never name them.
Michael: You mentioned, if they’re keeping score for the shooters, you hear about people on the internet bragging, “I’m gonna break this score” in those dark web chat rooms where people talk about what their shooting plan is. It’s a problem. It makes me wonder. Certainly, there’s an issue. There is an issue with our society. There’s issue with people in our society. What, would you say, is the issue? We talked about it. Is it societal? Is it morality? Is it guns? Is it spiritual? Is it a combination of some?
Frank: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think it’s very enticing to want to point your finger at one thing. Any time anything is complicated, we want to simply things, and I get that. It’s a very dangerous road that we travel when we say, “Well, I’m gonna simplify this and make this the cause of one thing.” Guns are an easy target. The next one we hear a lot about is mental illness. “Well, these people are mentally ill.” Well, I’m not so sure. I think that it goes far deeper than that, far deeper than mental illness. We have to define what that mental illness is, and we are not doing that either. I think that when I look at this picture, I think, if I going to point my finger at of the biggest things, one of them is fatherlessness. We have a pandemic in this country of fatherlessness, and not just father’s not being in the home, that’s a massive part of it, but fathers who are in the home who are not engaged with their sons. That is a problem. We’ve got these young men who are being raised by women, not that women are bad, but a boy needs a man and a woman to raise him in a way, that instructs him on how to live. They’re disaffected. They sit in their basements with their video games, with their ultraviolent games, many of them also are medicated. We don’t have any idea what that’s doing to the brain structure of young men who are being medicated out of being boys, being rambunctious, or being inattentive. Well, that’s part of being a boy at times. We’ve also got this violent desire that is celebrated in almost every facet of our media. Even the bad guys are elevated in status. Who doesn’t want to have power? We’ve got powerlessness. You look at people who have power, and when you’re powerless, you want power. These young men are hurt, they’re angry. The big part is they’re alone. Isolation is one of the worst things that we can do to a human being. In fact, if you think about it, the greatest punishment next to execution that we have for people is solitary confinement. When you are in prison and you color outside the lines, you have to sit by yourself. We know this is torturous to people, and this is what happens with our teenage boys. They are isolated from their families, from their communities, and I think this is what’s creating these young angry men. Most of the time, they’re turning that inward, drug abuse, suicide, etc. Sometimes, they turn it outward, and we wind up with these events.
Dan C: When you look at a murder case, for example, statistically, those that claimed that they are insane, only 1% will grab that attention. “I’m insane. I want to get off of my murder case, my rap, because I’m insane.” Of the 1% that claim it, only .25% are a actually successful. I agree. It really isn’t the fact that people are insane, or nuts, as we would refer to them. It’s a fact that there’s something else going on there, and foundation, family foundation, religion in your background… If you go back, and I go back into my decades of life, and I look back at when things started to change, and what prompted that, and how kids reacted to it, I go back to 1968. I’ve just dated myself. The year that I graduated high school, the following year, they took the dress code out. The dress code being, and I went to a public school, so, there were no jeans. It was business casual. They took that out the following year. Problems started erupting on the high school campus. Is that a direct correlation? Draw your own conclusion. There’s the family unit. How many times currently do families actually have a sit-down meal, and put the cell phones away, and talk about your day? Get to know your kids. Get to know who they hang with. Have them bring friends over for the family meal, if only once a week. I pull my freshman class every year. How many of you have family meals when you’re at home? How many of you? Few hands go up. How many of you still attend church? “Well, I’ve been forced to.” No, no, no. On your own. How many of you still attend church? Few. We’re losing that connection. We’re losing our foundation. We’re losing our ethics and moral fiber within ourselves. That, in my estimation is, and I think Frank said it very well as well, that’s part of that problem.
Frank: I think, a big part of this is that politically, the landscape has been changed. In the 60s when Johnson’s Great Society effectively removed men from the homes. They removed men from low-income homes. This affected the black community more than anybody else. The percentages of children born to unwed mothers went from the low 20% to it’s almost 80% now in the black community. That is a massive problem. We talked about gang violence. Well, gang members aren’t mentally ill. These are fatherless boys trying to father other fatherless boys without any understanding of how this is done, with rudimentary understandings of honor, and codes, and ethics, and violence, hyper sexuality, and hyper violence. That becomes the way of obtaining and hanging on to power. If you look at that, you think, this is the most counter social way of living. That’s easy to say, “Wow, they’re mentally ill.” Well, they aren’t mentally ill. They’re just raised without good solid structure of men and masculinity. The word masculinity is scary. You throw that out there now, and it’s a hot-button word. There’s nothing wrong with being masculine. This whole concept of toxic masculinity, there’s no such thing as toxic. There’s just good behavior and there’s bad behavior. There are plenty of women who are on death row, and they’re not there because of toxic femininity. They’re there because they did something that was horribly wrong. I think that, when we’re looking at the issues, this is a multifaceted issue, lots and lots of moving pieces, as you can see. To point the finger at one thing and say, “Well, it’s a gun issue,” I think is just oversimplifying a very complicated set of circumstances that we’ve engineered and created in our country.
Dan: You talk about isolation and fatherlessness as being major drivers. We’ve probably all heard statistics relating to the upcoming generation, which my kids are part of this upcoming generation. They have much higher rates of suicide, higher rates of depression and anxiety. We can see these things happening, and it appears to be a generational shift versus, ‘oh, that’s just kids.’ It appears to be an actual thing that’s happening that nobody can quite put their finger on. What are some things that we can be doing proactively, or constructively, to help deal with some of these problems? We can look at violence certainly from the point of view of the tools used, maybe try to regulate that. Then, there’s this whole other social aspect, which, you talked about two right now, isolation and fatherlessness. What are some things that we can be doing constructively to help change that?
Frank: I think that one of the things that we’re battling now is this new wave generation of feminism that is attacking men constantly. It’s not a pearl woman as much as it’s an anti man stance. We’ve got men who are also isolated, adult males who don’t have enough adult male interaction. It’s interesting. There were places that used to refer to as gentlemen’s clubs, and I’m not talking about the risque ones, but there was just a place that you would go. In old town Chicago, Boston, right along the road, along the Main streets would be a blank door without any markings. You would knock on the door, you’d enter, and you were paid monthly to be a part of it. It was just guys hanging out with other guys, shooting pool, hanging out, talking, discussing. We don’t have that much anymore. I think that what men need is to be able to relate openly with other men in a way that is not infiltrated by the influences of women trying to act like men. This is very hot button stuff, but it’s the truth. You look at you look at the soccer fields, or the football field, baseball fields, and there’s women coaching. It doesn’t that mean women can’t be coaches. Where are the father’s? Where are the men? The men need to be with other men in a positive way. We need to encourage that socially. Then, illustrate for them that boys are important, men are important. I think that the the the trend now for young people to be on their phones, to communicate other than verbally, is a problem. We are teaching them to be isolated early on. I’ll challenge you both. When was the last time you went to a restaurant and saw a family sitting there all discussing openly? Everyone’s looking down at their phone. We need to put those things away. The American Psychological and the American Pediatric Associations encourage zero screen time for children from infancy to age five. Zero is what they recommend, and it’s for a reason. I think that there are a lot of things we can do. Encouraging families to stay together, to be together, encouraging men to be a part an active part of the lives of their sons. I think that’s gonna go. It’s a generational piece, I think. And the anxiety piece… I see more anxiety in young patients that come into my office than anything else, depression and anxiety. This is a worry that’s turned inward. We’ve frightened our students. They go to school, and they’re learning how to avoid an active shooter. How are you gonna concentrate? We used to have fire drills once in a while, but I never saw a fire. These kids are learning that this is a very real danger.
Dan C: Going back to what you said about schools, Frank, that we have created a culture for the current generation where, for example, zero tolerance. You go to school, you can’t fight your own battles, please stand back, we will handle that for you. Consequently, they don’t know how to interact. They don’t know how to de-escalate a situation or escalate it, whatever the case may be. The zero tolerance, I think, has been more a detriment than a an attribute toward getting the situation taken care of because we’re overprotective.
Frank: You hit it a hundred percent correct. Zero tolerance for violence in schools has been the worst thing. What we’ve told children is that if there’s a problem, come to us as an adult, and we’ll handle it. Then, the adults 100% of the time don’t handle it. These children learn now that, “Okay, now I can’t go to an adult either. I still have this bully, and I can’t do anything about it. Otherwise, I’m gonna be in trouble too.” The principals of the school don’t care. They don’t care who did what, or who said what. The question, “Who threw the first punch?”, That was always silly because those things started long before that happened. You’re right. They aren’t learning the tools necessary to learn how to de-escalate, how to take care of themselves, how to stand up for others. Those are good masculine traits; honour, and standing up for, and defending people who can’t defend themselves is a big part of that. This is part of why we became cops in the first place. We’re, I think, looking at a generation that’s trying to strangely extract those kinds of elements out of being men. What’s left are strange and fragmented ideas, and notions, of masculinity and violence.
Dan: Bringing it back to the question of violence in society, and kind of a violent culture, what are some areas that the church can be playing a stronger role in dealing with this?
Frank: I think that the church is always preaching the same thing about love and acceptance. I think that is a big part of it. I think, celebrating families is a big part of it. I think, doing things to encourage people to get married, have children…the millennial generation is waiting later and later and having fewer and fewer children. Statistically, just look at the numbers. It’s bad. If every couple has one child one generation, you’ve lost 50% of your population. That doesn’t work. Take a look at other countries in Europe. Italy, for example, is struggling with this so badly that they’ve had to import people into their country to replace the children they couldn’t be bothered to have. Of course, that changes your culture because these are not Italians that are coming in, there’s people coming in from other places. I think that encouraging families together is a big part of this. The church has always been pretty good at it. I think they’re facing some tough challenges because you’ve got media that is a hundred percent against that. You rarely see, in films or TV shows, good solid families where everybody gets along. You don’t see that kind of thing anymore. The man is the sort of the dolt of the household, and the woman is really the smart one who runs the whole thing. The kids outsmart dad because he’s just…
Dan C: The Dick Van Dyke Show, the Ozzie and Harriet type of families are gone.
Frank: Do I think that feeds into violence? I think it feeds into inner violence. I think men who are depressed, men who are anxious, men who are struggling with their own place in the home and place in society, yeah, I think they turn that inward. Does that translate to their sons being violent? Well, I think it can. I think it certainly can.
Dan C: You gave the good side of the church, let me put a backspin on it just a little bit. One of the areas that I think the church could become a little more supportive in is backfilling their own church. For example, how many churches are you aware of personally that have shut down in the last decade? Several. You don’t have to have a number. Just knowing that there’s been several, and why? There’s no backfill. There’s no kids coming up through that process to make that church vibrant. Who do we fault for that? The church has to go out and gather that flock of children and feed them for what they need. Right now, the needs have shifted. It’s not the times of yesteryear that we experience. They have new embedded problems. The quicker the church can identify that and reach the children in an appropriate way, I think, we’re gonna have some success.
Frank: One of the things that I do that makes me feel good coming here, at least to the Ann Arbor Concordia campus, is seeing how many young people are really embracing faith. It has made me feel good about coming in. I went to private school my whole life, even through graduate school. I didn’t see that where I went to school. This makes me feel good to see this and think, “Well, okay, maybe, at least in some areas, it’s being done right.” I think it’s being done right here for sure, and maybe it needs to spread further.
Dan C: That wasn’t a blanket statement. Every Church all over the country, every country, it was a generalization. It is part of the issue. If you’re looking for improvement, that is one area.
Frank: I think so too.
Michael: Is there anything specific that churches can do with non-violence work besides encouraging the family units, and in growing the churches, and having the next generation be prepared? Is there anything specifically with peacemaking or non-violence that you can see the church is doing in the community?
Frank: I think the church has always done well with that. It’s always been the same message, and Christ’s message has always been pretty clear; his open arms on the cross. That’s a pretty pretty clear message. I think that works. It’s worked for over 2,000 years. I think maybe more of it is necessary. They’re combating things that are very difficult to combat.
Dan C: I think, the church, the campus itself, we’ve done a real good job in terms of not being an island. For example, when the justice and public policy program decided to have an organization, the kids wanted to call it the JPP Club. I said, “That sounds like pizza and beer. It sounds cold.” I said, “Okay, let’s identify what we do.” There’s three elements. There’s the campus, the church, and the community. We decided to call it the JPP Alliance, Justice and Public Policy Alliance. Without one of those elements, you tend to become a little bit weaker in your design and what you desire to do. Consequently, with the Alliance, it makes the group stronger. It makes every element stronger in and of itself. The church on campus here is very strong in coordinating and orchestrating group activity, not only on campus, but reaching out to the community and making that alliance, and making the kids aware. It’s not about yourself, necessarily, it’s about reaching out to others as well.
Dan: I’m interested in hearing a little bit more about the justice and public policy program and…First of all, what do you mean by justice? What do you mean by public policy? Then, how do those play into these topics that we’re talking about?
Dan C: I think we’ve covered a portion of it when we talk about justice and public policy. I’ll go back to Kansas City. I think that is the impetus for us to move forward and redesign law enforcement. Justice is a matter of interpretation. It depends on what side of the fence you’re on. Again, everybody has value, everybody has worth, even in their darkest and an ugliest of times. Consequently, we’ve shifted our mindset on how we roll our program out. We do a vast amount of simulations. We have, at our North Building, a fully functional apartment. We have the kids interact with different scenarios. We do debriefing. We have a fully blown courtroom, fully active. We run simulations through their…Frank, I’ll let you go into the VR and the other a/v stuff.
Frank: Sure. We’re bringing on board an alternative reality type of augmented reality scenarios. These are set up for our students to be able to look at things like the crime scenes that we’re building in there. They can walk through this and be able to see these things that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do. Otherwise, it would have been a theoretical thing. This way, they can actually see these things in an Augmented way, which is a really big change. I think, to Dan’s point about the justice and public policy, it’s different than just criminal justice, right? That always confused me as a term anyway. It’s a strange thing. Police officers, they’re not looking for justice. That’s a very dangerous thing that you would do if you found a criminal and you were gonna exact justice on that criminal on the side of the road. That’s not how our system is set up. That was always a very confusing thing for me, justice and public policy. I think Dean Siegel really said it well when she talked about how the perfect place for this is in the School of Business, because businesses and communities don’t thrive unless they’re safe. You have to start with safety. The students that we have in our program don’t all become police officers. Some of them decide they want to go to law school, or some decide to want to impact public policy in that way, making laws in some way, or influencing that. It’s a broad way of looking at the area of safety in our country without just narrowly looking at it as a police officer working the street. It’s a much broader view of that to say, “Well, what is justice, and how do we bring that about? How do we bring that to people?”
Michael: Do you have any final thoughts for us just about this whole discussion of gun violence, societal changes, all the wide-ranging topics we’ve covered? Any last things you’d like us to reflect on?
Frank: Sure. I think that it’s terrific that we’re having this discussion. I think that we need to have this discussion often. I think that violence, specifically gun violence, is a topic that we should not shy away from. I know that because it’s such a political issue, it becomes dangerous for people to talk about, but I think that we have to create an environment that’s safe for us to be able to discuss these things openly. I think, when it comes down to it, I think that violence is a human nature thing. We have evolved to a state where we don’t have to rely on being violent in order to handle our differences, and address our differences. We’re sitting here at this table. We’re discussing all these things. We have different views or opinions, but we’re able to have these discussions in a manner that everyone is safe in doing so. I think that should continue.
Dan C: I go back to the family unit. Between the family unit and taking your kids to church, it’s absolutely the starting point for us to change things around. Let me ask you. What are the two requirements to become a parent? There’s two basic concepts. You have to be able to breathe and conceive, right? To drive a taxi, to be a manicurist, to do a variety of things, to sell real estate, you have to get a license. You don’t need to do that to be a parent. You have those two basic elements that automatically qualifies you. I think we need to look at what we’re doing. We need to engage our kids. We need to get back to the Ozzie and Harriet’s, the Father Knows Best era. Almost, to that to that point, because we’ve gone so far to the other side. We need something to draw back to a point of balance. We’re not there. Once we recognize that there’s value with that family unit, and with the church, and making that in alliance, we’re gonna have some success in turning this gun issue around. Actually, it’s not a gun issue. I just caught myself.
Dan: Well, we’re gonna quote you on that.
Dan C: I think that’s where we’re at.
Michael: Well, thank you both for joining us.
Michael: We’re back. Alright, folks.
Dan: You really pronounce the L when you say folks. I completely eliminate the L, completely.
Michael: Alright, folks.
Dan: Yep, that’s what I say. You say, folks.
Angelina: Do you say folk music?
Dan: Not only does he say it, he plays it. It’s his favourite genre of music.
Michael: I got my Gordon Lightfoot records.
Angelina: I like me some Gordon Lightfoot every now and again.
Michael: What’s that thing that sunk in Duluth? That big ship?
Dan: Yeah, the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Michael: I like that. I like honest discourse about gun violence. That was mentioned in the beginning of the show. First of all, I have to say sincerely thank you to Frank and Dan for coming down, and sharing their ideas, and sharing their stories. As with any topic as controversial as gun control, there’s gonna be a wide variety of perspectives on that. I think that we have the whole gamut, even reflected on this team. It’s gotten great conversations. I think that’s one of the great strengths of this podcast is that it sparks conversations, it gets people thinking about stuff. It’s not always about agreeing 100% with each other, but it’s about how do you have a good, productive conversation about controversial issues, especially in light of being Christian? How do you show grace and love towards people if you agree with them or don’t agree with them? How do you do that?
Dan: I feel like you were aiming that at me.
Michael: Yes. Anyway, thoughts?
Dan: Where to begin, where to begin. I mean, I have some thoughts. I don’t remember who was it, it may have been Frank, I think, asked a really good question. He said, “Have gun laws changed anything in America?” Clearly, we have a lot of laws already on the books. He made the joke, “Well, we should just outlaw murder, then, that would solve everything, right? Law’s already on the books.” Often, you hear that argument is that we have all these laws, we just need to enforce them better. Then, he also asked, “Has the gun laws that we do have changed anything? Is there less violence because of the laws we have?” That’s one of the arguments for, why would we put more laws in place when the ones we do have don’t seem to be working real well? I thought that was a good question because truly, I think, there hasn’t been a whole lot that has changed since… the Brady Bill. It’s the prime example that changed a lot of laws, a lot of gun laws in America after that. It really hasn’t changed anything. We still have just as many suicides, just as many mass shootings, just as much gang violence. Wherever you would find guns, it hasn’t really changed.
Michael: On our car ride back, or I call it our six-hour discussion about this, you made a good point. That was, the world’s getting less violent. Violence being defined as actually hurting other people. Not as far as what what we engage with, with our minds as far as media consumption, other ways you could construe that. I don’t know where you got that statistic. I mean, again, I think, for the sake of a healthy discussion, we can’t fact-check each other on the spot here. Well, Angelina does have five pages of notes. I’m just genuinely wondering, have gun laws made an impact?
Dan: Well, statistically, there is less violent crime now than there was. As far as have gun laws stopped the kind of gun violence that were specifically talking about, which is, for the most part, school shootings, mass shootings in public? If you think about what happened in Las Vegas a year or two ago, the gun laws haven’t really changed.
Michael: They’re still happening, but they’re a fraction of overall gun violence.
Dan: That’s the minority. It’s the biggest, most public face of it.
Michael: Is he right?
Dan: It was just a question. I think it was a good question.
Michael: He brought up the topic then, in their opinion, and I totally understand this, being former police officers, a gun is a tool. They’re saying, it’s a benign object. It’s effect is that I can shoot.
Dan: I don’t agree with that at all, but we can talk about that in a second.
Michael: You might agree or disagree. What I’m saying is we were getting their perspective as police officer, who, every day, they’re looking down, and they’re seeing a gun at their side. That is the tool of their trade, and that’s maybe the only way they’re going home to see their families at the end of the day is by having that gun. If they didn’t have it, they wouldn’t be able to do that in some cases.
Dan: You’re framing a possible perspective on it.
Michael: That’s their perspective. I was wondering. What you’re saying is that if gun regulations haven’t made an impact on a certain type of gun violence, then, what’s causing that gun violence? Is he right when he says that guns are benign, and it’s more about a social, or attitudinal, or spiritual, or whatever?
Dan: I have more to say about gun laws, and I brought it up in the podcast. I brought up the Australian laws, and I thought that was in the 80s, it was actually in the 90s. It was 1996. There was a mass shooting that killed 35 people, and almost the next day, the Australian government banned guns. They banned handguns, semi-automatic and automatic weapons, they did a gun buyback program that was funded by some new taxes and things like that, and they brought in over a million firearms over the next few years. If you look at the statistics, what did it change in Australian society? I looked at a lot of different kind of studies and meta studies, and it’s hard to have one that just says it was absolutely effective. Now, there has not been a mass shooting in Australia since 1996, so, in that sense, I would say it has been effective. If you look at overall gun violence, gun suicides are the number one. That’s the the way it is in America as well. It vastly overshadows any other kind of gun violence. Thirty thousand suicides a year by gun. Did Australian gun laws change that?. Gun suicides have gone down a little in Australia.
Michael: Have suicides gone down?
Dan: Gun suicides have gone down in Australia. Other suicides have gone up as a result. A lot of questions are around, “Are these laws going to be effective? Do we need more laws? Do need less laws?” That’s some of the meat of the debate.
Michael: The big question for me, and we talked, I mean, there is a lot of discussion about it in our podcast, if there hasn’t been a mass shooting in Australia since 1996, what’s going on in America? You hear about some stabbings. I think there’s a stabbing in China. There’s a mass stabbing, and stuff like that happens. There’s even mass stabbings in America sometimes. What is the difference? What’s our problem? What’s different between us and these other countries? It’s not like I have an answer. I’m saying that genuinely. I don’t know.
Angelina: I could speculate, but I don’t really want to do that.
Angelina: A lot of the mass shootings that have been in the news, I would say, are hate driven. Whether that’s hate towards another group of people, or a different religion, different race, whatever, that’s what I see being the motivator.
Michael: America has a hate problem.
Angelina: I think that’s evident beyond gun violence.
Michael: When we talk about the topics of guns, gun violence, and hate, are we saying that…I know it’s gonna be apparent that both of you are less favorable towards guns, then, I think our guests would be. I’m just being generous.
Dan: Yeah, that’s a good way to say it.
Michael: I think you’re right. We do have a hate problem in America. The fact that we have all this access to quick killing machines, it allows people, if they want to act on that hate, to act on it in a quicker way.
Dan: I don’t think a gun is a neutral tool. It’s literally a killing machine. A handgun was only invented for one thing, and that’s for one person to kill another person as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s it.
Michael: Well, you could kill an animal for food.
Dan: That’s not why they were invented. They’re invented to kill in war, and in police work.
Michael: You view it as a killing machine, right? Then, you’re a pacifist.
Dan: I have a hard time because it’s such a high bar. I would say that I believe in nonviolence as a Christian ethic.
Michael: If someone on this pro-gun side were to say, “Well, you’re calling it a killing machine, but maybe it saved lives because it could also be called a protection machine, like in the case of police work, or in the case of certain military conflicts,” according to that certain point of view. How would you respond to that? They’re saying, you’re not looking at it from the other side because your pacifism colors it in a certain way.
Dan: Obviously, any weapon can be used defensively. I mean, you can use a sword to defend someone, you can use a missile to defend someone, you can use a tank to defend someone, you can use a atomic bomb to defend a country. In order for me to be consistent with this ethic, I have to look at a weapon as what it was designed to do.
Michael: It’s all in the perspective that you’re looking at. I understand where you’re coming from within, but I think it’s your perspective. Somebody else can look at a gun with the same perspective because it’s an object, and the human is leading the intention by the way it’s interacting with it, the subjectivity that’s engaging with it.
Dan: My point is just to say, “Is it neutral?” No, it’s not neutral. It has a clear, intended purpose that is to kill. We can argue about whether or not killing is right or wrong. What if I kill him in self-defense? What if I kill a deer? What if I’m using a crossbow? We can all argue about what it means to kill, and whether killing is right or wrong, but that thing has been invented for the purpose of killing. It’s not neutral.
Michael: That’s Dan’s point. Angelina, what do you think?
Angelina: I can’t stand the thought of guns because, for me, when I think about myself killing someone, even if it’s in self-defense, or even if it’s to protect someone else, I don’t feel peace about that. I don’t think I could live with myself if I ever did that.
Dan: The question that precedes all of this, for me, is, you know, as a Christian, when I look at weapons, or when I look at violence of any kind, what is my reaction to that? How do I respond, as a Christian, to violence in the world? Do I add to it? Should I be working towards peace? How did Jesus respond to violence? How do I, as a follower of Jesus, walk in his footsteps to respond to violence?
Michael: I think, our guests, who walked in service to their communities as police officers, they kept the peace, and they had to do it using guns. That’s how they would answer that. They viewed police officers as a calling. I would say, the reality is that there are people that are hell-bent on violence. There are some people that have said, “I feel a calling in my life to stop those people from doing the bad deeds.” In order for them not to die immediately on their job, they have to have something to protect themselves, which is the gun.
Dan: It sounds like the argument you’re making is, in order for me to stop violence, I have to perpetrate violence.
Michael: Not always, but if officers don’t use a gun…
Dan: If ever though.
Michael: Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, there are situations you can’t get out of without violence.
Dan: I would say that the ideal ethic is never, in any situation, should a Christians use violence against another person, period. I think that is the true Christian ethic. Now, is it possible, in this world, to live that way? I’m not sure. I think that people have tried, and they have gotten killed.
Michael: Are you using that because Jesus talks about turning the other cheek? Is that the foundation of your statement?
Dan: Yes. There’s a few things. If you look at the life of Christ, and you ask, “Would Jesus use violence to defend Mary?” That’s one people always use, right? Someone’s coming to kill your mother, or your wife, or your daughter, and I just don’t see it.
Michael: How do you account for the rest of the violence in the Bible?
Dan: I don’t know. I think that’s another question. I’m just saying, when you look at the life of Christ, do you see any violence modeled there that…
Michael: Is Jesus an extension of God’s will?
Michael: Ok, did God ever will violence in the Old Testament? Does God will violence in the future towards people that are going to hell?
Dan: I think that’s a whole other discussion. Now, you’re getting some deep theological questions.
Michael: It’s a logical extension of the statement you’re making.
Dan: I would say that the ideal is nonviolence, period.
Michael: That’s heaven.
Dan: One of the things that I ask when I’m trying to figure out how to make decisions as a Christian in the world is, “What is the kingdom of God like?” Is the kingdom of God a place where guns are gonna be present? Is the kingdom of God a place where I will have to use violence to defend someone, or if I have to use violence against someone? Is that the kind of place, the kingdom of God is? I don’t think that it is. It doesn’t seem like it is anywhere in Scripture. If that is my end, then, I want that. I want that to be here as much as it can be. I pray with Jesus, your kingdom come, right? It will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When I want that kingdom to present itself today, by me using a weapon, or using violence, against someone, am I moving towards the kingdom, or moving away from the kingdom?
Michael: I get where you’re coming from, and I think that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I think, ultimately, that that is the ideal. In the same breath, what I’m hearing you say could be construed as criticism towards our guests, who, I think, serve their communities and were passionate about doing that, and at times, probably had to use violence. I’m not saying they shot people. I don’t know their background, but sure they had to physically restrain people in a rough way at minimum.
Dan: I’m not saying anything specific about our guests.
Michael: …or other people that have served our communities and have to do so because they’re trying to protect. That criticism gets me a little upset because until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, and see what they would have to deal with to have this ideal, and say that you should never use violence…
Dan: I reject the idea that you have to experience everything in order to have a say on what the ideal is.
Michael: You don’t have to always experience everything. In a life-and-death job like police work is, it literally is. In this case, you’re coming at it from an angle that’s so far to the outside of it cuz you’ve not done it. These people lived it. Again, it’s a life-or-death thing. It’s not a typical job.
Dan: I don’t know. I agree, but I don’t think that I can make exceptions personally. That’s just my personal take on it. Do you think it’d be possible to be a police officer and not have a weapon and not use violence? Is it possible?
Michael: In America? There’s other countries that tried similar tactics. I don’t know much about the military, and law enforcement, and guns, and all this stuff. This is not my world. I would say no just based on the shape that we started off talking about, that America is a dangerous place in a lot of areas. If you’re charged with being the front line against that danger… I think the danger is so great that, first of all, I think every Police Department in America has some sort of de-escalation strategy and using nonviolent tactics first. We see horrific exceptions in the news, and that’s a whole broader debate, and a whole other discussion to have. In general, talking to police officers that I know, no one wants to use that violence immediately. There’s always the deescalating tactics. They have that gun as a last resort, in my opinion. It’s the way to protect themselves, but I don’t think it would work in America. Do you?
Dan: I’m not sure. I mean, probably not. I don’t know if it’s ever been tried.
Michael: What do you think, Angelina?
Angelina: I think, just because something might not be immediately possible doesn’t mean we don’t work towards it.
Michael: True. One of the other main threads of this conversation was, what is the source of this violence in America? Our guys talked a lot about the breakup of the family. Would you guys have any thoughts about that?
Angelina: Just like Frank was talking about it, there’s so many things that contribute to this issue of violence. I think it would be remiss to not look at family structure as an influencer on that. He was saying that when it’s this complex of an issue, you can’t just assign one thing to it as a cause. I think, if that’s an issue, if that’s a cause, there’s so much that can be done around that. There were several times that both of you had asked them, “Well, what can we be doing? What can the church to be doing?” I wish I would have talked more on the hopeful side of things of, “Well, what can we do to facilitate familial reconciliation? What can we do to facilitate fathers in the home?” There’s real tangible things that can be done to invest in that, particularly, from the church. It was discouraging to hear that the problem is this big, and then, when asked about the church’s role in that, it’s like, well, “Everything’s great. It’s been great for 2,000 years.” The message has been the same, and perhaps that message should say the same. As the church, if we’re not stepping into these issues and helping facilitate hope and healing, then, that’s what the church should be doing.
Michael: I would love to get both your opinions. I think that’s one thing that was missing, and we should have probably hit more on that in the conversation. We could have teased it out. They probably did have more ideas about it, but, what are your ideas? Coming from your points of view, how can the church be a peacemaking presence in this world and help address this issue of violence and gun violence in particular?
Dan: I think that one thing that’s really important is proximity to to these kinds of situations. If the church is in a community that has an epidemic of fatherlessness, then that church is much better placed to help the people in that community. When we look at some of these things on the list, some of the things they are talking about, they do disproportionately affect communities that are in poverty. Again, where are the physical churches in these communities? Do they have proximity? Are they able to be a part of the lives of people, not just dropping in as a task force for a Saturday project, and then running out the door. I think that is one kind of practical step that churches can look at. It’s gonna take investment in people’s lives, and money obviously is a part of it. Time is a huge part of it. Getting back to some basics, how do we interact with each other? How do we share our lives with each other? If, I know that you have a son spending ten hours a day playing video games in the basement, and he’s over medicated, can I spend time with that kid if there’s not a father in the picture? Our guests talked a lot about male influences. If there’s not that, then, are there men in the church that can step up and provide that influence? I think there’s a lot of ways. As so many of these these cultural issues come down to two fronts. There’s the systemic front where a lot of that takes political will. We talked a little bit about that, and with our guests, the systemic front. Then, there’s the personal front, which is the one-on-one discipleship, or the direct face-to-face relational aspect of it. I think the church is uniquely positioned to fight on both those fronts. We have to recognize what the issues are, and then, we have to take steps to fight on those fronts, whatever that looks like.
Michael: What about you, Angelina? How do you think the church can be a peacemaking entity?
Angelina: I think having more humility about the way that you enter in there. Like you were saying, it’s not something where you can go once a month and be like, “I’m here. I’m making a difference. Look at me,” and patting myself on the back. “I did my good deed for the month.” If this is something that you care about, you have to be invested, you have to be willing to be there, and to sacrifice for those people. You have to come in with a spirit of humility of saying, “I don’t understand this situation. This is not my reality. What can I learn from these people about how they got here? How can I help them flourish where they are rather than, “Oh, you need to be like me. Here’s how you can be like me.” Sometimes, when dealing with situations that look different from ours, we think we have the answer, and we may not.
Michael: I would say, one thing that the church needs to remember is that there’s two aspects to it, Dan, you’re spot-on with the level of engagement that you need to have with your local community. Angelina, you’re right with a level of understanding your community, and empathy, and humility in the face of that community, whatever that community looks like that you’re serving. So, having churches be intentional about all of that and actually do it…not just some halfway attempt to do it. Then, the other half is to have prayer. I think, prayer coupled with action is important too. Having a robust prayer life for other people, and for those communities that you serve, I think, is also important. Angelina: There’s a lot more that really stood out to me throughout the episode, but there’s not time to talk about them.
Michael: Well, these are deep issues, and I do want to thank the guests. I want to thank both Frank and Dan for joining us, and for sharing their experiences, and sharing their ideas, and for sparking this discussion. I think it’s been a great discussion. I think, anytime we get thinking and get passionate about something, that’s good.
Dan: We’d love to hear what you think. If you’ve got your own opinions about this, please look us up. We’re on social media. You can go to our website, livinguncommonpodcast.com, and we have all of our socials linked to there. We’d love to have you as part of the conversation.
This podcast is brought to you by Concordia University Wisconsin and Concordia University Ann Arbor. However, the opinions and views are not meant to be official statements on their behalf.