DeMarco: “Dos” and “Don’ts” for next year’s Christmas greetings

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Actually, it will be all “don’ts.”

It seems that 99.9% of Americans understand what Christmas best wishes, be they traditional hold-in-your hand cards or digital missives, should involve. Unfortunately, two of our nation’s highest elected officials, who represent us to the nation and the world, have not a clue.

It started with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky) posting a virtual Yuletide greeting on Twitter. The photo showed him, his wife, and their four children posing in front of a Christmas tree all armed with assault rifles. The caption read “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.” An analysis published in Forbes estimated the arsenal on display to be worth at least $20,000. It should surprise no one that his fellow representative, Lauren Boebert (R-Co), responded with an image of her and her four children, the youngest of whom appears to be 9 or 10 years old, bearing similar weapons captioned “The Boeberts have your six, @RepThomasMassie! (No spare ammo for you, though).”

It will be difficult with the words I have left to count all the ways these images violate sanity, logic, dignity, propriety and Christian ethics.

First, as a gun owner, I am embarrassed for Massie and Boebert. I came relatively late to gun ownership, being introduced to hunting in my early thirties, soon after moving to Marion. What I quickly learned about hunters is that they are very careful with and respectful of their weapons. The only time I have my shotgun in my living room is when I am transporting it from my gun safe to my vehicle to hunt or shoot clays. Only a reckless pretender would pose with a firearm indoors. Massie and Boebert’s photos should anger all responsible gun owners.

Second, the use of children in this way is abominable. When I gave my son a shotgun at age twelve, I taught him the cardinal safety rules: Always assume a gun is loaded and never point it at anything you don’t want to kill. As I handed him the gun, I praised him for maturing into a young man who could be trusted with it. Then I reminded him that he could kill me if he were careless. He started to cry, which reassured me even further. It was clear that he understood the seriousness that owning guns should invoke. Think of what lessons Boebert’s youngest child is learning from her stunt: that guns can be treated like toys; that they are props, to be brought out for show; that they are political swag, to be used to drum up support.

Third, their desecration of Christmas is disgraceful. Massie is a United Methodist, as am I. Wikipedia describes Boebert as a born-again Christian. While on earth, Jesus said a few things about violence including “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9) and “Do not resist the evildoer… if anyone strikes you on the right cheek turn the other also.” (Matthew 5:39). When Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested, Peter defended him by cutting off a servant’s ear. Jesus says, “No more of this!” and touched the ear to heal him. Because of Jesus’ teachings some Christians, such as Quakers and Seventh-day Adventists, feel that violence in any form is incompatible with the faith. The vast majority of others recognize Jesus as a gentle healer who accepted crucifixion without resistance. It would be hard to find a Christian who could make a connection between the Jesus of the Bible and Massie’s and Boebert’s version of him.

Fourth, Christmas is traditionally a time when we call a truce on our disagreements and focus on what unites us. According to the Gun Violence Archive, more than 44,000 people died in 2021 from gun violence, more than 23,000 of those by suicide. No one, no matter his or her view of the Second Amendment, can be satisfied with those figures. Both sides recognize the need for change, and could be induced to work together on measures to save lives.

America needs rational gun owners to come together with reasonable gun-control advocates. But this can only happen if we have political leaders on each side of the debate who exemplify a fair-minded approach. I have a foot in each camp and know people on both sides of the divide. The extreme positions – that gun owners will not accept any kind of new restrictions, and that gun control advocates want to repeal the Second Amendment – are too often used by politicians to stoke fear and anger. But most Americans are open to commonsense approaches such as universal background checks. Massie’s and Boebert’s Christmas display of guns is counterproductive, widening the divide between the opposing sides.

Similarly, at a time when Christianity is losing its appeal, especially among young adults, these images will only accelerate that trend. One of the major reasons nonChristians cite for rejecting Christianity is hypocrisy. When congressmen and women who identify as Christian post guns in their Christmas cards, it gives more young people an excuse the turn away from the faith. It’s impossible to reconcile Isaiah’s foretelling of the coming Messiah – “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” – and Massie’s and Boebert’s Christmas photos.

For Christmas 2019, Rep. Massie posted a more traditional picture of his family (outdoors and unarmed) with the caption “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14), proving that it’s easier to promote good will toward your fellow American when you’re not brandishing a rifle.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. This post first ran as a column in the Florence Morning News.

17 thoughts on “DeMarco: “Dos” and “Don’ts” for next year’s Christmas greetings

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “When I gave my son a shotgun at age twelve, I taught him the cardinal safety rules: Always assume a gun is loaded and never point it at anything you don’t want to kill.”

    There are four rules:

    Rule 1: TREAT ALL GUNS AS IF THEY ARE ALWAYS LOADED.
    Always.

    Rule 2: NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DESTROY
    To allow a firearm to point at another human being is a deadly threat, and should always be treated as such.

    Rule 3: KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
    The violation of this rule is responsible for a vast majority of the firearms disasters.

    Rule 4: BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET
    You never shoot at anything until you have positively identified it. You never fire at a shadow, or a sound, or a suspected presence. You shoot only when you know absolutely what you are shooting at and what is beyond it.

    Reply
  2. Barry

    Good column.

    As a gun owner, my children never touch a gun unless I am standing beside them outside conducting our target practice. My guns are locked in a safe and aren’t photo ops or play toys. Neither are my family members.

    The photos you cite were disturbing on many fronts. I chalk both up to the actions of irresponsible, destructive human beings who just happen to be members of Congress.

    You also wrote…

    “Similarly, at a time when Christianity is losing its appeal, especially among young adults, these images will only accelerate that trend. One of the major reasons non Christians cite for rejecting Christianity is hypocrisy. When congressmen and women who identify as Christian post guns in their Christmas cards, it gives more young people an excuse the turn away from the faith”

    I think this battle is almost settled at this point. The huge number of young people leaving the church is a tide that is tsunami level at this point.

    Reply
  3. Barry

    Speaking of Lauren Boebert, your Republican Congressperson from Colorado..

    have you ever read up on her arrest record? She has quite a history.

    but not to be outdone, her husband also has quite the arrest record. Seems he has a problem keeping his clothes on in front of young women.

    For some crazy reason, her gun toting celebrity status and constant claims of “Christian values’ ring a big hollow.

    Well, they ring hollow to everyone except Republicans who have dismissed her arrest record and her husband’s arrest record as “nothing to see here”

    Reply
  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    I meant to say this immediately upon posting this, but had to run out.

    So I’ll say it now: Paul, this is definitely your best column yet.

    It does a great job of showing how we can (or at least should be able to) talk about the issues that most divide us.

    And I know that’s your goal in writing these, so… Congratulations!

    And thank you very much for the contribution…

    Reply
  5. Paul DeMarco

    Bryan-I accept your friendly amendments to my two firearm safety rules without reservation. You are exactly right about the third. A friend’s brother was killed in a duck boat accident for this reason. He was standing in the front of the boat with his partner in the back. In the excitement of birds flying overhead his partner reflexively pulled the trigger, shot him in the back, and killed him.

    Brad-thanks, that’s high praise.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      My friend that died of COVID in November 2020 lost his dad in a hunting accident when my friend was a teenager.

      his uncle, a very experienced hunter, accidentally shot his dad right in front of him almost exactly how you described the event above, except he was shot in the chest. It was a tragic mistake.

      Another friend of mine shot himself in the hand with a pistol. He was probably the most experienced person I know with firearms. He had hunted for 40 years and also bought and sold guns for fun. But one mistake and he shot himself in the hand resulting in extensive surgery and PTSD symptoms that he still suffers from today.

      There are a boatload of children killed every year in accidental shootings from guns inside the home.

      I heard Leon Lott say once on the radio that if “responsible” gun owners would secure their weapons, it would drastically cut down on the illegal arms dealing in Richland County because most of the guns they find in murders were stolen. He said they get reports all the time of “responsible” gun owners leaving their guns in their vehicles and them having them stolen. He also suggested the number was much higher because a lot of them likely don’t report a stolen gun because they are embarrassed it happened.

      Don’t you just love these “responsible” folks?

      Reply
  6. Bryan Caskey

    I think your third point conflates your opinion that these pictures are in poor taste with the idea that these pictures are incompatible with Christianity at large.

    Your final sentence in that paragraph is: “It would be hard to find a Christian who could make a connection between the Jesus of the Bible and Massie’s and Boebert’s version of him.” That sentence is difficult to defend because the people in these pictures aren’t using these pictures to make a statement about Christianity in general or in Jesus specifically. Now, if you’re using other statements they’ve made about Jesus or Christianity that you aren’t citing in this work, you should. If you’re basing this on the pictures alone, I think you’re off base.

    These pictures are clearly being done in a lighthearted way. They are displaying firearms and asking “Santa” for ammo. It’s sort of a joke. Now, you may not find it funny. You may find it in poor taste. However, you’re veering into unsupportable territory by claiming this is a denigration of Christianity and that somehow this photo gives you a serious insight into these people’s “version of Jesus”.

    You wouldn’t argue that Christianity and self-defense are inherently incompatible, would you?

    Again, I think you have a good point that these photos are tacky. You wouldn’t catch me posing for Christmas photos with firearms. I also wouldn’t pose for Christmas photos holding a bunch of SCUBA gear.

    The problem is that firearms have become this sort of talisman that both sides of the political divide want to square off over. One side can take a photo like the ones above and gain political support. The other side could take a Christmas photo dropping rifles into a volcano and gain political support.

    Reply
    1. Barry

      Both Republicans posted their gun photos just days after the high-school shooting in Michigan where 4 students died.

      Lauren Boebert can’t get a cup of coffee without trying to link it to her “amazingly strong” Christian beliefs that she wears on her sleeves – that is when she isn’t attacking other people, or defending the indefensible

      So Bryan is off-base here In my view. Can’t have it both ways. If she and those like her are going to characterize nearly everything through a Christian lens, it’s unconvincing to protest when people apply that scrutiny to their actions.

      “I’m old enough to remember Republicans screaming that it was insensitive to try to protect people from gun violence after a tragedy. Now they openly rub the murder of children in our faces like they scored a touchdown. Disgraceful.” Rep. Thomas Yarmuth, Kentucky

      Paul, as the dad of a college junior, high school senior and middle schooler, I can tell you that you are correct when it comes to the disgust that younger people have with hypocrisy. My children were raised in church, like 2-3 times a week church.

      The most obvious example of this is the enthusiastic embrace that many churches gave to Donald Trump and his often vulgar and demeaning rhetoric about other people. That was utterly caustic to a lot of young people.

      Note: Church pollster George in 2019- “The percentage of young-adult dropouts has increased from 59 to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. 18–29-year-olds who grew up in church tell Barna they have withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen.

      Reply
  7. Ken

    “The other side could take a Christmas photo dropping rifles into a volcano and gain political support.”

    Sounds like the biblical call to beat swords into plowshares. So I’d be good with that.

    Reply
  8. Bill

    I’m gonna cook them feathers on a tiny spit
    And I filled me a satchel full of old pig corn
    And I beat me a billy from an old French horn
    And I kicked that mule to the top of the tree
    Kicked that mule to the top of the tree
    Blew me a hole ’bout the size of a kickdrum
    And I cut me a switch from a long branch elbow

    I’m gonna whittle you into kindlin’

    Reply
  9. Paul DeMarco

    Bryan,
    I appreciate your thoughtful response. As you may have noticed, I spend the little time I devote to writing posting columns and don’t leave much time for commentary. But I read all the comments and appreciate them more than you know. They are very useful in sharpening my thinking. If you respond to this and I don’t respond again, It’s not because I’m not listening.
    This is a case where an after work discussion over a beer would be much more fruitful. You raise many questions that I think we would both enjoy batting around. I’m going to avoid your question about Christianity and self-defense being incompatible since that’s a long discussion and I think both sides can be well defended. My one comment would be that if you use Jesus’ actions and many of his words as a guide, he was not a proponent of self-defense. He could have spurred his followers to violent resistance of his crucifixion but accepted his fate willingly. When his neighbors from Nazareth chased him out of town and tried to hurl him from a cliff, he didn’t respond with violence or even anger. He simply walked “through the midst of them and went on his way. (Luke 4:30). That said, I’m not a pacifist. If an armed intruder broke into my home and threatened my life, I would try to shoot him before he shot me. On a more global scale, I’m glad we took up arms against the Axis in World War II and am profoundly grateful for those who fought and died in that war.
    I reject your characterization that I am using guns as a talisman. I’m using my eyes. What I see is two political figures doing what most of them do, trying to keep their supporters engaged. They know that gun rights are important to Republican primary voters and assumed that a gun-toting Christmas card was a good ploy. And perhaps it will help them win their next election. But in choosing to excite their supporters in this way, I believe a line has been crossed.

    These are not candid pictures. They are intentionally staged with a carefully chosen background. Think of how the impact of the photos would have changed if a different background were used-a blank wall, a photo of Donald Trump, of Nancy Pelosi, of a Muslim carrying an AK-47. Each background would have elicited an entirely different reaction. Think of how the impact would have changed if the representatives were pictured alone rather with all their children.
    The choice of a family photo before a Christmas tree, which has a particular meaning for those of us who call ourselves Christians, was deliberate. For two Christians to gather their families and shoulder weapons around a symbol of the birth of their Lord and Savior is not simply a bad joke. It is a desecration.

    Reply
  10. Barry

    I did want to add a few major items in the news today.

    I am in favor of eliminating the filibuster. It’s clear to me it’s time for Americans to face the consequences – or rewards of their votes at the election box.

    I wholeheartedly believe that more Americans would likely be voting and taking it more serious if the filibuster was eliminated and they could observe the difference in their lives.

    I realize an elimination isn’t even in the cards, but I would support it – even if Republicans are in charge. We live with the choices we make. It’s time we did that.

    I’ve also heard folks talking about the Electoral College again. Nothing will happen here but listening to Dan Abrams on Sirius radio today, he was asking his audience to imagine what Donald Trump and his supporters would be saying had he won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College vote.

    Dan’s position is that Trump would “be going even more bananas” about it and so would his supporters.

    Remember, when Obama won in 2012, Trump advocated for doing away with the EC – then of course reversed himself.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      How about if we keep the filibuster, but insist it has to be an actual filibuster. Instead of this idiocy of not being able to pass anything without 60 votes or whatever.

      That’s not a filibuster. That’s a supermajority…

      Reply
      1. Barry

        51 votes to confirm a Supreme Court nominee.

        51 votes to pass trillions in budget legislation.

        51 votes for corporate tax cuts.

        51 votes to confirm Cabinet nominees.

        51 votes to raise the debt ceiling.

        But 60 to protect voting rights? It’s an enraging & incoherent position.

        Reply

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