Though I’m no longer a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), I have been in years gone by. I have a number of family and friends who are members. It’s not at all unusual for me to engage in conversation with them about the NRA and any and all things gun-related. I’ve read or perused nearly every issue of one of the NRA’s chief publications (American Rifleman) over the course of the past forty years. I have read reams of other literature the NRA has published. I visit their website. I take careful note of anything said about them when I notice their appearance in the news.
I say all of that to say this: I know and understand something of the mind of the NRA and I know and understand something of its membership. And I also know that not every NRA member sees things as the NRA’s current president, Wayne LaPierre, sees things. What the NRA declares as gospel, by no means would all of its members subscribe to in faith and practice. That is, while the NRA may say one thing, some of its members would do another. In many of those cases I would say, “That’s a good thing.”
And that’s one of the reasons it really bothers me when I hear or see sweeping assumptions and generalizing statements made about the NRA. “NRA people think …” “I’ve heard it said that if you’re a member of the NRA you do [or don’t] …” “Only _____ are members of the NRA.” Such remarks don’t merely bother me, but also, and especially, members of the NRA who don’t subscribe to everything the NRA publishes.
Would it not then be much more accurate and respectful to say otherwise, perhaps something like the following: “I understand some members of the NRA think …” “I’ve heard it said that if you’re a member of the NRA you might do [or don’t] …” “Some members of the NRA appear to be …”
To some this might seem like a small or subtle difference, an even trivial or unimportant difference in wording, but I beg to differ. I perceive it to be huge and obvious, vital and crucial. And for one reason, if nothing else: no one should be misunderstood or falsely accused.
I am a Christian. I’ve been a member of Churches of Christ for the past thirty-six years. I’ve preached virtually every week within Churches of Christ for the past thirty-three years. I hold a graduate degree from a university associated with Churches of Christ (Abilene Christian University). I have written for half-a-dozen of publications within Churches of Christ. When I notice a Church of Christ appearing in the national news (as one did last week in the New York Times), I take note of it.
I say that to say this: I know and understand something of the mind of Christ, Christians, and Churches of Christ. And so I know that not all members of Churches of Christ believe or practice their faith the same way. By no means “all; as in, “not even close.” And sometimes – often – that’s a very good thing indeed.
And so, I cringe a bit whenever I hear someone say: “You Church of Christ people believe …” “Church of Christ people all think …” People who belong to Churches of Christ are …” And why do I cringe? Because I know we don’t all see everything alike and to pretend everything on the canvas is all one color is to miss the painting entirely.
Consequently, whenever I hear or see someone make statements like those, I know they’re likely being made by someone who either doesn’t have much personal knowledge of Churches of Christ and/or they’re just not thinking about what they’re saying at the moment. Either of which only perpetuates mass ignorance and feeds misunderstanding from misrepresentation, neither of which I care to be a part of at all.
And so I say, let’s each make an extra effort to not label or pigeon-hole people whenever we speak of groups of people. We best respect groups of people when we respect the individuals who compose those groups. After all, our salvation is not of the NRA, Churches of Christ, or any other group of people. Rather, we all stand or fall before the one God and Father of us all, through the one Savior and Lord he has provided for each of us, Jesus Christ.