Fireworks over firearms

Reflections

Reflecting on the chemical similarities between fireworks and firearm ammunition, The Rev’d Andrew Schmidt says: “For me this is one of the central dilemmas that face humanity – the conflict between progress and concern for how progress will be used”

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I have always been a fan of fireworks. I love the moment when you are sitting in the dark, and you hear the sound of a firework being launched, knowing there will be an explosion of beautiful light against the night sky. I am so attracted to that moment that I have been known to use it as a metaphor for my experience of God.

I recently enjoyed a night of Seafire, an international fireworks competition held on the Gold Coast. I got to see the entries from three countries, with the first cab off the rank being New Zealand.

As I sat there marvelling at the artistry of the pyrotechicians, I recalled the last time I had occasion to think about New Zealand in a serious manner. Of course, my thoughts turned to the March shootings in Christchurch.

I was struck by the complexity of our human approach to technology. Here I was sitting on the beach absorbed in the beauty of lights glowing in the dark night sky, yet remembering a very different moment of darkness – a darkness that was powered by the same basic chemistry that was powering the fireworks.

For me this is one of the central dilemmas that face humanity – the conflict between progress and concern for how progress will be used. There are myriad different examples in the history of humanity, which extend across a wider array of disciplines than applied chemistry. I wish I could say that Christianity had all the answers, but it doesn’t. However, what it does have is a long tradition of offering principles to apply, which would hopefully allow us to navigate the foreseen and unforeseen consequences of our actions.

At this stage of my life, I would suggest that the most significant principle, if not always the easiest to apply, would be Jesus’ response when he was asked, “which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus replied: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22.36-40)

In this context, I would like to point out that love does not mean to desire or admire, which is so often how we use the word. Rather the goal here is to ask what is truly most life giving for my neighbour, and to have the desire to enact that.

Fireworks from the SeaFire 2019 competition held on 31 May 2019, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast (Photography by Andrew Schmidt)

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