Author: Joel Varner

Who’s Right in the Gun Control Debate?

In the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting, we are caught in the middle of another name calling tug-of-war between gun-rights advocates and gun-control advocates.

One side paints their opponents as backwards rednecks that will tolerate mass shootings as acceptable losses so long as they get to keep their shiny sticks that go “bang-bang.”

The other side believes their adversaries are emotionally driven, naive socialists who want to take everyone’s guns away to make way for a new communist regime.

But is there any common ground?

What if both groups really want the same thing?

What if both sides actually want to prevent gun violence and future mass shootings?

I know it seems hard to believe that both sides have a common goal, but what if we assumed the best about each other?  And we try to believe that we all want to prevent our children from being victims of another mass shooting…but we have different beliefs on how to achieve that objective?

What if we tried to understand that gun-rights advocates really believe that the best way to protect our families, homes, schools, and our children is to have freer access to guns?  And that gun regulations make our families and children less safe?

What if they’re really following Jesus’ warning to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Mat 10:16) in this dangerous world and to be prepared because “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36)?

What if we really truly believed that gun-rights advocates believe that more guns makes the world a safer place?

And what if we tried to understand that gun-control advocates really believe that the best way to protect our families, homes, schools, and children is to have less guns in the world? That the unrestricted access we have to guns in our country makes us less safe?

What if they’re really following Jesus’ command to “put away your sword, because those who use the sword will die by the sword” (Mat 26:52)?

What if we really truly believed that gun-control advocates believe that less guns makes the world a safer place?

So what do we do when two groups want the same thing, but have directly opposing solutions?

Can we set our biased emotions aside, stop vilifying the other side, and try to believe that we all want the same thing?

And what if we actually made room for the possibility that our solution to the problem may be wrong?  

Because what were doing right now isn’t working.  People are dying.

If handing out guns to every man, woman, and child means that no-one else ever has to die from a madman hunting them…then I’ll be the first in line to hand them out.

But if turning in our weapons means that not one more man, woman, or child has to die needlessly from a bullet…then I’ll be the first in line to hand in my gun.

Or maybe there’s a solution in-between the two extremes we can discover…if we choose to respect each other and believe that we all want the same thing.


Joel Varner has served in ministry for the past 15 years. He is a pastor in Albany, Oregon equipping and training missional community leaders. Joel works with his wife Brenna, of 14 years, and their two daughters. You can find him on Facebook.

The Real Reason America is Becoming Like Sodom

By: Robbie Shade

Since gay marriage has become legal in America, I’ve been hearing the rise of a familiar saying: “America is becoming more and more like Sodom and Gomorrah.”  Whether from a pulpit, a megaphone, or a Facebook post, there is a growing sentiment that America is becoming more and more immoral, quickly bringing it under God’s judgment and wrath. And I agree.  America is becoming more and more immoral like Sodom and Gomorrah, but not for the same reasons as the people shouting into their Facebook posts.

So what were the real reasons God punished Sodom, and how is America becoming like it? Our introduction to the history of Sodom is so shocking that we can quickly jump to conclusions as to why it received God’s punishment.  God told Abraham that He was sending two angels to Sodom because “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” (Gen 18:20-21 NASB).  While God was looking to judge the sins of the city, He was also looking for a few good people to spare it from His wrath; “The LORD said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’” (Gen 18:26 NASB)

But when the angels arrive at Lot’s house in Sodom, “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom–both young and old–surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them’” (Gen 19:4-5).  Then the angels blinded the mob, helped Lot and his family flee the city, and Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with raining brimstone and fire.  From this initial reading, it’s easy to assume that Sodom was destroyed because the men there were inflamed with homosexual desires.

But the men (young and old) weren’t trying to engage in any sort of consensual homosexual sex; they were trying to forcibly rape these foreigners in their city.  Now raping anyone, man or women, is a terrible crime, but why did the men of Sodom want to rape these strangers? Was it because they couldn’t resist their homosexual urges? 

God actually explains Sodom’s sin to the Israelites. As the nation of Israel grew, God warned them that they were becoming more and more like their “sister” Sodom…and even worse.  In Ezekiel 16:48-50, God tells the Israelites, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen.”

It appears that the men of Sodom wanted to rape the strangers not because they couldn’t resist their homosexual urges, but rather because the strangers were…foreigners.  When Lot tries to protect the visiting angels in his home, the mob replies, “Get out of our way. This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them” (Gen 19:9).  The mob’s contempt for Lot is because he is a foreigner to their city, and they even threaten to harm him worse than the two foreigners he’s hiding in his house. 

Raping foreigners was an act of extreme violence in a culture where it was the victims who were punished for being raped by being shamed, beaten, whipped, imprisoned, and kicked out from other cities.  Rape was ultimately a slow death sentence to the victims, and a message to the other nations.  The message the people of Sodom seem to be making is: “This is our city and our wealth.  You poor, needy, foreigners aren’t welcome here.  And we’ll rape you if you try to come and take anything that is ours.”  This sin was detestable to God, and He made Sodom and Gomorrah an example of His wrath.

So when I hear people saying that America is becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah, I completely agree.  But I find it very ironic that the people usually saying this are pointing to the sin of homosexuality in America…all the while actively lobbying for legislation that refuses healthcare for the sick, resources for the poor, and aid to foreigners.

But what I am saying is that God did not destroy Sodom simply because of homosexuality.  God punished Sodom and Gomorrah as a warning to nations that are “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned” and “do not help the poor and needy”…and even resort to the immorality and perversion of rape to oppress those in need (Jude 1:7). 

Now I’m sure that there were gay people in Sodom and Gomorrah (just as there has been in every nation for all of history), but God never once says that He punished Sodom for the personal sins of the few. He does, however, declare His judgment on the public sins of the nation.

So, may America stop becoming more and more immoral like Sodom and Gomorrah.   May we not be quick to “look at the speck of sawdust in our brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in our own eye” (Matthew 7:3).  And may God find righteous people in our nation who obey God’s commands to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor.” (Zechariah 7:9-10).


Joel Varner has served in ministry for the past 15 years. He is a pastor in Albany, Oregon equipping and training missional community leaders. Joel works with his wife Brenna, of 13 years, and their two daughters. You can find him on Facebook.

Why Donald Trump Is Right… And Needs To Be Deported

Photo by: KAZ Vorpal

In his presidential campaign launch speech, Donald Trump said, “When Mexico sends their people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people with lots of problems. And they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. And some I assume are good people.”

Donald Trump wants to make America great again! And he knows that the only way to make America great again is by keeping out the immigrants who are not the best. America needs to deport immigrants who cannot pass U.S. citizenship tests, who don’t know English, who are a drain on our social services, and take jobs away from Americans.

But why stop there? Why just deport immigrants who are not the best? Anyone not making America great should be deported for those same reasons!

First, per Trump’s assertions, immigrants must be able to pass a citizenship test to stay in America.

These unpatriotic Americans should be deported immediately!

Second, immigrants in the U.S. need to know Engrish…Eglish…AMERICAN!

  • Immigrants who do not know English should not be allowed to stay in the U.S.
  • Unfortunately, a study found that almost one in four adult Americans (44 million adults) are functionally illiterate (https://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93275.pdf). Now since twenty-five percent the people in that group were immigrants (and Trump would have deported them already), that still leaves 33 million adult Americans who are more likely to be involved in criminal and drug activity because of illiteracy (http://www.begintoread.com/research/literacystatistics.html).

These potential criminals are a threat to America and need to be deported immediately!

Third, immigrants are a drain on our social services and economy.

These lazy bloodsuckers are bringing America down and must be deported immediately!

Finally, immigrants take away jobs from hardworking Americans!

By manufacturing goods in China, Trump is taking away jobs from Americans!

If Trump wants to make America great again, then by his logic, the U.S. must deport those who are not the best. It must get rid of people who cannot pass a citizenship test, who are illiterate, who depend on government welfare and those people who are taking away American jobs.

If Trump is right…he needs to be deported immediately.


Joel Varner has served in ministry for the past 15 years. He is a pastor in Albany, Oregon equipping and training missional community leaders. Joel works with his wife Brenna, of 13 years, and their two daughters. You can find him on Facebook.