This is the World Wide Web edition of J. Neil Schulman's book Self Control Not Gun Control. It's posted for informational and entertainment purposes only and may not be crossposted to any other datafile base, conference, news group, email list, or website without written permission of the author. If you wish to purchase the hardcover edition, it's available for sale at this website, or at fine booksellers everywhere.
Copyright © 1995 by J. Neil Schulman. Rights to make copies and print-outs from these files are limited by the license agreement. All other rights reserved.

Afterthoughts


A Non-Christian's Prayer To Christ

Of course
You already know what happened.
So I'll just tell it
for the audience.

I'm at the Abbey.
The place where You have the monks.
Only I was at a conference
and it wasn't one of the monks
I was arguing with.

This guy
and I don't have to bring names into this
You know who it was
and so do those who were there
and it's not important for the rest of you
he's a preacher
an official spokesperson
for Jesus
and the Word of God,
particularly the newer stuff.

But the reason I'm listening to him
is that he was close to somebody
whose opinion I really respected
and he really knows his stuff.
Also, I like him a lot
on the first meeting.

Anyway, he's selling me that
the Bible says
You took the bullet for me
And if I don't say it's so
naming the right Names
I don't get into Heaven.

Let me tell you,
I want to get into Heaven.
Eternal rest has no appeal for me.
Neither does swimming in fire.

I say, what about the Jews?
No go, probably, he tells me.
They say God but they don't mean
Christ
and that's a rejection of what
You did
for them.

Some,
the real religious ones
might slip through, though.

And the Mormons, I ask?
You ever look into them?
he asks me.
A scam job, he says.

But the idea, he tells me
Is that if they had the choice
to accept You by name
and they didn't take it,
it's one ticket to a customer.
And the theater is cleared
between shows.

Now, it was late.
I'd been up since early morning
and I was in one of those places
where you take an idea seriously
and run with it.

And I'm thinking,
Okay, God's always been straight with me.
I'll pray again
and if I have to use the name Jesus,
what's the big deal?

Then it hits me.
My parents aren't going.
Neither of them is ever
going to pray to Jesus.

That's goes for all my relatives, too.
Well, maybe except my sister
since I've never been able to
figure out
what she thinks
or who she prays to
or for what.
But I want her in Heaven, too.
It just wouldn't be the same
without her.

My grandmother
the biggest heart I ever knew.
Not there, waiting for me.

My aunt
a great heart
even if I always thought she was
a Communist
if the words Jesus Christ ever
left her lips
it was as a curse.
Probably not in Heaven,
according to my preacher friend.

And there's my ex-wife.
Okay, I admit I didn't make the
smartest move in marrying her
it didn't work out
but, damn it, she has a hard time
believing in You
so that means she's not going either
and if my daughter gets in
she's going to miss her mommy.

My friends.
My beloved friends.
One wrote a book
in which You Killed Yourself.

Another used to believe in you
but doesn't now.

Another one pulls stuff
that even I think is crap
but he's done a lot of good stuff too.

I can't think of three friends
who make it past Your gate
under these rules.

If I ask to go
I'm leaving behind
everyone I loved.

Then I think about the Mormons.
They want so much
to make sure everybody gets into Heaven
that they get genealogies on everybody
then baptize them
even if they're already dead.
Maybe some people are offended by this
but not me.
I think it's sweet.
Looking out for the other guy
particularly the ones who are ready to dump on you.
Now that's Christian charity.
You have to love the Mormons
for making maximum effort.

This was starting to put me in a panic.
Let me see if I have this right
I say to You
In LA Times letters page style.
Someone who doesn't love anybody here
they don't care if anyone's left behind
so it doesn't cost them anything to
use one particular name
and get into Heaven.
No problem for the guy who never
learned to love
he gets in.

Somebody who's a coward
and would sell out his family
because they didn't use the right name
but because this moral cripple uses the right Name
he gets in?

What sort of God
I ask You
would set things up this way?
This would be really lame.
I'd cry for the Universe
made out of such cheap materials.

And I think of Heinlein's story
where he already looked at this problem.
You could always count on him
to get to the point.

Hey, Heinlein wouldn't be in Heaven either,
under these rules
and there goes the most interesting man
I ever met.

So cowards go to Heaven
and it's not the home of the brave?
Lovers and families
are split up for all time
with those who use Your Right Name
left in eternal grief
or worse
given some forever heroin?

I know.
That's not how C.S. Lewis
played it
in his book about a visit to Heaven.

He stacked the deck
so everyone who's there
is happy
and everyone who's left behind
is drained of all that was good
about them.

You know what?
That sucks, too.

I don't believe it.
That's not how God would set things up.
That's the kind of universe the devil
would think up.

Then it hits me.
If you have to make this choice
between being a selfish coward
looking out for Number One
and getting into Heaven
or rejecting You
because friends and lovers aren't going?

It's a test.

It's like the gag You pulled on Abraham
to test his faith.
Take your son
and sacrifice him to Me.
Only at the last minute
You tell him,
Good Job,
Just kidding.

That's got to be right, right?
If I love
You have to love more than a mortal, right?
You've had more practice at it.

If I don't want to go to heaven
if all the good guys aren't going
if those I love won't be there
then that's out of respect
for an absolute standard of
good and evil
that even God would have to obey,
right?

God has to be better than I am,
and care about good and evil
more than I do
Don't You?

And if I
cheap as I am
would cut some slack
to let the marginal cases in
You know
the ones who tried
but didn't get it completely right
but they must have some good in them if
other people love them
then you'd cut an ever better deal,
right?

Because that's what God would do.

Listen, God.
You've got a p-r problem down here.
You've got people spreading bad news
about You.
Saying that you're cheap
and grumpy
and bureaucratic
and mean.
And they say Your Own Book said so.

The same people say
if I take this attitude
I'm choosing to reject You.
I'm in the devil's teeth.
I'm just a crackpot
heading for the kiln
for refiring.

I think it's a slander on You.
I think this is a libel.
I think that THIS is Satan's lie.

Not MY creator, buddy!
He wouldn't be like that.
Take it back!

God is good
it says so right on page One
and if You ask me
somebody better take a blue
pencil to the stuff
that says otherwise
no matter what title it says
on the Book cover.

So, God.
By any Name.
Including Jesus Christ.
I don't believe that about You.
You take the good guys to Heaven
No matter what name they say
or even if their lips don't move
or maybe even if they don't believe
what they don't see
because that, after all, makes sense too.

And, I pray, I'll be seeing you
and all my lost beloved
just like You promised elsewhere
when it's my time.
Amen.

June 29, 1995


Afterword:
Gunzo Journalism
by Brad Linaweaver

Brad Linaweaver is the author of the Prometheus-Award-winning novel Moon of Ice, which has the unique status of being the only novel with endorsements on it from Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and William F. Buckley. He's also a frequently anthologized short story writer. He's also written for National Review and Chronicles. --JNS

The trucker's strike was still on as Neil Schulman and I donned our NRA caps and began a 3,250 mile journey to do an end run around the latest obstacle to Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns. Neil's gun rights book had just been excerpted in the May 2 issue of National Review. If that wasn't sufficient to make two middle-aged libertarians feel nicely reactionary and right-wing, then seizing control of the means of transportation in the middle of a strike completed the process.

We were already tired when we arrived in Brattleboro, Vermont in a rental car that had brought us from Boston's Logan Airport, where we'd just got off a red-eye from L.A. But driving a twenty-four-foot-long Ryder Truck all the way back to L.A. woke us up; especially negotiating those really steep six degree downgrades in first gear. Long portions of the trip reminded us of the famous Heinlein quote: "It's downhill all the way." Two other factors contributed to a high level of alertness: the first, that Neil had his gun and was strapped throughout the trip; the second that until we delivered 1,500 copies of the book to a distribution center the National Rifle Association used in West Virginia we would be traveling over the D.O.T. weight limit!

Our first moment of serious concern came when we were stopped at a weigh station in Massachusetts. The absence of any weigh scales was reassuring but the officer wasn't, and he asked to see in the back of the truck. We thought this might be one of the few states where the Charlton Heston endorsement gracing the cover of Neil's book wouldn't win us friends, particularly the part about how Stopping Power "presents the assault on the Second Amendment in frighteningly clear terms." We were gearing up for the heartland where, we had been informed by reliable sources, the Second Amendment was held in high regard.

Of course, even the heartland had its surprises. Such as in Texas, a legal-to-carry state, while driving through, where right before entering a gas station to pay for diesel fuel Neil noticed a sign threatening a penalty of a $5000 fine and ten years in jail for bringing a gun inside any establishment selling alcohol. The station sold beer. But then Texas used to allow citizens to legally drink beer while driving, at least until the feds threatened to cut off highway matching funds. It's the old slippery slope... And one radio station in Texas had the nerve to cut Rush Limbaugh short for the cattle report.

This put us in mind of Hillary Clinton, but whatever economic advantages she might have derived from local news reports there was little comfort for her in late night talk shows from the heartland. Most of the hosts and callers were of a piece with the trucker at a Union 76 Truck Stop who talked about the president as "a dope-smoking, draft-dodging faggot," thereby announcing himself as a prospective customer for Neil's book. Sure enough, he was the first individual sale and this inspired us to promote the book (and incidentally the May 2 NR) at every truck stop where we ate or got fuel. A whole new meaning of stopping power…

One of Neil's favorite states was Indiana. They recognize his California gun permit. The speed limit is 65 mph. And we picked up a nice Italian opera. But even when complaining about a state (the way you're routed through Oklahoma on one giant toll road, for example) we kept running over one indisputable fact, as impossible to ignore as a speed bump in hell: small town America likes its liberties better than the wicked big city.

For example, we went to a post office in a little burg in West Virginia to mail out the first batch of promotional copies. Neil walked in the door eleven minutes after closing. They opened up. They cooperated. And while this miracle was taking place I was sitting in the truck when an elderly man wearing an NRA cap came over, recognized my NRA cap and shook hands. Neil and I came to expect that kind of spontaneous goodwill before the trip was over.

Why, it wasn't until I was back in L.A. that I received some dirty looks for wearing the cap. And it took a moment for me to realize what was happening after we'd spent so much time in the heartland, on the 70 through Ohio and Indiana and Illinois and Missouri. And then the 44 through Oklahoma. And the 40 through Texas and New Mexico and Arizona and onward to California. Not until we were back in La La Land did the NRA symbol cease to be a symbol of goodwill. (In Culver City, where the trip finally ended, things are a lot better than downtown.)

Returning to L.A. was a kind of culture shock. We were spoiled by all the truck stop restaurants where we were often welcome in the TRUCKERS ONLY section of the restaurants. The NRA has friends that the New York publishing establishment and Hollywood may not care to cultivate; but the Republican party should take great care not to alienate. We met a good number of independent truckers and, not surprisingly, men and women of independent mind.

We could laugh about some things. There was the Dennis Weaver character in a New Mexico gas station, vainly trying to explain why he had knickknacks for sale extolling the virtues of every state…except New Mexico--and who said, "The strangest question I was ever asked was by a man who wanted to know the difference between 86 and 88 octane fuel." Talk about excitement.... Then there was the time we believed the sign in Pennsylvania telling us that if we weighed over a certain amount we should take a special exit, and like rubes we got off, to be sent on the most pointless detour of the trip, arriving hours later back at the same exact sign.

We had our moments of astonishment as well, such as the snow, sleet and hail waiting for us in Flagstaff, Arizona, at the end of April. The 7,000 feet altitude may have had something to do with the unexpected winter wonderland. The steepest downgrade of the trip added the final touch of suspense as we slid our way down the mountain, hoping that a Charlton Heston style Moses might intervene on our behalf in case we needed some life-saving special effects. (And where but Flagstaff would there be a gas station offering free frozen steaks with every diesel fill-up?)

Those truck stop restaurants offered convenient telephones right at the table. A call to Ray Bradbury inspired a writer much beloved of Russell Kirk to commend the spirit of our enterprise (the all-American vision of writer-truckers!) and to say that when government goes after the guns it usually "takes them from the wrong people." A call to Frances Bronson stressed the on-the-road promo for NR and reached a much-desired terminus when I placed a copy of Neil's book in William F.Buckley's hands in Anaheim where NR's founder was in town to speak before the American Association of Retired Persons. His subject was media manipulation in the Age of Clinton.

Indeed, the modern version of fighting against principalities and powers is to counter propaganda with better PR. People are afraid because they have lost their sense of humor. That's why Neil insisted on a surprising amount of humor in the most serious book of his career. And a sense of humor played an essential role in our making the trip in the first place.

There was one guy who looked upon J. Neil Schulman as a visitor from another planet. Here's Neil talking about his TV script that was produced on the new Twilight Zone, how feminists responded to the sex scenes in his novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, how he first sold an Op-ed piece to the Los Angeles Times, and other such evidence that he is a Hollywood Jewish intellectual writer type. And, by the way, he's to the right of the NRA in his pro-gun position.

Sometimes culture shock can be a very, very good thing.

Go to About J. Neil Schulman.

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