Wet Your Front Sight!
You may never have seen the movie “Alvin York”. It’s the true story of an American hero from the hills of Tennessee who finds “religion” right before the beginning of World War I. Played by Gary Cooper, York finds himself in a real dilemma as he is drafted by the Army and forced to learn the art of war. He has the idea that Christians are pacifists and resists his training as a soldier until he is convinced by an officer to not only consider the Christian principles of peace but to also consider the values one must place in fighting evil and defending his brothers in arms. It is then that York gains perspective and becomes a committed soldier and one of the most decorated veterans in American history. One of the most interesting characteristics of York is his hillbilly, common sense approach to life. Things are black and white to York. There is little grey area and when there is, the Bible has the answers. Throughout the movie, three principles emerge as dominant in Alvin’s life. They are his dependence upon God’s Word and faith in God, a sense of hard work can defeat overwhelming odds, and unparalleled shooting skills. It’s those shooting skills I would like to look at for a moment.
Alvin was a competitor from a by gone era. It wasn’t that long ago that even I, growing up in rural Virginia, realized the value of being a good shot. My friends and I passed the summers by ground hog hunting and the fall by deer hunting. We were raised to become the best shots we could be, not only to kill varmints or deer, but for bragging rights. Alvin came from those same circumstances. The best shot was a county title, and he had it. There was a scene in the movie where York took place in a turkey shoot. Now, this didn’t look like any turkey shoot I’ve ever heard of, but that’s Hollywood’s fault. There’s a real turkey that keeps sticking his head up from behind a log while the whole county takes turns shooting at him. Well that’s pretty far fetched, but there’s one scene that seems like superstition but is not. Right before Alvin takes one of his famous shots, he licks his thumb and wets the front sight on his rifle. Why would he do that? Well, it’s pretty simple. Alvin wet his front sight to provide contrast. When someone is shooting open sights (using no optics), they must do something to break the plane of vision for a moment so that they can make sure the sights are lined up on the target. The reason for this is that there are three planes of vision being used when shooting open sight. The first plane is the rear sight. A shooter must have a view of the rear sight that allows him to see both the target and the front sight. The third plane of course, is the target. The shooter must pick a spot on the target and line his sights up to that precise spot. The middle plane though is the front sight. The front sight must be centered in the rear sight but must also be lined up with the desired spot on the target. Sometimes when the human eye, which can only see one plane clearly at once, is focusing all of these things on a phenomenon transpires when the eye focuses “through” the target. This is a blur which overcomes the shooters depth of sight and is a fine line between a kind of shooter’s “zone” and losing focus altogether. It is before that happens that a shooter may wet his front sight to regain perspective by contrasting his front sight and providing himself a more defined perspective. By doing that, a shooter retains or regains the correct and precise perspective. He wets his front sight to either produce a glare from the sunlight on the blued metal or to darken the blue on the front sight against the lighter color of the back sight. To wet ones front sight is to blur the less desirable and sharpen the desired plane of vision. So, what does that have to do with Christian apologists or theologians?
As case-makers for Christ, we can often times find our arguments blurred by the data. Behind every good argument is a compilation of facts. These facts are chosen to strengthen the argument and our reference to them is an organized effort to prove a syllogism. If a and b then c. We love the data and the data is necessary to the argument, but the data on its own is not the argument. To focus on the data is to focus on the rear sight. If that’s the primary focus, then we loose sight of the target and the front sight, which may result in a miss.
Sometimes, as we use arguments to persuade people, we focus too heavily on the target. The target in this case is the persuasion or convincing of the person(s) we are interacting with. Whether it be a presentation to a group or one on one evangelism, concentrating on the target makes us loose sight of both the rear and the front sights. Contrary to what many Christians are trained to think, we don’t have to hit the bulls-eye every time, and after a few misses, we can become discouraged. This leads to what we call in the shooting sports, target panic. We become so consumed by the target that we make a poor shot. Remember, we are not in this for a kill shot. We are only trying to tear down barriers to a person’s belief, so aim small, miss small. Don’t make the target your only plane of sight or you’ll miss altogether.
The front sight is in a particular position in all of this. It sits horizontally and vertically between the rear sight and the target. It takes the rear sight (data) and lines it up with the target (persuasion). This lining up the front and rear sight to the target places the barrel of our argument square on the desired point of impact. We want the impact to be as productive as possible and the front sight determines that. So what’s the front sight? The front sight must necessarily be relationship, only not our relationship with the target, our relationship with Christ. This lines up the data to target. How? Well there is no way one can be persuasive about something that he is not passionate about. If you don’t believe what you’re saying how do you expect to convince someone else to believe it? If you’re not praying and reading your Bible, if you’re not a member of a local church, if you’re not interested in glorifying and enjoying God, then you’re not going to convince someone else that you really believe what you’re saying. This lifestyle, this perspective, is the front sight. It makes your argument line up with the target. It gives the data a real life perspective to go through on its way to the target. If your front sight is in view, then it will decrease target panic and humanize facts and data. It will decrease your chance for a miss. So remember, wet your front sight. Make your devotion to Christ the perspective your argument runs through on its way to the target.