Debate has begun raging over government restriction of firearms. I don’t watch the news very much (any more) but every few days I’ll hear someone talk about guns—often about the President and his developing policies.

I’m not an “expert” on the U.S. constitution, on states’ rights, on gun statistics or on much of anything. I’m sure there are plenty of things to say about all those topics. But the primary thing that I’m thinking about is Christian conversation about these issues.

There is a sensationalism in our culture that is always looking for the next giant crisis in social and political life. The crisis de jour seems to be that the President is taking away our constitutional rights, impinging on our freedom and aiming to take over the world. Perhaps that last one is an exaggeration, though perhaps not in some circles.

Christians are called to be colonists of heaven in the world. To borrow some of the language of Revelation, we are to live as countercultural citizens of New Jerusalem in a world dominated by the values of fallen Babylon. So why are Christians joining with the sensationalism of a particular subculture and becoming (almost) militant in defense of weapons?

I’m not a pacifist—as much as I would like to be one. Best I can tell—from the witness of Scripture (e.g. Rom 13:3-4, 2 Pet 2:13-14), from experience and from logic—the current state of the world needs policing. Evil must be kept in check. The vulnerable and powerless must be defended. Sometimes on a personal level and sometimes on a national level.  And sometimes by force.

But really, should Christians be among those uncritically defending particular kinds weapons and supplies being made available to the public? From the few articles I’ve read on this subject, the President is making reasonable proposals to try to prevent repeats of the tragedies  we’ve recently seen in Aurora and Newtown. And from all I have read, neither he (nor anyone else) is trying to “take all our guns.”

But even if he were, should Christians be clinging tightly to their guns and their Bibles when their Bibles insist there is a day coming when swords will be beaten into plowshares (Isa 2:4)? Should Christians be championing their Second Amendment “rights” more than they are championing the cause of the oppressed (e.g. Isa 1:16-17, 23)?

In our broken, busted world, the case can be made that force is sometimes needed to defend the fatherless. But is that honestly what is being carefully discussed by Christians? I hear Christians demonizing proposals to reinstate an assault weapon ban and limit the amount of ammunition in gun clips. Can a case honestly be made that these measures are contrary to the will of the God who bore our violence rather than returning it?

There are no easy policy choices to be made here that I can see. But I do wish that we—those of us who follow a crucified King and trust that his resurrection will come to us—would be leading the way in honest, nuanced and critical discussion about these issues.

Much of what seems to be driving our discussion is fear rather than faith. Fear that the government is taking over. Fear that we’re losing our “rights.” Fear that “they” will be prying my Bible out of my hand after they rip away my gun. And perhaps they will if Christians are known primarily as defenders of weapons rather than defenders of widows.

1 Comment

Adam Oliver · January 26, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I would like to say several things before I have time to think too much and become reasonable.
1. You are right about at least one thing, you “are not an expert…”. Kudos for your modesty.
2. There is a degree of sensationalism in our culture.
3. I can’t determine whether the tide of “Christian culture” is more in the larger vein of sensationalism or more in the vein of “let’s never change anything…”.
4. Your argument about the “policing” of evil with force is an interesting one, but I am still not sure how to agree to it Christianly. I am still not sure how Christians can choose one evil (killing your enemies instead of loving them) over another evil of allowing the innocent to be harmed…it presents a moral dilemma for me. I think there is something to the idea that Christian conduct is designed to be cross-shaped, and in that illustration we are supposed to be Jesus (laying down one’s power for others) rather than the soldiers (serving the “national interest” of Rome against what might be termed today a terrorist revolutionary [“he talked about destroying the temple,” they might say, “and establishing his own kingdom”]). I have less trouble with “policing” than I do with war for some reason, as it seems that war is almost never in defense of the innocent and always in the service “national interest,” economic or otherwise. I am also not entirely convinced that the way of force will actually bring about peace, but that perhaps the way of self-sacrifice actually does change the hearts of even those trapped and perpetuating evil in our world (there’s the cross stuff again…). But calling for an army of martyrs to protect the innocent is a much stiffer challenge than an army of armed to the teeth killers…so I am not sure it will catch on (or that I would have the maturity of character to participate)…so those are my thoughts.

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