God and Guns

(Just a short note on how difficult this article has been to write. I started out with a much different approach. I had intended to research the arguments for both sides, and present the Biblical stand for the ‘right side’ of the argument. After six weeks of research, I concluded that there is very little incontestable research or statistics for either side, and almost NONE address either moral or spiritual issues. While I do have a definite opinion about the issue, I’ve come to realize that very devout and sincere Christians can legitimately voice the other side.)

Since the last school shooting, I’ve seen a lot of rhetoric, polemics, and even vitriol spewed from Christians on both sides of the “gun control” issue. I’ve been asked both “how can a Christian not support restricting civilian firearm access in order to protect children?” and “how can a Christian advocate denying the right to protect our families most effectively in potentially lethal situations?”

I’m going to take a bit of a different approach towards addressing the issue. I am not going to trot out the Biblical proof texts to support either side, or cite the loads of statistics and studies used to prove that one side or the other is the only reasonable solution.

What I am going to do is look at the Bible as a whole, lay out some basic facts, and show how we as disciples of Christ should go about deciding where we stand. While dealing specifically with regulation of firearms in the United States, the principles used apply to any contentious debate.

Here are the basic facts:

-) While the majority of advocates on either side take their position out of concern for the safety of innocents, there are a significant number of “leaders” of the position that are using it primarily for political or monetary gain. We must be aware that not everything either side says or accuses the opposition of is factual. We MUST be willing to do some rather in depth research into the topic.

-) Taken as a whole, the Bible clearly states that we are to, at the least, choose violence as a very last resort when dealing with other people.

-) As conceived by the founders of our country, the Constitution as amended is the basic legal document from which ALL other Federal and State laws derive, and any law enacted cannot legally contradict or exceed the authority derived from it.

-) The founders crafted the second amendment (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”) as a safeguard for the people to protect themselves from harm. The Supreme Court has affirmed that although the right to bear arms is an individual right, certain “reasonable” restrictions are acceptable.

-) Looking at the context of the entire Bible, Scripture clearly teaches that protecting and caring for the physical as well as spiritual well-being of first our families and then for other innocents should be one of a Christian’s primary duties.

-) In the majority of homicides involving firearms in the United States, the firearm used was obtained illegally, and many of those as a result of lax enforcement of existing regulations.

-) Almost all of the ‘mass shootings’ in the U.S. in the last 30 years have been perpetrated by people either mentally unstable (and not treated) or by a person on psychoactive medications that have known side effects that include homicidal and suicidal tendencies.

-) The majority of massl shooters are from broken homes, members of violent gangs (including Jihadist groups), or are heavily involved in drug use or sales (or a combination thereof).

These are the basic facts that are agreed upon by both sides of the debate. Notice that I did not include two of the most popular ‘facts’ cited: That most ‘mass shooters’ use ‘assault rifles’, and that all of the ‘mass shootings’ in the last 30 years have occurred in gun-free zones.

They are not included because both sides define “mass shooting” in a way that supports their side, and do the same with ‘gun free zone’. Both positions are true or false entirely dependent upon by whom and how the terms are defined!

Now, with the minimal facts established, let’s take a look at how most Christians approach the the gun control debate – and how we should.

However, before I start, I want to make it clear that when I talk about how people think about the issue, I am referring to those of us who look at it from the perspective of a concerned citizen, and am deliberately excluding the leaders of the various organizations, many of whom have a politically ideological agenda that they are using this issue to advance.

Having said that, let’s first take a look at the reasons why many support highly restricting or outright banishment of civilian firearm ownership.

Most follow the popular line of thinking that since the primary purpose of a firearm is to kill things, that restricting access to them is not only the best solution to protecting innocents, but no other solution will work as well, if at all. Some acknowledge that use of firearms for hunting or personal defense is probably acceptable, but “military style” firearms are totally unnecessary and should be banned.

Christians who support this view will cite God’s love, Christ’s instructions to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love our neighbor’ and other passages encouraging non-violence as refutation of the self-defense argument, and will defend their support of ‘gun control’ by pointing out that banning or tighter restrictions on firearm ownership will certainly prevent the deaths of countless innocent lives, so doing so is obviously the correct Christian stand in this debate.

Those brothers and sisters that oppose more restrictions cite the Constitution, and point out that the Second Amendment prohibits the government from bans or undue restrictions on possession of firearms. Often, they will point out that most criteria given for ‘reasonable’ restrictions are arbitrary or cosmetic and are therefore invalid, and that many more lives have been saved by use of these firearms than have been taken.

Christians who support this view usually cite passages in which we as God’s people are instructed to protect and care for the poor, the downtrodden, and innocent victims, and that those who do not provide for and protect their families are worse than unbelievers. The conclusion is that to deny citizens the tools necessary to stop violent crimes against others and self is to deny them not only a natural right, but the means to fulfill God-given commands. To oppose restricting access to firearms, which are primarily self-defense tools, is obviously the correct Christian stand in this debate.

There are three things we need to keep in mind in order to maintain a position on the ‘gun control’ debate that is consistently Christ-centered:

1. Our Biblical mandate is to show God’s character in both attitude and deed. There is NO place for denigrating or belittling those who disagree with us.

2. As disciples of Christ we are called to stand for truth. As much as possible (we all can make research mistakes), we must graciously, firmly, and consistently show no tolerance for untruth on either side of the debate.

3. As Christians we are called to obey the laws of the land as long as they do not cause us to deny our faith or disobey God’s clear commands in Scripture.

So, having said all of that, it is imperative for us to keep in mind that the issue here isn’t primarily about firearms, and because of that REGARDLESS OF WHERE WE STAND on ‘gun control’, we MUST be gracious and respectful towards our brothers and sisters who may take the opposite view.

I propose that since the legal document that supposedly supersedes all other laws of the U.S.A. – the Constitution – explicitly recognizes the right of citizens to both keep and carry firearms, here is the real question:

“Does the current cultural, political, and spiritual state of the nation make it necessary to either ignore or repeal the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States in order to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, live consistently under His authority, and protect innocent lives?”

How you answer that question will determine your view of ‘gun control’. How you follow your Savior will determine whether you show compassion and mercy to those who disagree, or whether you will follow the present ruler of this age in shoddy research, name-calling, and using both logical and factual fallacies to support your position.

May we all choose the former. Amen.

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