A meditation on gun control part 2: Toward a Christian response

 

“Can the gospel stop a bad guy with a gun?”

 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”  (Ephesians 1:19-21)

In part 1 of this paper I tried to subtly challenge the reader so that they might look at the issue of gun control with a specifically “Christian” approach. I dropped hints of my belief that as Christians we should not “love” guns for the fact that they may be used for self-defense, meaning that we should not be glad to possibly take life even when guns are justifiably used to preserve life. Of course we will rejoice for the life or lives that are saved, while also grieved at the life or lives that were lost. (I am not saying we may not in any sense “love” guns for sports, hunting, collecting, managing wildlife, etc., while bearing in mind that this should not be an idolatrous “love.”)

Personally, I will readily confess that in my younger days and even today, one of my favorite television heroes is Lucas McCain – “The Rifleman.” In my younger days he was just a really cool and tough guy, but to my adult and Christian eyes he is one of the most Christian TV heroes I know of. I would also have no problem if people just like him inhabited the majority of households in America. Furthermore, if the government decided to take away his guns in order to make the country a safer place I would think they were insane! Of course the majority of gun owners today are probably far from Lucas McCain in moral integrity, justness, and mercifulness. But even admitting comparative moral deficiency, I still think that to disarm them would be insane. The reason is simply because “gun control” would not remove the guns from the “element” of society that prey on others, and would simply make them more vulnerable to attack.

I believe the government needs a healthier view of the law abiding gun owners. Why shouldn’t the government see them as a good and pervasive force of terror to the evildoers because they are equipped, rather than seen as a threat because they are equipped?

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.”  (Romans 13:3)

Obviously the “rulers” use those “under” them to fulfill this purpose, so why not “use” the law-abiding citizens? The only ones set to lose in this scenario are “the evil.”)

So my response to “gun control” is to say that we should take this crisis as an opportunity to reevaluate our contribution to America, and to work toward making it a place where our “rifle”, in regard to using it against predators, may rest comfortably over the mantel. In other words, the problem that “gun control” is supposedly meant to fix, namely killing people, should be alleviated through positive work to change lives spiritually, socially, economically, and in other ways possible. We need to consider anew our responsibility to “seek the welfare of the city.” (See Jeremiah 24:4-7)

The “gun control” the government proposes is simply through seeking to lessen the opportunity for violent crimes by lessening guns. But where there is a will for evil, there is a way. I think the solution is more to seek to lessen the numbers of people motivated to commit violent crimes and so lessen the occasions of violent crimes. The “gun control” of the government is merely external, and is a police state mentality. What we need is a transformative mentality, where people again have internal restraints of morality, decency, spirituality, good society, etc. Essentially, I am saying “it takes a village” not a “police state.” Which would we rather see?

Perhaps we can help to stop a “bad guy with a gun” through the means that were started by Jesus who has decisively stopped the biggest bad guy so that his followers can stop the little bad guys in his house:

“Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.” (Matthew 12:29)

James Davison Hunter has written the following that should demonstrate to us that we do not realize the responsibility laid upon us through the power of the gospel for all the nations:

“The fact is that Christ’s victory over the principalities and powers was a victory over the power of oppressive institutions – the sense that reality is what it is, that all is set as it should be, that the ways of the world are established and cannot be changed; that the rules by which the world operates are ones we must accept and not challenge. We are not bound by the “necessities” of history and society but are free from them. He broke their sovereignty and, as a result, all things are possible. It is this reality that frees all Christians to actively, creatively, and constructively seek the good in their relationships, in their tasks, in their spheres of influence, and in their cities.”

Do we feel like our government is seeing us as part of the problem? We need to remember the saying “if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem”. We need to remember the Josephs and Daniels of the Bible. Their redemptive presences within ungodly kingdoms brought much good to those kingdoms – they became “part of the solution.” Therefore, with such hope I say, may our rifles rest comfortably over the mantel, collecting dust from misuse, except when needed for their better uses!

So with this post I humbly present some of what I, for now, am thinking. I pray that God will lead us all to his will concerning his solutions for the violence in our society, and encourage us all to share the Good News of the Kingdom of Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Please let me know what you think! But please lets “mind our manners” and keep it civil (or I probably won’t approve your comment.)

Shalom

Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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8 thoughts on “A meditation on gun control part 2: Toward a Christian response

  1. Having read both parts, I think you have considered the subject pretty deeply, Bryan. I have some philosophical differences with you, but they are fairly minor. But, hey, you asked what I think…

    The concept of using guns for home defense is deeply flawed, because a good alarm system, one that notifies a security service and is advertised with signage, will successfully deter 99.9% of anyone who might want to break into your home – whether you are there or not. If you are home, and someone breaks in, why would anyone in their right mind want to stay there to defend “stuff”? Always plan for escape routes, as you would prepare in case of a fire. You can call the cops from outside.

    If you own a gun for self-defense and have the misfortune to be attacked by intruders, a number of dangerous factors will be in play. They might get the drop on you, or be better shots than you are, and if you miss with a military-style rifle, it can go through your wall and kill someone next door. Home invaders are after your possessions, not your life, unless confronted with a weapon, in which case you’ve elevated a robbery into a kill-or-be-killed scenario. If you kill, even in a situation you consider justified, you will still suffer from PTSD, because you aren’t a machine. You WILL suffer remorse. Ask any veteran.

    Then there’s the nature of murder itself. By a wide margin, most are committed not by dangerous strangers, but by family members, ex-spouses or people in conflict who are known to each other. If you own a gun, you’ve greatly increased the chances that you yourself will be shot with it. Safe storage is vital. Nancy Lanza didn’t even have a locker.

    I can’t come close to your ability to back up your ideas with scripture, but I don’t believe Jesus would sanction collecting, because it’s materialism. And there’s no sport in hunting with a gun. No animal on Earth has a chance against bullets and infared scopes. If you want sport, learn to hunt with a bow.

    Second Amendment? I’m way more worried about running afoul of a nut with a gun than I am about the remote possibility of governmental tyranny. Personally, I can easily live without the 2A. Fortunately, if someone murders me – I’ll just go home to God. I’ll be fine.

    • Bryan says:

      Hi Invisible Mikey, thanks for the comments and for your civility even though you disagree. In turn I would also like to civilly disagree to some extent with some of your comments. You use the word murder, which by definition and even in a court of law, only holds up as referring to the taking of life unlawfully, which is usually determined by the factors of pre-meditation and malice. I do not believe that it is usually the case that a policeman has “murdered” someone if in the proper line of duty he takes a life. In “part 1” of this post I said we should not be “glad” to have to take a life even in self-defense and I hope that most people that have guns partly for self-defense would be so minded.

      I also don’t think that having a gun for self defense means that you would necessarily kill someone over “stuff.” (Or for that matter, that having a gun means you will necessarily kill them at all – it should be a last and unavoidable resort) But they may be standing in the path of your only escape route or there may be others people in other parts of the house and you may not be sure they can escape. Also, robbers may not want to leave any witnesses behind, so the fact that they are not out to kill you but only rob you does not always hold true. I agree that self-defenders also need to have appropriate guns so they don’t shoot the neighbors, and also that locking them away is certainly most prudent. My reference to “the gun on the mantel” was mainly metaphorical and pictorial due to my illustration of “The Rifleman” and I realized in writing that I should probably qualify the statements. Thanks to you I hope I now have.

      I would like to call attention to the fact that defending life is a form of fulfilling the commandment “thou shall not murder” because the negatively phrased commandments imply that we should do the positive side of keeping that law. So preventing murder, by taking life if need be, is not itself murder and is a form of keeping the commandment. This is not to say that I don’t hear you in regard to PTSD, but most people would probably say it is better to have that than the alternative. I also recognize that people like you are also seeking to keep the commandment by lessening the opportunity for weapons to be used by would-be murderers. Both sides of this debate are seeking to uphold the commandment, but they see different means for achieving the end. I also appreciate your efforts in this regard.

      I do like your suggestions regarding alarm systems since that can and does deter robbers, but I don’t think that method always works and they may be too expensive for many people. As far as your reference to collecting I am at a disadvantage because I collect antique bottles, and if I can find historical or aesthetical value, and appreciation of craftsmanship in what was once something someone threw out in the trash heap, then I can imagine someone finding value in collecting guns.The materialism aspect is another problem and finding balance in that regard is between each of us and God.

      I think the threat of governmental tyranny is a huge issue that really drives this whole polarization, because we divide on gun control depending on whether we think our government is heading that way or not. But we all need to remember that guns do provide a measure of power in the civil order, and to remove them from the civilians gives the government more power. We all should know the saying about what power and absolute power do.

      I hope we are not heading toward governmental tyranny. But on the other hand I think it would be tragically ironic if Christians went to war (and wars always bring more negative consequences than are intended) on the supposed grounds that they were trying to preserve life by keeping the government from taking their guns. The fear though is that if we are on the “slippery slope” we probably won’t know it until it is too late, and then preserving life may be something we desperately wish we could do.

      Ultimately though, we need to do what we think God wants us to do now, without fear of the “what ifs”. I do know that Christians need to be more concerned with working for positive good in our present society, than to be preoccupied with preserving “rights” against future threats. (This is not to say these concerns are mutually exclusive, but the bottom line is that there is only security in God’s will, not in self-preservation.)

      Shalom, (I use this term because it means more than merely “individual peace”)

      Bryan

    • Mike, do you know the response time of the local authorities in your area? 60 seconds? I doubt it. 3 minutes? Possible but not likely. Seven minutes? Much more likely unless you live in a large city….

      So say your alarm goes off. How long does it take an intruder with a gun to come in and light your house on fire? Or shoot you? Or abduct your child?

      Sure, an alarm will scare off a robber, but robbery is only one reason someone may come to your house. What if the perpetrator is on drugs? PCP? Mushrooms? You think sirens or alarms will scare them.

      Five minutes is an eternity when you are waiting for the cops….

      You then list all these “Mights” This might happen or that might happen. I never understood this mind set. Its like not learning to drive because you “might” get into a car accident. Or not going ice fishing because you “might” catch a cold. But the alternative is not being able to get to work, so you can’t keep your job or not catching a fish so you may starve to death.

      Living a life of “mights” is a dangerous thing.

      Lets look at it from a Christian point of view. If you share Christ, you “might” get laughed at or ridiculed. Does it make you not?

      Then you speak of PTSD. Our soldiers are heroes Mike. They give of themselves and their mental health to protect you and me. They know the risks, they know the results. They know what they may face in the years to come. And still they go, willingly. Are you not willing to face those possible issues to protect your family?

      People who are robbed often also develop excessive fear of being alone, the dark, or even leaving their houses. Or on a more extreme note, many women who are raped face long term depression and may even contemplate suicide.

      Which would you prefer, to deal with PTSD yourself or your wife going through something like that.

      Additionally, we have to remember that God works in mysterious ways. Lets say you do have a gun, you do defend yourself and your family and you do wind up suffering from some form of PTSD. It may be hard, but it may also place you in the unique situation of understanding what many of our soldiers go through and put you in a great position to witness and bring the Lord to them.

      I’m sorry but your argument against “Collecting” simply astounds me. EVERYONE collects something. Bottles, Precious Moments Figures, Books, Miniature silver spoons, Movies, Games, Pictures…. the list goes on and on.

      Also your comment on hunting has me scratching my head…. How does a deer have any more of a chance against an arrow than a bullet? Last I checked they weren’t making armor that could withstand arrows…..

      Every government grows corrupt because power corrupts. When Hitler was taking power, many people held the same thoughts on corrupt government that you do now and look how that turned out. I am not likening our current government to the Nazi regime, but I am saying anything is possible, and complacency is what allows corruption and evil to breed.

      • Thanks for your reaction, “edge”. I was offering my thoughts per the invitation, rather than parading my qualifications. However, since you’ve questioned the basis behind my opinion I will reveal that I worked as a crisis intervention counselor, and my clientele consisted of victims of violent crime and veterans. My opinions are based upon my own direct experience. I’m sure others have other experiences though. My opinions regarding how to keep a home safe come right from the police. Alarms work better. They advised leaving the use of firearms to professionals.

        In my experience, use of a gun fired at another human causes more unintended suffering than positive resolution, no matter how you justify the use. Besides post-combat PTSD and all sorts of depression instances, I’ve dealt with cases where family members were shot by mistake, and spouses were killed upon reaction to a noise when the owner of the gun was insufficiently awake, and children being injured or killed when they got hold of a parent’s unsecured weapon. I was called in by local police to assist with grief counseling.

        There are more cases of the wrong party being injured than ones where a gun in the hands of a non-pro prevented a crime. Over the years, I’ve grown used to people being very uncomfortable facing that fact.

        Despite your assumption, I do not collect, and I consciously try and divest myself constantly of material possessions because there are always people who need the things more, or the money they can bring by being sold or donated. I don’t collect books or music or clothes or furniture or even photographs, and I live in a small house and drive the cheapest car I could find. I feel more than a little guilty for owning a TV / DVD player. I get media from the Public Library. At least I use this computer for work and writing instead of social media. I suppose you could call my online writings a collection, but it’s a free site and I don’t pay for upgrades.

        I’m not saying I’m “better” because I choose to own as little as I can – merely that these things had been a cage for me in the past, and for the sake of my own spirit, I have found I can live more freely without them. Because I have little, no one is interested in stealing from me, so it also makes my life safer in general.

  2. Very interesting posts and read Bryan.

    I agree with some of your points, disagree with others, and have some input on things you have not brought up.

    First off, looking at gun control strictly in self defense terms, I would agree, if it were possible(its not as proven by many foreign countries that already have full bans), but if it were indeed possible to fully remove all firearms. I think that yes, we may have a slightly safer society, but not by much. Consider the recent stories in Korea about a nut job that attacked and stabbed more than 20 students in a school. After guns, we need to get rid of knives, then bats, then plumbing itself, then tree limbs, then fists and feet…..

    The problem is its not only about personal protection, its about far more than that, and the concept goes back thousands of years.

    1st Samuel 13:19

    “Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” ”

    It’s about control. Look to more recent history. One of Hitler’s first moves was to ban private firearms. Now I know that you may think I’m crazy to think something like the genocide of Hitler’s Nazi regime could occur today, but that was EXACTLY what was thought back in the 1930s.

    All it takes is one extremist and public complacency.

    They say that only 10% of Germany’s population was behind Hitler, but his speeches, his lies, his propaganda made everyone believe that it was more like 90%

    With a suspected 90% supporting a man who would kill you for disagreeing… most people sat back and kept their mouths shut. As a result, MILLIONS died!

    We are seeing these same lies and misrepresentation today.

    The NY Senate just passed this new “Safe NY” bill. Yet, the senators that are willing to report the numbers, cite that they received more calls opposed to the bill, than for it. (400 calls to 15 calls in one areas case). All of them did. And yet still it passed and in the news they report “Its what the people want”

    More lies to push their agenda.

    It begins subtly, but we MUST NOT become complacent.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    I
    n a world where term limits can only pass by the senate approving it(who would vote to cut their career short) or where the senate votes itself its own raises. We see they have more and more power and we have more and more career politicians.

    We must remember that the second amendment was written to protect all the others amendments and without it, we can lose any of them.

  3. Bryan says:

    Thanks much for reading and your response. I agree with everything you said, and know that your statement “It begins subtly, but we MUST NOT become complacent” has proven true historically. The repeated phrase from “Brother Where Art Thou” bears repeating “….were in a tight spot” only there’s nothing funny about this scene. I also know that people are ignorant if they naively think “it can’t happen here.”

    Someone just this morning posted this:

    “The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. “As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation. ” -Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Publ. Houghton Miflin, 1943, Page 403
    http://jawingjerry.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/sound-familiar/

    I just recently finished reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas where he shows how Bonhoeffer agonized over knowing and following God’s will, and I believe he tried to do the right thing!

    Finding God’s will seems like walking the tightrope with alternate universes on each side of our balancing rod – all we can do is trust that God will in the end bring about his future.

    Shalom

  4. Tony says:

    Hi, I have enjoyed reading this article and the responses that followed. I wonder if we are getting too deep here though. Talking about Christians going to war? Talking about Christians following their own feelings instead of following God? I guess some will always go extreme on both sides of an issue and I don’t think we will ever stop that. However I do not see this gun control issue as being a qoute “biblical” one. Meaning that I do not know of a scripture where registering your guns goes against Gods laws. So there is no biblical ground to defend against this new gun ban law, and certainly no justification to “go to war”.
    With that being said, I think it is a simple “rights” issue. I enjoy collecting, target shooting, and as a retired New York State Trooper, I would gladly lay down my life to defend another, not just a family member either. I am trained in the use and safety of firearms. I have a rifle that my uncle carried when he landed on Iwo Jima. I have an AR15 which is similiar to the gun my cousin carried in Vietnam, and died. That is special “to me” and I believe I have the right to maintain it.
    The sole question about this gun issue to me is, “Do we, as american citizens, have a right to bear arms?” Thats all, nothing more. The 2nd ammendment affirms that and that is what I stand up for. Does anyone think that the citizens of this country should sit back and just let happen whatever happens or should we stand for something? Yes, God’s will will be done either way. I do not think that means we should never stand up for any issue. How about abortion etc.? I do not think it means we should do nothing yet that is what I see us doing. Why do these laws get passed? Because we don’t stand up and say no, it is not right. I could go on, but I think/hope my thoughts came across. Thanks for listening. Tony

    • Bryan says:

      Thanks for the reply Tony and your contribution to the discussion. I certainly agree with where you conclude but I think it is not merely a human political issue, but that it is a biblical issue. Therefore I think it is right to stand on the 2nd amendment not only because it is our right as citizens, but because it is right biblically. It is right biblically because it upholds God’s law to preserve life both at the level of individual self defense and support of life, and at the societal level to prevent tyranny.
      This is not to say that it would be wrong just to stand on the amendment. The only way that could be wrong would be if the amendment rights were actually wrong in God’s sight. But I think the amendment rights are right in God’s sight.
      I also do think it is a “deep” issue because the amendment does have to do with tyranny and it would be wise to not let those that could be tempted to tyranny to have that ability.
      It’s actually ironic because the government that is susceptible to tyranny needs to be kept away from having all the guns, just as the criminals susceptible to crime need to be kept from having all the guns. If guns are taken away from the law abiding citizens, you only open the door for both the criminals and the government to have them all. And that result would probably be anarchy leading to tyranny. (That is sort of what is going on already.)
      But all these threats are why I tried to communicate that our society including (and especially) Christians needs to work to lessen the internal motivations for violence and anarchy, rather than seeking to lessen the external ability for violence through a measure of tyranny.
      (I edited part 2 of the original article to try to make what I was saying somewhat clearer!)
      Thanks again and as you say “God’s will be done.”

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