Monday, August 6, 2012

Jesus and Guns

A Christian, to my best understanding, is one who follows the teachings of Christ and being a child of God. Whenever I hear Christians in support of fewer gun laws and in favor of guns, I think to myself, would Jesus, if alive today, carry and own a gun? The answer to me seems to be an obvious no.

So opens an opinion piece that you can find here.  It is expresses what seems to be a common mistake made by many Christians.  It assumes that Jesus is a very straight-forward model for the behavior of Christians.  While it is true that, as far as we know, Jesus never carried a weapon of any kind, that alone does not prove that Christians never should.  In fact, the writer seems to ignore Luke 22:36 where Jesus commands the buying of a sword for those who do not have one.  In context, this is no ‘proof-text’ for buying a gun.  But Jesus does say this.

Christians are not called upon to do everything Jesus did.  We, in fact, cannot, because Jesus was unique in both His being and the work He was to do on our behalf.  Jesus never drove a car (let’s say, a chariot or a wagon, as far as we know) but that doesn’t prove we shouldn’t, even though cars can be very dangerous, and can be used as weapons.

There is also a certain kind of shallowness in the talk about “Christians in support of fewer gun laws and in favor of guns.”  One might be in favor of fewer gun laws and still not in favor of guns.  My best guess – and it is just a guess – is that some Amish might take just such a position.  And, of course, some gun laws might lead to more guns.  Concealed carry and open carry laws probably encourage the ownership and use of guns.  Not all “gun laws” are “gun control” laws.

The writer seems also to assume owning guns necessarily implies using guns to kill people.  This reveals an ignorance of all sorts of gun owners who focus on target (such as skeet) shooting, and gun owners who focus on hunting.

I suppose I am nit-picking a bit with some of these points, so let’s get to the main point.  Is there anything in the Christian ethic that forbids the use of weapons in defense of the innocent?  To say ‘yes’ to this is to confuse the role of the church and the role of the state in God’s economy.  The writer goes on to claim:

Besides all that, and the fact that, if you believe in God who controls all, what situation would you be in that a gun could solve the problem, but God couldn't?

This seems to reflect the rather na├»ve view that God’s control of situation will never involve means that include human action.  Why couldn’t your Christian neighbor who owns a gun and uses it to disable an intruder bent on the murder of you and your family be God’s answer to your prayer for safety?  Do you really think God would prefer that your children be raped and strangled by an evildoer rather than your Christian neighbor shoot the evildoer before he can commit those evil deeds?

While there could be times when a Christian might rightfully forego personal self defense, the kind of ‘personal pacifism at any price’ idea is not taught explicitly or even implicitly by the historic Christian faith.  In fact, if you think Christians are called upon to defend ‘widows and orphans’ (that is, the defenseless) there could be times when such a defense will need to be physical, and will require the use of weapons.  Thus, it is at least ethically conceivable that our friends such as Smith, Wesson, Strum, Ruger, Mossberg (and others) might be useful tools in the pursuit of our Christian duty in some circumstances.

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