Why This Christian Will Never Own a Gun

Sign the petition: Christians Standing Together Against Gun Violence.

Photo by twak on flickr

As a Christian and a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) I often struggle with Scripture and how God intends for me to live in the world. Jesus and our faith demands of us to make difficult decisions in life that often stand firmly against our own upbringing, our own wants and, at times, our friends and family.

I believe that, today, the question of gun ownership and fighting gun violence is one of those times.

Trust me, I do not wade into the topic of guns lightly. After posting on this topic here and here, I am fully aware of the passion with which people approach this issue and the subsequent conversations about it. While some would say it would be wiser and even safer to avoid such engagement, I disagree. For if I, as a Christian, cannot find a way to engage in healthy and helpful conversations with those  who disagree with me, Christian or not, then, I am abdicating my responsibility to live the kind of life that I believe God hopes for me to live in the world.

Still, I know that there will be some immediate reactions by many who might react to any opinion that seems anti-gun, so let me try to pre-empt some of the obvious pushback that is likely to be directed my way.  I have no delusions that commentors will, in fact, read this blog before commenting, but for those of you who do and are interested in fruitful conversation, know this . . .

  • When I say that I will never own a gun because of my Christian faith, that does not mean that I am saying that you are not a Christian if you do.
  • I do understand that there is a difference between owning a rifle for hunting and owning a handgun for self-defense. And while I would never own either, my Christian sensibilities are not as challenged by those who have grown up in a culture of hunting as by those who advocate widespread handgun availability.
  • This is not about the 2nd Amendment or gun control, but rather a public expression of how my faith informs the way I chose to live in the world.  There is a time and place for conversations about civil engagement and faith, but in this post, my primary authority is not the US Constitution, but my faith in Jesus Christ and God’s unfolding reality as told through the Bible.

Gun ownership, gun violence and gun control are obviously not new debates in our nation. At the same time, I do think that the ideological, philosophical and theological foundations that give structure to the arguments about guns in our culture are beginning to manifest themselves in ways that are tearing apart the social and cultural understandings that have brought this country together for a very long time. In the name of free speech, we are experiencing a rise of violent political rhetoric; in the defense of freedom, personal interactions are increasingly tinged with violent posturing; and  recent shootings – mass or otherwise – are creating a fatigue that further normalizes gun violence in our culture.

As a Christian, a pastor, a father, a citizen of the United States and member of the larger global community, this is not an acceptable reality, nor does this align with the many ways in which I believe Christ calls us to live. There is much in the teachings of Christ that offer me pause, but in the case of guns, any way I look at the questions of owning a gun and the risks involved to the larger community, it is abundantly clear to me why I will never own a gun.

I first begin with my place in the greater community. I choose not to own a gun and provide an opportunity for the violence that so often accompanies guns because this is how I would hope others would be in the world. Yes, many will label me a fool and accuse me of creating an atmosphere of inviting gun violence into my life, but when it comes to faith, my actions, while defying logic to many in the world, is an expression of my deep commitment to God.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

Secondly, nowhere in Scripture does Jesus give us permission to solve our problems, respond to aggression or even defend ourselves with violence. In word and in deed, we are often called to fight injustice and violence with words and actions that are distinctly NOT violent, even in self-defense. Turning the other cheek, defending with a swordstoning of the prostitute, etc, Jesus reminds us of other powerful ways to respond to those who would chose to goad us into violent conflict. Yes, we do those things out of self-survival and self-defense, and justified by society or not, viewed through a lens of the Christian faith violence of any kind cannot be justified.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

People may call this approach to faith and life absurd, weak or out of touch, but this is where my Christian faith leads me to stand and I consider this posture of non-violence in word and deed, to be one of power, transformation and graciousness. Again, because this is where my faith leads me, does not mean that I think any less of those who decide that gun ownership aligns with their faith, only that I have chosen differently.

I believe is that at some point, people of faith must stand side-by-side speaking together to let the world and one another know that there is a different way to live and respond to that which may threaten us . . . and it is one that does not involve guns, so if you would like to add your name to a “petition” is support of church leaders everywhere who are engaged in importnat work against gun violence, please sign sign and share This Petition:  Christians Standing Together Against Gun Violence.

  • dliner dallas

    Todays events certainly require much prayerful reflection. I believe there must be accountability in posession to the point that if you own and you enable the inapporpriate use of your weapon you become accessory to the event. Absolute banning of gun ownership cannot be debated as it always reduces to the absurd given how many things can be weaponized to the ends of mass destruction.. However grave culpability must accompany your decision to own any known weapon if in any way you fail to protect me and my right to life in your decision to own. Allergy otc meds have greater protections on them at your local drug store. To own you must be licesened in use of, security of, and disposal of your weapon. This responsibility comes before your ability to legally obtain any weapon much as it does with your right to drive a car. Once you own you renew your right to own much as you do your driver license on a routine basis by verifying your ability to know and to comply with ownership standards. The guns often used in these events were obtained by underage or unlicensed individuals because the legally responible party did not secure or properly dispose of their weapon. Consider the training our police have to undergo to be weaponized and how undertrained your neighbor may be. Jesus teaches us so much about our responibilty to demonstrate His love and gift to us while also teaching us how to protect and encourage one another. We cannot enable one another to devolve into a culture where it is so easy to act in sinful evil ways.

  • Jeff_Z

    Thank you for your service Greg.

    After much time away from home, I share your love for peace. On the other hand, God is not a pacifist.

    “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.” (Ex 15:3)
    Fallen or not, “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Rom 13:2) And God uses nations to judge nations. Habakkuk was shocked when God told him he was going to use the Chaldeans to judge Israel. The Chaldeans! A nation even more unjust than Israel!
    I expect the writer of Ecclesiastes was on to something when he wrote, “there’s a time to a kill and a time to heal” (3:3); “there’s a time for war and a time for peace.” (3:8)
    We can love and long for peace, but one cannot read the Bible without recognizing that at times God sanctions violence.

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    I’m a Christian missionary, and an enthusiastic opponent to the Second Amendment. And, I humbly disagree with you.

    These “swords” (Greek: makhaira ) you mention were not used primarily for weapons. They were in fact used for cutting fish, nets, skinning animals, etc. Very similar to what we would call a utility knife today. Yes, they can be used to kill (as all knives and swords can). But, this was NOT their intended purpose. So, while Jesus did indeed command His disciples to buy and take swords with them, they were not meant to defend or kill, but to know that they will be needed in their employ as traveling missionaries. After all, Stephen never once raised a sword to fight off his attackers. Furthermore, Paul, never took up a sword against the crowds that came after him. And, the early church never took up swords against the Roman persecution. So please, I ask you prayerfully reconsider your hermeneutics and determine what is greater: God’s word or some document written by fallen man.

    Peace.

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    Full disclosure: I’m a 10-year military veteran who fought in Desert Storm. Now, I’m a pacifist.

    Bruce – Sadly you will likely receive a lot of flak for your stand. What is even more sad, this flak will come from Christians who are supposed to be a peaceful people. Ironically, it is these very people who are the most staunch supporters of gun ownership and are the quickest to support war. In war their is bloodshed, often times from those innocent people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. They call this collateral damage. In gun ownership there is also bloodshed from innocent people. Since 1980 there have been over 1 million deaths in the US alone from gun violence. This is truly a travesty.

    What made me into a pacifist? The thought that I would be ordered to kill another human being in combat simply because some higher ups told me to. Not to mention that this other human being could likely be a fellow believer and brother of Christ. I adjure all Christians to really consider the cost. What is more important? Some piece of paper drafted by fallen Man we call the Constitution that tells you your right to carry and possibly use a gun that kills people? Or, God’s word we call Scripture that tells us to turn the other cheek, love our enemy, and kill no one?

  • jack burton

    and the once-alive person is just as dead as if it were our hands that were better trained and killed him. Morally and ethically there is no difference between me having a gun or calling a policeman who has a gun, except that now we have purposefully and knowingly created a situation that if indeed, a gun must be fired, the person has a much better chance of becoming dead at the hands of a better trained shooting policeman.

  • jack burton

    Thank you for admitting that it is not the number of guns that make a bad situation. And that having lots of guns don’t make an area unsafe.

  • jack burton

    I asked some of my cop friends if they would leave their guns behind at the request of a pacifist who wanted their help… here are the responses…

    “The loony bin called, their room is ready.”

    “where I go, my gun goes. if one doesn’t want my gun there, they shouldn’t have called. if they don’t want the gun there, and I don’t have a legal or ethical duty to stay, then I’m outta there….”

    “if we went around disarming at request, it wouldn’t take long for the asshats to simply ask us to disarm before assaulting us.”

    “If you’ve called the police it’s because you’re no longer able to handle the situation, or are unwilling to handle it. You don’t get to dictate how it’s handled or by what means. If that’s unacceptable then I’ll just head back out to the car and go check to see if the donuts have been delivered to the gas station yet.”

    “When you call 911, your decision-making has come to an end. You get to decide when to call. What situation requires that kind of help. We decide how to get there and what help to provide.”

    “The only place my gun comes off when I’m on duty is inside the Sheriff’s detention unit at Wishard or the drop-off room at the Arrestee Processing Center.”

    “Most PDs mandate how a LEO shall be equipped while in the field. This equipment always includes a sidearm. Even if a LEO were crazy enough to even consider a request to respond unarmed, he would be in violation of his department’s regs if he did so.”

    I’ll now leave it to the dear readers to determine if Pearson’s request for the police to disarm before responding to his call is “unrealistic” or not in the eyes of the police.

  • kenneth

    99% of what makes your small town safer than Chicago has nothing to do with the guns people are carrying. You don’t have people fighting for control of multi-million dollar open air drug markets or the multi-generation cultures of gang life, or thousands of untreated psychotics living on the street or an overburdened law enforcement establishment.

    I lived in a small town in south-central Indiana for a couple of years and I did feel safe walking around there. I could easily have gotten a permit to carry but I felt absolutely no need to do so. It was much like Mayberry. Everyone knew who the lowlife element was, and if you didn’t get mixed up in their business, there was no reason to ever feel unsafe.

    Now I do live in a Chicago suburb and spend a fair amount of time in the city. I’d like the option to carry, but it wouldn’t make me all that much safer. Most of the dozens of people shot every week in this city are hit in drive-bys or similar ambush situations. Many are bystanders blocks away. What possible use is your own gun in such a situation? It’s just another item for the hospital or coroner’s office to inventory. Essentially 100% of the intended victims of the shooters are armed themselves at the time they are killed. I wouldn’t travel in certain areas of this city if I were allowed to carry full auto.

  • jack burton

    Pearson sez: One of the most typical pro-gun-defense arguments is this one: what if someone breaks into your home and threatens you and/or your family members with potentially deadly violence?

    Jack replies: Yes, we do tend to ask that. Mostly because it happens quite often. And it’s not a matter of playing the odds, it is a matter of valuing what is at risk.

    Pearson sez: Many gun-defense advocates say that having a gun would prevent such a threat of violence from becoming reality.

    Jack replies: I’ve been around gun owners for many decades and I have never once heard such an expression of fantasy from one. This comes solely from Pearson’s imagination.

    Pearson sez: They then reason that NOT owning a gun in preparation for such a scenario is irresponsible because it would equate to a failure to revere and protect life.

    Jack replies: Gun owners tend to leave the issue of responsibility up the individual. But we do consider it prudent to have locks on the door, a fire extinguisher close by, and an effective means of defending the home.

    Pearson sez: Without yet even touching on the Jesus way of doing things

    Jack replies: Jesus was a believer in self defense.

    Pearson sez: there are massive flaws in these pro-gun-defense arguments. For starters, it is the presumption that the MOST appropriate response in the face of being threatened with a gun is to own a gun and be prepared to use it to shoot an armed attacker.

    Jack replies: Some pretty good assuming about what gun owners are supposedly assuming, eh.

    Person sez: Pro-gun-defense advocates rarely ever consider, or even take seriously, the option of “talking down” a person threatening to do violence to you or others; using words to deter violence and/or bloodshed.

    Jack replies: According to research (gunfacts dot into, cited and documented) about 95 percent of all encounters between an armed citizen and a social deviant end without a shot being fired. Pearson is just making this stuff up off the top of his head without any real knowledge of either gun owners or armed self defense.

    When I was confronted by two thugs who wanted what I had I never even pulled the gun out of the holster… actually, they never even saw the gun. That is the type of (real) story I’ve heard thousands of times from gun owners all across the states. Fantasy is fine in the books and on the movie screen. In a discussion of this kind of issue it should be put away.

    The gun owner retains and uses the same identical option to talk someone down as Pearson does without a gun… except that we have another option available if that doesn’t work… and Pearson has nothing. No fall back plan.

    Pearson sez: Another flaw in the pro-gun-defense argument is the fact, that while it could be argued that using words will not guarantee your safety or the safety of others, it can be equally argued that owning a gun and being prepared to use it is also not a guarantee that you or other people who are targets will escape harm or death. Nor does owning a gun and being prepared to use it increase the odds of successfully avoiding/escaping harm or death.

    Jack replies: The only people who bring up that a gun has no “guarantees” are those who know nothing about guns. I have never once heard a gun owner express the concept that a gun is akin to a Harry Potter magic wand, able to cure all ills. Yet, the anti-gun folk bring this up on a regular basis as if we hold to it as one of the Five Fundamentals along with the Virgin birth.

    A gun doesn’t protect me against lightning strikes, losing the winning lottery ticket, and Aunt Mabel coming over to visit for a week. But Pearson’s attempt to make the weak argument that because a gun doesn’t protect in EVERY situation it is therefore not good in ANY situation is silly on its face.

    Pearson sez: As to the argument that calling the police, who could potentially use their guns to shoot and possibly kill an attacker, would make us partly responsible for the person’s harm or death AND THEREFORE passively/indirectly complicit in the use of the very instruments we reject . . . it’s a false argument that’s one-dimensional in its assumptions and conclusions. For starters, it is appropriate to call the police in many emergency circumstances, even life-threatening ones. To do so does NOT condone the use of guns to shoot other human beings.

    Jack sez: But you call knowing very well that the police just may use guns to shoot other human beings. Doesn’t matter if you “condone” it or not. It may happen with or without your condoingness. And a dead person just may result from your phone call. A dead person with a mother who grieves for him. A dead person with a child who will never grow up knowing her father. A dead person who diminishes all the human race. All because YOU called for the police, knowing beyond doubt in your head and heart that this could easily and quite possible might result in a person’s death.

    Pearson sez: To defend life DOES NOT require the use of deadly force with a gun or other weapon (and in the overwhelming majority of cases, police do not use deadly force in carrying out their oaths to protect others).

    Jack replies: Awful willing to play those odds when it is someone other than you with a gun and doing the decision making for you, eh.

    Pearson sez: And when calling police, we can insist that a gun NOT be used. No doubt there are those who would say this is unrealistic. While I disagree with such an assessment, I do argue that it is nonetheless the RESPONSIBLE thing for a Christian to do in such a circumstance.

    Jack replies: For once a poster has almost left me speechless. All I have to say is, what are you going to do when the police laugh at you? Specifically? With detail?

    Pearson sez: All of these flaws in pro-gun-defense advocacy reveal a single driving undercurrent that is patently false: that we have control if we have a gun. Such control is an illusion.

    Jack sez: Dear Readers, who would best understand the issue and concept of how much a gun gives the user “control.”

    Is it reasonable that someone such as Pearson, who never shot a gun, who are dreadfully afraid of guns, who believe that guns CAUSE good people to go bad, who only barely know which end the bullet comes out of, are somehow the people to whom we should take advice from on how well gun owners understand the “control” concept when it comes to being in a bad situation.

    While we simple-minded, misguided, befuddled people with years and decades of military and other experience with guns in all circumstances really apparently have no clue about how to effectively make guns work, and without the anointed ones guidance we will merrily continue to shoot ourselves in our feet, kill our children, and generally screw up society because we never actually learned the concept of what a gun allows or doesn’t allow us to do in these situations.

    Pearson sez: As to how all of this relates to authentic Christian faith . . . Jesus not only taught in words, but also in actions (inasmuch as we accept the Gospel accounts as a guide). And when we consider his actions in the face of an armed intruder (i.e., Rome) who threatened him and his people (which included his family) with violence and potential death, his non-violent response is our foremost example. Did he condone the POSSESSION of the sword? We can argue yes (perhaps for the defense against wild animals). But did he condone the USE of the sword against the human, armed intruder? Absolutely not!

    Jack replies: Conflating individual self defense with the actions and responses of an entire nation is fairly silly. Rome was not an “armed intruder” into someone’s home.

    The kingdom of Jesus was not centered around a national boundary line. Of course he didn’t get involved in the politics of Rome vs. Isreal. He didn’t have a “nonviolent response.” He had no response. And Pearson really thinks a sword is a defense against wild animals? This shows just how little he knows about the subject. If I posted that Jesus actually was a Pict from the British Isles I would be rightfully mocked. But Pearson thinks he can post such things and still keep his credibility. And did Jesus condemn the general use of a sword against the human, armed intruder? Absolutely not!

    The rest is just nonsense. Jesus interacted quite often with military people throughout the New Testement. There is not one case where he said anything remotely similar to the screed that Pearson puts up. If it was all that important surely Jesus would have specifically told one of the soldiers to put away his sword and become a pacifist.

    And Pearson cannot get around the Biblical passages where Paul was protected by dozens of armed soldiers, without a single word of condemnation from the Apostle. It is doubtful that the Sprit would have allowed Paul and others to use such militant passages in the scripture such as putting on the “armor” of God, complete with a sword if Pearson’s view of what Jesus wants from us is reality.

    But as previously noted with Bruce… Pearson can believe as he chooses and I have no problem with it at all. Go for it, brother. Just don’t attempt to interfere with my 2nd Amendment rights to keep and bear arms and we’ll get along fine and dandy.

  • jack burton

    Comparing the United States to Yeman or Somlia is akin to fussing at a person who says that a dog is man’s best friend because you know a putbull who once bit a person. There is a fundamental difference between how a law abiding society and a lawless society work. It’s not the guns… it’s the culture.

    And I like the way you moved from “low crime rates” to demanding that we defend the idea that there is crime anywhere in any measure. Yes, let’s talk about the gun-free paradise of Chicago, Illinois. What… a couple of dozen dead from gunshots just last weekend in a city where it is virtually impossible for a law abiding citizen to own a firearm.

    Tell you what… we’ll ask the average person if they would rather walk the streets at night in gun free Chicago, or walk the night streets in my small town in Indiana where about 20 percent of the adults are licensed to carry firearms with them.

    And BTW… you may not know this… but all those “mass shootings” that you referenced were all done in areas that prohibited firearms either by state law or by choice of the organization. When you get around to finding mass shootings done at gun shows, NRA conventions and shooting ranges let us know.

  • R. Jay Pearson

    Amen, Lauryn.

    One of the most typical pro-gun-defense arguments is this one: what if someone breaks into your home and threatens you and/or your family members with potentially deadly violence?

    Many gun-defense advocates say that having a gun would prevent such a threat of violence from becoming reality. They then reason that NOT owning a gun in preparation for such a scenario is irresponsible because it would equate to a failure to revere and protect life.

    Such gun-defense advocates then have a secondary retort to pro-non-violence folks like you and me and millions of other Christians: would you call the police, who might then use their guns to shoot and possibly kill an armed intruder, thereby making you a passive facilitator of a person’s death by shooting?

    Without yet even touching on the Jesus way of doing things (which I’ll get to in a moment), there are massive flaws in these pro-gun-defense arguments. For starters, it is the presumption that the MOST appropriate response in the face of being threatened with a gun is to own a gun and be prepared to use it to shoot an armed attacker. Pro-gun-defense advocates rarely ever consider, or even take seriously, the option of “talking down” a person threatening to do violence to you or others; using words to deter violence and/or bloodshed.

    Another flaw in the pro-gun-defense argument is the fact, that while it could be argued that using words will not guarantee your safety or the safety of others, it can be equally argued that owning a gun and being prepared to use it is also not a guarantee that you or other people who are targets will escape harm or death. Nor does owning a gun and being prepared to use it increase the odds of successfully avoiding/escaping harm or death.

    Another flaw in the pro-gun-defense argument is that to be unprepared to defend your family with a gun when you and they are threatened by a gun is irresponsible. This is simply untrue. And it goes back to the one-dimensional thinking that says the MOST appropriate response to a gun threat is to have a gun for defense.

    As to the argument that calling the police, who could potentially use their guns to shoot and possibly kill an attacker, would make us partly responsible for the person’s harm or death AND THEREFORE passively/indirectly complicit in the use of the very instruments we reject . . . it’s a false argument that’s one-dimensional in its assumptions and conclusions. For starters, it is appropriate to call the police in many emergency circumstances, even life-threatening ones. To do so does NOT condone the use of guns to shoot other human beings. To defend life DOES NOT require the use of deadly force with a gun or other weapon (and in the overwhelming majority of cases, police do not use deadly force in carrying out their oaths to protect others). And when calling police, we can insist that a gun NOT be used. No doubt there are those who would say this is unrealistic. While I disagree with such an assessment, I do argue that it is nonetheless the RESPONSIBLE thing for a Christian to do in such a circumstance.

    All of these flaws in pro-gun-defense advocacy reveal a single driving undercurrent that is patently false: that we have control if we have a gun. Such control is an illusion. And even in calling police, a Christian’s convictions can (and should) move them to insist against the use of a gun. But again, in this too, we do not control the police any more than we control a perpetrator.

    As to how all of this relates to authentic Christian faith . . . Jesus not only taught in words, but also in actions (inasmuch as we accept the Gospel accounts as a guide). And when we consider his actions in the face of an armed intruder (i.e., Rome) who threatened him and his people (which included his family) with violence and potential death, his non-violent response is our foremost example. Did he condone the POSSESSION of the sword? We can argue yes (perhaps for the defense against wild animals). But did he condone the USE of the sword against the human, armed intruder? Absolutely not!

    The “Bible-thumping” exercise of taking isolated passages and lifting them up as singular banners of justification for one particular belief and/or action is ludicrous and irresponsible, to say nothing of utterly self-serving. If people who call themselves Christians are to be intellectually honest about Jesus’ values when it comes to how Christians are to respond to violent attackers, then we must look at the entirety of Jesus’ ethos as a whole.

    And Jesus’ ethos as a whole does not condone the use of violence in response to violent attack. Moreover, Jesus’ ethos requires that we revere ALL human life, even the lives of our “enemies.”

    Jesus’ ethos is integrated to a radical vision for Life that shines in stark contrast to the world’s failed way of life. Many Christians call that vision “the kingdom of God.” I call it Oneness. To be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, is to FULLY embrace this vision. We cannot “serve two masters.” More to the point, we cannot pursue Jesus’ vision of Oneness while at the same time support the world’s values of brokenness, and still call ourselves devotees of his Way of Love. Because the world’s brokenness — which includes fear and violence, and those attitudes and actions that attend them — is in direct contradiction to Jesus’ Way of Oneness, by Love. And his Way proclaims that the world’s values and methods do not work; they are failures. We have history alone to demonstrate this truism.

    Overall, Jesus’ ethos was a vision for a new way of Life, a new way of responding to the heritage of brokenness that has been passed down through the centuries. To live Jesus’ ethos fully is to embody this new life, not only in word, but also in practice. And to live Jesus’ ethos means we must resist the the old life, the world’s broken way and its destructive means and consequences, even knowing that doing so puts us in harm’s way (as it did in Jesus’ case).

  • kenneth

    On a purely practical basis, it’s a lot less risky to let the police take the shot. Most of them are far better trained than most of us, and you won’t go to prison if they take a questionable shot or hit an innocent bystander. You and I, on the other hand, are utterly expendable to any prosecutor or politician who feels public heat from the fallout of a close call shooting.

  • kenneth

    If high rates of gun ownership ensure low crime rates, why do I not see any exodus of U.S. retirees or young families moving to Somalia or Yemen or the barrios of Brazil? By your criteria, those are the safest places on Earth. While we’re on that line of thought, why is there ANY appreciable violent crime in the U.S.? We’ve got something like 270 million firearms in private circulation, damn near one for every person living here, and the highest rate of private ownership on the planet. As an Illinoisan, I live in the only state in the union at present which does not allow public carry in some fashion. Things like homicides, robberies, carjackings, burglaries – should all be virtually unknown outside of our state. I certainly should not be reading about any of the mass shootings that happen on an almost weekly basis around the country.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauryn.marton Lauryn Elizabeth Marton

    Thank you for writing this. As a Christian who whole-heartedly believes in nonviolence, this post really hit a chord for me. I used to be staunchly conservative and planned on getting a concealed carry license as soon as I was old enough– I treated it as another milestone, much like graduating high school or getting married. I’ve since changed my mind and consider myself a pacifist. I struggle with a lot of the things that were mentioned both in your post and in the comments…I don’t know whether I could ask the police to intervene in a situation that could be violent; I don’t know how I would react to seeing someone I love being hurt; I find it difficult to extend grace to people who consider gun-toting to be compatible with the Gospel. I agree that the issue isn’t a litmus test for Christianity; however, I think I would have to say that following someone as radical as Jesus requires radical action that defies human nature. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that Jesus would mean for us to take his command to turn the other cheek as a command to be consistently non-retaliatory.

  • Veylon

    These are all very double-edged proposed regulations. Who defines what is a “minister”, “rightful”, “improper”, or “religious”? There are very many examples where such laws go awry (or were intentionally malicious) in the hands of zealous or dishonest public officials.

    Are Chamber of Commerce speakers (their existence predicated on the belief in the efficacy of private industry) obligated to hand in speeches to be screened? What about atheist camps? Is Richard Dawkins a minister due to his long history of debate and public support for his beliefs? Nihilism? Buddism? Do Pow-wow chants count as a “sermon”? There’s an enormous amount of gray here in what seems like a simple question and I don’t trust a bunch of government inspectors to parse it all correctly even with the best of intentions.

  • Don

    I’m Israeli, and I will never carry a gun. But then I’m a Buddhist. So I guess it might not count.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rlee.emerysgt Rlee Emerysgt

    No politician or government has the authority or the ability to prevent me from doing so, self defense being called a priviledge is an idiots claim.

    I was lucky, I came upon the incident at the very beginning, that is fate.

    You will notice I also followed up AFTER the attempted break in as how would I have known who the burglar was and his felony record?

    See self defense is not only at the moment of the physical attack. Self defense is also knowing, being prepared, following up.

    Didnt say it was her fault the attack happened now did I?

    See blaming the victim is where one claims oh she deserved it, or what did you do to encourage him?
    Geez, did none of that.
    What I most certainly did was to infer from her statements that NO POLICE CHARGES WERE FILED OR FOLLOWED UP WITH.
    RAPE IS A FELONY!
    You know that they have to separate rapists in prison from the other prisoners? If they didnt, the other prisoners would openly kill them out of hand, especially the child molesters. That is how vile even the bad guys consider rapists.
    THERE WERE NO POLICE CHARGES FILED.
    Penalties: ImprisonmentSexual assault laws regarding rape and criminal sexual penetration usually define this conduct as a felony with serious penalties. Many states have degrees of the crime, such as a rape in the first and second degree, depending on the vulnerability of the victim, the type of force used, whether the rape resulted in serious bodily injury, and whether it was committed with a deadly weapon, such as a rape at gun point.Sentences for rape can range from one year to even life in prison, depending on the provisions of each state’s sentencing statute or sentencing guidelines, the victim’s age or status, and the circumstances of the crime. Some states require a minimum prison sentence or require the court to impose a prison sentence without probation or early parole. In other states, the judge may have some discretion on the length of the sentence and whether to allow the defendant to serve any portion of the sentence on probation rather than in prison.Penalties: TreatmentA person convicted of a sex crime also will face penalties other than jail or prison. Sex offenders normally are required to undergo treatment either in jail or prison or as a condition of probation.Penalties: Sexual Offender RegistrationEvery state in the U.S. has a sex offender registration and notification program. Sex offender registry statutes require that a person convicted of a sex offense register with the sex offender registry in the state where he resides. A sex offense requiring registration is any crime that includes sexual penetration or sexual contact as an element.Registration as a sex offender requires a person to have his name, address, and information about his crime on file with the registry. Some or all of that information is available to the public, and every state has a sex offender web site that the public can search. Being placed on a sex offender registry will have serious and possibly life-long consequences to the registrant, making it difficult to find employment and housing.
    Where is your compassion for the other women whose attack could be prevented as the majority of RAPES is not a one time thing.

    Dont see any mention of useless restraining orders, did she even do that? Civil suit, anything other than deal with the school?

    Pressing charges and following up is not revenge, it is compassion for those who you would prevent from having to go through the same experience as she did. Compassion for helping fix a sick individual, or in some cases, locking said individual up as some are just not fixable.
    That is reality, and only praying doesnt fix the majority of issues in the real world no matter how strong ones faith.
    Sorry she had to endure an attack, never claimed it was not traumatic, never inferred it was her fault.
    Dont like my opinion what I find not acceptable, thats just too bad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rlee.emerysgt Rlee Emerysgt

    She was attacked, and admonishes those who would choose to defend themselves and you dont call that callous, hypocrite.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    COMMENTORS: While I would love to be able to respond to each and every comment, as a general rule, when comments hit the triple digits, I let everyone pretty much have the last word. I do not cut off comments because I hope you all will interact amongst yourselves, but I just can’t keep up with them all in any helpful way. Peace all.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Stranger, if that is indeed your real name ;-) There are also different interpretations of this passage. If you look through the comments, I have shared at least one. We can differ on those, but they are there and I would align myself with many of them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thank you. FTR we have been in ones (in the US and abroad) where we have actually been grateful that there were no guns around. I do realize that this is not the posture for everyone, but it is ours.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Jack – Sorry, not in Chicago. I have fired guns before (handguns and rifles) and do know and believe people can be responsible users. They wil just never be part of my life in any significant way. So, i would totally take you up on BOTH offers. While I do get to Chicago on occasion, alas it is not my home.

  • Stranger

    Those who call themselves “Christian” without knowing the Bible are among those Jesus spoke against. Mark 22:36 guides the Christian to take up arms against evil. For those who forget; He told His disciples – and by extension His followers:

    He said to them, “From this hour, whoever has a money bag should take it
    and thus also a wallet, and whoever lacks a sword, let him sell his
    tunic and buy a sword for himself.

    Swords require constant practice, and are for the strong and the quick. Guns make the weakest among us the equal of the most powerful among the evil. And all the jabber in the world will not change the fact that the lowest violent crime rates in this world and in this world’s history are in those places with the most guns.

    Stranger

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    John, while I might disagree in generally on some of your assessments about evil and violence, I do agree with you about the generally interest of spiritual views. Great point to raise for sure.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for commenting and I think you do raise a helpful point. I was more responding to the persons use of “choice” in some of his comments. A quick questions for you, what do you think about the notion of changing the constitution for any reason? It’s been done in the past? I am not saying that you are doing this, but since you have brought it up, do you think there are times when Christians beging to give equal value to the Bible and the Constitution or is that even a fair question?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thank you so very much for putting your voice and reflections out there! Deeply appreciated.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Thanks for coming back here. I did not delete your last post, so not sure where the “either” comes from. I don’t need sugar-coating, but I also think name-calling and much snark/sarcasm is not helpful to building community. As you get to know me, I am all about vigorous conversations as long as I still feel that my kids can read the comments. My children read these comments and how people respond to one another because I think it gives a great opportunity to model helpful and respectful discussion even if both sides do not see it that way. I think you do raise a good point and def can see how my comments can raise the litmus testing for some. As you will read in comments on my FB Page as as well as here, not all of those who disagree with me felt the same way, so I guess I have done my job of creating just enough tension to cultivate conversation. I think we can agree that we will prob never find common ground on my intent, your reading and the general topic of guns, so I’ll just thank you for staying in the conversation. And rest assured your comments will stay.

  • mike

    Bruce – I don’t know you and this is the first I’ve read any of your work and I appreciate the spirit I can tell it was written in. I have a few thoughts I would like to share and receive your response to.

    The first is to address your preface that you are not defining what living as a Christian looks like for all. The “not judging you” comment, if you will. I am often closed to most peoples thoughts when they begin this way. By saying, “this is how I believe Christ, through Scripture asks me to live” you are saying “so I think you should live this way too”. I would encourage you to be confident in your findings in scripture and leadings through the Holy Spirit. I think is dis-ingenious to say you aren’t judging. In my life i realize that I make judgements all the time – It’s what I do with those judgements that matter. If you aren’t trying to make clear how we are to live there would be no reason to write about it – you would only need to live out your convictions independently.

    That being said – I read on with what I believe was an open heart and mind. I am a gun owner – not for hunting or sport – but for protection for my family. I purchased a gun after a night where I had a man entering my children’s rooms uninvited while I was away and my wife was home alone. I do not hold anger in my heart towards this man or any other person that I am aware of. I did not purchase a gun with evil intentions or revenge on my mind at all. I chose to own a firearm for the reason that you state in one of the responses to a comment on this blog – because I know I will protect my family if I am put in that position. You state that you would use a bat, hammer etc… to do so – that “self-defense is natural”. We’ll come back to that point in a second.

    I appreciated your use of scripture – specifically the passage in Romans. I would like to ask your thoughts on the following line – “if at all possible”. Do you believe this allows for a Christian to use force when it is not possible to live at peace? if not Why would this phrase be included? wouldn’t it just say “live in peace”?

    The way you use this passage from Romans also implies that using a firearm for defense can only be out of “evil for evil” or “revenge”. In this application wouldn’t you using a bat or hammer also have to be considered a form of evil or revenge? Is it possible that I could use my gun to defend my family without revenge, anger or evil intentions? Is it possible that I can love God and others (your Matthew reference) and defend my family with any tool available?

    See the problem is you seem to be ok with defending your family if needed (although not in your original post but in comments you made below it) but just not with certain “tools”. I can only come to the conclusion then that the “tool” – in this case a gun – is what defines the heart condition in self-defense. If you are saying this – and that’s the only way I have been able to interpret it – then you are in fact saying that scripture (because you reference it) instructs us to live this way and therefore your preface is not authentic and is only meant to soften the blow to those who disagree with you.

    Help me understand where I am not clear on your point.

  • jack burton

    True… but two can play that game. He did not say you shouldn’t break your attacker’s arm. And since neither option is discussed by Jesus, then it falls under a much more general Biblical reading that historically does allow for self defense.

  • R. Jay Pearson

    Jesus also did not say that you should break your attacker’s arm.

  • Ben

    Here’s my thought on the link you shared, without having done an in depth study on this pericope myself.

    The fact that Peter actually did have a sword kind of precludes the notion that Jesus wanted them to have knives for food preparation. One can assume that this was one of the swords the disciples presented that were enough for Jesus, though maybe that assumption is a little bold.Peter was obviously carrying a sword in a way that was easily drawn for defense. If Jesus had a problem with that, why did he wait until Peter had injured someone with it to say something?
    On the word used for sword: if the Greek word used for sword could mean knife or dirk as well, even if that word is in all passages that mention a sword, what does that change? When I carry a knife for self defense, the same set of rules come with it as come with my gun. The real issue here is not guns, but is self defense a biblical thing. If Peter was carrying a knife or dirk instead of a sword, that changes nothing about what happened, the circumstances, or what Jesus said about it.

    Here’s my take, again just my interpretation without having done an in depth study:Peter was trying to prevent Jesus’s arrest, something Jesus obviously knew had to be done. Because of the circumstances this does not qualify as a self defense situation to me, especially as Jesus was planning on going without a fight. If that is the case, his rebuke to Peter is not so much about self defense, but that the coming revolution that Jesus was about to start would not be with swords. Salvation is not obtained through any kind of violent means, but only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Peter was trying to prevent that from happening, I think that’s why Jesus rebuked him.
    Another point to mention is that no one’s life was in immediate danger, though it was soon to be. The soldiers were arresting Jesus, not yet beating him or crucifying him. This would equate to someone shooting a police officer arresting their friend and calling it self defense. That shouldn’t fly in anyone’s book.
    Just a few thoughts, again without a serious in depth study, so if I’m way off base someone please let me know, but this makes a lot of sense to me.

  • Simple Truth

    Hello again Bruce, for whatever short period of time you will let my post remain… I guess if I don’t sugar coat them you won’t let them stand…

    In a reply you state, ” this is not about litmus testing christians, but about THIS Christian’s reasons for holding such an opinion.”

    But in your blog above you stated:
    ” viewed through a lens of the Christian faith violence of any kind cannot be justified.”

    You WERE establishing a litmus test – according to you “Christian faith” equals “no violence of any kind.”

    As I stated earlier, in a post you removed, you have redefined “faith” to be your opinion. Violence IS a Biblical response in certain situations.
    Violence in self-defense – Biblical. Violence in capital punishment – Biblical.

    I doubt this post will have much of a life span, either. O well.

  • jack burton

    Walk, the issue isn’t that the police are selected, trained or employed. The issue is that they carry guns and anyone calling upon their assistance does so knowing that the police do carry those guns.

    If it is immoral for Fred the Christian to carry a gun which can harm people, no matter how righteous his motive or cause, then it appears on its face that it is equally immoral for Fred the Christian to expect OTHER people to carry those same guns on his behalf and for his protection, no matter how selected, trained or employed they may be. Immorality is immorality, unless one wants to claim special exemptions that just happen to fit their personal situations.

    If you want to discuss that point I’d be happy to. But the general idea of “police — good idea or bad?” is not really what the issue is about.

  • PshootR

    Luke 22:36 reads:

    36 [Jesus] said to [the disciples], “But now the one who has a purse must take it,
    and likewise a bag; and the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.”

  • R. Jay Pearson

    Bruce, this was an excellent reflection, and one with which I wholeheartedly agree.

    I am reminded of some other words of Jesus: “We cannot serve two masters.” Albeit he was speaking of riches/wealth (a value and objective of “the world”), the principle is profoundly applicable to other areas of Christian faith and practice. And where this subject is concerned (gun ownership, gun use), it’s important for us to ask: what Master do we serve? Can we embrace values and objectives of “the world” while at the same time embracing values and objectives of the Jesus Way (or “Kingdom” as some prefer to call it)?

    In the context of this conversation, it’s important to ask . . .

    Does the Jesus Way of Love condone using, or even being prepared to use, any type of instrument to harm and/or potentially kill a fellow human being?

    Does the Jesus Way of Love make any distinction as to what situations do or do not allow for resorting to physically harmful or deadly responses against another human being?

    I would say the answer to both questions must be “no” for those who choose the Jesus Way of Love as “master” of their lives.

    To carry or bear a weapon in and of itself presents no inherent implications as to how the carrier or bearer intends to use it.

    And where the Jesus Way of Love is concerned, the issue of “guns” or any potentially harmful or deadly instrument isn’t about “the right to bear,” but is about the content of the heart. Because it is the content of the heart which dictates our actions.

    If fear is in our heart, then fear will manifest in our actions. If there is violence in our hearts, then violence will manifest in our actions.

    But if peace is in our hearts, then peace will manifest in our actions. If love is in our hearts, then love will manifest in our actions.

    And any instrument is merely a facilitator of our actions.

    Love is the Greatest Commandment of the Jesus Way, and it is subordinate to no man-made law. Love of God requires us, in faith AND trust, to behold all human life — both in the giving and taking — as His purview alone. Love of Neighbor — which includes both friend AND enemy — requires us to behold all as Beloved of God.

    Ultimately, we must each ask ourselves a question: is the Jesus Way of Love the “master” of my life? Or do we recognize other “masters” as either greater or coequal to the Jesus Way of Love?

    Can we follow the Jesus Way AND follow “the world’s way?”

    Is the world’s way and its interests compatible with God’s Way and His interests?

    Prayerfully,

    R JAY PEARSON

  • Walk

    I’ll let Bruce speak for himself, but let me say that even as a gun-owner I prefer that the police be the ones in my community patroling with guns for protection of citizens. I’m pleased that my city has selected, trained, and employed certain citizens to carry firearms and use them for law enforcement. I think Bruce or I could morally expect these trained officers to respond when a window breaks at 3:30.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Bruce, all I asked is for you to respect the Second Amendment as you do the First.

    Your comparison of the right to arms with gay marriage is a non sequitur. The right to arms is an enumerated right that exists independent of the Constitution, and is merely guaranteed by same. To infringe the right takes an affirmative act by government. By contrast, since gay marriage is not a pre-existing right and has no constitutional guarantee, it would take an affirmative act to make it a privilege in this country.

    Creating a “right” from whole cloth where it never has existed cannot be compared to infringing one that does exist, and that is inalienable. Therefore your attempt at relativity fails on its face. We don’t have to create a non-existent right that is amoral at its core, but we do have to respect an existing inalienable right that cannot be infringed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Haxton/100001173009630 John Haxton

    Ultimately the real problem is this, some are not interested in a spiritual view. Some know only the language of violence, and their use of it precludes a conversation in any other language. I do not for a moment believe that God requires that I give my life to uphold an ideal, when there are others who depend on my life and the work through it for their wellbeing. Further, I do not believe in anything called “gun violence”. It simply does not exist. When someone uses a ballbat or knife of somekind to end the life of another in an act of violence, do we call it “baseball bat violence” or knife violence”? To turn the attention of the violent act on the object is to deny the evil which lurks / lives in the hearts of men and expresses itself through the wanton acts of violence on others to take from them material possessions because they are unwiling to do real work. Let us be honest, some are not interested in Gods love, some are not interested in the love of their fellow man and some are not interested in living peaceably amoung their fellow humans, and I cannot for a moment believe that Gods will on earth is carried out by allowing evil to have free unfettered run amoung Gods children. Evil cannot be defeated by running from it, nor can it be defeted by acting as if it is something it is not.

  • jack burton

    Jon… are you willing to call the police to respond to a situation, knowing very well that your call to them may be the triggering event that leads them to use a firearm, ending someone’s life? Can you ethically, morally and spiritually distinguish between you being the Primary Actor in taking a life, or the Prime Mover in the process? Is taking a life by proxy more acceptable?

  • jack burton

    My question for those who want to “spirtualize” the sword and claim that Jesus was not speaking of a “real sword” is to wonder just what he was speaking of for a moneybag and knapsack. They never seem to quite have an adequate spiritual allusion for those two mundane items.

    And I’ll wait until someone comes up with an definitive answer to just what Jesus meant about “live for the sword” and what it actually means before discussing the verse. But do note that Jesus told Peter to “put the sword back into its place,” implying that it indeed did have a place, and not to get rid of it. How easy would it have been for him to say, “Begone, oh sword.”

  • jack burton

    Bruce.. I see you’re in Chicago. I’ll make a deal with you. Come on over and we’ll have some homemade lumpia and adobo, and I’ll take you out the local range and introduce you in a mature, calm manner to firearms. I’ve taught many beginners how to shoot and even a few pacifists. I’ll pick up the ammo cost and you pay the range fees and gas.

    If you are going to write about a subject, it is best to have at least a little working knowledge on the topic.

  • Pete Sorrells

    And yet… You are asking folks to sign a petition to reduce the “prevalence” of firearms. That would seem to be a direct attack on the 2nd amendment, not just one person voicing his opinion. The petition is solidly on the side of those wishing to restrict access by law-abiding citizens to firearms. While the attacks we all know about are horrific, they involve a miniscule fraction of the guns in this country, 99.99999% of which are never used to harm anyone. “prevalence” is not the issue. I can think of about four or five well- publicized massacres, each committed with two or three weapons at most; but there are hundreds of millions of firearms in private homes in the USA. Far more people are killed by automobiles and the flu. You also ignore the most common scenario: the mere presence of a firearm in the hands of a good guy, often prevents a crime. That shooter in Colorado didn’t go to the shooting range to commit mass murder, he went to a place where he knew there would be no resistance. “no guns allowed” signs create target-rich, attractive environments for those wishing to hurt a lot of people.

  • jack burton

    While sooner expresses himself perhaps inartfully I can understand the frustration he and others feel over what they consider rank hypocrisy on the part of believers such as you. It’s mostly because we’ve seen far too many people who claim to be pacifists or gun-haters who are the first to call the police with THEIR guns to come and bail them out of bad situations.

    We had two really deep-in-the-heart social deviant prison escapees wandering our neighborhood a few years back. It wasn’t surprising to me just how many of my neighbors who swore they’d never own a gun were calling on me and the wife to somehow protect their family from potential harm with our guns, but it was quite laughable.

    It happens all the time in many situations. There are those who can see the humor in it, and those like sooner who just wants people to take responsibility for themselves and states that sentiment perhaps too forcefully for polite, sensitive company.

    But he does have a valid point however poorly expressed. What is the responsibility of each of us to protect and defend our families from harm? What happens when reality hits rationalization?

    Choosing not to have a gun to defend your family is totally your business. But when you involve and invoke the social structure to defend your family in your place, it just might become part of other people’s business in their part of the social structure.

  • Jon

    Bruce,

    Thank you for posting this. I completely agree with you. As someone who is very close to being ordained a Teaching Elder in the PC(USA) and as someone who lives in Chicago, it breaks my heart to see the tremendous tragedy of gun violence that plagues the city (and our world) daily. For me, I could never reconcile owning a firearm for self-defensive purposes with my faith. I sense that if I did own a firearm for such purposes, I would need to be prepared to end a human life, and both my faith and my work in theology lead me to the place where I could never reconcile such an end. I say this not only as one who has done a lot of thought around these issues, but also as a victim of a violent street crime, and as one who spent the last summer as a chaplain for those who spend their lives on the same often violent streets. I appreciate your post, and the discussion that it comes with.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Trying to circle back on this. What do you think about some of the Biblical interpretations of that passage that questions the translations of the greek and his intent of having the swords? http://www.biblestudy.org/question/why-did-jesus-tell-disciples-to-buy-swords.html


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