Why This Christian Will Never Own a Gun

Sign the petition: Christians Standing Together Against Gun Violence.

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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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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.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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

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

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

  • 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?



  • 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?

  • 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.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.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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Jon


    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

    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.facebook.com/Morrothmor Thomas Muir

    I understand you comments, and I will pray your never put into a situation where need one or have to be protected by one.

  • Heidi

    Like others, I commend you, Bruce, for not making this a “divide” issue among those of faith. That said, I also disagree with some of your premises.
    As another poster mentioned, being armed with a weapon of self-defense was clearly not the issue to Jesus–why else would Peter have carried a sword in the first place? If we were all armed, we would actually reduce violence, if statistics such as the crime rates in Switzerland are any example. Using a gun in self-defense is an absolute last resort, but it is a step that rarely needs to be made in a culture where guns are the norm. In the case of Peter and the sword in Gethsemane, I would suspect that he was not the only one “packing”–it was part of the Judaic culture. What WAS at issue was that Jesus needed to go on trial and be killed as a step of His atoning sacrifice and His ultimate victory.
    I would also draw attention to the 23rd Psalm, in which the writer states, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” The staff was a shepherd’s crook for bringing wayward sheep back onto the path, but the rod was a weapon of defense, not only for the shepherd but for the flock. Ken Bailey once told me what kind of tree is used in the Middle East, and I’ve forgotten the species–but in short, the “rod” is a sapling tree with a dried root ball on it, often with a molded metal end nailed in place over the root ball to give even more “clout” to it. Anyone who threatened the sheep was clouted with the rod–be it a lion or a thief–and knowing that the shepherd would defend the sheep in such a way was a comfort to the sheep!
    Although “Thou shalt not kill” is our standard and ideal, we live in a broken world. We must certainly carefully consider when we need to allow ourselves to be killed without retaliation to make a statement about our faith–but I think there is also a place in a broken world for simply preventing the waste of mindless destruction of life by being willing to defend life that is being attacked by violent forms of it, be they human or otherwise. Sometimes there are no answers that are right in a broken world–when a crazed gunman opens fire in a theater, for instance, we are already faced with a broken situation with no right answers. Would it not have been an act of love for neighbor if somebody who was “packing” had been able to take down the gunman after the first few shots were fired, thus preserving lives and preventing much suffering and heartache? Furthermore, not all wounds must kill–the people who I know who “pack” practice sufficiently to be able to shoot first to wound and prevent further destruction, and would only aim to kill in the most extreme of circumstances. Quite frankly, I feel loved, safe and “comforted” like the sheep in the 23rd Psalm when they are around.
    I personally do not own a handgun–but it is not because of any ideology. It is because I am not adept at using them. I grew up in a hunting culture and own a rifle and a shotgun. But given the way the secular world has gotten out of control, I would not rule out the possibility of undergoing the handgun training that I deem necessary to responsible handgun ownership.
    The Rev. Heidi Smith

  • http://twitter.com/megateer Megan Dosher

    Thank you, Bruce, for this well-stated post on your view on gun ownership that is based on your faith. I, too, come to this conclusion based on my own grounding in Christian faith and understanding. I can see how others, including many of the other commenters, can come to other conclusions, I simply, and respectfully, disagree with them. I have lived in large cities, the suburbs, small towns and the country. In none of these places have I ever felt the need to own a gun. This is not to say that I don’t understand why others in those exact same places may come to other conclusions, but that my hermeneutic on this issue does not arise simply from my geography, nor lifestyle. Instead of considering gun ownership, I prefer to be vigilant in other ways – to be smart about my surroundings and situations around me, to employ door locks, and to know my neighbors. I find that simply by paying attention to what is going on around me helps me be a better Christian, as well as increase my safety – I can see when a child is wandering from a parent, or a person is clearly lost or distressed. Whether offering up a helping hand, or simply praying, paying attention becomes not just about me, but about others first.

    Some may think I am naive, but I have lived on my own as an adult, single woman for a while now, and I have rarely felt in danger, at home, or far abroad. And I will continue to stand on the belief that guns are not for me, especially based on my experience of faith in the world.

  • 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.

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

    I agree and actually I never say that it was. Only and example that we are NOT called to respond to this form of aggression with violence. I will acknowledge that a difficulty when talking about scripture is trying not to bring ones one interpretation in and lay it over another persons’. I chose to not exegete those passages knowing that many would jump to conclusions about my interpretation. There is not much I can do about that. Thank for commenting though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Taco-Picasso/100002634900174 Taco Picasso

    A blow on the cheek is in the nature of an insult, not an injury. Jesus did not say that if someone breaks your right arm to turn and let him break your left arm also.

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

    Roy. Agreed and I do want to point out that this was not about anyone else’s choices, but how i have come to mine. I think the assumptions about people who hold my position are interesting in themselves, so I might disagree with the conclusions you draw. All the same, thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • http://profiles.google.com/exnuke591 Roy Black

    Fortunately you have the right to make that decision for yourself. I think it is a bad choice and encourages crime but it is nobody’s right to force THEIR choice on you. My objection to the Brady Bunch dupes is that they wish to FORCE THEIR CHOICE on me and they are quite willing to do so at Gun Point as long as they don’t have to touch the icky thing and can pay someone else with my money to do it for them. It makes them “uncomfortable” to see someone with a gun because they have willfully rendered themselves helpless and the sight of a gun forces them to realize that fact.

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

    Not sure why you would make such an assumption. Difference of opinion does not mean one over the other. That is your reading, not my writing, in fact I say at the very beginning that my choice does not create judgement of another Christian. I think we can live in a world where we disagree, find common solutions and not resort of unfounded accusations. Plus we can do this with grace, passion and humility. So to answer your question, i do NOT thing they are any less serious about their religion and faith.

  • E. Zach Lee-Wright

    Even the Amish own guns, including handguns. Do you think they are not serious about their religion?

  • rudman miller

    Hey Pastor, you quote Mathew 22: 40, ” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Jesus did NOT do away with the law. In the LAW, the act of protecting innocent life is MANDATORY. It is unfortunate that Christian seminaries do not study & teach the Torah in detail. For if they did, the Christian community would not be so anti-self defense / anti-handgun. The proliferation of handguns in society is by law-abiding citizens for the protection of the innocent. So pastor, you can stand on your pulpit and pontificate how holy you are. I, on the other hand, will carry my handgun and recommend the same to others who are like minded. We will put ourselves on the line between good & evil. We will protect people like you who are too sanctimonious to carry a gun, yet rely upon others for your safety. Shalom
    By the way, I just happen to be a Yeshua believing Jew.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-G-Spivey/830952527 Michael G Spivey

    The prohibition is against murder not self defense.

    He that
    suffers his life to be taken from him by one that
    hath no authority for that purpose, when he might
    preserve it by defense, incurs the Guilt of self
    murder since God hath enjoined him to seek the
    continuance of his life, and Nature itself teaches
    every creature to defend itself.

  • 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.

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

    Not sure that this commenter is interested in dialogue, but I will choose to leave this comment as an example of how I hope us NOT engage with one another.

  • sooner4ever

    Just wait until some drug crazed lunatic comes into his house, beats him silly, and then rapes his daughter. All before looting the house. That is, if the perp doesn’t kill them all first. Of course, you can be sweet and naive all you want. You’ll just get to meet Jesus face-to-face sooner. And when He asks, what you did to protect your family, you answer, “I died.” Good one.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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

  • Heidi

    Thank you, Ben, for your perspective. You sound much like my devout Christian friends who “pack.”

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

    Thanks you for extended the kind of disagreement that I truly believe that we have to have. Can we not disagree even on Scripture and still be gracious and human with one another? I than you for showing that, yes, indeed we can.

  • Ben

    I appreciate the way you approach this and that you don’t consider this issue to be a test of faith. This is the kind of conversation that I wish we could have on many issues within the church, but so many seem to divide instead of unify.

    That said, I have to disagree with your stance and what I believe the Bible says about self defense and the defense of others. Others have mentioned that Jesus told his disciples to take a sword with them, but consider that for Peter to have used his sword at Gethsemane, he was carrying it with him. Why did Jesus say nothing to him before that incident? I believe that Jesus knew what had to happen and knew that a physical fight was not how God would bring salvation. I think this is an isolated incident of Jesus rebuking self defense because of the unique circumstances surrounding it, not a blanket ban on defending oneself.

    Having a gun, even carrying a gun, does not make a person more violent, just more prepared. I have never been arrested, never been in a fight, and I do all I can to avoid any kind of conflict. Several people that know me well call me ‘gentle Ben’. All this to say the following: I carry a gun whenever it is legal to do so and train to use it well, actually feel naked without one. I hope I never have any cause to even pull it out of the holster, but if I must to defend my loved ones, I will.

    A word on that. Drawing my gun and shooting someone would be my absolute last resort option. I would do everything possible to avoid a situation where my gun was needed, would never provoke a fight or even an argument. But if I truly feel that my life or my loved ones’, or another innocent person’s life, was at stake, I would use it in a heartbeat. Never for personal possesions of any kind, they don’t matter a whit to me, only things of eternal value. I would much rather talk to the guy about Jesus, but if he doesn’t give me an option, I’ll do what I have to.

    While I train with my guns in case I have to use them, (I do hunt and shoot recreationally as well), I am also training to be the best Christian witness that I can. I have a BA from a Bible college and am in my second year of Seminary right now. That training is vastly more important to me than that which I do with my guns, but one does not exclude the other.

    I respect you for digging in deeply to this issue and sticking to your guns (no pun intended) on what you feel God is calling you to do. I’ll respectfully disagree and go on loving you as a brother in Christ. I hope this discussion and blog post serves to unify the Church and not divide it.

  • TJ

    I am a Christian and a Church Elder. In Titus, chapter 1, elders are called to be shepherds of the flock, protecting them from wolves. This protection is not just from tainted teaching and doctrine, but protecting the flock as would a shepherd, (i.e. David, Jesus) protect the sheep. Jesus, in righteous anger, drove out the money changers from the temple. Some would say that was a violent action. I say he was protecting the temple and protecting the flock. Wisconsin recently had a shooting at a place of worship in which several were killed. This is not one isolated case. These things happen. You may choose to be a sheep. You may wish to not defend yourself if attacked. I will choose to be a shepherd. I will do what is needed to protect the flock, even if it means arming myself to prevent harm to come upon the flock. My protection against false doctrine and teaching is the Word of God. My shepherd’s staff to protect the flock from violence is a sidearm. I am well versed in using both.

  • Legion7

    Jesus actually DID say “get a sword, even if you must sell your clothes” to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ yahoo-S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ

    A passage that illustrates this is Acts 23. A plot to kill Paul is hatched (by 40 assassins) and he is moved by night to another city. As protection he receives an ARMED escort of 200 soldiers, 200 spearmen, and 70 horsemen. There is no objection by Paul and no comment as to why this is incorrect by Luke (the author). Paul did not refuse the escort and demand that the Lord supernaturally protect him.

  • Simple Truth

    The article above says, ” viewed through a lens of the Christian faith violence of any kind cannot be justified.”

    That is 100% unBiblical. It is unscriptural when it comes to self-defense and it is unscriptural when it comes to capital punishment.

    The author is simply another liberal who wants to promote liberal views and try and stamp “Christian” on those views.

  • 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.

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

    Barry – Thanks for commenting. I think you raise a very important issue with all of the blogging and commenting. You make assumptions about me that I never state. Now i am not saying that I might vote in particular ways, but I was very clear to say this THIS post was not about the second amendment, litmus testing Christians, etc, only how THIS person of faith found his way to this position. Would it be just as fair for me to assume by your comments that you would support same sex marriage because it is about free choice that does not impinge on your status if you are in a male/female marriage or that you are pro-choice. I have absolutely no idea, but I do think it is unhelpful in our larger society when we make choose to engage issues based on things not even said.

  • 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.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ yahoo-S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ

    Does the phrase “Congress shall make no law…” have the same meaning with religious terrorists blowing up whole cities as it did 200 years ago.

    With religious fanatics having the power to gain WMDs, we cannot afford a society with the free exercise of religion.

    My proposals really don’t infringe upon “rights.”

    1) All ministers go through state-provided training to ensure they have a rightful, state-approved understanding of their religion, and what it allows and doesn’t allow.

    2) Sermons are submitted 1 month in advance to be screened by authorities for improper topics.

    3) Children are impressionable and may not know the difference between reasonable and unreasonable religion teaching so they shall not receive any religious training until the age of 18.

    By following these simple regulations we can certainly put a stop to not only all suicide bombers but also abortion clinic bombers and those who would stand in the way of society moving forward on important issues such as gay marriage.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Then, perhaps while you’re exercising your right to practice your religion unimpeded any way you wish, you will be so kind as to respect our right to exercise our right to arms any way WE wish.

    Sound fair?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tec-Sg-Beatty/100003397673038 Tec Sg Beatty

    Christains should stand together, but not against “gun violence”. They should stand together against ALL UNJUST violence.
    Pastor, I believe you do a disservice by not attending to the Righteous defense of innocent life, as written in the Book.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ yahoo-S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ

    Bruce… I have no problem with your personal convictions about most anything. I have Christian friends who won’t go bowling or to baseball games because they serve alcohol there. So be it.

    As long as you don’t attempt to interfere with my right to keep and bear arms I will never interfere with you and your beliefs. The moment you choose to attempt to decide through the political or legal system what is best for me and mine, well, then you’ve moved to personal to public… and that opens you up for me to raise holy hell down upon you (metaphorically speaking, of course.)

    Be as persuasive as you want on the concept of what you consider proper Christian behavior. Just don’t cross the line into political activism on the subject and we’ll be jake.

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

    I think you lift up a good passage to wrestle with. What do you think about this interpretation? http://www.biblestudy.org/question/why-did-jesus-tell-disciples-to-buy-swords.html

  • me

    Luke 22:36 New King James Version (NKJV)
    Then He (Jesus)said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”Sounds like Jesus wants us to be prepared………

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

    I will go ahead and agree with you on this. I am nowhere near consistent with my faith and my life. Good golly, that is a long list of ways you could point that out. Still, as all people of faith do, we do our best to make good choices in life that are grounding in the ways we feel that God is calling us. In this case, as I say in the post, this is not about litmus testing christians, but about THIS Christian’s reasons for holding such an opinion. I am very careful not to condemn other for making different choices . . . the whole stoning of the prostitute passage comes to mind. All the same, thanks for commenting.

  • jack burton

    Blair, I have a number of firearms that I’ve had for decades and have sent many of thousand of bullets through them. The dealers obviously and willfully sold be defective guns because not a single one of the has ever “killed” a single thing. I have all my receipts still. Do you think it is too late to take them back and ask for my money returned?

    BTW, if my sister uses her gun to hold a person at bay who is breaking into her home, and it turns out that he is a serial rapist who has harmed many women in the community, how does this not quality as “contributing positively to the life of a community.”


  • Heidi

    Um…feeding a hungry family?? Growing up, oftentimes we would have gone hungry had it not been for the combined efforts of my mother’s garden and my dad’s gun, which not only brought home meat but also defended the garden!

  • Ben

    Not true at all my friend. I have fired many thousands of rounds and I have never done so at a person. I hunt, shoot trap/skeet/sporting clays, and target shoot on top of training to use my guns defensively. Firearms may be more efficient at killing than a hammer, but both are still just tools in the hands of an operator.

  • Blair

    Except a hammer has alternative life giving uses, namely to hit nails. It is not primarily intended to kill. So it is with the other items listed: knife-cooking, baseball bat-playing, rocks-building, fists-too many to list. All of these objects have the possibility of contributing positively to the life of a community. Guns on the other hand have no other purpose than to kill.

  • Simple Truth

    Excellent point. If the author is going to be consistent, he should never own a hammer, because people have murdered people with a hammer in the past and will do so in the future. People have murdered people using automobiles – guess he can’t own one of those either. The list goes on and on.

  • cypress

    Using a gun in self defense is not about revenge. It is not “repaying evil for evil”. It’s about stopping the violence right then and there. Singling out violence by the tool used to commit it is foolish, whether by gun, knife, baseball bat, rocks, fists, dead is just as dead. There is a difference between murder and killing. I’m still going to carry, because stopping evil is good and it just makes sense.

  • http://twitter.com/MommyMergent Susie Shaefer

    This might be one of the most thoughtful questions I’ve ever seen in the context of gun rights/gun control conversations. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rich-Haynes/100000145346677 Rich Haynes

    Protecting life is good. Not protecting life in the face of evil is bad. What are the best tools for protecting life?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Miguel-Gonzalez/1559615087 Miguel Gonzalez

    Call me silly, but as a gun owner and a Christian, I am against all violence against the innocent. “Gun Violence” reeks of Pharisee-Speak trying to uselessly put a fast one through Our Lord. He ain’t buying.

    “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I
    am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like
    this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I
    Luke 18:11-12

  • jack burton

    Those sneaky little human emotions tend to disagree often with what we “think” or “believe” we should be feeling. :-)

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

    I think we may differ on the understanding of grateful. When anyone dies, I do not believe anyone should be grateful. Relived maybe, but grateful never.

  • Chas

    I have a sneaking suspicion that you would be grateful if you or your family were to ever benefit from someone else being a gun owner.

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

    Walk – Thanks for commenting. You are def correct, that is why I made sure to list those three “disclaimers” at the beginning. My choosing to not own a gun, is not really about my judgement of others, their faith or their context. My greatest hope in this post was to exhibit a tone of honesty and grace that would hopefully inspire thoughtful discussion. From the tone of some of the comments, it’s about 50/50 and i think you for being part of the grace-filled 50 :-)

  • Barry Hirsh

    Exactly. No matter where you are, dead is dead.

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

    Ownership makes even more sense in urban and city environments where the violence is even more concentrated and the police are still incapable by ruling of law, and reality of defending the individual civilian (only solve 8.06% of all violent crimes on avg), many times response times can be hours.

  • Walk

    Thanks, Bruce, for another thoughtful essay/blog post. Don’t underestimate the vast difference between rural, urban, and suburban life. I’ve been a ‘country preacher’ in a very rural area, where many, especially the poor, hunt to supplement their food. One law enforcement officer may patrol an area of 100 square miles or much larger and not be available when you need them. Gun ownership makes sense there and it is not just heritage.

    There is also a huge difference between families with children and those without. I did not own a handgun while I had children, especially teenage boys, in the house. Now I do. We also did not have a swimming pool until the children were very good swimmers.

    I think your theology is shaped more by your urban context than you realize.

  • Simple Truth

    Old Testament – killing another in self-defense is totally acceptable. New Testament, Jesus told his disciples to buy a sword – and Jesus didn’t say to hang it on the wall as a conversation piece.

    It’t not about your faith, because faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

    You are standing on your opinion and calling it faith.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ yahoo-S3YJDPIC7MDN7F43RFNPXPG5JQ

    Alcohol is being used by law abiding citizens who then kill theirs and other families when driving drunk and other situations. People are dying all over the world because of alcohol. Yet, because you want your dinner cocktail, or a glass of wine, or a beer after you finish mowing the lawn, those deaths will continue.

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

    Yawn, yeah right, firearms are the root cause of violence.

    Mental health experts have reviewed this endlessly.

    A minor mental illness that believes an inanimate object has the supernatural powers to load, aim, and fire itslef is a FETISHISM.

    However, this minor mental illness can become much more evolved, where the belief said inanimate object now has the supernatural powers to speak and use esp to force a person in close proximity to commit a violent act. These people who hear voices and must obey are for the most part locked up for being the loveable and violent schizophrenics they are.

    Based on your statement, you are like the Holmes and Loughners of the world, someone has not done their civic duty to notify the local authorities and have you committed.

  • http://www.digitalundivide.com/ Android Guy

    Guns are being used by law abiding citizens to kill their families. People are dying all over the world because of guns.

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

    Here is an interesting interpretations. There are others like it. http://www.biblestudy.org/question/why-did-jesus-tell-disciples-to-buy-swords.html

  • Lindsey

    I would say that I agree with you about 90% but I wonder what you make of this part of Luke 22 because it’s been brought up to me in discussions such as this:

    35 He [Jesus] said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’
    36He said to them, ‘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.
    37For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled
    in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is
    written about me is being fulfilled.’
    38They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’

  • heydoug

    A excellent article on the other side to the story:

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

    If people are honest do you not think that EVERYONE proof texts to some extend. Pretty much any position on any topic can be supported by Scripture, and then we each must decide upon what we build our faith. I am okay with that as I believe that some who disagree with me to keep woman silent, for instance.

  • LM

    Proof texting, anyone?

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

    Thanks. Yeah, the hypothetical game is a losing endeavor. It is also really interesting that, while I say this is my position and in fact do not judge Christians, hunters, etc. for their choices, people still make it about them. Ah well, wrestling with this stuff out in the open is better than not doing it at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RevClay Clay Thomas

    Look at you. Choosing to live on Kingdom of God terms and not the world’s terms. It’s interesting how quickly the conversation always shifts to hypothetical. It’s troubling how justified we feel in our need for (false) security. The saints who have gone before us and among us cared first about imitating Christ. I can’t see the truly human, truly divine popping a cap in someone. Thanks for carving out a little room for hunters. Might just get a little venison jerky for your kindness.

  • Ken3

    Romans 14 clearly applies to the question of “To what degree do we use these weapons?”. Bruce, I believe this solves your personal hesitation to judge others, and drives your early points home quite neatly. A citizen of Chicago, for example, has little need to save his best sheep from a coyote attack – although one in rural Illinois might differ. Each must do with his full heart what glorifies God, and we snowflakes here in creation have different functions and abilities to do so.

  • Peace4All

    Preach!! AMEN and Hallelujah! I’ll stand with you! This describes my exact same feelings on the subject!

  • 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

    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?

  • http://notes-from-off-center.com/ Andrew Tatusko

    Thank you for citing the Orthodox position. The Patriarchs following the long legacy of the saints and early church fathers forbid violence for violence. It is a calling of askesis when violence is enacted upon us. To pray for those who persecute us. That being said, if I saw my children physically beaten in front of me and could put down the person doing so, I would. I grieve that this is my position and would hope that grace would overcome violence. Indeed there are numerous cases where prayer has stopped violence and defeated evil before any act of violence takes place. That is the first option to protect myself and my kids. However, I cannot in good faith say that I would not do whatever is necessary to protect my children.

  • brambonius

    this is what the native Christians of Syria say about arming people…http://paxchristiusa.org/2012/08/18/reflection-patriarch-gregorios-iii-blessed-are-the-peacemakers/

  • Jeff_Z

    Full disclosure: I’m a Soldier.

    Bruce, Have you reflected on what your position would be if you were a native of Syria?

    Frankly, it’s easy to not own or even want a gun in this country.

    Also, it seems pretty clear that God expects his people to take care of the weak. When many of the Scriptures were written, weakness was personified by the widow and the orphan. However, the weak are many. Are Christians in the U.S. in a position to advocate for the oppressed in Syria? Should they? With violence?

    Absolutes, like the title (“never” owning a gun), should cause us to pause and say is there never a role for the gun? Or for the rock that God commanded to stone the guilty? Both can be tools for justice or evil.

    I’m reminded of the writing of C. S. Lewis, “It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses – say mother love or patriotism – and others, like sex or the fighting instinct are bad. All we mean is that the occasions on which the fighting instinct or the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent than those for restraining mother love or patriotism.”

    Can violence never produce good?

    Can non-violence ever be evil?

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

    And I commit to being gracious even when it is not extended back to me. Def difficult sometimes for sure..

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    Your graciousness in response to disagreement is encouraging. Thank you.

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

    While there is much that I might take issue with in your assessments and assumptions, I’ll sign off as you did and say . . . respectfully received.

  • Pete Sorrells


    As a Christian brother it so saddens me to see your post. You are claiming a few scriptures to support your position, while ignoring all the rest of scripture which supports self defense, protecting the innocent, defending against atacking armies, in which the citizens themselves had to do the fighting. The Mosaic law is clear on self desense. Indeed, you are ignoring the fact that the twelve disciples – Jesus’ closest friends- owned swords. If they had walked the earth a few thousand years earlier, I suppose they’d have used sticks and rocks. If they were walking the earth now instead of two thousand years ago, they would be carrying guns – the technology of the day. And He did not speak against them – He told them to bring the swords along on their second mission. To argue against one’s right to self- defense is not logical, and is not supported by scripture. Turning the other cheek is in response to a strike – not a violent, deadly, evil attack on you or your family. In fact, your blog seems to indicate that even police (many of whom are also Christians) should never shoot a criminal to protect innocents. You might want to envision just what you would do when a drug-crazed, serial killer/rapist comes through a window of your home to rape and murder your own family. You might want to also consider the scripture that says if you don’t take care of your own family, you are wose than an unbeliever. (no offense intended). Owning a firearm and being trained to use it to defend one’s family and other innocents, does not make one a violent person. Quite the opposite. If you or I had been in the theater in Coloado, watching dozens of people die, would it not be better to save them by stopping the bad guy? That is stopping violence, not creating violence. Respectfully submitted.

  • jack burton

    Sarah… why do you “think ending a life is always wrong”? I ask that out of real lack of understanding on my part about that kind of mindset. I can understand that ending a life should not be done lightly, or without reservation, or callously, or brutally, or for kicks, or for shallow reasons, or for when not necessary, but “always wrong” seems so far to the side of the scale that it lacks, for me, reasonableness. Help me out here.

    For a real life example we can turn to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado.


    A social deviant deranged person came into the church, shooting and killing multiple people. A church member, Jeanne Assam, who was legally carrying a handgun and who had approached the pastor that morning and asked if she could provide security because the shooter was known to be in the area, fired her weapon at the shooter, wounding him enough so that the other people were able to escape. Her pastor credits her with saving “over 100 lives.”

    Assam did not kill the shooter, he took his own life with his firearm. However, her bullets could have just as easily killed him as wound him. It was the merest happenstance he was not killed by her, if they had been in a slightly different place. Do you feel she was “wrong” in stopping the shooter by firing at him to kill him? Do you consider the 100 lives she potentially saved as a less-than-acceptable trade-off for the life of the shooter?

    Because we are dealing with a real situation here then “could haves, should haves, and would haves” really have no place. We cannot change reality to reflect our desires, and say that she should have sprayed him with pepper spray, or that maybe a bunch of guys could have jumped on him or in a better world he would not have had a gun in the first place. What happened, happened.

    Was Assam “wrong” in shooting at the shooter with her firearm?

  • Sarah Moon

    I agree. I’m a pacifist too, and very strongly so. I don’t believe in killing in any way. However, I escaped from an abusive relationship by punching him in the face. He was hurting me really badly and was so much bigger than me I couldn’t have non-violently escaped. I used to feel guilty for acting violently, but now I don’t. I think ending a life is always wrong, but when someone in power is using their power to abuse someone who’s not in power, I would caution against taking a legalistic approach to pacifism by saying that the person being abused cannot use some degree of force to escape. I think Jesus would say, to a person being abused, “Neither do I condemn you.” Our Christianity, even our pacifist ideas that stem from it, should never work to empower oppressors and hurt the abused.

  • Sarah Moon

    Amen Bram! American meritocracy at it’s finest…

  • brambonius

    God helps those who help themselves has nothing to do with the bible, and might be Americanism, but it’s pure herey…

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Matt. 5:38-39
    Matt. 5:43-48
    Luke 6:27-28
    Matt. 26:52
    Matt. 5:9

    Any of those help? What verse did you find “God helps those who help themselves” in? I can’t seem to find it in my Bible.

  • http://www.mycultlife.com My Cult Life

    That makes sense. At the time I left my cult, my parents said to sue them for wages lost (I wasn’t paid for 70+ hours of work each week) and I refused, believing they wouldn’t ever purposefully hurt me. I would’ve probably done the same thing unless someone talked me out of it.

    I tried a Catholic church for awhile…it was definitely easier for me to handle but nothing quite stuck. So I just didn’t force it. I grew up in a conservative area where many of the churches are fundamentalist, but even in this area I now live, I find myself so relieved I can sleep in on Sunday mornings. Or just wake up early and have coffee. There’s something really restrictive about even my “quiet” time back then. For example, now, I’ll go sit at the beach and attempt to meditate and it’s a lot easier (finally) not to be wrought with guilty thoughts about myself. I was constantly plagued by what I did wrong, even when I was a very pious young woman. It’s so strange. I doubt I’ll ever fully make sense of it.

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    They asked me if I wanted to report him, and I said no (believing that’s what I ought to have done). It was a non-religious community college.

    I haven’t on-purpose read my Bible in quite some time. I’ve also stopped going to church. Panic attacks ensue when I do, though church seems to be easier nowadays, depending on the church. I live in a liberal state, but the most conservative part of that state, so finding a church that isn’t fundamentalist in some way is rather difficult.

  • http://www.mycultlife.com My Cult Life

    Perhaps I read it wrong…Thanks for clarifying/sharing the rest.

    So, the school never reported him to the police? Was this a religious university?

    To your point of interpreting the Bible literally based on your upbringing, I have a really similar problem and I’m sure countless others do. In my case, I stopped reading the Bible “until it could become less painful”. For me, that day never came and I’ve refrained from reading it, listening to similar music as I used to, going to church, etc. I found it was all very triggering for me and remained so until recently.

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    I guess I wasn’t as clear as I thought I was. When I said I was in tears in the dean of students office because of the “turn the other cheek” conviction I had, I assumed that people would understand that the belief was psychologically damaging to me.

    Rather than take further time to explain, I’ve written about my assault here:
    http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/sculpture/ and mental, emotional, and physical repercussions here:
    http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/o-god-the-aftermath/ Long story short, I was told he would be suspended for one semester – if that actually happened, it was during the “summer semester.” The assault occurred in the spring of 2006, and he was back that same fall. I had to see him 3-4 days a week, passing in hallways.

    I, too, have heard many people advocate that women in particular remain in abusive relationships. I disagree wholeheartedly.

    A big portion of my problems with interpreting the Bible lie in my upbringing and how I was taught to interpet the Bible. It’s difficult (bordering on impossible) for me to read things in any other way than literal. So to me at the time, turn the other cheek and love your enemy literally meant to me that I could not do anything in my defense (never mind that I physically could not).

  • http://www.mycultlife.com My Cult Life

    With all due respect, I think it’s not so much a personal attack as it is an inability to understand your argument. You are, of course, entitled to utmost respect, but we are in a discussion where we need to be able to understand other sides and opinions.

    I think what’s unclear (and perhaps frustrating) is that your comments make it sound as if you would feel morally obligated to lay there and not defend yourself if an assault happened again (of any type). I think there should be a distinction between having a physical response that causes paralysis and having a feeling of being compelled by the bible to lie there and “take it” because it’s your duty.

    Here’s why I have a hard time understand this…it becomes cloudy when you bring other sexual violence and domestic violence into the picture. Some people use this to defend abusers, like a pastors wife I once knew. She told me that my mom should “be a better wife” and “submit” when my father was hitting her. I simply think that’s irresponsible and very, very wrong.

    I do sympathize with you, though, as I understand from your comments you’re still working through these thoughts and emotions. I think most of us just wish to protect you. :)
    Was there a conviction from the school from your abuser?

  • Sarah Moon

    Have you read Shane Claiborne’s “Jesus for President?” I really love how he breaks down the “turn the other cheek” passage as a way of asserting your humanity against oppressors, rather than as a way of passively submitting to abuse. I think I’ve blogged about it before but I might have to do it again.

    Alright, now I’m gonna go say some things to this Rlee person. WOW.

  • 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.
    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.
    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.

  • Sarah Moon

    I can’t even believe how horrible this comment is. Victim-blaming while throwing your own privilege of having the means to defend yourself in a situation in her face. Get over yourself, man.

  • 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://twitter.com/graceishuman Grace

    This is an astoundingly callous and ignorant response to someone who has just shared her experience of sexual assault with you and all of us. I’m truly glad that you were there to defend your mother and able to do so, but to see that as a reason to pat yourself on the back and to sneer at survivors who have had a different experience is contemptible. Have some respect.

  • http://www.mycultlife.com My Cult Life

    This helps clarify…I don’t think it’s victim-blaming so much as a misunderstanding.

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    You have absolutely zero comprehension of what I was saying. At all. I did my utmost to respond to you with respect, and your reply is absolutely laden with not only disrespect but mocking contempt. Your demonstrated heartlessness astounds me.

    Yes, by being physically and physiologically unable to fight back during my assault, I “chose” to be a physical martyr. Get in line with the multitude of people who tell me that I ought to take blame for what happened to me. I’ll repeat what I have already said in this thread: I was physically restrained and could not fight back. Could not. To put a finer point on it, someone had to literally come and physically pry his arms and fingers off of me.
    If you took the time to actually read my original comment, you’d understand that I am CONFLICTED. Which means that I have not come to a conclusion, which means that pacifism AND fighting back have equal sway in my mind, precisely because of what happened to me that day among many other occurrences. I was asking the author for clarification, for input. If pacifism is always right in every circumstance, I need to be convinced. By virtue of needing to be convinced, that means I remain UNCONVINCED that pacifism is always the answer.

    I never mentioned the environment. Red herring.

    I did address free will, saying that no one has been claiming to try to enforce control over someone else’s free will. Frankly, this is also a red herring and has no bearing on the discussion.

    There is so much I want to say, but there is only so much victim-blaming, mockery, and disdain I can take, particularly from someone I would normally expect to have the compassion of the Lord we both claim to love and serve. I understand that this is a subject about which you are very passionate. I only hope that your passion does not obscure or become more important to you than the people you address.

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

    Yawn geez, all that describes is a response to a verbal attack on your faith, nothing more, try again!

    Yet you cant refute the truth of God helps those who help themselves. Sitting around praying for a miracle when all one has done is pray is utter hypocrisy and trust me, have seen too much hypocrisy of so called righteous people hiding behind the veil of religion.

    Conveniently didnt address controlling free will, just as well, no one can.

    You can choose to be a physical martyr, not I. Yet I go to my end with a clear conscious regardless of that choice.

    One fine June day in 1983, I stopped by my parents to drop some groceries off during lunch time and as I walked in, I heard my 5’1″ 100lb mothers dynamite going off yelling (usually reserved for yours truly when I yanked her chain too much, kinda onery when younger, lol). As I peel around the corner into the living room, there is a rather intimidating 6’2″ 300+lb monster trying to break in the sliding back door.

    I hollered for him to leave and he responded with an FU and continued his effort.

    Now even being just out of the USMC and in great shape, telling me to FU in my families home really wasnt very smart. In the seconds of seeing this man, I decided I had no wish to engage this monster in hand to hand as I did not have suprise to offset some of his obvious size and strength advantages. My old hand to hand instructors drilled this irrefutable fact, in hand to hand, if you can engage them, they can engage you and unlike hollywood fantasy, your opponent will get a piece of you, maybe even get lucky and win. You willing to risk those you love on a what if chance, I am not.

    If I have the advantage in a hand to hand situation, the opponent will be visiting the emergency room at best. But less likely the older I get.

    Instead, I pull my 4″ Model 29 custom .44 mag out and whipped it up right on his nose as I started to squeeze the trigger. Funny how I had to break the then law of no concealed carry in order to protect my mother.

    Never saw anyone that size, run so fast while crapping their pants.

    Come to find out this guy had a lengthy felony rap sheet with numerous violent assaults on women.

    Where were the police? Oh thats right, they only get there as a rule to clean up after the crime is committed. Besides, by law they are not legally liable to protect the individual civilian.

    So you infer due to your experience that I should have just sat there and let that monster break in and attack as someone who gets caught trying to break in and doesnt then turn away isnt intent on just robbing you.

    No doubt in my or my families mind that I saved my mother from a viscious attack that day, maybe even death. Did I have time to pray and wonder how this would turn out, no.

    Did not wait and pray, I helped my mother.

    So pardon me if I dont think too much of those whose only response to a physical attack is to turn the other cheek.

    Stockholm syndrome comes to mind in your case.

    Bans and controls on morals have never worked.

    As to environment, lol, uh better get rght on that fixing the seven sins of man, one parent households, drugs use, cartels, gangs, greed, lust, envy, avarice, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, as that is the environemntal training grounds for violence.

    Controls on firearms that do not work to begin with and being that the BATF/Govt refuse to enforce the background checks (less than 1% of the time etc, etc, etc, etc), yet a few misguided zealots claim they are the BIGGEST problem, all without facts to defend their position.

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    Luke 6:29 – “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also…”
    Matthew 5:43-48 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    There’s actually nowhere in the Bible where it says that God helps those who help themselves. That originated with Aesop’s Fables, though it’s commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that we want to control free will so much as create an environment in which the ability to easily cause physical harm to another person is lessened. Whether this affects the desire to cause physical harm remains to be seen, though I suspect that it won’t do much.

    I’m also unsure why you’re directing this response to me. Are you saying that my inability to fight back against my attacker means that I wasn’t helping myself and therefore God didn’t help me?

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

    Explain again where the bible explicitly says you are to be a physical martyr?

    I was always taught God helps those who help themselves!

    Free will, the right to choose.

    Since God can not control free will, otherwise everyone would be righteous gentle beings guaranteed to go to heaven, explain again how mere mortals intend to control free will?

  • http://twitter.com/RevGmoney Halos Sweep Red Sox

    Thanks for this Stitchy…

  • Heidi

    Bruce, I think the “turn the other cheek” passage is often mis-exegeted as being about violence when in reality it IS a cultural thing, and needs to be viewed in that way. Note that it is specifically the “right” cheek which is hit first–that is an important detail (too often missed) because in order to hit someone on the right cheek, one must use one’s left hand. The left hand is the dirty or “unspeakable” hand because it is the one used to attend to personal hygiene relative to bodily functions–whereas the right hand is the one that is allowed into the communal food bowl. This is/was a strict custom in the desert Middle East, which is why cutting the right hand off of a thief was/is such a damning punishment–it condemns the thief to a life cut off from the community, since he can’t sit at table and eat with them.
    Jesus is telling His followers here that they should tolerate all sorts of filth and insults from people–He is not encouraging them to tolerate violence per se!

  • SeanSorrentino

    Jesus said that you should “turn the other cheek.” Let’s look at the circumstances. If someone smacks you on the cheek, it’s not a deadly force assault. It’s more of an insult. You should bear the insult and not respond with violence.
    You are absolutely not obligated to accept physical harm. If you are attacked with force, you have every legal and moral right to use reasonable force to protect yourself. If you are attacked with enough force that you reasonably fear death, serious bodily injury, or sexual assault, you may use deadly force.
    It’s not ideal. Ideal would be him leaving you alone in the first place. But the rest of us would prefer that you were alive to feel bad about killing a rapist than take the chance that he would murder you after.
    Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is the presence of justice. Is it “just” for you to be raped and forced to bear it rather than defend yourself? Is it “just” for you to be killed rather than risk the life of your attacker? NO!
    It is unfair of you to put your husband in the position of being your protector. You are refusing to protect yourself, putting him at risk. He is your other half. Whatever is done to you is done to him. When you are cut, he bleeds. You need to take a hard look at the things you were taught and decide if your husband doesn’t deserve a wife who will do what is necessary to come home to him alive and unharmed. If you can’t defend yourself for you, defend yourself for him.

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


  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    I think for me the question still remains, in cases of abuse, am I morally obligated to allow myself to be abused.

    As I’m sure you can understand, this is a difficult topic for me to grapple with. I can’t change the past. I know that paralysis during sexual assault is normal, and I have even been told by others that if an assault turns violent that I should submit lest further harm be done (as if sexual assault isn’t inherently violent?). That then contradicts the voices of those who do place blame on my shoulders for not fighting back, or in their words, “allowing” it to happen.

    The reason I bring any of this up at all on this thread is because my question and doubt does extend beyond the realm of sexual assault. I am a pacifist; my husband is not. And his argument is always that he needs to be able to protect me – and considering where I work and incidents that happened to me where I work, his concern is quite valid. I am always very conflicted.

    The most concrete “solution” I’ve personally been able to work out is that peace ought to always be the answer. But there are those who will not listen to words, who for whatever reason – in a particular moment or as a way of life – will not understand or cease their attack until they are physically forced to. However, I feel that this is an incomplete answer.

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

    You hit on one the most difficult of topics raised. I debated whether I wanted to exegete that passage any further in that I DO NOT think think that the “turn the other cheek” passage was about offering yourself to more violence, but culturally it was a sign of public shaming. Lastly, as one who knows folks who have been sexually assaulted, my heart breaks for any and all people who must deal with the attach as well as the aftermath.

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com/ Stitching Seams

    I am very strongly a pacifist.


    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.

    This very thing was very influential in my life when I was sexually assaulted. My assault did not last long, and there were a myriad of factors for me to consider. While I literally physically could not fight back due to paralysis by fear (not to mention being physically restrained by my attacker), the brief thought I had as to whether I should fight back or not was silenced in part by “turn the other cheek.”

    In fact, this teaching led me to tears in the dean of students office when I was asking to be removed from the class in which I was assaulted. I asked that my attacker be suspended for a time, and that teachers be made aware of what happened because I believed it to be a pattern of his. I felt so very deeply guilty for even this, because I believed that I was being neither forgiving nor fighting injustice in a way that was acceptable.

    I was further tormented by “well-meaning” friends who used my lack of fighting back to indicate that I either desired the assault or was responsible for it.

    I mention this largely because I suspect I am not alone in my experience. And I’m curious whether this line of thinking must always lead to non-violent retaliation, particularly in cases of sexual assault.

  • 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.


  • Heidi

    This was exactly the question my clergy father faced at the outset of WWII. He had one brother in the military and one who was a conscientious objector, and he was in seminary himself when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He told me many times that he wrestled with the problem of whether or not he would shoot if an armed threat to his family (then only my mother, but they had hopes of having us all one day) were marching up the driveway. He said that he realized that he would shoot to defend those he loved–and that if that was his answer, he could not become a CO (which was what his mother wanted him to do). He did not end up going to fight–at the time, new seminary grads were encouraged to take churches to free up older pastors to be military chaplains) but that mental struggle helped to shape the man he was, and the Christians he raised us to be.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • jack burton

    Bruce… to be consistent you’re going to have to be willing to forgo the protection of the police and other defenders of the innocent. If it is immoral and against your Christian beliefs to pull that trigger yourself, how can you possibly morally ask another to pull it in your name or for your sake? When the downstairs glass window breaks at 3:30 in the morning are you willing to demand of the 911 operator that she tell the responding police officers to leave their guns in the squad car before them come investigate?

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

    What I really hope to say – but as you read the comments, people will read what they want – is that self-defense is natural, even justified by society and culture, but I have a hard time doing the same in response to my faith. Would I defend with whatever was around, yes for sure. Not having a gun, tho, does limit the possibilities of actually killing someone: a bat, kicks to the head, etc.

  • Rev. Paul T. McCain

    So, Bruce, you are saying you would kill somebody trying to murder your wife and children? If so, I apologize, for missing that thought in your essay.

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

    Paul . . . I think you must have missed the part where I do say that we do this as a natural part of our self-preservation AND that it is socially acceptable, so I certainly would. I will say that, not having a gun in my home does limit my ability to actually kill someone.

  • Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Problem is Christ did order his disciples to take swords with them as the went on on their mission work.

    I’m a Christian, a pastor, and an enthusiastic supporter of the Second Ammendment and the right to *keep* and *bear * arms.

    I stridently disagree with you.

    Would you actually not try to save your wife and children if a person was trying to kill them, if you could? If you had a gun and could stop that horrible thing from happening, are you telling us you would be willing to let them be killed via a senseless act of crime? You would be willing to stand there and watch your children killed and wife raped and then killed?

  • bramc777@hotmail.com

    Not old enough. Go back to the first 3 centuries and speak again…

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

    Bryan. On this we obviously differ, though I would be interested in your religious tradition and how that has influenced your current stand/position.

  • Bryan

    Sorry but I prefer the old Christian ways. Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.

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

    Thanks Brian. As you can tell from some of the other comments, there are many who would disagree with us both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.leport Brian LePort


    Excellent post and very well said. I won’t own a gun for the same reason and I come from a family that loves guns. It seems odd to them, but I can’t find justification to own one. I don’t hunt for animals and I don’t feel comfortable with “defending” myself with such a lethal weapon (maybe a broom stick to disable someone or something like that!). Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I hope people engage this post with civility and respect!