Asking the “Congress to confront America’s idolatry of guns was asking the fox to guard the chickens.” In fact, as Upton Sinclair put it, “It is very difficult to get someone to understand something when his salary, or his power is dependent on not understanding it.” Whatever the church has done to cajole or convince Congress to take gun safety or control has been outdone by the NRA. James Atwood, in fact, says he failed to take the Bible and Calvin more seriously. He was too optimistic about Congress and the good will of humans to realize that gun control/safety is more than willpower; it is not just a political issue; it is a spiritual issue; it is about idolatry. This is all discussed in Atwood’s fine book, America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé.
This week we experienced again another godawful event, this time in Texas, where a man was to be served papers of eviction from a home and when the constable approached the house the man inside gunned the constable to death with a [semi-] automatic weapon. He then killed an innocent civilian — and wounded others, some seriously. We should not be saying “people kill people, guns don’t kill people.” We should be saying, “the only guns that kill people are guns used by humans.”
The church should lead the way in exhibiting peaceful approaches to life and conflict, and Christians should lead the way in seeking — at the least — serious examination of gun laws and gun safety and access to guns. How many have to die before this is an issue? How many times to do we have to say America has a gun violence problem?
But isn’t “idolatrous” too strong of a term? James Atwood, who has probably thought about gun control as much, if not more, than any American alive today has reflected on this very issue and sees gun idolatry in the following three elements:
1. When an owner [of a gun] believes there are no circumstances when a regulation or restriction for public safety should be placed upon it [the gun/the owner].
2. When an owner believes that guns don’t kill; they only save lives.
3. When an owner has no doubt that guns preserve America’s most cherished values.
He also mentions other elements, like deep emotional attachment to guns, anger when anyone questions gun values, when no preventive measures are supported, show little to no grief for those who have experienced gun violence, vigorously oppose any restrictions of sales of guns, claim an absolute right to use their guns against the government if they consider it tyrannical, claim the blessing of God on the weapon, and believe the solution to gun violence is more guns.