Confessions of a Former Gun Enthusiast

This post comes from a friend, a pastor, Doug Fondell.

 Confessions of a Former Gun Enthusiast.

  I grew up loving guns. Guns were always on my top 5 list when it came to Christmas gifts until about the age of 12. It seems Santa had a way of giving them to me whether I was naughty or nice. This was the way it was in the 60’s. First a pop gun (remember the cork on a string). Then a cap gun (the smell of the sulfur made me feel mean). A squirt-gun during the summer. (probably the most fun I’ve ever had with a gun) Then a bb-gun (if the smell of sulfur made me feel mean, imagine the power of a bb). I exercised that power when I kind of/intentionally shot my sister. It didn’t kill her, but she sure wanted to kill me.

I moved on to a 22 caliber rifle. My parents didn’t buy it for me. My grandpa had it to shoot rats, rabbits, and sometimes cats that threatened to overrun the farm. He let me shoot it, but only at cans on a rock. Then, I discovered he had a 12 gauge shot gun. He was shooting at crows that were eating his corn. He let me shoot it once. And to this day, I remember the power it possessed. It cracked against my shoulder, knocked me backwards, and scared me to death. Nevertheless, it really impressed me! Guns have a way of saying “Wow” to young boys. Somehow, they scratch the itch of the  masculinity we’re searching for!

I liked the thought of being a hunter. Being a hunter in my day and age was a mark of manhood. And so I did it! I shot my share of birds, though I never thought they deserved to be shot. I shot my share of rabbits, squirrels, skunks, and raccoons, though I never felt they deserved it. I shot them because I could, and for some reason I believed they should be shot. The gun gave me the power to do so. But the truth is I didn’t like it. I gave up hunting at about the age of 25 when I almost shot my dog. It was an accidental shot…but it reminded me that guns can kill easily and quickly. (I will never forget the look in my dogs eyes as the buckshot flew over his head. If there are dogs in heaven, I will need to apologize once again)

Now, my purpose in writing is not to critique people who choose to hunt. But I do hope that you choose to hunt for good reasons. (You decide for yourself what those reasons may be.) My agenda is with the issue of the power that guns possess. I learned the power of a gun as a child- in a real hands on kind of way. Guns captured my imagination, they scared me, they impressed me, they wowed me, and they mythically empowered me…but for a number of reasons they didn’t work for me, they couldn’t define my masculinity in any way shape or form.

Eventhough I fought against it for years, I discovered a greater sense of my man-hood in relationship to Jesus. In my younger years, Jesus seemed too soft, too nice, too kind, never willing to get the bad guy and shoot him down. I was more infatuated with Roy Rogers and Daniel Boone. I wanted a cowboy/pioneer  Jesus, not a shepherd who gentily watches over and cares for his flock.

But the more I learned of Jesus, the more radical I discoverd him to be. He stood up to, he took on the powers and principalities of his day, and he did it without a gun. He stood up to anybody that wanted to take aim at him. And he never flinched. If they had guns then, they surely would have shot him down, but they didn’t. Instead, they beat him down and hung him up. In a real sense, Jesus took the bullet for the love of us all!

I’m writing to Christian men about guns, and our apparent love for guns.  But as a Christian man who has no problem with the idea of hunting wisely and responsibly, I cannot comprehend why we are so impotent when it comes to the violence created by guns in our society. The life, the teachings, and surely the death of Jesus reveal to us that we should be on the forefront- advocating against anything that brings harm to others…and this includes guns.

The shootings in Newtown, Connecticut were by a gun…a gun that has the power to do what a single person can’t do with human hands, a gun that most of us have never spent time contemplating the moral and ethical ramifications of owning.

There may be some instances where women choose to shamelessly massacre others, but right now I don’t have any shining examples of this. To me the problem of guns seems to be a big time male issue…particularly as it pertains to power the power we feel holding them and shooting them.

Adam Lanza may have learned some really good lessons in life. But he learned the wrong lessons when it came to being a man. In the eyes of God, in the eyes of Jesus, real men don’t take aim at and kill others because they can. Real men don’t live in fear of the enemy, but seek to love their enemy. Real men put down their weapons and find the pathway to peace. Real mean seek to love  everything that God loves. And real men don’t stand back and say “well the that’s the way things are in our culture.”

Surely, Lanza was confused…maybe even crazy. The problem, as I see it is this…maybe we’re just as confused. When it comes to the Newtown massacre I’m hearing the same old rationales, the same old excuses. It’s predictable. The end result is that the TV will be inundated with coverage for 3 weeks and then life will go on. Then we’re going to shamefully bless the next murder spree. But life doesn’t go on for the the families of 32 people who are murdered every day in the USA. Picture yourself as a parent of one of the children murdered in Newtown. Life will never go on per usual.

The time has come for Christian men to come to terms with the fact that we really don’t comprehend the power of a gun. And for this reason we need to get rid of as many guns as possible. So I am urging Christian men to take the lead- get rid of guns that serve no other purpose than to kill other people, this includes hand guns, semi-automatic weapons, and surely assault rifles. No real man of God hunts in this kind of way!

If I hear one more time that “guns do not kill people–people do”, or that talk of gun control is a slippery slope threatening a host of American freedoms, or that millions of responsible gun owners must not be judged by a few crazies, I’m going to pull the few lasting hairs out of my head. This is confused…maybe even crazy thinking. Surely people kill…but guns make it super easy to do so. (just ask my dog)

Month after month, I see people gathering in the USA holding vigil. I see wide spread candle lighting, teddy bears and flowers scattered, cards and posters offering their condolences , people devastated. I’m a pastor, and I’m sick of witnessing this scene. My heart breaks for all of the people traumatized- people who have lost their son, their daughter, their mom, their dad, but I feel particularly sick because we point the finger anywhere and everyplace else. Recently, drunk drivers, family system break down, and gay people seem to be the excuses of choice.

I feel particularly sick when Christian men, who love their guns, (more than Christian women statistically) stand more afraid of losing their 2nd amendment rights than they do their Christian integrity. Brothers, something  got missed when it comes to learning what it means to really be a man in the eyes of Jesus.

And so I say to every man who considers themself to be a man of God… don’t be impotent. The time is now…man up, show your power in a Christ-like way, make a difference to protect the next potential victims of gun related violence. Take action to change laws, or to create new laws that will serve to protect people. Be willing to cash in any gun that serves no other purpose than to kill another person. Be willing to hunt wisely and responsibly. And if you don’t know how to hunt wisely, take some courses. Stop shopping at stores that profit from the sale of guns. Change your stock portfolio if you’re invested in the gun trade. The hand gun you may own- hand it in to the police, cash it in, or store it at a gun club. Guns are not your sword and shield…Christ is!

Stop being afraid of your neighbors…make the effort to get to know them and then love them! This may have been what Adam Lanza needed most- a neighbor who loved him. Brothers, the time has come to man up, and dis-arm ourselves.

Doug Fondell

Pastor Immanuel International Church

Stockholm, Sweden





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  • Paul W

    I doubt that the bravado of the article and the manly-man power rhetoric is really all that useful. However, all the references to power within the article do remind me as to how important it is to feel and perceive of oneself as empowered.

    (Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed counselor nor do I have any specialized training in psychology) It seems that all people seek out certain fundamental psychological needs such as survival, love and belonging, freedom, fun and power. So perhaps we can do better than simply complaining, challenging, and threatening a person’s perceived sense of power. That sort of thing may be actually contributing to some of our troubles.

    Perhaps assisting others to feel empowered and support them in seeing the strength they possess will go a long way in helping promote healthy individuals. Perhaps- in addition to the challenges to man up and take action, and along with the admonitions to stop being impotent and afraid- there is more we need to hear.

    Perhaps we can think better along the lines of the practice of peacemaking. Perhaps we can better assist others find a healthy balance in attaining their basic psychological needs. Perhaps if everyone’s life’s interactions were thoroughly filled with positive acceptance, encouragements, listening, respect, and support then the need for power would have natural, easy, and healthy outlets.

  • scotmcknight

    PaulW, this piece at CNN, by Paul Waldman, is along the same line as Doug’s:

  • Paul W

    Scot, thanks for the link. Interesting.

    I do not doubt that guns can make a person feel potent and strong and that advertisers play to that point as well. Indeed I believe the desire to feel competent, skilled, and powerful is a real psychological need. We ALL need to feel empowered to various degrees.

    My point is that we will do well to question how we can help people feel empowered through healthy, positive, and peacemaking ways. My suggestion is that interacting with others in ways that are filled with encouragements, respect, support etc. will provide for those needs better than a rhetoric which challenges one’s manliness head on.

  • Chad

    I respect the plea of Pastor Fondell and I certainly understand the grief behind his plea. We are all feeling that grief and the accompanying desire to “fix” what is broken so that it doesn’t happen again. I get it. However, the fact still remains that the real problem, the most serious problem is within us (Matt 15:19) not in our gun cabinets. Adam Lanza’s most sinister problem was within his own heart and mind, and when that evil became unrestrained it produced death (James 1:13-15).
    Do we need stricter gun control laws in the US? Maybe we do, and we should have that debate soon, but not too soon. Now is the time for national mourning not the writing of poorly thought-out legislation. However, with all due respect to Pastor Fondell, having the men of our nation turn in their guns is, in my view, a short-sighted response to what is a much deeper problem. Pitting a Christian man’s enjoyment of gun ownership with his integrity as a Christian offers no genuine solution to the problem.
    May God help us and give us his wisdom.

  • A.G. Reichert

    I do not have a position on gun control as I feel caught in the tension of protecting the 2nd amendment in a world where we are all just sitting in the waiting room for the next shooting massacre to happen.

    What I do have a position about is that many Christian men and women have an idolatrous relationship with their guns and have elevated the Constitution of the United States as if it had the authority of scripture.

  • Thank you, Pastor Fondell, for the articulate post and call to Christian men to trust in God, not guns. I fear that it will fall on deaf ears given how most of us U.S. citizens feel so entitled to our silly weapons by our constitution. Surely we are reaping what we have sown, I just wonder if we’ll ever figure that out and change courses.

    I do have a request of you, though. I ask that you consider removing the recent Connecticut shooter’s name from your blog post. By mentioning him by name, we tacitly grant him and other would-be shooters some of the recognition they crave so badly. I pray that murderers’ names are completely forgotten, but not the violence they have committed and not the names of their victims.

    Thanks for considering my request.
    in peace,

  • “I do hope that you choose to hunt for good reasons.”

    Such an idea is born of modern privilege as is most of the assumptions in this article.

    As a man without a gun in a neighborhood where I live and pastor among gangs, drug, violence and murder, I think these admonishments fall short of father/husband/neighbor responsibility.

    These ideas sound good to religious folk but the same reasons behind locking your door at night lie behind guns.

    To me, those matters were lacking real satisfying answers in this post.

  • Ron B

    I disagree with his conclusion. He ASSUMES Christian men love their guns. I don’t necessarily agree–I’ve not asked any of the gun owners/hunters that I know whether or not this is true. I don’t disagree that these mass shootings are heartbreaking and that they need to stop. However, he may as well go ahead and pull out those remaining hairs because I’ll say it again: It is not the guns that is the problem but the hearts of those who misuse them!

    One other thing I wonder about this pastor: Has he spent as much time and effort calling on Christian men and women to take a stand against the MURDER of unborn children? There are 100 times as many babies aborted ON A DAILY BASIS in the USA as there were killed at Sandy Hook. I don’t want to diminish the seriousness and sadness of that event, but where’s the outcry against abortion, which is TOTALLY preventable is the will of the people were to be exercises?

    The man is entitled to his opinion. I disagree with him on the gun issue. I’d like to see some balance.

  • Elizabeth

    Doug – I thought this was a great post – thank you.
    I admit to being surprised the comments aren’t more positive and appreciative.

    Chad (4) – of course the fundamental problem is within us and that we live in a broken world. We do what we can to be working and praying for the Kingdom to come here on earth. In the meantime, getting rid of things like assault rifles is a relatively easy (Yes. It is easier than providing perfect mental health services for everyone and changing the hearts of all human beings) and practical step that will save lives.

  • Jeff Hyatt

    At the risk of causing Pastor Doug to pull out his remaining hair…I have to push back. He is equating his own experience with that of all male gun owners, and this is simply not the case. I too, like most of you, have been having these kinds of conversations with my friends and congregants (yes, I too am a pastor) about the need for restricting military style weapons for public consumption. I agree with Pastor Doug very much on this point. High-capacity magazines are as much to blame as the style of firearm itself.

    However, in the part of the world where I live (Duluth, MN) firearms are a tool for food gathering primarily – and no, we are not Neanderthals. While there are chest pounding dudes at the gun range shooting their AR 15s or similar, this kind of activity is looked down upon. In fact, if you are playing around too much with these kinds of firearms at the range the Range Master will make you leave. Again, I personally agree that military style firearms are not beneficial for public consumption, and do nothing to secure our freedom against the overpowering force of our military if such a situation would arise.

    Do matter how many times a person expresses frustration when a gun owner declares that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” it doesn’t change reality. I can attests by experience that this kind of argument does nothing to persuade a Christian gun owner to give up their firearm. In fact, it does the opposite. An irrational statement like this only minimizes the force behind one’s argument.

    Firearms are tools. They only become weapons when used against another human being. For those of you who live in an urban settings, perhaps there is a strong argument against owning/possessing any firearm. However, for the millions of us who live in parts of the world where we are able to hunt for food, a firearm is a useful and humane tool if used responsibly.

    I love Jesus. I do NOT love my gun, but I do own one. I feed my family venison (deer meat) as a way to supplement my very meager income as a pastor of a small church community. I hope Pastor Doug will love me anyway.

  • J.N.W.

    I would ask the article’s author a question–

    Is the reason that women are largely excluded from the issues of this argument (other than stating the statistical difference in interest in guns) because the larger issue of gun violence is seen as taking place within subcultures that are exclusively male? Does it follow that the means to resolution is also an essentially male undertaking?

    Perhaps, put another way–given the lack of perceived female involvement in these issues, according to the pathos of this article, what would be the female role in resolution of gun violence in this model of understanding the problem as an inherently male one?

  • Stew

    Gun bans have been wildly successful in the UK and Aus at reducing firearm injuries, deaths and homicides. These countries may have restricted liberty for the sake of saving lives and that may be unacceptable to certain readings of the US constitution but the constitution isn’t holy scripture as someone said. The deeper problem is about men and violence – it is overwhelmingly a man thing. I think you are right to say Jesus’s example expressed an alternative to macho ideals of manhood. Unfortunately the US seems to exalt power as part of the American male ideal – always ready for a fight, strong, unemotional, physically powerful. Time for a new vision of the American male maybe? Maybe the ability to be wrong, to apologise, to back down and to sometimes suffer (temporary) humiliation looking towards righteousness in the long game.

  • StephL

    I believe a fear of guns is a healthy thing. We’ve had enough reminders of their purpose. They are not just tools. They are not like automobiles.

    I would expect scientists studying deadly viruses to be fascinated with them at some level, to find uses for them too (AIDS virus, inactivated, to deliver an attack on cancer is one newly-thought up application) but not to defend bringing them into their homes, into home after home after home, no matter the precautions the very qualified scientists would employ in the pursuit of a virus-proliferation hobby. In fact, we seem paranoid about viruses creating zombies one day and deliberately blind to what unbridled gun ownership has done to our society. Because of guns, you have to fear your neighbor as you drive down a road together, because he might lose control of his temper in an episode of road rage, and with a gun, that would mean you would die.

    Gun ownership is not like locking a door. It is like booby-trapping a house. Both solutions are open to you, but everyone needs to be clear on what it is they are choosing.

    If we were to write legislation on guns based on the sensible need for protection, based on likelihood of victimization, it is likely we would draw up different laws for known gang-infested areas, high crime areas, etc. People in areas believed to be, on average, safer would have few guns, and those in high crime areas would have many. I think that, eventually, the people in crime-infested areas soon even more highly infiltrated with guns would cry foul. Police forces trying to sort the one group (guns for defense) out from the other (guns for aggression) would cry foul. But we have chosen that for the whole country.

    Improvement is possible in so many areas. Without a heart for these changes, though, I despair. It is about the heart, after all. And without the honest, brutal introspection shown in this article, I don’t trust someone to be responsible with a gun. If I saw this kind of article, often, from gun owners, a real awareness that guns are not like cars, not just tools, I wouldn’t despair so much.

    When Christ said that what matters is not whether you commit adultery ultimately but how you interact with a woman in your heart, he was saying it is not only the outcome (whether you plan to use your gun to murder) but about everything that comes before (including the heart attitude towards guns). It’s at least something to consider, no? You might still have guns in your life, like you still have women around you, but it’d be different.

    Proposed measures would require a lot from the gun industry in the form of lost income, but really so little of gun owners. Goodwill towards men. I stand with this pastor in his call to us.

  • Josh M.

    I think I have to side with Chad a bit on this one. I think the article makes some good and interesting points, but the underlying issue here is that we as a country are having a hard time mourning this event, so we want to fix it. We cannot understand why anyone would take the actions that were taken by this young man, and so we turn to issues such as gun control or school security. In the name and glory of “action” I think we have to be cautious not to be quick to criticize instead of mourn. I think many people want to advocate for better gun control and rightfully so, but I think there is mourning and healing that needs to occur first and foremost. This is the type of mourning and healing where we are left looking at the abyss of loss where the only thing we have to fill that void is Christ (not gun control despite your political view on it).

  • Rob F.

    Chad and Josh M.

    When do we stop mourning and talk about solutions? S. H. wasn’t some one-off unprecedented event. It occurred in a week that saw a mall and hospital shooting. Just six months ago we experienced a massacre in a cinema. These events are happening frequently enough (not to mention the background gun violence in this country) that if we can’t talk about solutions while we are mourning we never get past mourning to action.

  • Bill

    Pastor Doug,

    Your problem with guns, was YOUR problem with guns. Your perception of manhood is YOUR perception of manhood with guns. I am not too sure who or what you are being critical of; gun owners in general, hunters in particular, gun ownership. You are hard to follow. How this all relates to your perception of Jesus is quite fascinating but not compelling.

    I think you wifully distort who hunters are and their motivations and you come very close to doing the same with the simple gun owner. I smell a strawman.

    By the way, I am not the only one picking up on your generalizations. #8, #10 and #11 above did too. You make too many points and it comes out like buckshot from a 20-gauge Remington pump-action shotgun.

  • Diana

    Just curious if you feel this strongly about alcohol and all the destruction that it does?

  • scotmcknight

    Diana, yes, if people drive drunk.

  • Robin

    Two statistics:

    Firearm homicides per year (CDC): 11,493

    Alcohol related vehicle deaths (BAC > .08): 13,990 [2006]

    I for one do not know why we don’t require a breathalyzer machine on all ignition for newly manufactured vehicles. That at least seems like a very simple fix.

  • Chad

    I would add one more thought to this thread…if we remove a significant number of guns from our society, and once again (see #4) I am just asking, will gun related crime drop? The answer I think is obvious – yes it will. Logically, removing those guns from availability will indeed reduce “gun related” violence to some degree. Done. Our gun related violence is down. Problem solved!
    But not so fast. Can we now conclude that this type of random violence will stop? Will those bent on perpetrating such heinous acts simply abandon their sinister plan because they can’t readily find a certain type of rifle? In some cases maybe they will, but generally speaking I think not. They will likely find some other way to commit their crime. We sinners are a very creative bunch indeed.
    Just another angle for consideration.

  • StephL

    JNW, 11, my almost eleven-year-old daughter was at a friend’s house this weekend. The older sister, fourteen maybe, was watching a zombie movie. The younger girls were asking her why she likes zombie movies so much. She said, “You can kill zombies without having to go to jail.”

    I found the concept of sanctioned killing, and killing as an outlet/entertainment, and the refreshing frankness of a young person, and the fact that the person was female, all relevant.

    I don’t see women as excluded from the conversation or criticism, though the author of the post left them out. Women have “macho” feelings and inclinations too.

    We grow up in the same world men do and no one is telling us to be flowers in the garden anymore, as women were exhorted to be in Victorian England.

    I will quit harassing everyone with my torrent of words. I have to pack for a trip.

  • Kate

    Chad @20 Yes, there may still be acts of random violence even if guns are hard to come by, but a madman with a knife is a lot easier to survive than one with an assault rifle. In China, the recent school attack was by a man with a knife and 22 kids were injured “2 of them seriously”. Most would have been dead if he’s had gun(s).

  • Chad

    Kate @22 – I understand, but China is a dictatorship and gun ownership of any kind by private citizens is illegal in China, and has been so for a long, long time. There really is no comparison between our two societies in this respect.

  • P.

    Good article, interesting points. Personally, I think there’s nothing wrong with collecting guns and enjoying target practice or even hunting, but there is a problem in the our culture – Christian and non-Christian – with gun worship. As another person here said, we need to stop the idolotry. Yes, we have the Second Amendment, but as there are reasonable limits to the First Amendment, there should be reasonable limits to the Second since guns can obviously be used to do great harm. We regulate certain drugs that can be used to do harm, like those drugs that can be used to create crystal meth. Same thing goes for guns, especially those that can shoot a very large number of rounds in a very short period of time.

    I do agree with Pastor Fondell about some men needing guns to feel masculine. Not all men, of course, but definitely some, maybe those who connect with the “muscular Christianity” that’s been written about in the last couple of years. We women too can get our sense of femininity from the wrong things instead of from God.

    One thing to consider: is there a relationship among Christians between end-times theology and gun advocacy? Are those Christians who believe in the coming of a one-world government that persecutes Christians more likely to oppose gun control?

  • J.N.W.

    StephL, I agree with you that women are not excluded from this issue, and I’m choosing to assume that the author does not think so either. I asked my question because I am interested in hearing a perspective on the role of females in the solution to a problem being described as a male preoccupation from those who view gun usage in that way.

  • Scot, to consider: Women who drink alcohol while pregnant may cause lifelong, severe damage in their unborn children. Fathers and mothers who drink to excess can not give their children what they need. Abuse, poverty, neglect…solidly supported by the overuse of alcohol. That’s not a correction (I would not do that!)…that’s just an “in addition to drunk driving” consideration.

    P. – yes, there is a huge tie-in eschatologically. Huge.

    I loved this article and perspective. For a brief time today, I had this vision cross my mind’s eye where I saw Christians (en masse, worldwide) come forward and turn in their weapons…and thought about how that alone would change the world and change the perception of Christians to one of people of peace….but that is simply not likely to happen, unfortunately. The response that would be given to this vision is this: “Oh, yeah, and then Christians would be unarmed and we’d be right where the powers that be (Obama, the Democrats, the UN) want us to be.”

    I also really enjoyed Megan McArdle’s piece which you linked to the other day. It’s a very well-done analysis of the entire issue, and made me feel a lot better about feeling all over the board about this issue. It’s very simply complex, and this case didn’t fit any of our previous categories.

    After a week of thinking, I don’t think the resistance among the people that I know (in real life) to gun control has much to do with guns at all. Some people I know do the stock-up thing, and it is scary to me. But many people I know have guns simply because of the “freedom” issue. The resistance, it seems to me, is largely about resistance to a government they fear (will take their rights away. And yes, theology fits into that paradigm 100 percent across the board in the people I know.) It is their patriotic duty to preserve their freedoms, to not give anything further to a corrupted government. It has not been that good of a year for religious freedoms, so that has only fed into the fear. I don’t agree – but it helps me to understand the background behind the refusal to accept even the smallest bit of restriction on guns/ammunition. People are, well, for lack of a better word, paranoid.

    I loved

  • Steve Sherwood

    #20 Europe, Australia, Canada, countries that DO bear a good bit of semblance to ours do not have anything like our murder rates. Not just gun related murders, but murders, period. Why is it not reasonable to think removing guns from the equation would make a difference?

  • I am happy to be comic relief with the mistakes I make here…ha ha. Strike that “I loved.” I think I was going to mention Megan’s piece then went back up and inserted something else…

  • Kert

    There is no doubt that the bible teaches to love your neighbor and is against seeking out violence, and against murder. But it does not teach to always lay down your weapons. Think about in Nehemiah where the the people are instructed to work with one hand and have a sword in the other. When the neighboring tribes were threatening to invade to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Are not swords of bible times like the guns of today? Were the swords these citizens were holding not weapons of war very similar to what armies used of the day? How is this different that having a gun to protect your family today?

  • Chris

    You’ve got a pastor who used to celebrate guns now calling on gun owning Christians to turn them in, and gun control advocates in the comments say he’s too reliant on his own experience in his piece for them to give him props. Tough crowd.