The Founding Fathers operated on the idea of Manifest Destiny — that God predestined white Europeans to own and colonize North America, no matter who they had to kill, displace or steal from. Manifest Destiny morphed into a theologized concept that many conservative Christians still hold: that the U.S. is uniquely blessed by God.
“In God We Trust” is emblazoned on our currency, and posted in many government buildings. So are the Ten Commandments.
But there’s a glaring discrepancy between the God we claim to follow and the appetite we’ve developed for guns and violence.
The U.S. is one of only three countries in the world to have a constitutional right to own a gun. (The other two countries are Mexico and Guatemala.) The U.S. is the only country to have no constitutional restrictions on gun ownership.
Let me say that again. We’re the only country in the world with no constitutional restrictions on gun ownership. Though the U.S. has 4.4 % of the world’s population, we own nearly 50% of the world’s citizen-owned guns.
Evangelical, Republican-voting, pro-life Christians vote for liberal gun laws, when those guns account for more than 30,000 deaths each year.
Our love of guns is out of control.
We have a problem. It is our problem to solve, and the sooner the better.
The highest casualty mass shootings have happened in the last decade. Sandy Hook. Pulse Night Club in Orlando. The Las Vegas country music festival. And, one month ago today, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
We’ve had 1600 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, where 20 elementary school children were shot and killed.
Christians are some of the fiercest gun-lovers. Popular bumper stickers say, “God And Guns Are Why We’re Free.” And, “We Believe In God and Guns. If You Trespass, You’ll Meet ‘Em Both.” Some churches even host a gun-themed men’s retreat.
We claim to follow a pacifist Christ who told us to love our enemies. A Christ who said “blessed are the peacemakers.” A Christ who, even when he was about to be taken away and crucified, told Peter to put his sword away. And then Jesus went so far as to heal his enemy’s sword-severed ear.
“Yes, but–” Christians say.
Yes, but. We live in the real world.
Yes, but. We have a constitutional right.
Yes, but. We even have a God-given right.
And the classic, nonsensical, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Whenever there’s a mass shooting, we start arguing again. It’s the same thing over and over and over again.
Gun-lovers: Guns don’t kill people.
Gun-control advocates: We need stricter gun laws.Gun-lovers: It’s too soon to talk about that. We’re in the midst of a tragedy.
Gun-control advocates: What do you think is killing all these bullet-ridden people if it’s not the gun?
Gun-lovers: Mental illness.
But what have gun-lovers done to advocate for more mental illness care? The NRA spends $3 million each year lobbying for gun rights. What percentage of that money has been spent on mental illness care that keeps homicidal maniacs away from society?
How can people continue to persist in saying that guns don’t kill people when the autopsies show death by bullets? If it weren’t for a gun, those people would not be dead.
How can we continue to ignore the facts? States with high gun ownership have up to a 114% increased rate of gun-related deaths. States with fewer guns have lower rates of gun violence.
Even well-trained gun owners who keep a gun for personal protection are 4.5 times higher to die from a gunshot wound.
Here’s the bottom line.
Jesus didn’t give you the right to own a gun. Three hundred years ago, some men with rifles that fired one round a minute wrote that down. Today’s rifles can fire 600+ rounds a minute.
We are sick with an illness that makes us crave our “rights” over the right of kids to survive their childhoods. That makes us crave our “rights” over the right of people to attend church, or music festivals or college without the fear of becoming a victim of gun violence. That makes us crave our “rights” to a weapon over the right of tens of thousands of innocent people to survive 2018.
It’s time for Christians to pick a side.
We can either continue to advocate for weapons that are killing ourselves, our neighbors and our kids.
Or we can oppose these lethal weapons. We can walk out of the violence we’ve been party to, and begin to walk in the footsteps of Christ, who blesses peacemakers. Who tells us to love others as we love ourselves. Who calls us to live in peace with everyone.
If you don’t support the Walk Out today, if you continue to advocate for gun rights, you have no right to mourn the victims of the next shooting. You have no place sending their grieving parents “thoughts and prayers” when you did nothing to fix the glaring gun problem we have in this country.
If you do support the Walk Out today, keep walking. Keep walking to protect the rights of the innocent. Keep walking to promote peace. Keep walking with the data we know: that guns do kill people, with alarmingly efficient speed. That less guns equals less deaths. That Jesus told us to lay our rights down for the sake of our neighbors, our friends — and even our enemies. That the very thing we think is keeping us safe will actually be the death of us.