The Cross and the AK-47?

Debates about gun control are raging in the wake of yet another mass shooting.  The issues surrounding these recent shootings are complex, mental illness, a culture shaped by recreational violence and yes, of  course, access to guns. I don’t really want to debate gun control right now; in fact, I’m not opposed to all guns.  What I am opposed to, however, is the fear that drives people to own (and defend the ownership of) guns that are intended for nothing other than the taking of human life.  And this fear is a theological issue that must be addressed among Christians…

I’m laying down a challenge: Someone PLEASE give me a justification for owning semi-automatic weapons, handguns and any other weapon intended for taking human life that is NOT rooted in fear?

Because all I’m hearing in the defense of such weapons is fear — fear of criminals, fear of what someone might do to oneself, one’s family or one’s neighbor.

Where, o where,  is the perfect love that casts out all fear?!??!  Christians, we need to mature, we cannot continue to defend and propagate fear…

There is a wonderful piece by Firmin Debrabander posted on the NY Times website yesterday that is so bold as to name these fears and to note the ways that they are eroding our culture:

“[Guns] pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.  … Like it or not, they transform the bearer, and end the conversation in some fundamental way. They announce that the conversation is not completely unbounded, unfettered and free; there is or can be a limit to negotiation and debate — definitively.”

“Our gun culture promotes a fatal slide into extreme individualism. It fosters a society of atomistic individuals, isolated before power — and one another — and in the aftermath of shootings such as at Newtown, paralyzed with fear. That is not freedom, but quite its opposite.

A key part of what John and I have been arguing for in Slow Church, is the creation of spaces for open conversation — in churches first and then in the public square — but in order for Christians to lead the way, we need to name our fears and submit them to the love of Christ that casts out all fear.

As long as we continue to live in and propagate fear, that fear will be a roadblock to our maturing into the fullness of Christ.  I don’t have any answers to what should be done about guns in American culture at large, but I do know that we Christians need to stop being driven by fear.

Ferguson and Our Broken Justice System
Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Slow Church…
Ken Wytsma – The Grand Paradox [Patheos Book Club]
Ken Wytsma – The Grand Paradox [Patheos Book Club]
  • Jennifer Luitwieler

    Even my cop brother in law is anti gun. That should tell us something…

    • SamHamilton

      He still carries a gun though, right?

  • Kullervo

    Someone PLEASE give me a justification for locking the door of your house that is NOT rooted in fear?
    Or for teaching your children to be wary of strangers. Or for having a fire department. Or for knowing first aid.

    • mckstud2

      nice deflection. care to comment on the actual substance of the article?

      • Kullervo

        It’s not a deflection at all; it’s reductio ad absurdum.

        The substance of the article is easy to identify because it is in bold type: what are the reasons for having an automatic weapon that are not based on fear, given that “perfect love casts out all fear”? This was followed by the implicit suggestion that Christians should not have automatic weapons.

        But if that’s the reason Christians should not have automatic weapons, why doesn’t the same theology apply to fire departments, child safety and first aid? Good eating habits? Seat belts? Fear of adverse consequences is why we do lots of things that don’t seem nearly so scary or unnecessary as having automatic weapons. Should Christians not take precautions? How is that different?

        You can argue that with automatic weapons, the potential harm is so high that it outweighs the benefits, but that’s an economic argument, and not the argument that Chris is implicitly making.

    • SamHamilton

      I don’t think this is a complete deflection, but there are different degrees of risk. There are healthy measures we take as precaution and there are irrational fears, or at least fears that put us in the wrong mindset.

      There are people who live in bad neighborhoods where the chance of someone entering their home with a weapon intent on robbery or doing harm is great. I think owning a gun for protection is not an irrational fear.

      There are also Christians who own guns because they think the government is on the verge of going totalitarian and they’ll need them to fight back. Or Christians who live in completely nice neighborhoods where crime is minimal who own guns for protection.

  • Yella


    that was easy.

    • erbks

      Again, I’m not against all guns, and I think hunting is the primary acceptable justification, but am NOT convinced that semi-automatic weapons/handguns are necessary for hunting. ~Chris Smith

  • Nick Gavin

    I don’t consider it fear to know what exists and to be able to protect your family and others from it. I think that there is far to much focus on the weapons being used and not the person committing the crime. I personally don’t own an “assault style” gun but I do own a gun. For those that think mass murders and major crime will just disappear if guns are outlawed consider how many people were killed on 9-11 without a single shot being fired. I don’t live in fear I live knowing evil will never go away and people that want to kill will find a way to do so

  • Donald Ade

    I like guns. I like the craftsmanship. I like the various designs and power each possess.

    Much like an artifact, I appreciate the thought process behind the engineering of MOST guns. I think an AA-12 (full auto 120 round) shotgun is cool just like a well crafted sword is. Would I DESIRE to have one? Certainly. Would I need one? Only if there is a zombie apocalypse. I much rather have a Mossberg 500 for home defense and hunting if need be. If I choose to get any gun it will be out of DESIRE not fear. That is my justification and my right as a US citizen to own a or many weapons.

    Fear is the product of those who don’t (and never will) understand the reason for these rights afforded by the bill of rights.

  • Bill

    I think you’re right. In the vast majority of cases I expect the ownership of those guns is rooted in fear (the tiny remainder being collectors, competitive shooters, criminals and murderous sociopaths). Often those who buy guns out of fear are acting unreasonably, because they’ve bought into weird conspiracy theories, for example. Other times, they live in a culture that makes it reasonable to be afraid.
    I have great admiration for those of have completely conquered fear and are able to live free of it (Christians and non-Christians). I agree with you that our faith should enable us to live free of fear. I admire the Amish, for example. Their pacifism is inspiring. But for most of us, as someone wrote (I can’t recall who right now), we trust in God, but still lock our doors at night.
    May we all work as best we can to bring about a world where there is nothing to fear. May we the day soon arrive when we’ve hammered all guns (starting with the ones you mention) into plowshares.

  • Darrow Woods

    As an urban, middle-class Canadian who lives in a relatively safe neighbourhood, I would not ever consider arming myself. I have friends and relatives who hunt. None of them seem to require an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.