God and Guns— The Dialogue. Part One

God and Guns— The Dialogue. Part One February 5, 2022

Q. So what prompted you to write this particular book? And why these particular contributors? At the beginning it seems OT scholar heavy.

Dr. Chris Hays responds:

A. The energy for the book comes partly from my own background, and then it found momentum in a community of friends and scholars.

Gun violence has been on my mind since I was a kid. In 1984, I went to Los Angeles in the summer for my uncle’s wedding. Around that time, there was a mass shooting in a McDonald’s there, and it gave me nightmares for a while. When I was growing up in New Haven Connecticut, gun violence was also a present reality. There was a Yale student named Christian Prince, whom I specifically remember being shot in the streets outside of his college. We lived in a part of town where our house was broken into a couple of times, and I remember fearing for my life at night at times. (In hindsight, the break-ins were just smash-and-grab jobs, but how is a kid going to distinguish?)

As I talk about in the book, I also grew up around guns and sometimes used them. My grandfather has a cattle ranch outside Oklahoma City, and in his living room he had a locked glass case full of long guns. I became a Boy Scout, and I shot skeet at camps. I was a pretty serious threat to a clay pigeon, if I do say so myself.

So, I don’t have some kind of pathological fear of guns as such, but by the time that I was in college, the rising epidemic of gun violence in the country was already clear. I wrote an op-ed about gun control in my college paper. I forget what prompted me; it’s just always been on my mind.

If you look back at my social media, you can see that I’ve been commenting about gun violence for some years, but the Newtown/Sandy Hook shootings were a specific watershed for me, where I realized how bad things things had gotten in our culture—not just because of the shooting itself, but because of our failure to do anything about it as a country. If you can look at dozens of grade school children being shot down in their school and not want to make serious changes, you’re really lost. And that’s our country, unfortunately.

I was in conversation with a lot of different people about this issue over the years, so when Carly and I decided to host this conference at Fuller about gun violence, we already knew some people who had a heart for the issue. In particular, David Lincicum from Notre Dame and Brent Strawn, who is now at Duke, were people I knew cared about the problem.

From there, we looked around at other scholars in biblical studies to think of who would be doing interesting work that would connect to this issue. Carly has a strong record writing on biblical ethics, so she added some great people. At that time, Tracy Lemnos, Yolanda Norton, and Shelly Matthews came on as contributors as well.

 

The book has four Old Testament contributors and two in New Testament. When I look at my Christian Bible, it appears to me that the Old Testament is at least two-thirds of it. So that ratio seems about right to me. And I noticed from your blog post about the book that you already think that the New Testament argues against this sort of violence, so maybe there’s more work to be done on the OT side anyway? And I think the two NT contributions are both stellar, so hopefully they can carry the weight.


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