“Guns don’t kill – sin kills”?

“Guns don’t kill – sin kills”? June 6, 2022

Evangelical friends and readers, can you read this post all the way to the end? Can you handle being in close proximity to facts that make you uncomfortable?

An open-minded reader might find the facts in this article persuasive, but the reader who isn’t interested in having his point of view challenged might quit in the middle (or sooner).

Why? Because integrity requires us to embrace truth. Those of us unwilling to change might choose to avoid awkward truths. But this requires a certain level of self-deception, does it not – a self-un-integrity?

So, to my evangelical friends and readers, I challenge you to read this post all the way to the end, to get familiar with some facts that might make you uncomfortable. See what happens!

Best case, you find my argument weak, and your position has stood the test. Worst case, you find something compelling here, and because you have integrity, you won’t ignore it, but learn and grow because of it.

If anybody is still reading, let’s dive in (I hope you’ll visit this post on Facebook and comment).

Mass shootings have become a daily occurrence

In just the first five days of June, America has seen at least fifteen mass shootings:
June 5: Chattanooga, TN
June 5: Grand Rapids, MI
June 5: Saginaw, MI
June 5: Mesa, AZ
June 4: Philadelphia, PA
June 4: Summerton, SC
June 4: Hempstead, NY
June 4: Ecorse, MI
June 4: El Paso, TX
June 4: Macon, GA
June 4: Phoenix, AZ
June 3: Omaha, NB
June 3: Chester, VA
June 2: Ames, IA
June 1: Tulsa, OK

Just 156 days into 2022, the US has seen at least 246 mass shootings (defined as four or more people shot or killed in a single incident, not including the shooter).

Some people consider these “inconvenient facts.” For others, this is a wake-up call. Hopefully many of us see this as a horrific tragedy.

As Christians, we should never be ho-hum about horrific tragedy.

The Cain narrative

A meme that I’ve seen popping up on evangelicals’ social media connects world’s first murderer, Cain, with guns:

gun violence - the Cain narrative
gun violence – the Cain narrative

Ok, If the story of Cain and Abel is to be our template, let’s dive in a little deeper (Gen. 4) and see what other lessons there are:

  • God did not use capital punishment against Cain, or even prison – God let Cain go free
  • In fact, God threatened severe punishment for anyone who killed Cain
  • God’s chosen chastening for Cain’s fratricide was crop failure and wanderlust

Should we stick with Cain as our prototype?

Didn’t think so.

The “sin problem” narrative

This narrative insists that if the guns were gone, people would find other ways to kill – ergo, guns are not the problem. The reason why people want to kill is…sin.

If the problem is sin, what’s the solution?

My evangelical friends remind me that until all people are saved (or Christ returns), sin will remain in the world. So we need to get all people saved. There’s really nothing more we can do.

This strikes me as a passive stance, especially for a people whose motto is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) – and who often live in an insulated Christian sub-culture, far from the people who need “saving.”

(NOTE: when the issue is a woman’s right to choose, we can picket and scream and accuse and intimidate, but when the issue is guns, we just quietly wait for Christ’s return.)

So just for fun, let’s say lots and lots of Americans pray the sinner’s prayer, and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Will gun violence disappear? Let’s look at some studies.

God and gun violence

A recent Pew Research report revealed that, worldwide,

those nations with the highest rates of religiosity tend to be the most problem-ridden in terms of high violent crime rates, high infant mortality rates, high poverty rates and high rates of corruption…

[E]ach of the 10 safest and most peaceful nations in the world is also among the most secular, least God-believing in the world. Most of the least safe and peaceful nations, conversely, are extremely religious.

What’s the situation in the United States? Of the eleven states with the highest levels of belief in God[1], six of them also rank as having among the highest firearm mortality rates[2].

Is the inverse also true? Of the ten least religious states[3], once again six of them have among the lowest firearm mortality rates[4].

Long story short:

It would appear that “sin” (in the form of gun violence) can be worse in communities that have God in their lives.

Christians who believe that the more guns and God we have, the safer we are: you believe in a myth – a deadly myth (see list above of mass shootings).

Now obviously, the state-by-state connection between religiosity and gun violence is not simple or straightforward. Local regulations factor into the issue, as do people’s understanding of religion.

That is, correlation does not necessarily imply causation – but also, these statistics can not be ignored as mere coincidence.

(Commercial: if you question “business as usual” in Christianity – or want to question it – subscribe to my newsletter, and we can journey together! I have more thoughts about God and guns and other topics as well.)

Gun ownership and gun laws

Let’s go beyond the “God factor” now. Did you know that:

  • States with higher gun ownership rates have higher rates of mass shootings (source)
  • States with higher gun ownership rates have higher firearm suicide rates (source)

That is, the more guns we have, the more we kill each other and ourselves.

Did you know that:

  • States with weak gun laws have higher rates of firearm mortality (source)
  • In fact, the thirteen states with the weakest gun laws[5] have three times as many gun deaths as the eight states with the strongest gun laws[6].

That is, the less gun control we have, the more we kill each other.

What does this mean?

Now, dear evangelical Christians (if you are still reading), it’s time to deal with the facts.

  • You want lots of guns and not much gun control. Based on the data, this is clearly a recipe for  more gun violence, not less.
  • You believe that the only hope for lowering gun violence is God in our lives. That doesn’t seem to be working.

Why are we backing a policy that is killing us?

Maybe we don’t have a gun problem or a sin problem.

Maybe what we have is a pride problem. Maybe 2 Chronicles 7:14 is for us. Maybe the desire for uncontrolled guns won’t save us from bad guys – because maybe we are the bad guys.

Children are dying because of guns and sin – but maybe it’s our sin that’s killing them.

(If you are energized by challenges to the evangelical status quo like this, you’d enjoy my blog. Sign up for my free newsletter here!)

(If you would like to comment, please pop over to my Facebook page. All of my posts are there and open to constructive comment! I welcome your thoughts. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!)


RELATED READING:

Christians: when in God’s name are we going to end gun violence?

White Savior Syndrome: a brief case study

Are there “strong Christian women” on Capitol Hill?

The Beatitudes: what does God require of us?


FOOTNOTES
[1] Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma (tied with Utah) (source)
[2] Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, Missouri, Alabama, Alaska, New Mexico, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Montana (source)
[3] Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Oregon and California (source)
[5] Kansas, Alaska, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Arizona, Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, Idaho and Mississippi (source)
[6] California, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey (source)

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