Social Justice, Guns, and God

Social Justice, Guns, and God January 7, 2013

The variety of intelligent things being said, representing a variety of positions on the issues, is a part of what I love about the Evangelical Channel at Patheos:

Joel J. Miller:

When it comes to the question of social justice, there is more at play than the needs of the poor. Charity requires not only a recipient but also a giver, and that increases the issue’s moral complexity.

Unfortunately, however, compulsion is almost always assumed in the public discussions around the topic of social justice. We jump from the moral imperative to give to the political expediency of a forced transfer, to the legal tactic of a compulsory program. That is not only a stretch, but betrays a misunderstanding of virtue.

There is a moral tension here that must be resolved by the voluntary activity of the individual. It cannot be compelled by the external coercion of others. If God does not coerce virtue, then neither do his people. To remedy one evil with another is self-defeating. It not only runs counter to the character of God, but also robs people of God’s intended gift for their salvation: the free participation in his work through charity.

Bill Bennett via Owen Strachan:

John Lott, economist and gun-rights advocate, has extensively studied mass shootings and reports that, with just one exception, the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011, every public shooting since 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns. The massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, all took place in gun-free zones.

These murderers, while deranged and deeply disturbed, are not dumb. They shoot up schools, universities, malls and public places where their victims cannot shoot back. Perhaps “gun-free zones” would be better named “defenseless victim zones.”

The debate over gun rights is a hot one. If we step away from the rhetoric, we can understand why. The rash of shootings we’ve seen nationally and internationally in recent years makes the blood run cold. But there is something worth considering in Bennett’s piece. From a cursory read, it does not seem that gun-free zones in America are helping matters. They seem to be creating environments where people end up as helpless targets. That’s worth thinking about, even if one is reflexively drawn to an anti-gun position.

Paul Louis Metzger:

Absolute power in the hands of any one religion or political party for that matter has a way of creating an abuse of power. To me, the biblical or Christian thing to do at the beginning of this new year is to begin with a confession of God’s sovereignty and our utter deficiency and lack of power when faced with various versions of the valley of dry bones. After all, we all have skeletons in our closets that need to be brought out into the light of day. We all contribute to the economic problems with our greed and the violence with our anger and silent or outspoken rage.

Can this nation or you and I ever live again? Only God knows. God prophesied through Ezekiel that he would raise to life the bones of his people Israel and restore them to the land (Ezekiel 37:11-14). Perhaps the most important New Year’s resolution is to confess daily our sense of utter dependence on God for divine intervention in our own nation and in our own lives. Otherwise, no matter what else happens, these bones—especially our own—will remain very dry.

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  • It’s not compulsion: you get to vote.

    • Sam Hamilton

      It certainly sounds like compulsion.

      Let’s use another example. What if the government were to reinstitute the military draft. Would you say that I’m not being forced to join the military because I got to vote?

      • Let me put it another way: the social contract on which representative democracy is built presupposes a willingness to abide by the decisions made by the decisionmakers you elect. You don’t get to opt out when the vote doesn’t go your way.

        So yes, it’s compulsion in the sense that, once the draft law is passed and implemented, you can’t say “no thanks” when your number comes up. But that’s the social contract our system is built on: everyone gets to vote, but in trade, everyone agrees to follow the outcome. So you do get a say in the matter–you voice your opinion at the ballot box. And you consent to the results by reaping the benefits of society.

        You get to elect representatives who have whatever attitudes toward state-based charity you want. If more people disagree with you than agree with you, you live with the outcome. If you want a different outcome next time, you have to work to change people’s minds so the vote goes your way, not throw a tantrum about compulsion.

  • Crœsos

    Why is John Lott still considered a reliable authority on ANYTHING? It’s possible that his analysis of public shootings may be accurate, but the mere fact that it’s John Lott making the claim makes me want it double-checked, and maybe even triple-checked.

  • Yoyo

    What on earth are you trying to say? The NRA are the good guys?, the more recent shootings shouldn’t be talked about? All little children should submit it metal detectors and be taught that savage young white men will come and try and kill them?

    How does any of this fulfill the notion of protecting the young ?
    How does any of this fit with turning the other cheek?
    More importantly, why would you let a cruel and rapacious financial lobby set policy that could injure your flock?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Just a quotation. Argue with the author, if you want to argue about it.

  • Martin

    Just realized there sure are a lot of white folk blogging on the evangelical portal…a bit of diversity would be a welcome development.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I agree, Martin! I’ve tried, believe me.