In the wake of the Colorado shooting tragedy, there’s been a lot of talk about why the politicians are not talking about guns. The only thing that President Obama is willing to say concretely is that he is committed to protecting 2nd amendment rights. Over the past twenty years, our politicians have been consistently punished electorally for advocating any sort of gun control, so it’s become a toxic issue that they want to avoid touching at all costs. The NRA has never been in a more powerful position in our society. In this context, what are Christians supposed to say about guns? Certainly plenty of Christians own guns for hunting and protecting their families. Other Christians who believe that Christianity requires a radical commitment to nonviolence would say that guns are always bad and no Christian should own one. I’m not sure exactly where I fall on that spectrum, but I do think that Christians have a responsibility to say something.
I suspect that the reason many evangelical Christians are opposed to any kind of gun control is because they’re looking at the issue through the lens of their opposition to “big government,” in which the government is seen as the secular humanist solution to problems that we believe are solved by Christ alone. In this paradigm, any kind of restriction on individual freedom is also an attack on God’s sovereignty because God and government have been pitted against each other. That’s the only way I can make any sense of a follower of Jesus Christ believing that civilians should be allowed to carry weapons which are designed for no other purpose than to kill lots of people in a short span of time, like the assault rifle that the Colorado shooter used. I’m sorry, but it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around prioritizing my right to own a super-deadly weapon as a collector’s item over the rights of random moviegoers to live in a country where they’re not going to get mowed down because someone who was mentally unstable had access to the same weapon.
One of the other reasons that evangelical Christians tend to have a nihilistic attitude about the laws of our land is because we look at our time on Earth as a form of exile. If we’re “just pilgrims passing through,” then why should we have anything to do with reducing the violence in our culture? We see our only responsibility as rescuing other people from the clutches of the world, not making the world better, since “a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” Well today, at my parents’ church in Durham, NC, the sermon text was Jeremiah 29. My attention was drawn to verse 7, where God tells the Israelites who were in exile to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city where I have sent you.” I think that’s an important word for us today. How should this consideration shape the way that we talk about guns and what we hold our politicians accountable to? What if politicians were actually worried about losing the votes of Christians who were seeking peace in their cities?
More important even than God’s word to seek peace in our cities are the eternal repercussions of our politicians’ fear of doing anything systemic to address gun violence. In that theater in Aurora, Colorado, there were people who died without having a chance to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is beyond abominable that Jesus’ Great Commission would be thwarted because too many Christians have put their personal right to collect really cool, destructive man toys above the physical ability of people we are called to evangelize to hear the gospel before their lives are snatched away in two minutes of rampage. I don’t know the ins and outs of the gun control issue, where lines should be drawn, what loopholes should be closed, etc. But I do believe that we have a responsibility not only as citizens but as witnesses to God’s kingdom to reduce the violence in our society so that nobody will be cut off from this planet before they have had a chance to meet Jesus. So what are Christian leaders saying and advocating about this issue? If you know of resources, please share them.