What should Christians say about guns?

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.

9 thoughts on “What should Christians say about guns?

  1. I grew up in Idaho where guns and hunting were a major part of our lives. My family is long-time NRA. But even given that background I can not rationalize the absolute right to have any gun and any amount of amo. There is no need for or justification for automatic or semi-automatic rifles. They can’t be used to hunt anything other than humans. There is no sporting or entertainment purpose which could not be achieved just as well with a more conventional weapon. It seems strange to me that the government can take away our right to use sudafed which actually works on nasal congestion unless we have a drivers license. Then we can only have so many mg of pseudephedrine per month even if that means we can’t have enough medicine for a full month. This because someone might make meth out of the ingredients. But you can’t stop me from ordering 6,000 round of amo from the WEB. It doesn’t matter if I can breath. But you can’t keep me from being able to walk into a crowded theatre or another target with more than enough amo to wipe out a large group of people. Why does the person who wants to use a weapon that can have a 100 round magazine have more rights than someone who has a need for nasal decongestion?

  2. “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.”

    This is excessively and unnecessarily metaphysical. A lot of us simply don’t trust the government, or perhaps government in principle, and don’t want it to have a monopoly on the means of violence. At the moment, I happen to be surrounded by over a million refugees who were forcibly disarmed immediately prior to their ethnic cleansing. That’s one story; there are others like it in every corner of the world.

    I have nothing but respect for those “Christians who believe that Christianity requires a radical commitment to nonviolence.” I would simply remind them that nonviolence is as far removed from the police forces and prison systems needed to establish and maintain state monopolies on gun ownership as night is from day. I have, on occasion, seen people who call themselves pacifists demand gun controls; they are deeply confused.

    • You’re absolutely right. I’m superimposing my own framework as someone who always thinks theologically.

  3. So, punish the many for the sins of the few? For safety’s sake of course.
    Can’t you see where this logically ends? An absolutely locked-down police state, where only the police and the elite own any means of defense, and all dissent is verboten. Everyone could be safe then, safe in their cells.
    I prefer freedom. The dangers of freedom are preferable to the securities of slavery. And God could have created safe robots instead of men and women with an exceedingly dangerous Free Will.
    Do you think there is such a thing as a Just War? Then there is certainly also such a thing as a Just Self-Defense and, may I add, a Just Insurrection.

  4. I am not a gun owner; however, something about your post just strikes me wrong. I know many Christians who are gun owners and not one of them would have used the reasons you have listed for owning guns. My friends hunt and they believe that God has called them to protect their families, but none of them have ever expressed anything remotely like “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. ” or “too many Christians have put their personal right to collect really cool, destructive man toys…” In fact, the only Christians I know who even own large clip semi-auto guns of any size are law enforcement.
    I repeat…I am not a gun owner, but I do wonder if a Christian had had a gun and been at the movie, would this have ended differently. I find some Christians to non-violence very intriguing. Martin Luther King was a great man and accomplished a lot because of it. I understand Jesus’ message of non-violence and what it meant to Ghandi, but is non-violence the answer to senseless violence? Jesus did tell his disciples to take a sword. Obviously, he was against pushing Christianity by force. Otherwise he would have chastised Peter for only getting the servants ear.🙂 But robbers on the road who plan to take your life to get your money?
    I don’t own a gun, but if I did, I think that if someone tried to rob me, I’d let them have my money. I’d choose to keep my life. If someone wanted to kill me for being a follower of Christ, I think defending that with a gun might be the wrong approach.

    • I’m not absolutely opposed to guns. My wife won’t let me get one. Otherwise I would have one. I just think that honest conversation should happen about whether the laws and regulations in place are sufficient. I’m frustrated that the NRA has so much power just as a matter of principle because I don’t think any special interest should have that much power.

  5. I agree with you. How many people will have to die in mass shootings before we change our laws? How many lives is our right to own automatic weapons worth? I would have thought it would be far, far fewer than the number of lives we have already lost.

    How and where do Christians talk about these things? I don’t know either.

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