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My Take: It’s time for evangelicals to speak up about guns
December 28th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for evangelicals to speak up about guns

Editor’s note: Daniel Darling is a pastor, author and speaker in the Chicago area. His latest book is "Real: Owning Your Christian Faith." He tweets at @dandarling.

By Daniel Darling, Special to CNN

(CNN) – The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns, but many evangelicals defend the unlimited distribution of firearms with the same fervor that they defend biblical orthodoxy. According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey, 8% of white evangelical Protestants favor tighter gun laws.

But in the wake of yet another deadly school shooting, it’s time for evangelicals to contribute to the national discussion beyond: “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people.”

In fairness to gun enthusiasts, no reasonable observer could pin the blame for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting solely on the lack of effective gun laws. Even President Barack Obama and other influential voices have called for a balanced approach that looks not only at guns but also at mental illness, violent video games and a culture of fatherlessness that produces young troubled men. And the research about the effectiveness of gun controls laws seems mixed at best.

Still evangelicals should not defend the use, proliferation and availability of assault weapons with as much vigor as they defend their faith. In spite of some who insist the Second Amendment is drawn from the Bible, there is no clear-cut Christian position on gun control.

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On one level, the Bible affirms the government’s first and most basic job to protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable, our children. Romans 13 reminds us that government is “God’s servant for our good.” The Bible also gives high priority to the welfare of children.

At times, the Bible seems to affirm the right to self-defense. Even when Jesus famously told Peter to put down his sword during Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t tell Peter to destroy the sword but put it in its rightful place.

On the other hand, the Scripture is pretty clear that Christians should not only oppose violence but should be advocates for the sanctity of human life. This doesn’t simply apply to abortion but to any unlawful taking of human life. Advocating for life also includes taking care of children's and others' well-being after they are born. Each life is created in the image of God; therefore, death is the work of the evil one (1 John 3:15). The Apostle Paul labels death God’s final enemy. Christians are also called to be “peacemakers” and not lovers of violence.

Given the lack of a straightforward biblical imperative for or against guns, faithful followers of Christ should be more flexible in their opinions on this issue.

Why can’t we support sensible restrictions, such as a ban on military-style combat weapons? These weapons seem to serve no purpose other than the glorification of violence. If we take seriously the command to protect our children, we’ll avoid the risk of these weapons getting into the hands of unstable people. Sure, a ban won’t eliminate all weapons, especially those purchased illegally, but it may reduce the chance of another Sandy Hook massacre.

Massacre of children leaves many asking, 'Where’s God?'

We also should also advocate making it harder for people to acquire guns, even sensible weapons purchased for self-defense or hunting. Gun ownership should be a privilege earned by good behavior and conferred only on the most trustworthy of our citizens. I think we can do this without disrespecting the Second Amendment, which besides guaranteeing the right to bear arms calls for this right to be “well-regulated.” As blogger Marty Duren says, “While the Second Amendment provides the right to keep and bear (“carry”) arms, it does not necessitate the right to own any armament the mind of man can create.”

New gun laws won’t prevent every future crime, but perhaps a few common-sense regulations would help destroy a culture of violence that so tempts young troubled men.

Some will argue that new restrictions only hurt those who are already law-abiding. This may be so. But as Christians called to care for the common good of our communities, we should be willing to endure the inconvenience if it saves one child from death.  Since 9/11, we have all endured more hassle at the airport to prevent even one terrorist from killing our fellow citizens.

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Followers of Christ know that it is ultimately not the gun that kills, but evil that resides in every human heart. And yet it is precisely this belief in total depravity that might inform our views on gun control. In a fallen world, the most vulnerable among us need protection from those who cannot or will not discern right from wrong. (Ironically, this is the focus of the Christian anti-abortion argument.) Let’s not put instruments of death so close to hands that would do evil.

At the end of the day, living out our faith requires that we do more than simply react in a defensive posture but engage in this important debate. We can protect the cherished right to bear arms in self-defense and still make sure unnecessary and violent weapons are not sold on our store shelves and online and are not accessible by those in our communities who would use them to commit acts of aggression and murder.

Furthermore, an unwillingness to entertain common-sense restrictions casts the evangelical faith in an unnecessarily unfavorable light. It may cause some to think we love our guns more than our neighbors.

There are many things about which Christians should be unyielding; the right to own a killing machine should not be one of them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Daniel Darling.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Guns

soundoff (2,819 Responses)
  1. SugarKube

    Preachers should stick to the great commission and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • I am the truth

      And exactly, sweetie, just what is that great commission?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • mikes

      Yep. Since religion wants to be involved in secular politics, it's time that they started paying taxes, like everyone else.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • spent

      No, God will take care of hell for ya. No problem there!

      December 29, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • guitarken

      lame comment by a wingnut

      December 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  2. John

    Jesus told his disciples to sell their coats and buy a sword (read gun). I think that's where these folks get their justification (read ammo).

    December 29, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Jesus never said that.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • John

      "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." Luke 22:35

      December 29, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      Where does it say that?

      December 29, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • FloydZepp

      The "sword" was a metaphor for "serving God". Evangelicals don't even know their own Bible. sheesh.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • John

      I'm not an Evangelical or a Christian but I can see how they would read this literally.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      Matthew 26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."
      You can interpret anything in any way that suits your purpose.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • John

      "You can interpret anything in any way that suits your purpose."

      Yep.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Jason

      Christians ever heard of the crusades?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Dan

      I always find it amusing when people quote fiction as if it were true.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  3. FloydZepp

    Evangelicalism is a symptom of frightened old white people that now realize they they aren't going to live forever and that America is slipping out of their grasp. But its always that way.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  4. Fred Smith

    Like I believe a darn thing this gay chicago darling says. Why dont you have an opinion on the snake charmers position written by NASA? A godless liberal mouthpiece like CNN has nothing meaniful to say about God.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:46 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Evangelicals don't know what God wants anymore than anyone else. They pretend their Politics are God's Politics.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • veteransstadium

      You, sir, are a propaganda-swallowing Fox News stooge.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Dan

      God was my co-pilot but then we crashed in the mountains and I had to eat him.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  5. popseal

    FOUR LEGITIMATE RESPONSES TO VIOLENCE determined by the moment...1. turn the other cheek, not to be misunderstood as pacifism 2. leave the scene (Pilgrams to America) 3. appeal to law (avail your rights as a citizen) 4. take defensive action on behalf of the weak (American Revolution, Jesus cleanses the temple). Don't bother arguing with most pastors as they simply jive by emotion. The Bible is a mostly forgotten Book and biblical illiteracy is the weakest part of most church teaching. I respectfully REFUSE TO SERVE ON A JURY on the grounds that Christians have already been dismissed from the law by the SCOTUS (judges dismissed me twice so far). I don't care what the 'jackwagon' on the next pew thinks. After 42 years a Christian and 20 of them in the pulpit, why should I care?

    December 29, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Sir to ye

      What a blowhard

      December 29, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Irrational Exuberance

      You do realize the pilgrims didn't flee persecution right?
      They were the ones doing the persecuting and had been told they had to stop.
      They were the equivalent to today's Sharia law apologists.
      The most intolerant of them left England in order that they could impose their views on others.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  6. majikimaje

    The bible has a lot to say about your rights to defend yourself & family; By what ever means necessary!

    December 29, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • Mark Taylor

      You are confusing what is written in the Bible with the words of the late Malcolm X

      December 29, 2012 at 6:43 am |
      • majikimaje

        Your "presumption" is beyond comprehension. Get a refund on your "crystal ball" – It is broken.

        December 29, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Sir to ye

      Book of Klingon says stuff too.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  7. Gene H. Bell-Villada

    Gee, I wonder how many times the Bible makes mention of such things as handguns and assault rifles. And yet the pro-gun Evangelicals use Scripture to oppose gun control? How very curious!

    December 29, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • Mark Taylor

      Not all Christians follow that line of thinking. I once attended a very large church in Scottsdale AZ (Scottsdale Bible Church) and the pastor somehow turned Christ's message on "Turn the Other Cheek" into a sermon on the rights of gun owners. I wasn't the only person who walked out.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • TheRightOne

      Read the book of Judges. It was a serious mistake not to have a sword

      December 29, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  8. Namvet67

    I guess there was biblical justification for the instuments of torture and death for the inquisition to fall back on....like "the pear"....and "the breast ripper" .....God damn thugs.....who the hell wants their opinion now?....they're always wrong....always

    December 29, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • HenryB

      Could not have said it better myself. Thank you for being so right (and so blunt).

      December 29, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • Mark Taylor

      What about the good work done by Christians? The church I attend served almost 1/2 million meals last year for example. the Trinity free clinic provides free medical care to the poor and those without health insurance. There are evil people where ever you look. There are also good people who seek to limit suffering with compassion.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  9. Joe

    Fine NRA, have your guns. But let's make the penalties for even the slightest gun infraction severe and let's put a huge tax on the cost of guns and ammo, including requiring insurance.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • rkdres

      Oh, that's a fine suggestion given the lack of corruption in the insurance industry....face palm

      December 29, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • Eyevibe410

      I'm fine with the severe penalties and even insurance, but don't think you can tax me out of owning a gun.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • Irrational Exuberance

      Given the rampant abuse we've seen when people use the freedom of speech, in causing distress in others, defamation, and such we need to impose huge criminal penalties on such action, lengthy jail sentences, and a heavy tax on all speech in order to keep it under control. Given the occasional riot all protests shall require reasonable insurance in the event one breaks out. Failure to procure such insurance of course shall mean the penalties previously mentioned must be brought to bear.

      Actually to make it more like the proposals on ammunition we will require these things even if a person doesn't plan to make a speech but only reserves the right to make one in response to speech they don't like.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  10. Rational Libertarian

    Anybody who blames gun crime on video games has the intellectual capacity of a lump of jelly.

    December 29, 2012 at 3:49 am |
    • Joe

      If you are not going to kill someone, then all these other areas of blame are misguided. You can play grand theft auto, and not feel the need to steal a car. But if you are psychotic, undereducated, or generally derelict then I do believe graphic games can desensitize these people.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • rkdres

      Anyone who denies the role of violent entertainment in the big picture is a complete fool.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • rkdres

      We are a society completely saturated in violence, from TV shows, to movies , to FPS like COD, etc.. it is absolutely disgusting how 90% of so-called entertainment contains violent imagery, from murder, explosions,etc. Given the prevalence of Mental Illness, this content may be a catalyst for someone going off the deep end. We are desensitized to this type of thing. I'm not suggesting it is the sole cause of mass shootings, but it is definitely a factor. Your "lump of jelly" comment shows either how young you are, or how ignorant you may be. Everyone wants to blame and ban firearms, but god forbud we ban violent content coming out of Hollywood, that would be censorship. The hypocrisy is astounding...

      December 29, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • Earthlyvision

      Just a thought. Millions of dollars are spent on 30 second super bowl commercials to convince the watcher to go out and impulsively purchase items advertised. So why wouldn't a two hour violent movie or playing violent video games all day everyday encourage violence?

      Our value system is broken. This is a complex issue that needs multiple solutions. One thing is fact, violent video games and violent Quentin Tarrentino movies are played/seen all over the globe, but somehow other countries have less gun violence. There is something wrong with this picture. Adherence to outdated laws, racism, religious fanaticism, absence of values and apathy are the perfect ingredients for moral decay.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  11. Rational Libertarian

    I hate evangelicals and the gun control lobby.

    December 29, 2012 at 3:47 am |
    • Doug

      I know right.. And they go hand in hand.. Both disgusting !

      December 29, 2012 at 6:39 am |
  12. JM

    They worship their guns, not God.

    December 29, 2012 at 2:17 am |
  13. Ely Marcelo

    What is nice about the evangelicals is they think heaven will be their destination too. Can you imagine heavens citizenry fully equipped with AK-47? I would be scared to walk on the streets of gold.

    December 29, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • HenryB

      Sadly, true (and funny, sadly).

      December 29, 2012 at 6:45 am |
  14. Colin

    Do evangelicals get anything right? In my experience, if you want to know what the more educated, intelligent, fair or enlightened view is on virtually any matter, simply ask, "what do most evangelical Christians think on the issue?" Then adopt the opposite view.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Mark Taylor

      That's a little unfair. the man who brought us the Big Bang theory (not the TV series) was a Belgian priest. Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg were Christians as are recent guys like Freeman Dyson. Never generalize. There is some truth in what you have written but when you step out and generalize you get into trouble with prejudice.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Mark, he didn't say just "christians." He said "evangelical christians." Not the same thing.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  15. Saraswati

    "In fairness to gun enthusiasts, no reasonable observer could pin the blame for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting solely on the lack of effective gun laws. Even President Barack Obama and other influential voices have called for a balanced approach that looks not only at guns but also at mental illness, violent video games and a culture of fatherlessness that produces young troubled men. "

    A good summary of the factors involved and how they all matter.

    December 29, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • jarhead333

      I am curious if we will ever know the mental state of the shooter. I know there is speculation, but I cannot trust the media these days. I hope that there will be a focus on mental illness going forward. There is so much at work in this particular incident.

      December 29, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Saraswati

      I hope we'll know. One of the problems with this kind of case is that there is fear of biasing people against a community of people with a particular mental illness who are generally not violent. Often as a precaution the dangers of mental illness remain understated.

      December 29, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Why don't we take some of that genius that are busy building bombs and WMD's and have them figure out how to mesh Japanese and American culture into civilized societies?

      December 29, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • jarhead333

      @AB
      There is no money in harmony.
      We need to address the mental illness. If it is properly diagnosed, most of these violent cases would never become violent.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Japanese culture?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Jarhead,l agree that diagnosis is key in most cases, especially emerging schizophrenia. But in many cases, we are also dealing with how to manage a case where the person is already diagnosed but either untreatable, or off their medications, and these issues are very tricky with regard to balancing different rights within society.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • jarhead333

      @Saraswati
      What do you do for a living if you don't mind my asking? I agree that there America is still learning how to deal with those who have already been diagnosed. I'm not sure that I belive that there are those who are untreatable. We just need to identify those individuals as early as possible.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:29 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Jarhead, I work in a technology field (not psychology related). I hope that at some point all will be treatable, but.from what I do know, I don't think that is yet the case.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • J.W

      I have always wondered if there were as many crazy people say 50 years ago or if people have become crazier in recent years. I wonder how much of it is chemical and how much is environmental factors.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Think about it. I am not your professor.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • Saraswati

      @JW, 50 years ago we were just starting to treat schizophrenia, the most common disease we consider 'crazy' today. Saddly, before that, things were much worse. On the other hand, people, because untreatable, were generally insti'tutionalized and so unseen.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • J.W

      I just don't really think that changing any gun laws would make any difference, except I think it may help to ban assault rifles and similar weapons. There really isnt any clear statistical data to show that gun laws would make a huge difference, but obviously things like treating mental illness and substance abuse would help.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • Saraswati

      Restricting high powered weapons would reduce the number killed when such incidents occur. But addressing psychological, social and security issues would make up much of the rest of the gap.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • DL

      All these things may matter..but lets be realistic here. The Dem's have tried to get healthcare available to everyone, and look at the fight that's gone on about it. Every day you have Republicans whining about paying taxes and helping the poor, (everyone is a moocher in their eyes)...the core problem in this society is the middle class has evaporated. People can blame video games or whatever they want, but they have the same cultural influences overseas without these problems..what is different in America is that people grew up hammered by religion, in a dog eat dog society where the same rules don't apply to everyone. Pour into that the ridiculous amount of weapons on the street, and here we are. As long as the middle class continues to be destroyed in this country, things will only get worse.

      December 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  16. jarhead333

    I am a Christian, and a Marine. I know that most conservatives think that gun laws should not be messed with, but I disagree. I do not see any need for a civilian to have an assault rifle with large magazine capacity. I know I am in the minority of groups that I identify with, but I still do not see the reason. When I was sworn in as a Marine we took an oath to protect our country against enemies both foreign and domestic. It seems like there are a lot of domestic enemies in which we need to protect our country from. The "right to bear arms" cannot really be quoted in these situations. That was not even the reason the amendment was used.

    December 28, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • HenryB

      Thank you for your service and for your ability to reason.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • rkdres

      If you are what you say, then you would know that the term "Assault Rifle" is something the Democrats made use of years ago to describe a civilian rifle that looked menacing since it was black and had a military appearance. The fact is that it is not an assault rifle per se, I hope you realize the difference between a real assault weapon and the civilian version. An ordinary Glock handgun is also semi-automatic, and takes seconds to change a small capacity clip, yet everyone is focusing on so-called assault weapons. In addition, the smaller capacity clips are far more reliable than the larger counterparts. So where is the furor against these weapons as well? Me thinks you be a troll...

      December 29, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  17. there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

    Right to own a gun is not just enshrined in consti tution of USA, but a right granted by the one who right to be, truth absolute, Lord, God and creator of every thing in existence, nothing can exist without. No guns will be need, if hindu secular's deniers of truth absolute follow as it was commanded, to follow limit of truth absolute 360*. Cause of mayhem are not guns, but hinduism denial of truth in life by hindu Jew's, criminal secular s. Frist one has to learn, Who we are and how toke form of human.
    By quantum physics, every thing is dependent on dark matter or program, other wise known as Spirit, truth of human to be in physical form. Spirit, programs appear in male body after reaching age of puberty by will of Allah, certain matter from blood of man is attracted to spirit on 125 volts. produced by function of human body, after attachment of matter to spirit, matter takes form of sperm, a living being, transferred to woman's body to grow into human form according to spirit, program, otherwise known as seeded, not physically but spiritually, programmed.
    Woman has no other function in human life but to mother a child, a greatest service, man can not do without, reason for a children to carry their fathers name. Heritage of person is physically attached to man's linage, not woman.
    Please visit limitisthetruth.com to learn truth about hinduism criminality of hindu Jew's, filthy secular s, cause of mayhem among humanity.

    December 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Mark Taylor

      Please read what the Dalai Lama has to say about religions function in this world. That guy is so logical and so dogma-free.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Greg

      It looks like you've got some really serious issues. You should consider getting some professional help.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  18. Alpa Chino

    Bullsheeeet, I'm sure there's some bible quote or six any good xtian redneck can use to prove god loves them guns!

    December 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Ken

      There's some bible quote or six to defend pretty much everything, good and bad. That's the way the Bible is.

      December 29, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  19. Irrational Exuberance

    When will theists, and especially self-proclaimed Christian theists come to grips with the fact they do not need to go to the bible to tell them what to think.

    Let me make it clear for you using even the bible.
    Do unto others as you would have them do to you. This is empowering all of YOU with moral agency. You are capable of telling right from wrong by just thinking would I want this done to me.

    If you actually come to accept at least that piece of the bible you will finally be able to say the bible is full of immorality.
    That is unless you want to be enslaved, or forced to marry a rapist, or see you entire town slaughtered because they won't move or won't worship another person's god.

    But it may also lead to rejecting stupid ideas. Such as I want to be denied the best means of defending myself because a criminal may want to use that means to attack me. Of course if I disarm myself it has no bearing on the criminal arming them self. Or that we should listen to people who appeal to fear to convince you, who say since they can't think of a reason to own a particular thing means there is no reason to have that thing.

    December 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Alpa Chino

      And if the bible don't say a thing on it, they just pretend it does.

      December 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  20. *frank*

    It's time for evangelicals to take their ludicrous, morally revolting religion and go away.

    December 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • frankly

      Yea, so we can make more room for bigots like you? No thanks.

      December 28, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • *frank*

      What a devastating, unanswerable riposte..........you must be some kind of Olympic gold medalist of reasoning skills..........

      December 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • rkdres

      Pretty ironic Frank, since your "reasoning" skills are equally absurd. I am not religious, but your comment is appalling. I apologize if I am wrong, but I assume you are a liberal. If so, then it is amusing how the left claims to represent freedom and liberty, as long as said freedoms are in line with their agenda. The bottom line is if you don't like religion, then ignore it. The same way the left tells the right to deal with things like gay marriage. Don't be a hypocrite.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:15 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.