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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. David

    I doubt Dan would be so supportive of similar restrictions on religious civil liberties: hypocrisy.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  2. lol??

    Standard Christian doctrine is for a woman and mother to be under the authority of her husband. Was that the case for the family of the shooter at Sandy Hook? Commie mommies hate that doctrine? Her prince charming AKA, the rich, hate it, too?

    December 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • CNN

      So what's your point, moron?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • lol??

      more sociopathic hate?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Galileo Galileo

      Thank you, Allen West!

      December 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  3. David Bruno

    Religion is a much bigger threat to modern society than any gun !...Brainwashing can be just as dangerous !

    December 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • B.S.

      Exactly!

      December 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • CNN

      Sounds like you've got firsthand experience there, Bruno......

      December 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • William

      The author of the opinion piece is from Chicago where gun control is among the strictest in the nation. The result? Chicago gun-homicide rates have soared to be competing for worst in the nation.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • lol??

      found some doctrine you love, CNN?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  4. Johnsky

    Wow. On and on about Chicago ( a serial tragedy). Gee why is it that a city with strict gun control can't seem to get a handle on the gun violence? IT"S SIMPLE!!! You just go to a lax state and buy guns...bring 'em back with you! Stolen and illegal guns saturate Chicago and other places. There has to be a FEDERAL law that regulates guns and very strict penalties for those who break the law. Hunting with shotguns or long rifles...sure, with proper licensing and passage of a gun safety course. Target ranges...sure...again with proper licensing and gun safety courses. Buy a gun on a street corner...at a garage sale for God's sake.... Go to a neighboring state...go to a gun show. You can have the strictest gun controls locally and they will have no effect on the proliferation of guns in that area....like Chicago.
    You people are crazy and paranoid... God help you.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • JB

      Well not really...in my state they wont sell you hand guns and assault rifles unless you have a state issued ID

      December 29, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  5. B.S.

    Here we go again. Another pastor speaking on behalf of his imaginary friend in the sky.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • David Bruno

      Agree 100% ! You have taken the word right out of my mouth !

      December 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • lol??

      Bruno beastie, ............................"Mat 15:11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."........ You're kinda dumb.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  6. Dr. Sparky. J.A.G.O.B. (just a good ol' boy)

    by analogy: If David hadn't been well practiced with his sling-shot, could he have taken down Goliath?

    December 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  7. David

    Evangelicals are speaking up about guns, saying "buy more guns."

    December 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  8. JonS03

    I'm a hunter and gun owner as well as a strong believer in God and his laws. There needs to be some review of current gun laws but all of this talk about banning guns altogether is ridiculous. I don't understand how people can be so quick to throw away freedoms on a whim that our ancestors fought and died for. I'm tired of all the "way out in left (or right) field" comments about how guns have nothing to do with the violence or that the only answer is to ban all guns. Some sensible and reasonable talk is in order instead of the idiotic ranting I'm seeing.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  9. David

    I never watch CNN expecting to be informed, only entertained our outraged.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  10. Cunfuzed

    I'm always fascinated by a person that uses terminology like: Why can’t we support sensible restrictions, such as a ban on military-style combat weapons?" Sometimes the writer will use the word reasonable instead of sensible.

    I suppose one person's sensible or reasonable is another person's infringement of personal rights. I don't own a rifle such as used in some of the shootings, aka an "assault rifle." Never had any interest in one. I've shot them, enjoyed shooting them, but there are other things in the $1000+ price range I need more than an AR or Bushmaster or (put your chosen brand here).

    But this is America, land of the free and home of the brave. I will NOT tell another law abiding citizen that they cannot or should not own one if they so choose. Some of you may wish to voice agreement with gun bans, magazine limits, and other laws of very questionable effectiveness, and I will defend your right to hold those beliefs and to state them, but I cannot agree with them. I see very little evidence that such bans or limits make us any safer.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • JonS03

      I'm glad to see that some people respect our freedoms even if they don't apply to them personally. I respect your right to disagree and you respect my right to bear arms that are within our laws, but I don't respect all those that are willing to toss all our freedoms out the window simply because they don't give a crap about owning a gun.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  11. Ricardo Williams

    I think that gun ownership should be restricted to the type of weapons. Meaning you have the right to protect your home , but not with an assault rifle. Your weapons should not be more sophisticated than your local law enforcement weapons. We are now putting police officers and fire fighters in unnecessary arms way. How do we expect our officers to report to crime scenes in local communities when they are faced with assault weapons. We are now putting innocent families at risk if officers are forced to respond to crime scenes with assault weapons of their own.
    We need to clean up our society and get guns off our streets and also out of our homes.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • JonS03

      I've seen this type of response so many times but there is no proof that having assault weapons on the market increases gun violence. Just because an AR15 was the weapon of choice in the shootings means squat. Two handguns or a shotgun with buckshot would've been just as deadly. I own a 9mm that holds 17 rounds so two of those would've held more rounds than a single AR15. Who are you to say what type of gun I should or should not own?

      I'm tired of the emotional responses by people that do not have a clue what they're talking about. It's a fact that most anti-gun advocates don't own or use firearms so how can you make factual and intelligent responses?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • JB

      Well i dont know about you but i dont have a 3 round burst on my assault weapon...technically mine is inferior

      December 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  12. CNNsucks

    CNN always reports negative stories about guns.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • I am the truth

      And yet you show up here faithfully, don't you, sweetie? Not a lot going on in your life is it? Kinda figures.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Josh

      Yeah it is called reporting the news...you know those small stories where children and adults are murdered by guns....I guess they purposely overlook all the stories that are good about guns...like te time an assault rifle helped a little old lady cross the street or when a glock with an expanded gun magazine helped the woman change a flat tire or the time that 38 police special washed dishes in a soup kitchen...If you want to watch news that will agree with your preconceived mind set then turn on Fox News.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • realist512

      And there is an upbeat story about guns?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  13. David

    Only from the Chicago area, where gun control and gun violence go hand in hand, could we find a pastor supporting gun control.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  14. Jason

    How come CNN only reports stories from the anti-gun side? They aren't even gonna pretend to be neutral and unbiased?

    December 29, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • CNN

      Because guns are evil and we want them out of the hands of citizens and we don't care about the Second Amendment because the people aren't smart enough to govern themselves.

      We'll do the thin'in around here, Babalouie......

      December 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  15. David

    Why is it the US did not experience any of the political terrors of the 20th century? Guns in the homes of private citizens.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • CNN

      What do you call 20 dead six year olds, some of whom were shot with as many as 11 bullets?

      What do you tell the parents?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • truth

      There are many other countries that had no political terrors.

      Besides, the U.S. history is only 200years old. It was created based on principals stolen from greece, england and others. You should thank them.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  16. Andrew

    Statistics show that gun control does little to help curb violent acts. Chicago is the best example, You could look to Baltimore, Maryland as well... These people aren't stupid, They know these schools have a bunch of sitting ducks sitting inside waiting to be victimized. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire and 2000 years ago, The scholars of the bible were well aware of that. I don't want this "helpful" government encroaching on anymore of our rights or making folks even more dependent on them than they already are. There are over 300 million firearms in the nations The outcome of increased regulations on firearms will once again just punish law abiding citizens and lead to no real "change". I think the best way to curb these violent acts is for the media to stop putting these people on a pedistool and to quit glorifying there hideous acts...

    December 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • CNN

      The assault weapons ban cannot unfairly target minorities.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  17. johnnyhouse

    CNN has to stand with its liberal base.I have nothing against sticking together,it is the cause that irks me.Why are they not on Congresses' rear end for not trying to solve a problem that affects all Americans all the time?

    December 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • CNN

      You want us to stop lying about the real unemployment levels?

      No way, Jose.....

      December 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  18. William

    Seems the only time CNN runs a religion story is when they can find some Christian somewhere that agrees with its ideology.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • lettersfromtheozarks

      William, I thought the same thing. They fight so hard for the separation of church and state then use the church comments when it backs up what they want to hear – and/or – what they want heard.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  19. a dose of reality

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • cindy lou who

      youve posted this so many times......find God dont hate him

      December 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • CNN

      He's an idiot, Cindy. Just ignore him.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • YouAreNotReasonable

      I doubt you know the Bible more than anyone. I doubt you even care to read it.

      Of all the anti-Christians who point out how hateful and intolerant Christians are and then act hateful and intolerant towards them. LOL

      December 29, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      All 3 of you chucked reasonable out the windows when you decided to or were indoctrinated into your creepy death cult. I notice not one of you addressed any of the points raised because you can't...because they're true. It isn't hate being directed at you...it's astonishment that you can be that gullible.
      And just to refresh...a recent poll showed non-believers were more informed about religions(not ust Christianity) because this is the idiocy we must face on a daily basis from you brainwashed fools. The rank and file Christian has never cracked open a Bible...they get all their info from whichever pompous ass is a the pulpit and that's good enough for them. Rational people critique what they're told before blindly accepting it.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  20. ?????????

    No Need for religions to say a thing they should be answering the statement below!
    !Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics
    Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:39 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.