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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. jeff

    Perhaps this preacher needs to talk to some Holocaust victims about how not being armed prevented millions of Jewish, Gay, handicap or any other "Unwanted Genetic" people from being sent to the ovens.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  2. trex

    ....ya know.......in all the paintings and sculptures, and mosaics, et., depicting any faith or belief..........I never once saw the object of that faith to be.....................................................................................CARRYING AN UZI...................................

    December 29, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • The myth revealed!

      That's funny! The weapon of choice at the time was a sword. And yes, it depictions are renowned in statues, paintings, carvings and stone work. BTW, AR-15's are much more versatile than an Uzi.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  3. Name*penguin

    Looking to the Bible for guidance regarding gun violence is nonsensical. The fact that only 8% of evangicals think there should be further gun controls shows the mindset of this group of so-called Christians. It appears that most evangelicals have more faith in the Bible than in God. Its as if there was no God until the Bible (the King James version of course) was written.
    The sad fact of the matter is that had there been an assault rifle ban, the Sandy Hook shooter's mom would not have purchased the AR15 used in the carnage and the shooter would not have had access to the weapon. And had there been a ban on assault rifles the deranged man who shot the firemen in upstate New York would not have been able to get the weapons he used from the ignorant neighbor who was able to purchase them. The senseless mass murders have many contributing factors and access to assault rifles is one of them. Eliminating assault rifles will not eliminate these senseless killings, but it will reduce their numbers.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • The myth revealed!

      How do you know that if he did not have an assault weapon he would not have killed by other means? Demented, twisted minds like Lanzas' use whatever means available. Mcveigh chose another means. Did not see outlawing fertilizer as a left wing agenda! Your "facts" are as twisted as Lanzas mind.

      Fight obesity! Make forks smaller!

      December 30, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  4. The myth revealed!

    The argument of gun control is missed. Our 2nd Amed. right is not just to defend ourselves against a home invasion, but to defend our nation from a tyrannical government. Look at Syria now where we are supporting the rebels! Therefore the people should be armed with weapons necessary to do so. Semi-auto deer hunting rifles fire just as quickly as any AR-15 or AK-47, they just look different. All semi-auto pistols and rifles shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger. Guess what, revolvers do the same thing. Spend your energy on something that matters... like making forks smaller to curb obesity in the United States.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Ken

      It doesn't take a wise man to know that a typical CNN supporter knows little about what the Bible really says. Their headlines and articles are always twisted and slanted toward the typical leftist agenda. Funny how one man's opinion expressed in the way they like it suddenly becomes their gospel. Why doesn't Obama lead and have all the secret service that surround him lay down their guns and let us see how that works out?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  5. Cheese Coney

    It will be interesting to see if using fear and scare tactics can still push people into giving up their rights in the 21st century internet age. It won't be for lack of CNN trying though.

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

      That's for sure...they clearly have their agenda and will continue to pick away at it, no matter how inane the writer is, current opinion "piece" included. News flash, pastor: a right is different from a privilege. I understand that you're in Chicago, where gun laws are tight and gun violence is high. Most of the rest of the country isn't that way. You would do well to minister to your flock; your voice is not needed here.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  6. Really

    Intresting, I believe in all states have regulations for what can and has been used as a dangerous weapon, altough not designed to be, the automobile We have age limits, proficiency standards (tests), regulation for safe use (speed limits, seat belts, air bags, etc.) and licences that can be revoked. Why can't we regulate guns in the same manner. it would not infringe on the 2nd amendment and would just make sure that those that carry those weapons are not likely to be a danger to society..

    December 29, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • vet4life63

      What is the difference between a RIGHT and a PRIVILEGE? Answer : A Right cannot be taken away. A privilege means "to have permission" and can be taken away, that permission can be revoked.
      Example of a privilege : Driving a car on the nations roads. There are other ways to travel, but if you have the states permission, are issued a license etc, you can then do this.
      Example of a right: The RIGHT to bear arms. Nowhere does it say that the privilege to bear arms shall not be infringed. It is a right, just as freedom of speech is, just as freedom from unwarranted search and seizure is.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • jeff

      And yet with all these regulations on automobiles, people get behind the wheel and still kill more people than guns.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • amy

      Wow, what a thoughtful and well-reasoned response! Thank you very much for offering something other than the usual baloney.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • The myth revealed!

      Yeah and the law says don't drink and drive and the law is broken and people killed everyday from alcohol. Adding laws restricting gun possession does not prevent criminals who choose not to follow laws. Adding to already restrictive gun laws only serves to restrict the law abiding citizen from whom we do not have any problem. When will you ever learn?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Destiny Daisy Faragut

      Quite literally the stupidest thing I have read this morning from the myth revealed above. Let me get this straight, if a law is broken then there is no need for that law? If so, then according to you, we should be living in anarchy, since there is always someone to brak a law, thereby rendering all laws useless. Or does that only apply when we are talking about trying to put some common sense laws on your precious death slingers?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • The myth revealed!

      Destiny Daisy, this is the problem with discussing issues with ignorant people like you. There are already laws that prohibit violence and unlawfully killing people. Murder is already illegal. If someone kills with a bat, knife, rope, rock, gun, whatever then it is still murder. Further attempting to restrict the means by which one commits murder does nothing to stop murderous designs. Now go out and hug a tree... but careful it does not fall on you as someone may propose we cut down all the trees to prevent the hazard of random tree falls. There are 300 million guns out there. No one is getting them confiscated without revolution. The debate may make for pleasant banter but that's all. Save your breath and energy for solving more dire national problems...like national debt or the moral decay of our society. Pastors like the above should focus more on saving souls and less on attempting to mediate a subject matter in which he is ill equipped to debate.

      December 30, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  7. Woody

    If you read the bible you will find that religion itself promotes hate and violence !

    December 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • The myth revealed!

      No, the bible is a love story. Read it, believe it, and live!

      December 30, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  8. God

    The bible is a made up story. To use that as anything other than mild entertainment is ludicrous. If you believe in this made up god and believe he is almighty then I ask you this.. Why does he let massacres like this happen ? If you say it's because of the made up bad guy called he devil then he must be more powerful then this god guy. Or if you say it's due to free will then your god likes to see people suffer. Remember this god guy did murder the entire world once except for a few in the ark... THen they had to have had incest going on to repopulate the world.

    The second amendment was brought in in the days of muskets, not high powered weapons.. Time to amend the amendments for the sake of us all.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Buddha

      Well they didn't foresee the Internet, or tv so time to change the first amendment also

      December 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • VANGOGH

      That kind of comment does not add to the discussion. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with you, when you begin any conversation with, "oh by the way, you're an idiot and I have all the answers" you will get nowhere. That is the problem with our country today...from gun control to the fiscal cliff.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  9. Dan

    You can make the bible say whatever you want.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  10. stevie68a

    Leave it to the "religious" to defend gun ownership. I laugh at religion every chance I get.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  11. ronald

    yanquisss you should take care your children !!! a new anti-gun law is better than amendment

    December 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  12. Galileo Galileo

    I don't want to hear from the Evangelicals about gun control, or any other church for that matter.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  13. Leron

    Has nothing to do with Christianity unless you seek to link it. Most Americans are open to ways of limiting gun access to ill people and parents of ill people, but to begin stripping rights of all Americans, instead of addressing the root of the problem, is asinine at best. Any hope at good new laws along the proper lines were ruined by the extremist politicians who are calling for full bans and confiscation. That, folks, is the path to dictatorship. No going to happen.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Tom

      Leron, the root of the problem is the ready availability of high powered, semi-auto, combat weapons to anyone who can afford them. Anyone...look at the shooter of the firemen, a convicted felon who got his girlfriend to buy the weapons.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  14. FactChecker

    Either Jesus was nothing like what I was led to believe, or Evangelicals today think they know better than Jesus.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  15. Elliot Carlin

    Darling is another one of those characters you don't get between when there is a microphone around. One of the things I fear about our modern Christian 'leaders' so many put on a pedestal, is their political pandering on these sorts of topics. Here's hoping Darling would have no issues taking his family and living under a Soviet and/or Chinese system of communism. It's what we'll be getting when our guns are taken away. While I'm a citizen of Heaven, I also have children I'm probably leaving behind; and some of us are willing to ensure liberty is still available to them. Do you not think N. Korea would be different if the citizenry were armed? If you don't want a gun (abortion) then don't have one. Remember?

    December 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  16. PaulC

    I think that people wanting to buy a guy should be examined for marks of the devil.
    The devil marks their disciples with a blemish or mark hidden on their body.
    I believe that is in the bible.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  17. Wake up, People

    Enough of the "guns don't kill people" BS. Guns are doing EXACTLY what they are designed for: Killing. Did Adam Lanza simply throw the bullets and yell "Bang! You're dead!"? Were his victims riddled with bullet holes or were they not? Children with up to 11 bullet wounds, and some are still insisting that guns don't kill people. When Adam Lanza was not armed to the teeth, he didn't have the guts to even walk into that school. Without being armed to the teeth, James Holmes would never walk into a theater in Aurora except to catch a movie. Guns are designed to assist people in killing, and that is what is happening. But, I am encouraged that a weapon far more powerful than guns is being awakened: The power of the people. We have had enough senseless slaughter and we carry with us the power of change. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

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

      If guns are made to kill mine must be defective because they havent killed anyone.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • PaulC

      Amen. Well said.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • VANGOGH

      Agreed.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  18. Dave Jeffers

    The pastor claims that owning a gun is a privilege. No sir, it is a right guaranteed us by the 2nd Amendment. And the weapons you claim to be military assault style weapons are semi-automatic, just as are many hunting rifles and shotguns; ditto handguns.

    "And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know." 1 Corinthians 8:2

    December 29, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  19. Taco

    The Bible DOES address the possession of weapons...and it encourages it for use in self defense. The Bible is about personal responsibility. Giving or taking access to items doesn't matter(so long as the item itself isn't evil) but a firearm is nothing but a tool...no different than a hammer or a saw...using it for self defense is openly condoned by the Bible. Using it for hunting and target practice is condoned. Using it, or ANYTHING to murder people, is obviously NOT allowed by the Bible. The Bible doesn't demonize items that can be used for good. Luke 22:36 sums it up.

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

      The bible should not be used to justify anything.
      The bible also calls for stoning of adulterers, especially women. Not to mention the handling of serpents.
      You can find wording in the bible that justifies any thing you want and our self appointed holy
      men have used the bible to justify their most carnal, bloodthirsty and greedy desires.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • fishiee

      Place a like button here. Sound statement!

      December 29, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  20. Ewing

    I own and regularly shoot 3 AK's. Two 47's and one 74. And I fully support very tight regulation of them and the purchase of their ammunition. Annual federal permits and certification that they are kept in a gun safe, if need be. Background checks on all purchases should be mandatory along with mandatory registration in a federal database must be required.

    The NRA now serves a right-wing political dogma and not the best overall interests of the Nation, in my opinion. Religious cults are just self-effacing, whatever the issue.

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

      How would they enforce the guns being locked in a safe? I don't want the gov't to come into my home checking that I'm being a responsible adult... In New Hampshire, where I live, there are few gun laws...one of them is you can store and keep a firearm however you want...but if a child gets a hold of it, whatever happens is on you the owner of the firearm. That basically says "be a responsible adult" and it leaves it up to you to interpret it. I'm all for people being responsible...the government doesn't have to force me to.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • hotsauce

      Yes because no one ever takes data bases and posts them online.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:03 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.