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.
My opinion is evangelicals don't know a hole in the ground from a hole in their heads. The world would be a better place without evangelicals.
Long live the 2nd amendment.
Jesus did have an incredibly clear cut position on violence, one that Christians typically ignore (like most of his teachings): "Turn the other cheek." He didn't teach this to be wimpy or even noble, but to rise above our natural, addictive attachment to reactive violence.
The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.
"And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
Show me just 1 single century where a tyranical government does not make an attempt at world domination and I'll hand over my guns. Until that point, I will remain wise to history's lessons.
Again, the moronic, knee jerk reaction of the "us against them" mentality. No one's asking you to be the martyr who surrenders his precious gun to tyranny, Reasonable people are simply asking for a few common sense tools to keep a few less weapons of mass destruction off the streets and make buying an assault rifle at least as tough as buying Advil Cold and Sinus.
Your guns aren't going to make a damn bit of difference against the modern weapons of superpowers. If our most recent history has taught us anything, the weaker people will fight their wars with IEDs and RPGs and asymmetrical tactics.
Don't take a AK47 to a drone fight. What makes anyone think that if the government is after you, (and just why would they want you?), they won't use tanks and drones?
Because your guns are what is stopping Obama from turning on us?
I didn't ask your opinion, I asked to be shown a century where a Tyranical government has not made an attempt at world domination. Find me one holocaust survivor that would say they fealt safer being disarmed when the SS came knocking at their door.
The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.
what part of stop DONT YOU GET you dont speak for ANY EVANGELICALS AT ALL ONLY FOR YOURSELF.
the founders of this nation say different SO I GUESS ILL IGNORE the trvial ranting of a so called cnn expert on evangelicals.
because most of them would not pa yattention to something like cnn its almost silly to comprehend
RUN ALONG now stick to souls if that is what your really about THE FOUNDERS FAITH is we where set on not your meaningless word sir.
YOUR OWN WORDS BETRAY YOU 8% of white evangelical Protestants YOU SAY??
i I REALLY DOUBT THAT IN FACT ONE MIGHT WANT TO BE CAREFULL OF LYING either way thats means 92% granting your poll is even close DO NOT AGREE sooo well YEAH ....ILL STICK WITH FOUNDERS
because I AM and evangelical sir
Oh, how I miss it when CNN was a legitimate news organization, rather than a political ad for the liberal agenda.
I miss real news SO MUCH!
You don't like it? Go watch FOX or listen to Rush.....goodness knows there are no agendas there, right?
"...a culture of fatherlessness that produces young troubles men". This is a stretch towards the absurd. the troubled boys who have committed these atrocities are far from fatherless. Everyone has a father. But these boys have fathers who were in their lives and in their homes (except Lanza). Please do not lump my child in a category with monsters just because I am a single mother.
No ones labeling, fact is broken homes produce broken children. Sorry if it makes your butt hurt to hear this, but it is fact.
As an Evangelical pastor I completely agree with this piece. Evangelicals spend so much time defending pro-life policies (which I too do) but seemingly could care less about the kids once they are born. Being "Pro-life" should mean, "Pro-All-Life", which ought to include a healthy critique of assault weapons.
Here are the names of a few civilizational disasters where populations were disarmed to "protect" life; Nazi Germany, Maoist China, Soviet Russia, the killing fields of Pol Pot's Cambodia. Get it?
I guess the quality of life for women and girls means little in terms of your "pro-life" agenda.
Uh....preaching to us from Chicago where homicides just topped 500 and gun laws are some of the strictest in the nation?? You are making yourself look silly.
Our "Strict" gun laws are a joke compared to other countries and do little on a state-by-state basis. The NRA has managed to water down gun laws. Keep your hunting rifle, but get rid of all assault style weapons and ammo clips. How about a little compromise for the good of the country and the lives of our children.
Anytime I hear something idiotic like "the 2nd Amendment is derived from the Bible" I realize that anyone who is so un-read as to buy such nonsense is beyond reasoning. So I don't even try. I just hope Americans of the future are better educated.
Anytime I hear "the Bible" as the reasoning for their logic, I automatically dismiss that person's opinion.
Biblical derivation of the 2nd Amendment, Jesus speaking in Luke 11:21
“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:”
I guess this is CNN's best of 3 anti-gun stories brought to us daily.
Don't you know you guys are losing the battle? You are driving more people to buy guns than if you would just shut your big left-wing propaganda mouthpiece.
Wow, that was so enlightening.....not.
Well, Christians, put up or shut up. There's only one thing to ask yourselves. Would Jesus promote the proliferation of guns?
Jesus doesn't need a gun. Give good guys his powers and neither would we. ;-)
Sure Dina, because: "for all who draw the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52)
Dan- very very well put. Thank you for speaking the truth boldly. Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
The "truth"? SMDH
Actually the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to bare arms is not linked to being in a militia. Common grammar rules also would indicate this to any unbiased person. I believe that more Christians endorse this right as this nation was first settled by those wishing the freedom to worship as they choose.. If you take away the second amendment how long til the right to worship as you chose is taken away?
Yeah, I have a right to "bare arms"......especially in the summertime when it is too hot to wear long sleeved shirts. hehehe
I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.
Well Daniel, you still had to squeeze in your anti-choice and oblique anti-woman stances.....well before you even started to fully discuss the topic at hand.
From one Republican to another, I ask the evangelicals please shut up. You are the reason the party is losing votes. You are the reason the party is seen as this anti-woman's rights, racist group. You are the distraction from the core values of the Republican party. I don't care what you think about guns or abortion, or anything else. While religion is certainly a part of our basic principles, it is not all of them. Religion does not solve all of our problems, so stop acting like it does. If you believe it does, fine, that is your choice. But stop trying to impose your beliefs on everyone else.
Can you please show me where the Republicans have won without the evangelical vote? The Republicans lose because they keep forcing people like McCain and Romney down our throat.
Jeff, the Republicans lose because they are forced to pronounce a stance against abortion just to make the Christian conservatives feel empowered. Mitt Romney obviously didn't care too much about abortion as an issue, hence his flip flopping on it, but had to say he was pro life and thus lost a lot of votes.
Another Devil in sheeps clothing. Once the world stops killing 5700 children a day through Abortion...Once that number is Zero, then we can talk about guns. Freggin lying Devil!
Children are killed by guns every day in this country. If you care about the fetus and not the child, you're just hot air.
You're an idiot!! If abortion was murder in the legal sense, people would be in jail. Keep your ignorance to yourself, especially when your imaginary friend is the biggest baby killer of all time.
The world is not "killing" children. The world is not capable of murder but mankind most certainly is. Take your specious argument and stuff it.
It's the job of a pastor to dupe his gullible followers.
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.