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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
Excellent article and a relief to read that a Christian leader can also use common sense. Keep speaking out!!!!
Jesus would have carried an Uzi, since he would have trained with the Israeli Army...
What a misleading headline on the mobile site. The story is about how evangelicals are against gun control. I'm beginning (all right I'm past beginning) to think CNN is biased.
I'd like to speak out on evangelicals living a tax free lifestyle. Worthless arbiters of guilt who do nothing but collect our money and contribute nothing to our country.
More liberal B.S. coming down the pipeline from CNN.
Soon, liberals will go into full tantrum mode when they realize that people aren't going to roll over for them to ban all guns everywhere.
I don't see ANY connection between what an isolated individual does, his accountability for that, and people wanting to protect themselves. If this is just another thinly veiled disguise for gun control, well then I definitely get that.
Too bad gun stores are closed on Sundays.
I always wonder what kind of lives people who make such comments lead? Probably very sad and lonely. And I wonder how much time you spend writing sarcastic, worthless replies on various sites? .. just hope you might find something hopeful and meaningful to live for before the end of your days on this planet.
Darling can kiss my gun toting a#&!
What kind of satisfaction does one get from being crude? It always perplexes me but it does come across as desperate and lacking. So sorry...
If God didnt want guns, then he wouldnt have made them!
God makes guns, hmm? Does he give a senior discount. Does god have stores, or do you have to buy his guns at gun shows?
interesting logic.... (?)
Gun ownership is a personal choice. Christians, if you read your Bible, you cannot pick and choose when to apply the old and the New Testament at random. The Bible does not hide the ugly truths of the human condition. It clearly displays the intent of mans heart of which includes using the modern weapons of that time. Even in the New Testament before Jesus Christ was to be captured and hung a cross, Jesus Christ told his disciples to arm themselves with a sword. That is why when Jesus was approached in the Garden of Gethsemane that Peter sliced of the ear of a solder. Read Luke chapter 22:49 " Lord should we strike with our sword?'. Jesus knew they were carrying swords before he was approached. You are living a delusional dream world if you think restricting guns from people will make this a safer world. We have a drug war going on and at every corner there are illegal drugs except for law abiding citizens. The same would be true with gun ownership. Only the unlawful would have them and we would live and suffer in this unbalance. Also, it is interesting how the media picks and chooses their battles. More people die from Alcohol related deaths each year then gun deaths over a number of years. Yet our government makes money of the sale of both guns and alcohol.
Violence under the guise of religious speech has lead to millions of killings throughout world history. Why isn't this hypocrite calling for restrictions on religious civil liberties under the 1st Amendment?
Some of the least christian people I've ever met are those who claim they are evangelical followers of Christ. Seeing as how they seem to twist Christ's messages around to suit their own purposes, why should the gun issue be any different?
Daniel says: "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"
Of course it does not express anything regarding guns since guns didn't exist when the bible was written!
Is this pastor serious? Or is he just using CNN for PR?
Jeff Cox is right on the point of using their religion for their own points of view. I hope that some of the Christians go and read the part where Jesus tells a crowd to pay their taxes. "Render unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasar's"... I can see that particular chapter is not talked about at many tea party chapter meetings.
you know, I'm a Christian, and I really get tired of religion and pastors telling us what political position and which side of what argument a Christian should take. if churches make their #1 priority demonstrating the unconditional love of Jesus, instead of criticizing and ostracizing people who have a different opinion, they would not be alienating people so much.
Do what Jesus commanded us – Love Thy Neighbor As You Love Yourself. Loving people, unconditionally, is what Jesus commands us to do. Jesus didn't command us to politicize – just love each other.
Does your position still apply if I'm Christian and pro-choice?
Jeses said "Turn the othe cheek", not "whip out a bigger gun".
no , I'm certain he said whip out something...
Apparently you do not know why Jesus said "turn the other cheek." most people use it the way you did. To not be violent back, but that is an incorrect usage of that passage. In Roman times and under Roman rule, use of the left hand was considered evil and in some provinces, illegal when disciplining a servent or prisoner. Jesus said turn the other cheek after being struck as a way to get the striking person in trouble. Since you turn your other cheek, they are forced to slap with their left hand, which as i stated earlier, is a bad thing.
Women and children are ALWAYS the victims of the male gender. I am glad the my President pointed out this fact. People ask, "What is wrong with the world?" It is not the world, it is the male gender.
Cut off their manness!
Unfortunate, but mostly true....
You wouldn't be here if is wasn't for the "male gender". Get a clue.
You make me sick. Your gender stereotypes will not stand! Women shoot men as much as men shoot women.
I totally agree that every new habit begins with mental shifts
Casa Bella Recovery Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center is an addiction center that offers modern and effective drug and alcohol recovery through cutting edge techniques. If you want to know more about it then please Follow the link casabellarecovery.com
Well, "NNC", just when I thought you couldn't get any more sad and pathetic (e.g., with Piers Morgan as one of your "stars" even though he couldn't make it in the UK) you top yourself with pieces like this. Listen, I KNOW your whole thing is about drawing people in with inflammatory pieces then encouraging comments for EVERY article so we'll waste our time on your site (like I'm about to do no more) but TRY, just try to remember that you were credible once. People actually tuned in to your channel, etc. before it turned into a joke and the Internet and cable version of National Enquirer. Before you fell to the bottom of the heap in terms of credibility and attention, people actually saw you as objective. I know that Uncle Ted is pretty out there, but he's driven you guys into the gutter. You're not credible; you are simply a joke. Ad that is a pity.
Your right about CNN, I only visit the site to see what the lamers are doing, same with the LA Times.
well done...you just gave him credence...
Hey Evangelic, If you want to speak out against, go to Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. They love killing there and guns are part of the birthing process!!!
No, he can speak out here, Ed.
So I guess separation of church and state does not apply as long as church goes along with public opinion.
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.