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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 • Evangelical • Guns

soundoff (2,819 Responses)
  1. wrm

    Keep pushing it CNN. The only people who care for your never-ending opinion pieces are those who are already "believers."

    December 29, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • whatever

      CNN loves it's one sided reporting. They hate bring the pro-gun people on air to debate anti-gun policy because pro-gun destroy the concept of gun control. So CNN sticks with opinion pieces that ignore fact to boost their political position.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  2. Joseph

    We've endured more hassle at the airports and all it really gains is a false sense of safety. I fly frequently and there have been times that I could have easily brought some weapon into the airport, not that I ever would. If I keep weapons in my home and know how to use them and teach my children the power of those weapons no one should have the right to paint with such a wide brush as to eliminate my right to ownership of a weapon because this country is too afraid to tackle mental health issues.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  3. lol??

    Americult is all wrapped up with wicked laws, so the answer is to make more.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • I am the truth

      But of course, sweetie, keep the killing machines so that death and destruction can rain down from every corner of the nation. It matters not at all that your weapons of mass destruction are used to mass murder innocent children. That doesn't matter at all. What matters most, and I mean absolutely most of all, is to ensure that heinous killing machines are available to everyone at all times. That is what matters most. Above everything else.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  4. BTLProd

    They keep showing variations of hte AR-15 and a handful of the 22 caliber bullets with these articles. Why not show something impressive, like a handful of .300 Winchester Magnum rounds and a Walther 2000? It looks scarier and that is the reason to show the images isn't it?

    December 29, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  5. Barney

    This is why I left CNN news long ago. You lead people to believe that guns were the only issue in the Sandy Hook tragedy well not so. The mental health issues that this family faced and the lack of help are the real story. I bet the American public will not see that story forth coming. BTW I have been a social worker for 25 years and am disgusted by how little services are offered to the mentally ill in this country and THAT is the real story you need to be covering but as usual smoke and mirrors.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • John V

      And what makes you come back?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Barney,
      That is exactly right. CNN should do more stories on how hard it is to get mental health care in this country for those who aren’t extremely wealthy. The first thing my state cut when the budget got tight was mental health care. The really sad thing is that for a family to get a violent mentally ill child into a facility the child has to commit a violent act. The doctors can see they are dangerous, the family can see they are dangerous, but nothing can be done until they do something. Sad.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • I am the truth

      And yet to continue to show up here and eagerly await every news story CNN publishes. Whatta matter, sweetie? Things kinda slow at False Noise Network and you haven't gotten your limpbag spewing points for the day yet? That too bad, huh?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Jason

      There are many articles out there about the mental health side of this tragedy. This article is written from an independent voice. Also, even in this article, did you not see this part:
      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.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  6. S. Miness

    Yo Wally. What's the difference? How about an IQ test to get a a gun license?

    December 29, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • BTLProd

      Which will do what?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  7. Islamsux

    Ban guns... End of story

    December 29, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • JB

      riiiight....and im sure that wont stir up some civil unrest

      December 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  8. Colin

    Why not give all the Evangelicals and all the Muslim extremists assaul weapons, let them get drunk on the Jesus juice and "Allah al akbah" nonsense and have at it.

    Instead of trying to keep two rabid dogs apart, let them just tear each other to pieces. The collective IQ of the World would go up by about 15 points.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  9. Paul Dick

    I think it also says somewhere in the Bible about texting or talking on a cell phone when driving. Could Rev Darling clarify this.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  10. Islamsux

    What would Muhammad do????

    December 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • William

      Marry a six year old.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  11. /gun Control works

    Gun control works , a good example is the great city of chicago, they have gun control and they only had 500 murders so far in 2012, further more if the whole usa bands guns, we know there would be no guns smuggled in, I would like to cite the great job the government has prevented drugs from coming into the country, we be doing good so do as your leader Osama tells you like good little sheep, and just enjoy the 30,000 drones we passed into law to protect you, the mandatory black boxes in all new cars, and set to be signed wireless wiretapping... Foe Moe yeers peeps, follow along! now everyone shout O S A M A !!!!

    December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  12. rudysmom

    I just can't understand why a religious figure has any right to tell Christians how they "should" feel about a certain issue. If they would stick to their commission – loving others as Jesus commanded – their churches would be busting at the seems.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  13. Dan

    The religions can put in their two cents when they start paying taxes.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  14. Fire Fly

    Mr. Darling if you choose to be a victim that's your choice..but don't expect me to do the same. Mr. O has created an extremely hostile environment with his poor economic policies and leadership..now the US has become a dangerous place to live. Sadly that means I must be able to defend my family from the ones who would harm them. Don't come off with some half baked bs of what my Christians duties says I should be or how I should carry them out .

    December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Rina

      Obama didn't "cause" anything. It is you n ut jo b right wingers who have created the divide. You guys are against everything your "church" tells you to be against. You don't have the mental faculties to think on your own. Most "christians" I know couldn't even tell you why they are against this or that relating to Obama – just that they are because they have heard some religious n ut say they should be. Assault weapons have no place in society. Ban them now.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Fire Fly

      Rina – you are proof ignorance is alive and well in the US. .Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. – Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria, “On Crimes and Punishment”. However,Robert Heinlein said it best. An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life..

      December 29, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  15. Maire

    Seems like 92% of evangelicals do not support gun control efforts. Their "peacemakers" are .45s I guess. In the 70' and 80s evangelicals bragged about not locking car doors as they would "just place angels around it". Guess they were let down so now depending on guns. Revelations says the house cleaning will start with the church. Maybe they should start deciding what is most important to them

    December 29, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  16. OK

    FYCK first and second amendment......

    December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  17. Emelia

    I hate guns. There!! Problem solved.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  18. Loyalright

    I think the assault weapon of choice in those days was a rock?

    December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  19. hail2thevict0r

    Banning "assault rifles" to try and combat gun crimes is like banning sports cars to try and prevent drunk driving. It's a pointless measure that will do nothing to prevent crime. There's a reason in the late 70's and 80's when we wanted to try and prevent drunk driving we did it by education and things like Alcoholics Anonymous.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  20. Wally Lind

    And yet these liberal door knobs have a picture of a revolver on the headline page. They're not after "assault riles", which an AR-15 is not (AR refers to the first two letters of the makers name), they're out to disarm the people of the United States completely. They are much more afraid of republicans with guns than they are of criminals with guns. Admit it.

    December 29, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Colin

      I readily admit it. Any religious nutjob with a gun is more dangerous to me than a criminal with one.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Joe A

      @Colin, you're the enemy...get that into your thick liberal skull.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Rina

      You're right – you religious nutjobs are definitely dangerous and I am more scared of them than a criminal. At least with a criminal, you know what you are dealing with. You "christians" talk out of both sides of your face, say one thing, do another, change your stances when it's convenient, so yeah, I consider you more dangerous.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:10 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.