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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. Joe in Kalispell

    Hi,

    Thanks to the author for his opinion. It is a wonderful country that we can all have an opinion.

    Remember "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's".

    December 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • lol??

      Athena taught you who Caesar is?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  2. dreamer96

    Psalm 23:4 does not mention any guns at all...just faith in the lord above...

    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me....

    December 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • oki

      And your point is what exactly??

      December 29, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • dreamer96

      Oki

      If you really believe in God..you do not need a gun.....

      December 29, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • JB

      I'll give up my guns when you give up your religion. Fair enough? hhmm?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  3. firesnake

    funny how people have to look to the bible to figure out thier morality , im glad i was born with my morality and common sense

    December 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  4. palintwit

    We got a lot of snow here where I live. And snow makes me think about Alaska. And every time I think about Alaska, I think about Sarah Palin. And every time I think about Sarah Palin, I think about trailer trash. And every time I think about trailer trash, I think about the tea party. And every time I think abut the tea party, I think about nascar. And every time I think about nascar, I think about assault weapons. And every time I think about assault weapons, I think about Sarah Palin. And every time I think about Sarah Palin, I think about trailer trash. And every time I think about trailer trash, I think about the tea party. And every time I think about the tea party, I think about...

    December 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Joe in Kalispell

      Interesting how reading your post makes me think you are trailer trash.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • dreamer96

      NASCAR should allow the driver to be armed and shoot at each other during the race...It would be a big hit and more Tea Party Members would go and take their kids to watch the race, and shootings, and crashes....

      December 29, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • J R Brown

      Sounds to me like you are mentally ill. Hopefully, you're getting the medical attention you need from ObamaCare.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Colin

      That was funny....

      December 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • wow

      Those are the kinds of thoughts that turn ordinary objects into weapons..

      December 29, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  5. steve-o

    The image of Jesus armed with weapons is laughable W W J D??

    December 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  6. Mark

    Mr. Darling's photo is all I need to see to know that his church would not be my church if I lived in that area. One of those Rick Warren-type feel good pastors who preaches Christianity-lite for those who lack the level of commitment to be a Biblical Christian. It's no wonder so many non-believers see the hypocrisy. "Pastor" Darling, stick to preaching and leave the discussion about "scary looking" "assault" (a made up term" weapons to the grown ups.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • stephen K

      Your comment does not reflect well on your brand of faith

      December 29, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Chris

      .You are kidding, right? All those assumptions based off an author's photo. Wow. Glad to a brother to you

      December 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  7. Doug Oliver

    I suggest we just leave the USA flag permenantly at half mast – as an acceptance that the next is inevitible.
    The next sociopath whose reality is caught up in video games and easy access to the assault weapons,
    which make his game experience all the more realistic, is coming to a theater or school or mall near you.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  8. Dave V

    As a human being we were originally designed to live forever. Death wasn't part of the original plan God had when he created us. We as humans will resist death in every way possible. Its not in our nature to give up and die. So, does this give us the right as New Testament Christians the right to kill? Justified or in war? When Jesus laid upon the cross he had the means to call down a legion of angels to defend and rescue himself from the cross.
    When you are a Christian and you own a gun for protection you are usurping Gods role as protector. You are not trusting God with your life. Do you think it makes any difference how you die or when you die. What makes a difference is where you go when you die. This is why "trust" is such an issue. Your level of faith is demonstrated by what you believe and trust God for in this life. Do you believe in resurrection life. Then don't fear a man who could take your life, but fear God, the one who take your life and soul and separate you from himself forever. Almost all of Gods disciples had there heads cut off. His Son Jesus was murdered. Do you think Jesus was just being cool when he said to Peter, those live by the sword while die by it? Why do you fear death? I'll tell you why. Your faith is not at the level that provides you with peace and love that over comes death.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Lord Byron

      You articulate well in you written comments. What I hear is a very judgmental person saying those of us who own guns don't have as much faith as you. You sound very self-righteous. I'm a gun owner who is a chaplain. What if America didn't own weapons? Should we trust in Gods hedge of protection against our enemies? Just a thought

      December 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  9. Raven

    Christians are supposed to follow the laws of their country.
    Our nations highest law states the the People have the right to bear arms.

    The reason that law is there, is so that the People may be able to defend themselves against government tyranny.
    And that my friend is precisely why people like Feinstein want to take them away from the people.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Hoping for a reasonable discussion

      Actually, the 2nd amendment was created so that there would be no national military. When necessary, the people would gather with their arms to protect/defend whatever needed defending. The logic was that a large national military is what enables the government to be tyrannical, and thus should be avoided. Obviously, since we already have a large national military, that ship has sailed. Equally obvious is that there is no way the citizens could overwhelm the US government without the help of the military. Thus, there really is no need for the vast majority of the weapons out there. The 2nd amendment gives people the right to bear arms....it does not give every person the right to bear any number of any arms.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  10. jason

    Another day, another front-page headline/commentary from CNN about how guns are all bad.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Nate

      Oh contrare, this one has Bible verses.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • I am the truth

      And of course, sweetie, you are going to share with us uninformed the absolutely goodness and perfection of these killing machines, aren't you? Can hardly wait, dear.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • wow

      It is making it harder to buy guns. The gun stores are so packed right now!

      December 29, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  11. tactical_nukes

    The NRA should make tactical nukes available for sale. That I could use to defend a few things!

    December 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  12. wow

    Christian position on gun control!???! Thats the funniest concept I've ever heard.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  13. JB

    I'm not a fan of guns or evangelicals, but I fail to see the connection here.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • wow

      Somebody was really high and drunk when they wrote this article. I wonder what the evangelical position is on pet adoptions?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  14. Emelia

    Quit pretending religion kills people. Humans kill people. Have since the beginning of time. Guns kill people. Why did we invent them otherwise? Testosterone.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • lol??

      Did your hubby approve of your post?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Merc

      Religion is a tool which has been used to inspire its followers to kill millions.

      Guns are a tool as well. Wielded in the wrong hands, they can kill people too.

      How is it that your "religion" isn't responsible for killing people, but your guns are?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  15. Cavalier75

    How does having gun laws lower the chance of another school shooting, it doesn't. I can go outside and buy any drug on the street and they are illegal. What this will do is allow criminals to feel more bold when they rob knowing there is less of a chance of someone having a gun to defend themselves. Pastors should teach about God and keep thier noses out of political issues. Just like movie stars who voice thier opinion, I don't care what they say. They are all hypocrites. Look at the places where they had stricter gun laws and ban guns, Australia has had in increase of home invasions, robberies, ect. One last point, you want to ban an Assualt rifle: this gun shoots the same bullet as a rifle you hunt with. So is banning the gun or the clip size an issue? And in the school shooting, he had several guns, reloading was not an issue. They killers go in and unload thier guns, then typically kill themselves. So, a smaller clip size really a solution?

    December 29, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Saraswati

      Compare US school attacks to those in China and you'll see the difference.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • RJ

      Quote "Just like movie stars who voice "thier" opinion, I don't care what they say."

      Now, as for YOUR opinion, what do we care about what you say?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • stephen K

      just a return to tired talking points, rather than really engaging in a conversation about how we "frame" guns and gun violence from a Christian perspective. I suspect Christ could have pulled out a weapon and fought violence with violence. Instead he went to the cross to say this cycle of violence begets violence "stops here". in order to show us a new way.

      you did not really even read the article did you? You just got the sense it wasn't all out "go guns" and spouted the talking points. It is this tendency that to me is the scariest. We are so set in our ways, and in the way of violence, that we not only don't listen to each other, we don't listen to God.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Zoop

      "One last point, you want to ban an Assualt rifle: this gun shoots the same bullet as a rifle you hunt with"

      No its not. In Minnesota you can't use .223 to hunt Deer (too small) or birds (must use a shotgun). AFAIK, you can only use it for varmit hunting, which is only killing for killing's sake. Unless you plan on eating a lot of squirrel, .223 has no use as a hunitng caliber.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  16. carl

    Darling says, "The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns" REALLY?!?! Is that the basis to determine things? By that measure, since the Boble does not clearly express an opinion on cars either – chich kill far more people than guns. Nor does it clearly deal with Penthouse magazine so by Darling's silly logic, those are ok?

    Wow, these "wannabe" Christians, should actually READ the Bible before they offer opinion on it.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • steve

      huh? what are you talking about? the author doesn't say that one can't have an opinion on an issue just because the bible doesn't have a clear stance on it.....he's simply saying that it doesn't make sense to have such a strong, skewed and one sided stance on an issue that the bible isn't clear about. that's all.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • RJ

      Steve–

      I totally agree with you.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  17. Rabbittroup

    I'm pretty sure the tribe's of Israel didn't have weapons bans on it's citizen as they made their way to the promise land through un-Godly territory

    December 29, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • psst's understudy

      Plural of "tribe" is "tribes." No apostrophe. None.

      "It's" = "It is." "Its" = belonging to or related to "it."

      Figure it out.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • counter

      Grammar police. Go pound sand with your teaching class.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Rabbittroup

      Actually I figured it out before you did, Mr Grammar Nazis. But, unfortunately when I'm ranting I never really care about correcting those errors. However, I'm glad I gave you something productive to do :).

      December 29, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • RJ

      @psst-

      Pretty funny, I noticed the same thing.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • RJ

      @rabbit and the other griping about grammar police-

      Errors like that simply eliminate your credibility.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • psst's understudy

      If you want to make a point, don't write like an imbecile.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  18. Islamsux

    I hate 1 and 2 amendment

    December 29, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  19. Steve

    Well Jesus said in Luke 22:36 for his followers to go buy a sword.
    "He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." He didn't say buy a 12 inch or 36 inch. So clearly the implications of this brothers article are wrong. From a handgun,to a rifle,to a shotgun they all can be used for self defense. Its not the guns capability but the intent of the heart that needs to be adressed.The simplest way for these crimes to be stopped is for good people to have guns and to use them. When you talk about laws,you are talking about people who are within the law and that excludes the people committing these crimes because they dont obey the law.Its ironic that when Bill Clinton recommended armed guards in schools liberals thought it was ok but when conservatives do we are called out of touch with reality. Although this Pastor is probably a nice guy he is simply wrong. CNN loves this kind of stuff because they are anti gun and liberal. I mean they havent fired Piers Morgan for acting like a complete buffoon during his debate with Larry Pratt. CNN should send him back to England and hire Ted Nuggent as their media/gun issues advisor.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  20. Emelia

    I hate guns. I'm Christian.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • lol??

      baby brain suckiin' machines are OK?

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

      then don't have one

      December 29, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • sentence

      I'm a Christian. I don't hate guns. Don't love them either. They're inanimate objects that cause no emotional response one way or the other. Same goes for the car, the electric drill, the refrigerator, the chain saw, the camera, the list is endless.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • RJ

      Emelia-

      You're Christian and hate guns, okay. And??

      December 29, 2012 at 10:26 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.