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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. Reality

    The signers of the Consti-tution would not have approved of assault weapons for use by the general public. An armed citizen protecting himself/herself/family from Indians and the red coats in the 1700's meant swords and muskets. Video cameras, security systems, audible/silent alarms, fences, metal detectors, 911 and a simple 22 revolver should be enough protection for any global citizen in the 21st century

    December 29, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • Common Sense

      ROFL! A .22???? This doesn't even deserve a response....

      December 29, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Who needs to control guns? Just outlaw the manufacture and sale of ammunition to the general public. That certainly doesn't violate the 2nd Amendment. Take a lesson from the anti-abortion folks.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • brad

      How do you know what they were thinking, were you there?

      December 29, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • brad

      @Floyd, So you want the govt to get involved in the manufacturer and sale of a product to private citizens. Sounds like communism to me.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Brad – damn right! Communism! next that government will be taking over the roads, and forcing us to all drive on these commie government roads! And don't even get me started about the police, or military! Why – they're run by the gubmint – filthy commie plot!

      December 29, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • glock4k

      Once they ban the 22's, you'll need to stock up on bb guns :)

      December 29, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • David Baldwin

      Silly comment. The reson we were given the right to bear arms was not against criminals, it was given to us to beable to resist our government!. All the items this NIMNOD descriobed cost many thousands of dollars... must be some rich liberal.

      December 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • gnilreme

      If we have only rimfire rifles or bb guns, then the disparity of power between us and our government becomes even greater than it is today. THAT was exactly what our founding fathers were trying to prevent- whether you believe it to be necessary or not. Many of us believe it to be necessary, like it or not.

      December 31, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  2. keith

    Watch this video in the link!
    freedomoutpost.com/2012/12/innocents-betrayed-the-true-story-of-gun-control-worldwide/

    December 29, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  3. Boothe Global Perspectives

    Our pulpits have been slow to speak out on gun abuse. Perhaps because so many Americans own guns. But it would be nice to hear preachers and priests address the subject and take the risk of offending their gun totin' members. Our minister at First Methodist made a poinent plea not to make our schools armed prisons but to add teachers with compassion and a tender ear to show troubled and angry kids the beauty of art, music, and human compassion. Las Vegas, New Mexico

    December 29, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • LMT556

      How about advocating for crime control and eduacating firearm owners about securing their weapons from the mentally ill. How about advocating for a father in every household. Make a difference without infringing on our rights, but it seems the liberal's can't get past the gun.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Greg

      Out of all the other posts, yours is the most resonable and common sense approach to this issue I have read so far, Thanks.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • Pat Jones

      I can promise you that women working together – linked, informed and educated – can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet.
      Isabel Allende

      December 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Pat Jones

      This is the best response on the entire topic. Excellent! You are correct that teachers with more compassion and love towards their students will make schools a better place rather than making them more like prisons with thicker walls, bars on the windows and more guards.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  4. n2it

    "pastor, author and speaker in the Chicago area"... Illinois already has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S. and they do not issue concealed carry permits yet, Chicago is a very violent city, riddled with gun related crimes. You can't even use a rifle to hunt deer there. It's hard to take the author's point of view seriously, sorry.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Houston is a CCW city and they have the same problem.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Artaud

      Are there a lot of deer roaming the streets of Chicago?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • EOJ

      the reason for not allowing rifles to deer hunt in Illinois has nothing to do with banning guns. It is about safety. Illinois is reasonably flat, a projectile shoot from a rifle travels along way. We hunters in Illinois either use a deer slug, or muzzle loader. Pistols are also sometime used. As a hunter I have no problem with this.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  5. laughcry

    I'm a British born Canadian, so America's gun culture is almost laughable, except for all the tears. but doesn't the First Amendment say something about the seperation of church and state? Why are 2nd amendment rights more important than 1st?

    December 29, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • FloydZepp

      The fake conservative evangelicals like to pick and choose which Amendments they support.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • Frank

      If you look back on American History you will clearly see that GUNS was the catalyst that was used to CREATE America. Without them they would have never been able to DEFEND THEMSELVES! And America would of never been created.

      With ISLAM taking over you towns and cities and laughing at you and your police force while they setup Shariah Law and Enclaves all over Europe, rap ing your women, terrorizing your populace knowing soon they will have Europe in civil war right before they take over your entire continent just like they are doing in the middle east. What do you sissys plan on using to stop them? Brooms and mop sticks?

      You better start worrying about your own DEFENSELESS country because ISLAM is already just about done taking over you country.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Where exactly is Islam taking over cities again? LOL

      December 29, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • Mark

      Because the 2nd ultimately secures the 1st.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • David Baldwin

      First; because there is no "order of precedence" in the Bill of Rights, one is not more or less important than any other. Second; like the quote says “the Second Amendment makes all the other Amendments possible”.

      December 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Common Sense

    Wow, a whopping 8% of evangelical pastors want stricter gun control and CNN calls that "MANY"!?!?!?!?

    Give me a break. 70% of "evangelical" pastors are secular and more interested in building their own kingdom, filling the offering plate, attendance and downloading their sermons from the internet instead of being led by the Spirit. So it wouldn't be that hard to find one that CNN would find worthy of using as a poster boy for gun control.

    The majority – 92% according to your stats – SUPPORT the 2nd amendment and less gun control. Keep twisting those polls CNN....

    December 29, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • LMT556

      Liberal media at its' finest, pushing their agenda and their opinion as fact. God bless.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Frank

      CNN has its agenda and only looks for "news" after deciding what changes it wants to make in our society and how they can best bend the facts (myths and lies) and other information (both real and manufactured ) to fit those goals LOL

      December 29, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • FloydZepp

      You guys love that free speech – unless its expressing an opinion you don't like. Too funny!

      December 29, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • rdeleys

      @LMT556 - The so-called "liberal media" to which you refer is a myth. It simply doesn't exist.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Jason

      My goodness, can you all even read? First off, the author of this article is an evangelical pastor referencing the bible throughout his independent article. He doesn't work for CNN and that is why at the end it reads: "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Daniel Darling." So how is he the "liberal media"?
      Secondly, go back to that first paragraph and find the word "many" that you decided to "quote" in caps. When you find it, maybe you'll actually read the sentence it is in and see how it says exactly the opposite of what you are saying: many evangelicals defend the unlimited distribution of firearms with the same fervor that they defend biblical orthodoxy. This means that when the 8% is stated at the end, there is an understood "only" before it. To spell it out for you, because reading comprehension does not seem to be your strongpoint, Evangelicals defend the unrestricted use of firearms so much so that only 8% approve of a limit on them. (while the rest of the country shows as 52% in recent polling)

      December 29, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • DL

      I just think anybody who thinks there is a massive 'liberal' conspiracy by news networks to suppress the 'truth'....clearly shows the mental health issues in this country. When you have half the country that think everything is a conspiracy, and their only version of America is the one that matters and America belongs to them (take our country back...ring a bell?). This mentality and behavior is one of the core mental health issues in this country today. You can look on any site and read the comments about how these people need their guns to protect them from the government, but the problem is...half of Americans, with the same rights, do not agree with 'their' version of government. If we don't address these issues now, we are headed to a very bad place long term.

      December 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  7. LMT556

    "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."
    Feinstein and Co aren't about reasonable restrictions, they want them all. Further, civilian copies of miltary issue small arms protect our free society from government tyranny. The gun grabbers are playing a very dangerous game.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Common Sense

      Please educate yourself on firearms, PLEASE!!! The liberal media is focusing on one type of gun that LOOKS like a fully automatic weapon. I can fire 2 rounds from a shotgun and put the equivalent of a full clip of "assault weapon" ammo in the air. And larger caliber too. Go back to saving the whales and leave gun topics to those that understand what they are talking about.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Common Sense

      OMG sorry, it put the response under the wrong post!!!

      December 29, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • FloydZepp

      LOL! Did you read that tyranny thing from the NRA handbook of fearful yammer?

      December 29, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • rdeleys

      It is tragic that so many people feel the need to own a gun. How sad to have to go through life being such an abject coward that you need a firearm.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:36 am |
    • slgray315

      please explain in detail what you mean by government tyranny? American citizens need to protect themselves from their own government because the government is violent?

      December 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  8. Wired3k

    If you look at the top 50 causes of deaths, guns doesn't even make it to the list. Further more is the government going to ban everything that causes these deaths. The Toyota Prius was faulty, but I don't see anyone creating a ban against the car.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Wired3k

      Ok I was wrong. Deaths related to guns is not in the top 100 list. Deaths related to cars is in the top of the list though. So if the Toyota Prius is responsible for 21 deaths due to the faulty pedals and accelaration, why is the government not banning it as well? There were 26 people killed in the sandy shooting.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Greg

      You make a good point, it's the same thing with the person that was pushed in front of a subway train; should we consider banning subway trains.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  9. Frank

    Gun control couldn't be more clear.

    Its real simple. "THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS WILL NOT BE INFRINGED"

    Here is the definition of INFRINGED;

    Verb
    Actively break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.): "infringe a copyright".
    Act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on: "infringe on his privacy".

    Take a long hard look at that definition. ACT SO AS TO LIMIT OR UNDERMINE. Is that not what FEINSTEIN and the other COMMIES are trying to do? TO LIMIT OR UNDERMINE what I CAN AND CANNOT POSSESS?

    I REST MY CASE.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      "arms" – so, Frank, how does one define the term arms? How about a Bazooka? That's just a big gun, right? A tank? Well, that's just a big gun on a vehicle, right? A Howitzer? Big gun on a wheeled platform, right? And what IS a gun, exactly? Something that propels something else, really fast, for offensive or defensive purposes. So a grenade, using an explosive charge, propels shrapnel. So does a pipe bomb. How about an atomic bomb? It propels heat, light, gamma radiation, and a massive shock wave. Hydrogen bomb? Same thing, only on a far more massive basis.

      Good thing, Frank, that according to your logic, the Second Amendment prohibits anyone from infringing on your right to possess any of the above weapons.

      Nice. Very, very nice.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • Frank

      liberals change the meaning of words to fit their agenda ...in this case they want to "redefine" the meaning of the words "infringe" and "arms" to fit their pre-set goals and agenda ...its a lot like the way they keep changing the meaning of the word "liberal" to fit their needs , the push FORWARD into 100% government never changes but the way they describe themselves does – ban guns and GUT the first amendment because we are modern and its "for the children" LOL

      December 29, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • rdeleys

      Wrong, Frank! The key word is "well organized militia"!

      December 29, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • EOJ

      rdeleys – to me the key words are following the comma, or pause THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED

      December 29, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • oki

      Who's to say you aren't changing words to fit your own agenda, Frank? Just as you do others?

      December 29, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  10. hansbronson

    60 school kids in Chicago have been killed this year and I didn't see Obama shed a tear for them. I guess if 1 or 2 are killed here and there it doesn't make the news as much. And Chicago has one of the strictest gun laws in the country but I guess the criminals didn't hear they weren't suppose to have guns.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Rick

      I am not sure that one can hold a pro life stance and be against the ban on automatic weapons or clips that hold more than 8 rounds.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  11. FloydZepp

    All of this psychotic reation to everything in America by those that erroneously call themselves "conservatives" is born of their slowly realized fears that their time is over. The fantasy Vision of America they thought could be realized forever is fading. Thus, they desperately cling to an ideology that at times is even contradictory, and ideologies always lose in the face of change and reality.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • Rory

      Take another bong toke and keep telling yourself that.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • rdeleys

      You got that absolutely right! And what a tragedy that conservatives are so fearful that they're afraid of their own shadows. It's a terrible way to have to live.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  12. Me

    The guy cannot get the first sentence out without exaggerating to the point of absurdity – typical of a gun control/prohibition advocate. The "unlimited distribution of firearms?" Oh, really? "Unlimited?" Who is advocating that we eliminate the law that prohibits firearm possession by felons, the mentally ill, fugitives, illegal aliens, illegal drug users, etc.?, or the law prohibiting the sale of firearms to children? Gun control advocates are pathetic and not to be trusted.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:04 am |
  13. cruizin596

    So CNN, when it suits your agenda, you are all about the church, right? I thought your beloved TV host Piers stated that the Bible was flawed??? So, you went trolling to find a pastor with progressive views and put him on the front page to lecture on the evils of guns. WHy should I be surprised?

    December 29, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • FloydZepp

      The Bible is flawed, particularly the New testament. Their are four different inconsistent versions of the Ressurection and who first saw Jesus. Paul later on then claims that Mary Magdeline was NEVER even there.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:06 am |
  14. Teacher

    The lesson from history is that first they take your gun, then they take your bible and your free speech.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Not such lesson. Invented mythology.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • Hypocrisy

      What "history" are you talking about? You mean like the history of Hitler's Nazis or the Russian/Chinese Communists? Their history, wherein they take your bible (religion I presume you are talking about), take your speech (can't speak out against the government), then give you guns to kill everyone that doesn't believe in your "cause". That kind of REAL history? Or some history based on "your learned history"? Try backing your point up with at least a kernel of fact. There's this thing called "GOOGLE", that can help you find some.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:19 am |
  15. Teacher

    The Christian right wing gives 30% more to charity than liberals. If liberals did the same there would be less hungry children.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • midwest rail

      Please cite the source that gives said breakdown.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Hypocrisy

      Seriously? Where do you get these numbers? If you're basing it on itemized tax returns, how do you know, what their political affiliations, let alone, their religious convictions are?

      BTW, here's a little fact. "West Hollywood, a heavily Democratic city and one of the "gayest." The survey shows residents there give 9% of their discretionary income to charity." ~

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-peron/conservatives-charitable-giving_b_1835201.html

      December 29, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  16. scott

    opinions are like areholes.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:53 am |
  17. Teacher

    Governments like China that banned guns and ended up murdering millions of people also in some cases banned Christianity.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • lol

      ya play that china card

      by the way, who did the chinese government murder?

      careful there, u might murder ur own point with ur answer roflmao

      and christianity? what? lol

      December 29, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Me

      Yo, "LOL" – Who did the ChiComs murder? Maybe try an internet search on a little thing called the Cultural Revolution.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • rdeleys

      You're no teacher.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  18. popseal

    God has a history of defending the weak from the unrepentant and violent. Joshua at Jericho's walls was God's judgment against the burial of infants in those walls. Elijah the prophet killed 450 pagan priests that were famous for child sacrifice. Saul was commanded genocidal war against the Amalekites due to their total reprobation. Jesus cleansed the temple on behalf of the poor (no one was killed by the account in the Bible). God visits total destruction on planet earth in the last battle against evil. LESSON...GOD AINT NO PACIFIST and the good guys win in the end!

    December 29, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • Gregory Lewis

      Gods "history" seems to have petered out some 2,000 years ago. Anything more recent?

      January 5, 2013 at 3:51 am |
  19. majikimaje

    Shooting Back – The Right & Duty of Self Defense!!

    December 29, 2012 at 6:52 am |
    • majikimaje

      When terrorists wielding AK-47s attacked St. James Church in South Africa, Charl Van Wyk shot back, driving them away. In “Shooting Back,” Van Wyk recounts the massacre and presents a compelling case for the right and duty of self-defense.

      December 29, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  20. Sane Person

    If the christian right wing would fight to end child hunger, murder and disease half as hard as they fight against gay marriage, condoms, health and science, we would be a lot closer to a decent society than we are now.

    December 29, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • mark

      or child molestation

      December 29, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Bob

      I'm not sure I have read a more ignorant statement in quite some time. Have you any idea how many billions "conservative Christians" pour into efforts such as you described? The difference is, you want them to pour them into the pockets of statists, so 90% can go to bureaucrats for administrative fees, and the other 10% can be used to keep the recipients dependent and voting for more. "The compassion of the wicked is cruelty."

      December 29, 2012 at 10:53 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.