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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 • Guns

soundoff (2,819 Responses)
  1. Pat Jones

    ”You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.”
    ~Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

    December 29, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      http://www.factcheck.org/2009/05/misquoting-yamamoto/

      Nice try, Patty.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  2. Pat Jones

    ”We would just go out and line up a bunch of cans and shoot with rifles, handguns and at times, submachine guns… When I was a kid it was a controlled atmosphere, we weren’t shooting at humans… we were shooting at cans and bottles mostly. I will most certainly take my kids out for target practice.”
    ~Johnny Depp

    December 29, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  3. steven

    is the mentally ill killing people or is the people who claim mental ill ness as a defense. either way mentall illness is stigmatized and glamorized by people who see violence and then the guy acts crazy in hopes to getting off.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • TC

      This is what I find interesting about the label mental illness – isn't it crazy to want to kill people but I don't want them getting out of prison for insanity.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  4. TC

    THe only thing the Bible discusses is violence and self-defense not gun control or laws. And any atheists here – yes, we know you don't believe in God – we get it – so no need to post it on a topic that s specifc to believers.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  5. Pat Jones

    ”There are hundreds of millions of gun owners in this country, and not one of them will have an accident today. The only misuse of guns comes in environments where there are drugs, alcohol, bad parents, and undisciplined children. Period.”
    ~Ted Nugent

    December 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If you think Ted Nugent gives your argument credence, you're dumber than a box of hair.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • TC

      I don't disagree with the statement but suggest you cite someone with a lot more credibility and respectibility than Ted Nugent.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • dreamer96

      Sorry Nebraska just had a boy kill himself by accident hunting ...happened just a few days ago...Google it....Hunting accidents happen....but that does not count in your book.....

      December 29, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, I'm sure Pat will blame bad parenting or make some other lame excuse.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Angel

      Advise from a declared pedophile who twists that trailer trash statement to read "accident" instead of criminal misuse isnt too clever. I'm sure you can find a better quote..

      December 29, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • 21k

      tc, that's great! you agree with the feces coming out of ted's drug-addled skull, but think that the "message" needs to come from a more credible source. pretty much the gop playbook for elections. make the db's sound better than they really are.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  6. Pat Jones

    ”To be prepared for war, is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
    ~George Washington

    December 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So you have a bunch of quotes? Any actual thoughts of your own?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • dreamer96

      George Washington grew Hemp..made his own Whiskey...and smoked Pot along with Ben Franklin...are you taking quotes from Drunk Pot Smokers now???

      December 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.
      Ralph Waldo Emerson

      December 29, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  7. NorthVanCan

    The Second Amendment is "drawn" from the Bible. LOL !!!!!!!

    December 29, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Pat Jones

      The Bible is one of the most popular books in the world. It is filled with good advice. A man who won't defend his family is worse than a non-believer.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Where do you live, Pat? North or West Philly? Some other urban war zone?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      @Pat
      The Bible is the greatest work of fiction created by man kind. It forces the gullible to believe in an imaginary friend.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  8. John P. Tarver

    Darling should get himself on to heel with the other pastors who take money for evangelizing.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  9. William Miller

    I don't remember Jesus' Disciples being allowed to use violence to defend themselves (or Jesus) against their opponents. In fact, their greatest strength derived directly from their opposition to the use of physical force at all. Nowhere in the New Testament will you find Jesus or any of his followers asserting or implying that violence in self-defense is acceptable for Christians. The Christian-American idea that somehow the Second Amendment derives from the Bible is peculiarly American, to say the least. But Jesus was not an American, and I'm pretty sure God does not belong to the N.R.A.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  10. THE REALIST 1

    The Christian God Kills Brats

    From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. "Go up baldhead," they shouted, "go up baldhead!" The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two shebears came out of the woods and tore forty two of the children to pieces. (2 Kings 2:23-24 NAB)

    (read more: http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm)

    December 29, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • lol??

      Sure am glad God took seriously bringing His Son to the Cross.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Here in Wisconsin we kill brats along with our beers at every summer picnic. They're delicious. But this is the first I've heard that they had biblical origins. Live and learn, I guess.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  11. acheptole

    yea, you don't see the Easter Bunny and Santa packing heat...maybe these god freaks are on to something....

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

      Interesting use of the term: "god freaks" you sound like a hater. Not in the liberal agenda is it?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Perhaps not, but it apparently IS in the conservative agenda to ASSUME that anyone who disagrees with them about anything is a liberal and probably a hater.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  12. Lisa

    He closes with: "There are many things about which Christians should be unyielding; the right to own a killing machine should not be one of them."

    Wonder what is meant by unyielding? And which things? I trust the scope is only those things in their own lives and their own homes.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  13. Pat Jones

    ”Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    ~Benjamin Franklin

    December 29, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  14. lol??

    The Sandy Hook killer had a father being paid handsomely, from GE, to jump through IRS hoops to rip off the neighbors.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  15. Pat Jones

    ”No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
    ~Thomas Jefferson

    December 29, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Acegirlshusband

      "Free men" is the key phrase. Who said we are "free" anymore? That seems to be the direction we are being led.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, bushwa. No one is "disarming" anyone, you simp. No one is talking about taking away your stupid guns.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  16. jonny

    its funny how the media pushed antigun propaganda but yet 80% of every comment board, every person i talk to, is against gun control. Brainwashing only goes so far.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • John

      Also funny how the writter of this article is based out of Chicago. He should have first hand experience how gun control has no affect on crime, shootings and thugs! Law abiding citizens are just victim pools for the thugs in Chicago. Why doesn't he focus on educating the thugs and pulling them out of their poor upbringing and ghetto status. Oh right, they have been trying that since MLK days. At the end of the day, the President (who is from Illinois and couldn't control it) and the twit from CA Feinsten, will succeed in a gun ban. Then the President will sign the UN treaty and the 2nd amendment will die! What will you do next? Simply give in to the tyranny, or actually start the 2nd American Revolution!? As a Marine, I swore to protect our rights. Are we just going to let these liberals take them away without a fight! What has happened to Americans? When did we become a nation of sissies and pushovers! Stand up and fight! If you don't, this will not stop at our right to bear arms! We are not England! We are not Australians! We are Americans! Time we started to stand tall and shout it from the top of the highest grounds! It's time we fight and take our America back! Semper Fi!

      December 29, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  17. Joe

    You should look at limiting 2 other freedoms first – Speech and Press. Every time there is a shooting the Press makes a big deal out of the shooter. Some people are sick in the head and will do anything for fame. So they think if I kill someone important or a lot of people and I will get my name written in history. The second issue is Hollywood and how they make movies and shows. They make criminals out to be good guys, cartoons with adult subjects, and shows based on filth. Most Americans can watch that trash and it doesn't effect them, but the crazies get visions of grandeur. America takes the good out of schools to keep from offending a few; then fills them with bad science, political trash, and weak discipline. There is only so much money so they cut funds that hire off duty police officers. What do you expect when this happens. Makes me want to pull my kids out of school and home school them.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  18. palintwit

    We arrive in rusty 1964 motorhomes and camp in Walmart's parking lot.
    We bring our bibles and loaded assault weapons.
    We wear ridiculous clothing and have teabags dangling from our ears.
    We carry misspelled racist signs as we stomp all over the White House lawn.
    We love the baby jesus and we love to boink our cousins every Sunday after church.
    We believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that early man walked with the dinosaurs.
    We are Sarah Pailn's real Americans.
    We believe that nascar is a real sport and that Dale Earnhardt was a great American athlete.
    We believe that 'Deliverance' is a classic film and accurately depicts conservative christian life in America.
    We are the birthers and we are the baggers.
    We are the republicans and we are the morons.
    And we are proud.

    December 29, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Pat Jones

      We is armed also. That makes all the difference.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • spent

      We can shoot straight....also.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • palintwit

      I don't know whether to watch nascar or Honey Boo Boo.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • elephantix

      I feel like responding to you is the same as the media covering mass shootings. It only encourages idiots.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  19. Pat Jones

    ”God grants Liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.”
    ~Daniel Webster

    December 29, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
      Thomas Jefferson

      December 29, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  20. Pat Jones

    ”Gun control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.”
    ~Unknown

    December 29, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it isn't. It works in other countries. And there is no reason it can't work better here. There is no good reason for any private citizen to own automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons. Not one. I've asked time and time again for people to name one, and no one's done so yet. What I've gotten are answers like: I don't "need" one, but it's my right to own one.

      If that's the best you can come up with, don't bother.

      As for the argument of "self-defense," that's lame, too. You aren't living in some urban war zone. How many of your neighbors have been robbed at gunpoint in their homes? And how much good did having those guns for "self-defense" do for the mother of the Newtown killer? At what point, as another poster said, does a "well-regulated militia" become "unregulated?"

      December 29, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Ken

      We already make it tougher for people to put race cars on the road, or to drive excessively fast. Isn't trying to ban 30 round mags just like putting a speed limit on how fast you can shoot, you know, so that people don't end up getting hurt?

      December 29, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Seth Lawson

      Pat, It's more like trying to reduce drunk driving fatalities by making sure the drunk's car isn't really a TANK that crashes through car after car after car before finally plowing into a crowded market and running over some more people.

      As Tom brings up, we are simply trying live up to the second amendment by making gun ownership well-regulated. Also, I'm fairly certain you have to register both yourself and your automobile, not to mention taking a TEST before you can drive.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm waiting for Pat to burble some pap about keeping us safe from our own government, as if any weapons we could buy would do that. If the government wanted to take you out, Pat, it would, and it could. No matter what guns you have.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Tired of Christian Lies

      Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.
      William Hazlitt

      December 29, 2012 at 11:32 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.