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.
Thoughts of a responsible gun owner and follower of Christ: After a quick read of this acticle, the author's biblical based quotes and interpretations seem true.
However, It is my hope that teachers and preachers of God's word focus on the Gospel message and not on the politics of guns and gun control.
The horrible murder of people by crazed individuals is a Mental Heath and Heart issue. It is a failure of responsible gun owners to properly limit access to arms from disturbed individuals. It is the failure of Fathers and Mothers in the moral raising of their children. It is the failure of the media and entertainment industry in their glamorization of of violence as an acceptable solution to life's problems. It is the realization that sin is alive and well in the hearts of all people, and that there is but one solution: The saving power and healing found in Christ Jesus.
Jesus said "if you do not believe in me..then believe in what I do......" from the Sermon on the mount....
Just one more example of how religion is the root problem.
Theism or atheism has nothing to do with gun control or gun laws. If you think that, you are as dumb as the person you elected.
Let me add to that. It is "one's" interpretation or should I say misinterpretations of the scriptures that blindly colors beliefs of what a christian is.
TC ...go watch a nice movie, get some rest... for the best man won the presidency.
Oooh, TC's mad because his side lost. Poor baby.
Not at all. My side didn't even get to the table. I laugh becasue you actually think your side is capable. I laugh at all you dumba–ses who think your party or candidate is the solution and can lead America in the right direction. You the sheeple. in order to perpetuate your fantasy and narcissism, follow and cheer criminals/ Congratulations
"Sheeple." Gosh, you surely are original.
What a bird.
Look up above and see the other CNN stories . . . one in three Americans think extreme weather a sign of biblical end times!!
I'm an agnostic scientist with a Buddhist bent And I'M the "LIBTARD?"
when the church starts getting into government then they should lose there tax free status, church and state are to be seperated, we should make it harder for these pastors to get a church with tax free status that would keep alot of criminals from taking money from the people of these united states
you inc'd em dufus, with your pharisees.
One commentator said that many people have guns because they are fearful that the government will fail and they will need ot protect themselves. Considering that the media plays up the worst possible scenarios in everything – you would think that a winter snowstorm was an assault on the existance of all humanity in its path the way some weather forecasters talk about it – the constant inflation of the danger posed by ordinary events, it is no wonder that people are fearful.
Fear, uncertainty, and dread – FUD – gathers attention. Very few things are disasters. As a nation, we need to regain perspective. Perhaps then we can start dealing with life from a position of strength rather than fear.
I always find it odd though that the very people who boast of how un-fearful they are because their religion and deity gives them strength are too often those who are simply shuddering with fear. Sadly, they often point to the mass of people different from them in color or language, who often actually worship the same deity! What gives?
Christian positions on embryos "Oh its human', Christian positions on guns that killed 6-7 years old's is: "Oh, we are not sure where we stand there".
Wow – most retardred statement made by someone on here today. The thought is incoherent and utterly false.
A couple houses burn down from fireworks and fireworks are banned......
I don't find it "retarded" at all. The yahoos here who are pro-gun are almost assuredly anti-choice. They want the "gubmint" to stay out of their private lives, but think it's just fine to tell women they HAVE no right to privacy.
Piper- what a bigoted and uninformed belief. Liberal atheists are not necessarily against the right ot bear arms and pro lifers do not necessarily care about weapons beings available to the general public. QUit putting everyone in a neat little box for you to feel comfortable about your biased opinions.
Tom, I think you have missed the fact that there are 2 strains of opposition to the effort to curtail gun ownership in America, the "pro-gun" folks (whom you have identified) and the "pro-liberty" folx (whom you seem to have missed altogether). I assure you that those of us in the latter camp are consistently pro-choice on matters of abortion for the same reasons that we are in favor of the government staying out of our gun cabinets. (FWIW, the only firearm I own is a .22 rifle that I inherited from my dad, that hasn't been out of its case in 30 years, but I guess that suffices to make me a "gun nut" according to the rubric of the day.)
One thing about Christians – we do not all think alike. Christians come in all political stripes. It is an error to generalize about us. Some of us are more vocal than others. Others of us prefer to let the way they live their lives speak for them. Generalizations are used to create the primary condition for conflict: we and them. We need more recognition that while we have differences, we are together as people in this world. There is far more that unites us than divides us.
TC, I don't care if you think you know what most of the nuts on these forums think; I doubt you've been here that long. Most of the Christards who love their guns and post here are vehemently opposed to choice.
I haven't "missed" the "pro-liberty" folks at all, Richard, and I don't have anything against gun ownership. What I DO oppose is the poorly regulated sale of weapons to private citizens whose sole purpose is to kill a lot of people very fast.
Piper – you are a complete narcissitic libtard who thinks they get it all and everyone else is stupid. Grow up little boy and try on some humility.
That was phrased completely incorrectly. I oppose allowing private citizens unregulated access to assault-type weapons, the sole purpose of which is to kill a lot of people in very short order.
As to generalizations, if the foo sh!ts, wear it.
Grow up yourself, TC, and while you're at it, fvck yourself. I'll comment as I wish. If you can't take it, scroll or scram.
I do believe you are upset, TC. Why is that? Did I hit a nerve? Or did you assume something that happens to be inaccurate? Guess it's both.
narcissitic libtard-I believe you meant "narcissistic," dear, and I'm not a "boy" at all, as you'd know if you'd been around here longer than a day or two.
Tom writes: "I oppose allowing private citizens unregulated access to assault-type weapons, the sole purpose of which is to kill a lot of people in very short order."
Then you also favor taking them out of the hands of the military, police, and criminals, too, I take it. How do you propose to do that? Attrition, like Saddam Hussein's sand-clogged American-built tanks, useless for lack of replacement parts? Or confiscation? Or buy-back? How WILL you get the Pentagon to give up theirs?
Luke 22: 36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”
Luke 22:38 – "The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied."
The Lord specifies what is enough for 11 people. Later in the story, Peter cuts off the ear of a soldier. Jesus rebukes him and restores the man's ear and tells those present: "No more of this."
King James Version (KJV)
18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
”Germans who wish to use firearms should join the SS or the SA – ordinary citizens don’t need guns, as their having guns doesn’t serve the State.”
Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.
Lyndon B. Johnson
“Guns don’t kill people, husbands who come home early from work kill people”
~Larry the Cable Guy
Guns equal love.
To Pat Jones....Do you really believe that guns equal love? You really are sick. You should be the first patient to check in for mental help. You need help desperately. Anyone out there can help this guy? Pretty please.
Pathetic to say the least.
Sorry, Dan, there are no mental health services available for Pat. That was eliminated decades ago when it was decided that the mentally ill could be turned loose with a few pills and expected to live a normal life.
War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands.
H. L. Mencken
When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
What's da problem? Mama likes killin'. She likes power. Knowin' right and wrong and all that sort of thing.
But evangelicals don't like anyone who is different, and people who want reasonable and prudent gun control are different than those in evangelical communities/bubbles.
This is just another in a long line of "Not all of us Republicans are totally crazy" articles on CNN. I don't buy it – you are all crazy. Stop siding with smart people just once in a while to try to show you aren't completely crazy. You either believe in science-based thoughtful reasoning and practice it all the time or you don't.
Andrew, it's intolerant of you to say all evangelicals don't like anyone different. You are generalizing, and stereotyping. Really, it's religious bigotry. Stop the hate speech.
Ahh the self professed liberal atheist know-it-all – yes you have the world figured out. Thanks for letting us know.
And two stupid comments full of assumptions don't make one bright one. I know a few mainline Xtians who object to their evangelical brethren's idiocy.
Not so fast lauram and TC. The basis of evangelical christianity is that there is one, and only one, correct interpretation of the bible, and it is yours. Not only that, but evangelicals are sure that anyone with a different interpretation will be tortured for eternity. Not only that, but evangelicals believe their interpretation of the bible should be entrenched in law and forced on citizens even if they reject evangelical christianity.
So intolerance is built into evangelical christianity – you really don't like or trust anyone who is different, and you know it.
I just presented you with the liberal flipside of evangelical christianity, and look at your reaction – you immediately zeroed in on the intolerance and arrogance. Now you know, just for an instant in time, what it feels like to be a non-evangelical, under the constant threat of having your particular interpretation of the bible rammed down one's throat.
You guys are the ones who have built intolerance into evangelical christianity at a fundamental level, if you don't like it being mirrored back at you once in a while then defy your god, and change.
I have to hurry back to my trailer. I don't want to miss Honey Boo Boo. If I scrunch up some aluminum foil on the rabbit ears I'll get real good reception.
”Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the outcome of the vote.”
People always make war when they say they love peace.
David Herbert Lawrence
Evangelicals need to focus on bringing people to Christ, and getting involved in a gun control issue is a distraction. Our job is to help win souls, serve the poor, and improve ourselves morally.
Well, you evangelicals are 0 for 3 on those things.
Do you need a gun to do any of those "jobs"?
It's amazing how the media provides millions of dollars of free mass murderers advertising to the mentally derranged killers.
”The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
This once was true but unless the military joined the revolution, the military could easily take down armed citizens.
So who are you going to assassinate?
”The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” ~Thomas Jefferson
Which makes the NRA/Republican/Evangelical plan of putting an armed agent of the GOVERNMENT in every school especially bizarre. The NRA wants to arm the government – double the size of domestic police forces – literally, implement a police state. This is why the NRA and Republicans need evangelicals on their side – they need people who have been conditioned to not think too much about things, who think science books are bad.
Pat may be from Texas, where people were talking "revolution" just because Obama won.
Andrew has quite the point there. I guess evangelicals also aim to take control of the gubment and force us all to convert at gun-point (or as many also believe, at welfare-check revocation point) – their unabashed fervor to take over the military academies and promote their belief system there is shockingly bold.
TC writes: "... unless the military joined the revolution, the military could easily take down armed citizens."
Afghanistan. Iraq. Lebanon. Korea. Vietnam. Cuba. Mexico. All examples of cases where the mightiest military force on the planet couldn't take out a p∞rly armed, p∞rly funded citizens' resistance movement.
But I've saved the best example for last: 1776, when "the mightiest military force on the planet" was the British lobsterbacks, their formidable navy, and their Hessian mercenaries. But those p∞r babies complained that the American colonists wouldn't stand up in straight lines and fight fair, like civilized people. No, they hid behind trees, dressed like civilians, shot, and ran. And you know what was the MOST galling thing of all? Their guns were JUST AS GOOD as the regular army's. Why, dang, you'd almost believe they could win a revolution after hearing that!
Honesty compels me to note that we did kick the crap out of those war-mongering, bloodthirsty, vicious Hawaiians and Grenedians, tho.
It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passion, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace.
In the bible Jesus did tell His disciples to go buy a sword. So He did want them to have a weapon for protection.
Can you provide a citation for that?
I am glad that the irony of being against abortion and gun control at the same time was pointed out. Maybe I should have said hypocrisy. That is the difference between being merely antoabortion and truly prolife. Prolife does not end at birth.
Here here. Well written. Pro life means we don't kill anyone for any reason.
While I do appreciate the message of this article, and also agree there is no specific verse about guns themselves, how on earth can anyone think, even for a minute, that Jesus would be pro-gun? It's clearly understood that the message of the gospels is non-violence, turning the other cheek, not denying an evil man, etc.; how this plays into the conservative stance on the pro-gun lobby is beyond me. The Jesus I read about doesn't seem like he would be a card carrying member of the NRA.
And as we join all that we know about gun proliferation in America, we shall come to more accurately profile the proliferators as:
1) Self Radicalized indoctrinated Psuedo-Christians often refered to as 'Evangelicals'
2) Poorly educated
3) Possessing abnormally dysfunctional cognitive capabilities
6) Welfare beneficiaries or otherwise, tax avoiders
7) Descendant from white settlers.
Guns are good. Let the liberals whine and complain. We still have our guns.
Hey Phat Jones, I want you to have more guns.
In fact, I hope you spend every disposible dollar you make buying them.
Our economy is based on people spending, so spend away.
I hope you waste heaps of your time with your guns. Sitting in your basement playing make believe Army dude, or secret agent.
The more time you spend with your guns, the less time the rest of us have to spend with you, which is a good thing.
Your comment really makes no sense other than it seems to regurgitate all the stereotypes about evangelicals that secularists are so eager to cultivate. I am an evangelical Christian. I am also a college professor with a Ph. D. I attend a church that helps the poor through a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank. We are neither ignorant nor paranoid. We are not isolated from our community, and we do not make our help contingent on coming to church or accepting our beliefs. Has it occurred to any of you Christian-haters that the very argument presented on this blog proves your stereotype of Christians to be wrong?
”No law ever prevented a crime.”
”No law ever prevented a crime.”
once again, right wing statements not intended to be factual
"Therefore, repeal all criminal laws." -Anonymous anarchist
If we don't end war, war will end us.
H. G. Wells
If I ever said something as stupid as that, I'd want to be anonymous, too.
Apparently that same trepidation doesn't occur to people willing to repeat the line, however.
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.