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.
What do you think when you hear the term "Gay '90s"? Do you think of the 1890s, when "gay" meant "carefree, frivolous, frothy, fun"? Or do you think of the 1990s, when "gay" meant "hømos¢xual" and the term referred to gay people coming out of the closet and fighting for equality? Regardless of which of them FIRST occurred to you, it should have dawned on you shortly thereafter that the meaning of the term had changed over the course of a century.
How much more so, then, have the terms "regulated" and "militia" had an opportunity to morph away from what they meant when they were written down over TWO centuries ago. At the time, "regulated" didn't refer to government regulation; indeed, that meaning didn't become common until the Great Depression of the 1930s, when FDR and his array of alphabet agencies made it seem like it was a function solely of government. Back in the late 1700s it meant "drilled" or "practiced". And "militia" meant the exact OPPOSITE of an organized military force. It was specifically people NOT in the military. In particular, people who could get together with their fellow citizens, as the need arose, often with virtually no notice, to fend off potentially lethal or oppressive forces USING THEIR OWN GUNS.
The 1890s were a time of the rise of Republican lesbian power in America and great strides were made in Women's rights. Gay men of the 1990s, however have been mostly only about themselves.
@JohnCarver – Gay men are simply fighting for their rights, equality. Nothing more. No different than other groups of people in history. They have to be "about themselves", for certainly, nobody else is going to fight for them.
A bomb is easier to build that aquiring a gun now, raising that bar is the path to more McVeighs.
Agreed! Frightening...but true.
It's impossible to use religion as a preface for gun control, unless you manipulate the bible into meaning what you want it to mean. 100 religious men will give you 100 different points of view and by no means should you let a preacher's opinion change your point of view. So this one is a writer, good for him.
In the basic theme of religion, every person that dies is dead because God willed it. Nothing happens without God making it happen. We should not argue with the will of the lord and we should not try to explain it. Right?
Religion is like a pen that can morph to a knife, a gun, or a bomb, and can be manipulated at will by the person wielding it.
You mean fundies manipulate the babble to support their views?
I am shocked!
All Christians that don't speak against guns and violence are simply hypocrates. This is not just about what happened at Newtown. This is about what happens everyday in our country where tens of thousands for people die every year because of gun violence.
Half of all gun deaths in the USA are suicides, give it a thought Murry.
“It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people.”
Actually we focus too much on this amok-stories. Of course, it is regretable that some people had to die but on the other hand, objectively seen, if they had not died through the bullets, maybe the had died a little later because of a disease or accident or something else (this is no excuse for the offender).
The basic problem of ours is not the physical death which most of us have to suffer any time but the spiritual death. We have no more knowledge about the so-called rebirth, the new birth out of Water and Spirit which is the sacramental baptism (please consider that also Protestants believe in sacraments; I am a Lutheran). Many Americans believe that one has to get born again, and lay too much stress on the personal decision of someone, but that is not according to the teachings of Jesus, St. Paul, St. Peter, etc., which we can find in the Bible. According to the divine teachers we can do nearly nothing by our natural power or strength. Bottom line we can only say to God: Yes, I admit my sinfulness. please cure me, I want to be cured. That's all. If we want become able to overcome our sinfulness, we have to refer to the Rebirth where we get metaphysically connected with Christ's death and resurrection. We die for the sin, and resurrect together with Jesus. Through sacramental baptism and faith we enter Christ, and in Christ we can do works of rightousness and love despite our natural sinfulness which we have inherited from Adam. That is the mystery of faith.
Someone in Christ actually needs no weapon to defend himself because the Almighty takes care of him, and is a mighty man of war.
The average modern American has far more biblical knowledge than they would have at any point in history. Which is exactly the reason they are turning away from religion. The more familiar a person is with religion, the greater the chance of their seeing how irrational it is.
Thankfully, we can live in the U.S.A. and not have to believe in all the garbage you just wrote.
So, where was the almighty when it came to defending these children? How strong is this faith of yours? If I were going to shoot you, and you had your choice of being shot in church or in a hospital, which one would you choose? I think I'd pick the hospital. Obviously, considering recent events, your god does little to protect the innocent.
Bonhoeffer is probably rolling in his grave now.
Main thing you defend weak people, if you have opportunity. Don't blame God for the neglects of human beings.
I keep reassuring people who say that the flesh is meaningless and weak, and that only the spirit counts for anything, that they should act on their beliefs, pray up a storm of requests for forgiveness, and then do themselves (and, not so incidentally, the rest of us) a favor by killing themselves. So go ahead, stand by your beliefs. Only, if you don't like guns, go off to your eternal reward using a car exhaust or OD on sleeping pills or something.
@Rainer – Apparently your god doesn't defend weak people.
Still too long, and still too boring......
Firearms are already tightly restricted. Enforce the current laws instead of trying to further restrict my ability to defend myself.
What really bothers me is the term "assault weapons" and "military weapons." What makes an "assault weapon" exactly? They share no different qualities than any other auto loaders... They only look like what military uses, that is about where the similarities end.
Also, compare murders and violent crime to the other countries like Austrailia and Britan. They have more violent crime, more assaults, and no significant reduction in murder rates since they lost their freedom.
The media has found a flash point to sell advertising, and it is working.... I find the misinformation and uninformed opinions shared by some above to be deeply troubling... I find trying to connect or disconnect guns to or from religion even more troubling. Combining fire with fire for a bigger blaze.
Guns are not the issue, they are a sideshow.
So, you think that an AR-4 and an M-4 share looks alone. Since they use the same round size (5.56mm/ .223 caliber), I think we can stop there with your argument. YOU don't NEED a semi-automatic, gas-driven reloading, magazine-fed weapon- otherwise known as an "assault rifle"- to defend your home. That being said, perhaps if we did a better job of spending our taxes on effective education for our kids, effective welfare that does not encourage dependence, and improvement of the infrastructure of our country, we would see a decrease in people getting their hands on guns and killing others.
I recognize that my understanding is hardly universal, but to me an "assault weapon" is "any weapon used in an assault" and can include fertilizer, fists, hammers, machetes, crowbars, broken bottles, etc. And the way to deal with them is not to criminalize the weapons but to criminalize the practice of assault. As it happens, we've already done THAT, long ago, and for some odd reason it doesn't seem to have stopped them.
There are NO strict gun laws. Any person can buy a gun at their local Walmart, buy one at a gun show with NO background check or waiting period, or have no limit on the amount of ammunition bought at one time. There is no Federal registry of guns, licenses or serial numbers to help law enforcement solve crimes. We have DNA databases, AFIS for fingerprints, but nothing for the cause of most murders in the US – guns. NO ONE should be able to buy any assault weapon or ammunition for it. NO ONE outside law enforcement or the military needs a weapon designed for one purpose – to kill. They are useless for hunting or any other normal gun sport.
Statistics show gun owners are the victims of more gun deaths – accidents, unsecured guns being accessed by chlldren, domestic violence situations and you are NOT safer with one in your home. The gun owner is usually killed with his own weapon in the RARE case of home invasion.
If you are true gun lover or collector you should want proper registration and safety regulations. You should support a national gun registration database to keep guns out of the hands of fanatics. To get rid of current assualt weapons, no ammunition for them should be available so they are useless to use. No Internet sales of guns or ammunition online should be allowed. If you truly cared about gun safety, you would work to make them safe not keep them available to any lunatic, militia-minded fanatic, or anti-government nut. It is harder to get a drivers license than to get a gun. That is absurd.
ACTIONS speak louder than words. If "evangelicals" want gun violence and illegal guns gone then DO something to make it happen. Tell your Republican NRA-bought member of Congress you will not vote for them again unless they ban assault weapons, do serious gun registration and licensing, and limit access to large amounts of ammunition.
Did you know you can get flagged to local law enforcement for buying too much Sudaffed decongestant for it can used to make illegal drugs but if I buy 100 guns online or buy a store out of ammunition no one knows. We need rational people fixing our gun violence issue. Don't talk – ACT
Violent crime in Britain is considerably less than the U.S.- in fact, it fell this year while the U.S. increased. And considering a country like Sudan, or Ethiopia, where there are effectively no gun laws, has far more violent crime than we, again, your argument is invalid.
Dana, I don't NEED to spend my time here on this board arguing over con law, either, but the 1st Amendment protects my ability to do it.
Furthermore, why are you in a position to tell ME what I need vs. what I want? As a free citizen in a free country, shouldn't I be able to make that decision for myself? For example, does a pregnant woman NEED an electric d¡ldo stuffed up her business by a government agent just because you or some other officious busybody thinks so?
Besides, if you want to use NEED as the basis for determining whether anyone is ent¡tled to something, you're down to protecting only 5 things: food, air, water, a reasonable temperature range, and chocolate.
Thou shalt not kill. What more do you need? Guns are bad.
So's yer tongue:............."Jam 3:6 And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."
The occasional spurts of mass violence don't make me consider gun bans, but the astounding number of adults who believe in fairy tales is possibly reason enough. Can we trust these whacky christians and muslims from starting a holy war here?
Not to worry, dustball.
Syedibar, you are referring to the atheist lawless fairy tale. Are you not?
Gun and belief were not associated with each other. If gun or weapon was talked to be used in purpose to protect our belief. I thought we were talking nonsense and the article either. Speaking up about the gun was belonged to everyone not addressing to any specific group. I thought historic event could not be analyzed thoroughly when it had gone.
There is no direct causal relationship between being evangelical and owning guns. That some surveys indicate such is coincidental. Do they own guns because they are evangelical? Or are they evangelical and happen to own guns? How about atheists and other religious groups? Could it be other factors at work behind owning guns other than religion? I think so. And it's not evangelicals, generally speaking, who are stripping the debate down to a single absurdist issue; rather, they keep trying to point out the complexities of the topic and bring each to the discussion.
Most people commenting here are speaking from their gut and not their brain. Most have NOT CAREFULLY read the article.
I see CNN is recruiting faux conservatives to advanced their hard left agenda.
So you want to start censoring news articles? Shall we start having you pre-read of all news articles so that they get your stamp of approval before being published?
I've got no qualm with evangelicals unless they want to infringe upon by 2nd amendment rights.
Seems to me most of them have guns already.
Another self-rightious person who thinks it is ok to "ban" or restrict what he does not care for or believe in. In his eyes the 2nd amendment is not really that important and doesn't protect individual gun rights or apply to certain types of rifles. I could say the same thing about the first amendment if I didn't care for his particular religion and ask that only the "mainstream" religions be allowed to practice. Somehow I think he would be offended by any reduction in the value of any amendment that protects his beliefs. Its a shame he cannot extend that same thinking to all the amendments equally. Sometimes we get a little "bad" with the good.
I should have known to not bother reading the article when I read that the author lives in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Chicago, its funny how the left HATES Christianity until it they need another ally to push their twisted agenda. Its funny that you want to take my right as a human to defend myself with as much firepower as possible but you dont want to "trample" the rights of women by not allowing them to have abortions which kill over a million children per year.
what GAW? Is that your best argument? That is usually how liberals work when they cant beat an argument they mock it and try to make is seem as ridiculous as possible so that no one takes it seriously
So, do you want to have to pay for those million babies per year? Do you want to be born in a situation where you're not wanted? Define murder. Do you not use birth control? If you do, you're stopping a baby from being born.
When you used the phrase Soviet Socialist Republic of Chicago I knew there was no use using reason. Why throw pearls before swine?
We do not hate christianity, we want it out of our lives.
Problem is, people like you keep pushing it on us.
In our government, in our hospitals, in our schools and in our bedrooms.
You want to believe in a stone age fairy tale, knock yourself out.
But stop trying to force us to go along with it.
You should have known better than to read the article, you say. But clearly you do NOT know better. Really, really clearly.
Of course the Bible has no opinion on guns. There weren't any! If anything, it might outlaw slingshots & swords. Naturally one can infer that violence is definitely to be avoided (Peter & his sword). You won't find anything about guns in the Gospels of Buddha either. These are ancient religions. Besides, the Bible (unfortunately) seems to have little affect on America's bellicose behavior. Members of all Faiths & no Faiths would do well to try to build a more peaceful world. It's not an Evangelical thing.
You left out parts like all liars do..
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 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. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[a]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
Cursed [be] he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed [be] he that keepeth back his sword from blood.
So what are you going to do with the 'Love your neighbor" verses?
You sound like one of those Islamic extremists. They are overly fond of guns too and like to quote the Koran to support their cause.
chica, the sword of the Lord's is his truth.
No this is a predictable tactic by many atheists who quote the dark passages from the Bible (And yes they are there) in order to disprove what Christians believe.
Jeff, the lord has no sword because the lord does not exist.
niknak, take my word for it. You are a moron.
OK Jiff, I will admit that I am a moron the day that you provide me some proof of your imaginary friend.
And it's sword.
Hey, tomorrow you get to go to your communicator to god and get on your knees and speak your magic spells!
Won't that be fun!
Then maybe afterwards you can go to the gun range and shoot your guns and make believe you are killing atheists.
Won't that be a special day for you?
I'm sorry, "Jeff", but "niknak"'s assertion is correct. The "Lord" is an element of mythology and therefore cannot convey any "truth" via a "sword". Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".
Two things you prove niknak. One being that atheists are fools, second being you have no patience. Christians have patience to wait upon the Lord.
hal 9001, who asked you to chime in? Oh, that's niknak, as well as all you atheists need backup when you post your bull.
I'm sorry, "Jeff", but I am not the entity "niknak". It is my function to monitor and collect data from the Belief Blog. Occasionally, I will illuminate unfounded assertions or falsehoods."
"Christians have patience to wait upon the Lord."
You'd think the Lord being all powerful wouldn't be so lazy every time he needs a beer.
You better wake up, smell the roses and stop drinking the Kool Aid! Your opinion here is exactly where this government wants us to be on the issue of gun control. This kind of thinking takes the fear out of the politicians minds as they are making incredibly ridiculous decidions in Washington, decisions that harm me (the one working and paying the taxes) and only benefit them.
Can you provide any example of decisions that have been made that have hurt you?
And while you are at it, can you give us any evidence of your imaginary friend?
niknak, have you always been anti-social, enjoying going against society? Or, did you work at it?
How am I going against society or being anti social by asking for proof of what he posted, Jiff?
It is just not me who doesn't believe in your version of god. The vast majority of the world does not believe in your god.
They have their own, or like me, don't believe.
Is your all powerful god so weak that you feel the need to protect it from all that don't go along with it?
The name if Jeff, not Jiff. Sounds like you want popcorn.
niknak, all atheists that reject Jesus' truth are anti-social. Not only do you not know what he teaches, you refuse to guide your life by what he teaches.
I refuse to guide my life by 2000 year old goat herder fairy tales.
Or by voices in my head "commanding" me to do something.
I CHOOSE to be a stand up guy, because I think it is the right thing to do and how I want to live my life.
I don't need some security blanket, or some threat of some fiery pit to live as a stand up guy.
I also can think for myself. I don't need some shamen to guide me.
And I also believe in whats proveable, something your book of magic spells is not.
Look Jeff, if you want to go out on a hill and howl at the moon, go right ahead and waste your time.
Until you can provide me with even a tiny shred of evidence of your god, then I am not going to howl at the moon with you.
Thomas Paine, writing to religious pacifists in 1775:
"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world dest itute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them; the weak would become a prey to the strong."
Bah. Gun control will do nothing to stop massacres in this country. They happen not because of guns, but becasue of the toxic, self absorbed, unrestrained culture.
Wrong!!! We have gun control in Canada and we do not see as many massacres as you do. It's because weapons like the one used in the Sandy Hook Tragedy are not legal here. Weapons must be registered and strict storage regulations are in place.
Unrestrained society teaching the lies of evolution "survival of the fittest".
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.