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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. Rational Thinker

    Maybe we should more strongly consider banning guns if Tom, Tom owns a bunch of them!

    December 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • dreamer96

      In Phoenix Arizona in 2009, the local ATF office was tracking a small group of gun buyers..I think it was just 29 people...that had bought 650 guns in just a few months...Obviously they were making tax free money off reselling those guns to anybody...

      December 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jeff

      The only thing Tom knows how to do well is lie. He has a lie for everything. The guy or gal has no shame.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • MosinNagant

      Maybe it was government agents buying guns and selling them to the cartels as part of Fast and Furious.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • dreamer96

      It is easy to buy guns in Arizona....Easy to buy Demolition explosives too...Just show a Arizona Drivers license and you can walk out with demolition explosives....they do not even check to see if it is real or run a back ground check....and that demolition explosive can be plead off and reformed into anything you want.....crazy laws in Arizona...

      December 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • The Truth

      "Maybe it was government agents buying guns and selling them to the cartels as part of Fast and Furious." Right, then they went to the Arizona District Attorney and gave them all the evidence of what these slime balls were doing in Home Depot parking lots and the DA said "So what? It aint illegal!!" and that is when the ATF looked stupid. The gall of a federal agency created to regulate firearms to try and arrest someone for doing something that the fvcking gun lobby made perfectly legal even when any sane person would say "What? You mean I can pass a background check and then buy hundreds of assault weapons and then legally sell them at a substantial profit to drug dealers and cartels and people I must assume would not pass a background check since if they could they would buy the gun for a lot less just like I did?" and the NRA says "Yup, You're welcome!"

      December 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Thetruth

      Yes the NRA was really mad the Phoenix ATF was building a local computer database...Congress passed laws forbidding the Federal Government from recreating a national database of gun owners and what guns they buy or own...

      December 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • The Truth

      @dreamer – so you are saying that what congress did at the behest of the NRA was a good thing? You cannot hold the position that we should keep the status quo of letting people sell whatever giant clips and assault weapons to whoever they want whenever they want can you? Why have a background check at all then? Is that the America you want to live in? If so you are a sick person who needs to see a psychologist.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • frank

      Jeffro: "The only thing Tom knows how to do well is lie. He has a lie for everything. "

      Hmm. What was one of the lies, Jeffro? Let's get specific.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Chad

      Tom Tom is a she, and I find it hard to believe that she is a gun owner..

      December 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  2. Rainer Braendlein

    December 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  3. Paul Nay

    1. I'll accept "guns don't kill people . . . " only if idiotic carelessness, eg, in leaving a loaded gun out where children can get at it, is added to the ways in which people kill people.
    2. "Guns don't kill people . . ." but the presence of a gun in a person's immediate environment has, in psychological experiments, caused frustrated people to have bloodier, more violent fantasies than the presence of a fishing rod. "Guns don't kill people" – but they can put people more in mind of killing people.
    3. A question to owners of large (>10 rounds) magazines: What thoughts, what fantasies, run through your mind as you load one of these mass-killing-enablers?

    December 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Both the Ct school shooter and the Colorado theater shooter were wearing body armor...

      Maybe we should all start wearing full body armor since we we never ban guns in America..

      December 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • MosinNagant

      They both drove cars to the scene of the shooting. Maybe we should ban cars.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • dreamer96

      MosinNagant

      If they did not have a drivers license, and keys to a car..
      Would they have taken the bus...dressed in full body armor, carrying many guns?..
      Would they have walked ....in full body armor carrying many guns?...

      December 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Country Boy

      What goes through my mind, city-slicker? "Dagnabbit! You mean I've got to load 3 magazines instead of 1 just so I can keep target shooting? Imona get some fancy pants city-slicker to hurt his delicate computer thumb reloading the dagnab things!" Those of you who don't know nuthin about guns should just shut up.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  4. erivera63

    I never understood why evangelicals love their guns so much..If they believe in the power of prayer and God protecting them, then why the need for a gun? Seems to me that their faith is not so strong afterall.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • MosinNagant

      Haven't you ever heard the saying "have faith in god but tie up your camel"? I am not religious myself, just saying.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Farmer way of looking at the world...
      Farmers Pray for good weather for their crops
      But keep guns at home to defend against robbers.....

      December 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  5. Rainer Braendlein

    December 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Aslan cured Eustace, the dragon, and he became a good guy again. Aslan in our world is Jesus. By nature we are like Eustace before Aslan cured him. In Christ we are like the Eustace who had been cured by Aslan.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Rainer, has anyone ever mentioned to you that these guys, too, are fictional?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  6. Douglas

    Mr. Darling,

    500 murders in Chicago, your nearest big city, and you have no comment in your article on that?

    December 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • MosinNagant

      Chicago has total gun bans and the highest gun crime rates in the country. It is a prime example of "gun control" being a total and utter failure.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • dreamer96

      To bad they do not use paint ball guns....

      December 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • erivera63

      So..using you reasoning, because criminals are going to commit crimes regardless , we shouldn't create laws?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • MosinNagant

      "So..using you reasoning, because criminals are going to commit crimes regardless , we shouldn't create laws?"

      No. My reasoning is criminals will get guns no matter what the law says. Why should my right to defend myself against those criminals be taken away?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • dreamer96

      I guess we should all buy full body armor......

      December 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • The Truth

      "Why should my right to defend myself against those criminals be taken away?" Because only a moron would think that having a gun protects anyone when faced with the fact that it statistically doubles your risk of dying by gun violence in your lifetime. You are not "defending" anything when you buy a gun, you are simply adding more risk to your already risk filled life. This reasoning is like a person thinking they will have fewer accidents while working on a gas pipeline if they had a lit torch with them so they could see the gas leak better...

      December 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • J.W

      Criminals can easily get guns now. In countries like China and J4pan there are far fewer murders because guns are very difficult to obtain. Maybe if they could not get guns as easily there would be fewer shootings.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  7. MosinNagant

    "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."

    Romans 13 is totally misinterpreted by many people. Hitler used Romans 13 to get Germans to turn in their guns and be good little Nazis. Romans 13 basically says you are to obey a just and moral government but on the other hand you are to resist a tyrannical and immoral government.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  8. Emelia

    Um, I'm religious. I don't like guns. I don't want a gun in my house. Where's my voice?

    December 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Is there a law in your town rquiring you to have a gun, as is the case in some very low crime rate communities?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • The Truth

      " as is the case in some very low crime rate communities?" Um, please reference your bull shlt please.

      December 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  9. John P. Tarver

    Criminalize Xanax and leave my guns alone.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • MosinNagant

      It is not the NRA who has too much say as some people think it is big pharma that we need to be worried about.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      The CIA funded LSD at $4 a hit at Stanford, as a mind control experiment; good old CIA Timmy Leary. Meantime the DoD used US military volenteers in mind control experiemts using MDMA. (ie extasey) The big pharma mind control application of psycotropics for depression is at the root of mass murder among America's youth.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  10. Bill M

    Switzerland is the most gun populated country on earth and their crime rate is non-existent. Think maybe we need to look elsewhere for the proper solution? Are we going to start taking away vehicles from everybody because someone kills children while driving one? What if it's a larger, higher capacity, military style vehicle that could kill even more children? Ludicrous.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • 21k

      thanks for reminding us what kind of morons are on your side of the debate.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Robert

      If you are going to make an argument, at least provide FACTS. There are more guns per capita in the U.S. than any other country on the planet, TWICE as many as the next country... YEMEN. As well, there are more gun-related deaths in the U.S. than all the other industrialized countries COMBINED. You can try to explain away these facts, or try to rationalize their existence, but you can't ignore them.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • I like guns too but,

      Your math and current facts on Switzerland are utterly wrong. Spend 12 minutes online looking it up – other than on Foxnews.com and you can stop embarrassing yourself – along with the other 3 million people who bought that bs story on Switzerland. There are plenty of sound points to make against gun control. But let's all use facts instead of fantasy.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  11. cynic007

    NRA = just a bunch of white fundamentalist bigots....... they want gun supremacy rule any dialogue - rambos with no brains but a strong religious belif -- yyyakkkhhhhhh

    December 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  12. Steve

    Milktoast, plain and simple! Because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  13. verettreb

    The article sees to leave out a few things.

    From Luke 22:36 in the King James Version
    "Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."

    Now in the days of Jesus the top carrying weapon of the military was the sword.
    So one could argue that the bible not only supports the ownership of weapons equal to other weapons of the day and in fact i commanded by Jesus to own one but one could also argue that the bible supports ownership of weapons that are equal to the military.

    In other words the military's top carrying weapon was a sword so Jesus said that the disciples should sale something and buy a sword.
    Today military's top carrying weapon is a M-16. Think about that.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Oh brother yeah...our streets full of people with military weapons....Have you been to the Middle East ...In many countries they walk around with military rifles all the time....like in Afghanistan..the Taliban....The American GOP...the new American Taliban..

      December 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • DE

      You are making the mistake that the bible is reality, which it is not.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Disappointed

      I think you totally missed the point of the rest of the new testament. Look at the single situation where a sword was used by one of Jesus' disciples and see how Jesus responds. Look at the context of the verse that you quoted and note how the disciples respond that they have two swords (for 12 of them), Jesus responded that it was enough. There is no biblical precedent for Christians hording military-grade weapons.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      And then he quickly rebukes the weapon, saying those that use will die from it. So Jesus was not supporting violence there (not that I ascribe much value to quotes used in fiction). Though it is quite evident from historical record that the messianics his legend is based on staged some very violent protests against the Romans.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Jeff

      verettreb, I'll tell you the same, the sword of the Lord's mean his truth. That's his weapon of choice, truth versus lies.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Jeff", but the "Lord" is an element of mythology, and therefore cannot wield 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: "TOTAL FAIL".

      December 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  14. callnews

    No, standing for our second amendment rights is not an appearance of evil, as you alude to, saying it might be perceived that we care not for our neighbor. The instance of Korean businessmen using high capacity rifles to defend their families and businesses in the 1992 LA riots has shown the correct use of such weapons. Other than this, the words such as "may reduce", "seems like", and "seem to serve" are just the type of jello leadership we don't need. The 1994 weapons ban did not work; that's why it was rescinded. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders", not guns. If you made a clear stand, I could have respect for your opinion, but you've just offered the opinion that Christians should be jellyfish. No thanks.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  15. Rainer Braendlein

    Physical death is very sad but what we should really fear is the spiritual death.

    “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people.”

    Actually we focus too much on these 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 righteousness 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.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    December 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      "Do not fear he that destroys your body or takes your life (ie spirit), fear the one who destroys your soul" JC

      December 29, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  16. Vence

    We all know liberals like to kill unborn babies and conservatives born babies.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  17. lionlylamb

    People's moral and civil rights are nowadays subjected to mundane abuses of Federalism, the father of adoption’s secularism and divorcee of theocracy whose many so many autocrats are of the abolitionists within Christendom's creeds of embittered many; now marrying into the servile atheists euphemisms giving rises to the ever damned younger infidels of socially perverse and vulgar demeaning pragmatisms via emotionalized pleasurable natures, leading down the future's committed vile systems of embittered communalisms reaping the awaiting harbingers’ coming wraths of despotisms accruals.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      Aside from Federalism, we must also conclude that the Forteenth Amendment, that applied the First Amendment to the State religions, does also apply the Second Amendment to the States. This is why SCOTUS has repeatedly refused to hear such a case.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • niknak

      Now here you go again Cowardlylion, going back to posting babble.
      I thought we had an understanding that you would not do that anymore.
      You were on a good track with a few posts after our last session, where you posted some well written and lucid comments.
      But now you seemed to have regressed.
      Maybe its time for another clearity session, don't you think?

      December 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      nick- I believe lion could use some time with an electrode

      December 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      John P. Tarver,

      Reconstruction Amendments such as the XIV Amendment are issues that make manifest a churning of sanctimonies bequeathing upon the general charge issuances of societal protectionisms due processes upon civil lawfulness propaganda. The currencies of laboring fundaments revolving around systemic issuances of the civil and even the moral duties may one day dry out and we here in the USA will find the ends means of welfare capitalisms to be as a blockage within status quo partisanships giving rises to and toward just the opposite of long nurtured agendas within passive welfare issues long held holdings.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Jeff

      niknak argues about quoting the bible because he hasn't a clue what Jesus taught.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I've occasionally heard the term "word salad" but have never before encountered such a marvelous example of one.

      O joy, bonus feature. Now up to TWO prime examples.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  18. Douglas

    Evangelicals are happy to lead in their area of gun control!

    (This evangelical suggests extensive background checks to include mental health records check)

    Will also accept evangelical leadership in the areas of no to abortion and no to gay marriage?

    The BIble says thou shalt not kill. This includes abortion.

    The Bible also condemns LGBTQ coitus and marriage.

    We can't pick and choose our obedience to God.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • niknak

      We can choose to not believe in the babble.
      That is why we don't have a theocracy in this country.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • uhuh

      But we can pick our laws, which have nothing to do with your sky fairy.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Jeff

      It's not a check on the mentally ill in society, it's a check on the sociopath/psychopath personalities in society. Private sites know about them, why the government is slow to this concept, is beyond anyone's comprehension of why none of them come down to earth.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  19. redsky10@rocketmail.com

    Lets talk about psychotropic drugs and our over drugged children by the "psych/pharma" complex that has become tyrannical in it's quest for money, stop demonizing guns.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • John P. Tarver

      It is interesting that the psycotropics at the root of every school shooting over the past 20 years have not been discussed at all. Is it the intention of CNN to fool America, or is this a follow up article I should expect? Most of our youth pastors here are reformed drug addicts, so they can't have a gun anyway.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      okay L Ron.

      December 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  20. John P. Tarver

    Thou shalt not murder. Guns are fine.

    December 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
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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.