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.
people with gun kill people, people without gun can not easily kill. half of american population are suffering from mental and some kind of illness, that is why medical cost is so high. if guns are banned, there will be less killing, so guns kill, not people alone
Biggest massacre at a school in history was via EXPLOSIVES. Bath school massacre, look it up. Evil will find a way, banning guns will do NOTHING to stop evil people...
Medical cost are so high because of guns? Seriously. Gun death is not even in the top 100 causes of deaths. The reason medical cost are so high is because our society eats terribly through means of fast food, and then uses medication and surgury as a way to fix it later. By the way the #1 killer of deaths is heart disease, not guns. If you want to fix the issue with medical cost, guns have nothing to do with it.
@commonSense: If banning assault rifles prevents one massacre, it will be worth it.
@CommonSense: And before you get started, do not bore me with the semantics of phrases like "assault rifle" and "assault weapon".
@CommonSense: Because I know the difference between a percussion cap and a matchlock.
The 2nd Amendment is exactly why there was absolutely nothing wrong with the Fast and Furious Operation.
I pray that he would have same passion for 3000 children that will be murdered today, and tomorrow and everyday in America. Perhaps he should call "health choices" for what it is, instead of supporting the group of leaders that Paul warns us against in the first chapter of Romans! A little more expository and a lot less selective citing. Yes, chapter 13 says it for our good is written just like in Hebrews 12, God deals with His elect as Sons, your not going to enjoy it though.
But, but a handful of people will be shot by evil looking "assault weapons", surely God would have us stop them first.
WHAT GOES AROUND MUST GOING BACK AROUND TO ONESELF ANAL KARMA THINKING AND ACTION AND THOUGHT OF KARMA DAILY LIFE , AMEN .
OH MY ANAL IS HEARD NOW DAILY
Dear anti-gun liberals. PLEASE go to a gun club, or target range and at least shoot one of those EVIL "Assault Weapons" before you try to take them away from everyone. Self-education is a wonderful thing....
Yes, go there, and bask in the glory of an instrument that was designed and engineered to to kill and main the maximum number of human beings in the minimum amount of time. First, foremost, and always, that is the purpose of an assault rifle. Killing humans.
common sense lets not make guns a political issue. There are SO MANY pro-second amendment liberals, so many Obama voters that support full gun rights on the promise that he was not anti-guns.
So you must have an abortion before you can be pro life by your logic
CNN has turned into the ENEMY OF THE STATE along with the HUF POST and many others. Who would thought we would have COMMUNISTS running CNN and spewing their COMMUNIST AGENDA without batting an eye 40 years ago?
The media is downright "DISGUSTING"
They used to be the best source for news... So sad...
LOL. You guys sure do love freedom until you want to surpress someone else's – like CNN's.
LOL. I am laughing so hard it makes we want to cry! CNN looks communist only in comparison to the extreme right.
KARMA LIFE FORM DOG WORLD ARE NOW DAILY , AMEN .
Not a bad article really, it basically says to keep religion out of politics. i like that idea.
FULL OF DOG VS CAT HOLE HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO , SOCIETY ARE NOW DAILY , AMEN .
LET DRINK THE HUMAN URINE AND LET EAT THE HUMAN WASTE , AMEN .
Evangelicals leaders will do whatever keeps the most followers. A spineless lot of idiots set out only to protect their own interests and pocketbooks.
EVIL SOCIETY ARE NOW DAILY , AMEN THE DEVIL LOVE BULLETS .
We Christians no longer feed lions thats why we have guns. Plus the fact the government allows the killing of millions of children through abortions.
way to make this all about your soapbox.
Would you rather have another million on Welfare to feed their unwanted child? Its ok to have a regular gun, but an assult rifle is wrong. Who in their right mind needs a StG 44, AK-47,[ M16 rifle, QBZ-95, INSAS, Heckler & Koch G36, and Enfield SA80. For protection, come on, the only reason people would need these kind of guns is for drug dealers, gangs, and bad ass people that think they are to have one. What is someone broke into your home, you did not have time to grab your StG 44, AK-47, M16 rifle, QBZ-95, INSAS, Heckler & Koch G36, and Enfield SA80 and they got it instead, and they used the very gun YOU said you wanted for Protection.
"We Christians no longer feed lions thats why we have guns. Plus the fact the government allows the killing of millions of children through abortions."
Wow!!! You shouldn't be walking the streets freely if that is how you think.
You sound like you advocate murder...how very moral of you (NOT)!!
As for abortion, your imaginary friend is the greatest baby killer out there!!! All those miscarriages and still births; the numerous eggs that never implant.
It is not your business nor the business of any religious organization as to what a woman does with personal life and that includes the decision to carry through an unwanted pregnancy. There are numerous reasons why a woman might abort and not one of them would be your business....it is strictly between a woman and her doctor.
Your book can't be used in making laws and therefore, outside of your church and home, your belief has no place. You live in secular country where the decision on abortion has already been made and won't ever change...suck it up and keep your nose out of the personal lives of other people!!
Your use of the phrase "We Christians" is an oxymoron.
This article is laughable at best. But then again, CNN tried to make Obama a born again evangelical Christian before the election too....
did not pass your test?
Obama has never felt the need to wear his faith on his shoulder. He lives his faith. People who proclaim it loudly in the public square are poseurs.
If there is one group that the nation should not let influence its direction then it is any group of religious fanatics.
agreed, I would rather lose the argument than get support from these wackos.
When Christ comes back to earth it would not be surprising if right wing Christians would try to put him back up on the cross. I hope he (Christ) will be carrying a gun
If your christ does come back to earth (don't hold your breath, by the way) why would he need a gun? Being a god and all of that? Rather silly to suggest that.
Earls, Christ died so your sins would be forgiven. Do you not read the bible?
The fact that self-professed Christians don't speak out against weapons of mass killing loose in the general population is yet one more sign of how twisted up ideology becomes when you try to mix Christian principles with Republican Party orthodoxy. The two will never meet on all points. In some issues, you have to choose one or the other.
Please educate yourself on firearms. Do you have one? Have you EVER fired one???
The fact that you think a semi-auto firearm that has been available to the people since the 1860s is a weapon of "mass killing" speaks generally to your inability to research a topic. All religions, and atheists, should understand that the power that gun ownership gives the people guarantees their freedom to practice or not practice their religion.
My preacher is a HUGE gun advocate. Cool guy. Maybe CNN could write a story about him instead of always carrying Obama's water.
How many of you actually read the article? What he's saying is simple: Those who call themselves Christian should worship God, not Guns. He calls on Christians to care as much for the nation's children after they are born as they do before they are born. He's calling on Christians to be peacemakers, not warmakers. He's calling on Christians to turn their backs on answering violence with violence. None of these things are easy, but they are what is required.
"After they are born", ROFL! Let's forget that 1.2 million babies are killed every year in the US do to a Woman's "Choice". We will just set that little factoid aside I guess...
Without OUR GUNS we slowly lose ALL OF OUR RIGHTS! As history has shown for centuries.
looks like Commonsense wants to turn America into another Iran where women are subjugated and forced to do whatever the religious leaders say.
Frank, just like the white man stealing Indians land.
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.