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.
The Big O already told you he doesn't care about future generations when he said he'd kill his own grandkids. Peoples on drugs.
More disingenuous idiocy from the Cowardly Liar.
Yep, it's so much better to follow Huckbee, who said that those Sandy Hook kids deserved to die because prayer is no longer a mandate in school, and God was mad. bro.
Hey Argyle Sock, that is not what Huckabee said. That is what your closed, ape-like mind inferred.
Annoyed, I know that. I was just making a point; that's not what the POTUS said, either. See how easy it is to twist sh!t around, you fvcking ass hole?
We have to bring God back to are schools, we have to prey in are schools,
And you have to learn to spell.
Preying in school is exactly what Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook, hence this discussion.
I'm not certain anyone has pointed this out, but when the 2nd amendment was written, they didn't own the guns we have now. Doesn't anyone think that since 1776 we might need some updating, revisions, something?
Nope, I sure don't. As soon as the 2nd amendment starts becoming modified to fit the times we live in, that will be the moment our freedoms start to become watered-down, and consequently, after more and more efforts are made to further limit the meaning of the 2nd amendment, we will find ourselves with such a weak interpretation or effictive realization of the 2nd amendment that it will be too late, and we might as well arm ourselves with BB guns.
Definitely! Since the 2nd amendment was to protect the people from a tyrranical government, like under the Obama administration, we should amend it to permit the use of rocket launchers, true automatic weapons, and newer military equipment that can be used against Obama the dictator's forces when they come for our guns.
Not if we put it to a public vote, as in one man one vote, and see what the majority feels about it. Would you be afraid of the results? They could easily go your way.
There will never be a rational discourse on this issue as long as there posts like Tom's.
That's right, railhead. Any argument against my post would be completely irrational. As much as your kind spouted off under the Bush administration, one would think you'd understand. Alas, liberals have no, well, I don't want my post filtered.
There is no argument against your post. People like you simply refuse to engage in honest discourse.
Well, the British haven't bothered attacking the U.S. for the last 200 hundred years. So, any muskets saved to defend against British haven't been needed. Advancements in weapons technology have replaced muskets. Problem is these weapon advancements in the hands of American civilians have been mostly used to kill and wound Americans. The greatest danger to Americans now comes from their own American neighbors, not from overseas. Weird or what!?
Ok so.. We need to ban assault weapons and assault weapons only right? Why is that when most crimes are committed with long "guns", pistols or handguns, and shotguns. Very very few crimes are committed with AR-15's, Civilian model M-16/M-4's, etc.. The only people that I have personally seen that use assault weapons are cartel enforcers. Essentially criminals that do not get the assault weapons from US based manufacturers (as far as I know) and get them from the Dominican Republic, Mexican Military, etc.. SO banning assault weapons is not going to accomplish anything. Neither will banning firearms in general. Those that wish to do harm will do harm through whatever means they can and as severely as they can. You can make the weapons harder to acquire and that will do something, for the average law-abiding citizen. But criminals already obtain weapons via illegal or obscure methods and will continue to do so. Calling for evangelicals to stand up, makes even less sense. As for the clown that commented above me about ratifying or modifying the second amendment, it has been. Ever heard of offensive weapons laws? Also as I stated above here, modifying what weapons a person can own especially those that are semi-automatic (trigger pulls) won't solve anything. Now I will agree with the stand point of banning fully automatic weapons, there is no sense in owning or using a fully automatic weapon. Those are purely used for causing harm to other people, semi-automatic despite use can be justified for hunting. You don't need to pump 20-30 rounds in to a deer or elk to kill it.
Aw midwest, aren't you enlightened and open-minded enough to know that you are the perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black? But I have to hand it to you after seeing many of your posts! You can certainly scream LIAR with the best of them.
Why do people constantly say that there is no reason for 30 round magazines? Go target shooting and see how much fun you have if you keep having to stop and reload every five rounds. Why all the focus on 30 round magazines, anyway? You guys must not realize that there are drum magazines that hold 100. Oops, I guess I should've kept that a secret. People who want to ban guns have never really been around them and have a irrational dear of them. And don't tell me that I'd change my tune if I were a victim of gun crime, just google the horrible situation of Suzanna Hupp at a Luby's in the early 90s.
Yeah, but they also counted cannon among the "arms" protected. I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone with a Howitzer nowadays so it seems as if the amendment HAS been updated. Stop your whining and stop trying to tell people how to live.
Guns- a lose/lose situation :(
I disagree with much of this article. First off, much of the positions this misinformed pastor says Christians should "adopt" are already the positions held by every Christian I know. This pastor acts as if Christians somehow condone violence by our refusal to allow the watering-down of the 2nd amenment. Much of those desired positions of the anti-gun crowd are already in place - the problem is there is a huge lack of enforcement. NOBODY I know amongst my gun-enthusiast crowd thinks that mentally ill people should have access to guns. Yet, the mentally ill still find ways to get them. My fellow gun-owners all agree that there should be a national database for those mentally ill people that are currently undergoing any kind of treatment, including the use of any pharmaceuticals as a means to treat depression, psychosis, etc. There is MUCH that can be done with the existing laws we already have. Heavy-handed enforcement and severe penalties for gun crimes and the like are a good start. Banning semi-automatic military style LOOKING rifles (true assault rifles are already illegal) will do nothing, just as it did nothing last time (in fact, the crime rate rose during the last ban). This pastor who wrote this article is well-meaning, clearly, but very ignorant to reality and highly ideological. I suspect very anti-gun as well.
So many Christians, so few lions.....
Colin, another atheist showing his true lawless colors.
moby s, where are you?
Colin, be the first to feed yourself to a lion and show us how it's done.
Congratulations "Jeff". You have won today's "Sweeping Generalizations" award. (I should however warn you, "Jeff" that you are also close to unofficial limit of unfounded assertions that a poster can make before they are deemed a "dweeb".)
Guns don't protect people, people protect people. It is absolutely moronic to think that giving more guns will protect people. It did not in the WIld WIld West and will not in the new millennium. The total ban on gun ownership, like England is the way to go. The statistics bear it out. Even the criminals do not use guns over there.
Bombs then, like McVeigh.
Then repeal the 2nd amendment. Don't ignore it, unless you want to ignore the rest of the Bill of Rights.
No instead they stab and beat their victims and at a higher rate then here in the states too.
servants turned out to be da fadders? oh, oh. ain't gonna work out.
Have you hopped off your pole in Vegas again just to post here? Your mindset is stuck firmly in 1860, isn't it?
thank you CNN that you love all of us so much and don't want any of us to be shot. The love and caring from you warms all of our hearts, deeply.
Ted has always wanted us disarmed. Protect the wealthy.
Stay in church and out of my life, if you come to my door I will shoot you
Thank you for proving what a lawless atheist is truly about.
stay in your cave psycho paranoid atheist. you'll die soon enough.
Well, it looks like you'll be safe from at least two of them!
Odd, though, they should dearly want to be shot and killed, so they can go be with Jesus...
Wow, Jeff, one person's comment is enough for you to generalize that much? Stupid much?
Moby Schtick, are you being backup for you?
Growing up, my Pastor's father (who was a retired German pastor) gave a sermon on how the Nazi's passed 'gun control', took the guns, and then went after the Jews and others. They then started going after what people believed. He always said (in a broken German accent) 'First they come for your guns, then they come for your God. Keep your guns, keep your God.' Over 58 million people have been killed in the last 100 years AFTER gun control laws were passed....
Great rallying cry. If only it were true.
Your father is saying, if we forget history it will repeat itself.
In Santa we trust, tell me why most state agencies in CT are locked up with security so tight after 9/11 but care less about their average citizen. Oh, because one politician swears this isn't true?
AMEN! Spread that message loud and clear brutha, because the Godless Democrats are coming for our guns!
Jeff, I'm not exactly sure what you're saying. I was saying that the Nazi gun control story is not true.
"Fatherlessness produces troubled men?"
our fadder, who art in washington, hollow point is thy name stop makin' killer mommies, and mommies that train up gang bangers
Abram was told by God to take nothing from his father's house, but he brought his half sister and her brother with him.
" ..if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." Jesus Christ at The Last Supper
"Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" Matt 26:50-53
"4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah 2:4
"38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Matt 5:38-42
The 'sword' being referenced was most likely a dagger used for traveling, not for the purpose of self-defense. Jesus response to the disciples saying they had two swords was 'that is enough.' It very well could have been an exasperated response to the idea that a few men could somehow fight against the Roman Empire. Either way, in the very same chapter, Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword. In Matthew's account, Jesus said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. This was his response to Peter's self-defense! Telling him to put away his weapon.
The NRA gun lobbyists are in the murder business. The more murders, the more guns they sell.
That's why the NRA will never try to do anything that will actually make Americans safer.
This nonsensical rhetoric accomplishes nothing.
Thank you CNN that you love us all so much and don't want any of us to be shot. The love and affection from you warms all of our hearts, deeply.
jim atmad, the NRA didn't raise psychopaths. This country did and allowed them to get away with their lawless behavior in the courts of law. Why? Because criminal mentalities don't pay their bills, but, law abiding citizens do. Scratch your heads while reading this post. You just may have a breakthrough of sense.
Disagree with you all you want, Jeff and Erik, but you know I'm right.
The Connecticut shootings were WONDERFUL for the gun business. The New York firefighter shootings ramped things up even more.
Wayne LaPierre cares no more about 20 dead Connecticut school children or 2 dead firefighters than I do about squashing an ant under my shoes.
As long as more guns are sold, that's all that matters to them.
Recreational gun use is commonplace in many urban societies. They recreationally shoot at others in urban streets. Such recreational gun usages are now the normality in many urban settings. Keep guns legal and recreational?
Darwin award. Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
How come nobody understands that these are just brainwashing articles? Is everybody that clueless? CNN's official religion is atheism. They don't have a clue regarding the Bible and don't care. They have a social agenda - destroy the traditional USA –plain and simple.
As a liberal it pains me to admit that my conservative neighbors are completely correct about the necessity of protecting the second amendment. I am sure that some of my conservative neighbors own guns and it does not trouble me one bit.as I consider them to be good people.
Thank you Jed, the 2nd Amendment protects the 1st Amendment, because, the 2nd Amendment was created to protect citizens FROM the government.
School teachers should be coached to handle mass shootings in the following way:
1. Call the police, and wait, wait, wait...
2. Throw books, erasers, pencils, etc...at the shooter.
3. Wait some more on the police.
LOL. The NRAs suggestion doesn't sound half bad when you put it that way.
The ONLY way a teacher would even be close to being prepared for an attack is if they are former military and have a semi auto in the classroom with full body armor basically set up for war.
The NRA's solution isn't the best but at least they are speaking truth.
Oki, at least having somthing potentially lethal is a start, or would you prefer that the teachers just throw pencils and erasers in an untrained manner?
Well said brother. What a disappointment and a terrible testimony when I hear Christians defend assaunt weapons. I commend my brethern of the Mennonite church who have always taken a stand against weapons.
The issue isn't guns or gun control. That's an excuse for not taking responsibility that this nation is raising a lot of sociopathic to psychopathic personalities that are not being watched but pushed through the system.
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.