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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 • Guns

soundoff (2,819 Responses)
  1. Pravda

    Boys and girls, the 1994 assault weapon ban did NOTHING to stem gun violence. Now liberals want to re-introduce it??? What is the definition of insanity? – Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result...

    December 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  2. Pravda

    HELLLLOOOOOO – according to the article only 8% of white evangelical Protestants favor tighter gun laws. So yes, Evangelicals SHOULD speak out about gun control. The other 92% should speak out about how ridiculous it is to blame guns for violent crime and explain how it is evil in men's hearts that lead them to do these crimes. And banning guns will do NOTHING to stem the flow of such violence....

    December 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  3. ForGoodOfAll

    I am not against gun ownership that is firmly regulated. However, I do not see the reason for ordinary U.S. citizens to have assault rifles and rapid fire guns with magazines that would be used by soldiers on the battlefields. Hunting rifles and self-protection pistols are okay, but why the need for more? Also, internet purchases of rapid-fire assault weapons and associated ammo must be stopped. Enough is enough!

    December 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Rick

      "More" means that assault weapons are more fun to play with because it gives people an opportunity to play soldier, or zombie killer out on the range. They're toys, pure and simple. Toys for adult children.

      December 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Pravda

      Silly those rifles that the liberal media keeps trying to call "assault rifles" are nothing more than hunting version of the real automatic weapons. They do nothing more than LOOK LIKE automatic weapons. They are used as hunting rifles across the entire US...

      December 31, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  4. interestingDIRECTION

    This article is addressed to Evangelicals, offering an opinion on the Evangelicals' responsibility. If you don't like religion then stay off the religion blog instead of bugging everyone with your anti-Christian rants. Everyone has a say of sorts in the issues, even Christians, such is the system by which we are governed. If you don't like it, Canada is great.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Bet

      This is a belief blog, not a religion blog. Everyone has beliefs, but not everyone bases their beliefs on imaginary beings or ancient books of mythology. Some of us use reason, logic and evidence.

      December 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • ForGoodOfAll

      This is the USA, and as a United States citizen who pays taxes and obeys and upholds the law, I can read and post on this site as much as yourself. My religion is my own, and it includes common respect and decency toward fellow human beings and also toward the planet Earth and its ecosystems which are vital and life-sustaining for all living beings on this planet. My concern is for peace, wellbeing, respect and coexistence. Your 'rules' are meaningless and ineffective. Perhaps your 'church' would respect your rules and abide by them, but not on a public forum such as this. So sorry to disappoint...

      December 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Rick

      Lots of stories here are about atheism, but that doesn't stop Christians from giving their opinion that we're all going to hell.

      December 31, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Jan

    someone wants to hear from the evangelicals about guns, but keep their born again mouths shut about abortions. What this country really needs is a spiritual reform.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  6. N.Shapiro

    The Bible says – thou shall not MURDER_, the KJV is a poor translation.
    I don't know much about "evangelicals", but what I see, I don't like.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  7. lunchbreaker

    The 2nd amendment does contain the words "well regulated".

    December 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Mike

      In regard to militia's not the right to bear arms but we can argue about this all day.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Mike,

      yes, one could argue about it all day. But why? Why do people choose to separate the two clauses when the ideas are presumably intended to be connected – otherwise why have the first clasue at all?

      December 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Mike

      I'm for going back to a well regulated Milita like the framers intended. It won't happen though and its better to hold on to the rest of second ammendment rather than scrap the whole thing. Seems most people are for turning a right into a privelage.

      December 31, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  8. Mike

    I thought the Author had some good points but I don't like the way he flip flops back and forth between calling it a "right" and then saying it should be a "privalege" from good behavior. I have the right to freedom of speech I have the privalage to drive if I have good behavior, these are not the same thing. Also the well regulated part was in regard to the militia not the bearing arms but that will always be disputed.

    December 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "privilege"

      December 31, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  9. Bill Deacon

    stopped reading after the authors misuse of the word "assault weapon". How can we have meaningful progress if we can't even define the terms?

    December 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Mike

      Yah its annoying. Most people don't realize these guns shoot the same way any other not so scary looking gun shoots. They have been swayed into believing these are military guns which they are not, those have been scheduled since 1934. Assault weapon was a term defined in 1994 and doesn't follow the same defintion the military uses. It was basically a term created to classify the "scarier cosmetically looking guns". I would recomend anyone who wants to talk about this topic look up the defintions

      December 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  10. Ray

    If you want the Bible to rule your own life, that is fine, but it is wrong to impose your beliefs to form policies that affect us all. I am a secularist, and don't believe in God, I believe in Science (the bible of which is not written obscurely, but is instead being written in increasing detail constantly). Blaming video games is a cop-out by an older generation that cannot assimilate the digital world, whereas the majority of a youthful generation can distinguish reality from video game; those who cannot had mental instability to begin with.

    Trying to rule other people's lives with your own ideology is a pretty Republican thing to do.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • christ_child1991

      If you believe in science that is fine but i cant force you to believe in GOD like I do but I will tell you that whether or not you except it or not GOD loves you and cares for you and wants you to believe in him but please think about this John 3:16-17 For god loves the world he gave is only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life 17 for god sent not his son into the world to condemn it but through him the world might be saved

      December 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Russell

      So I guess we have to live by your ideology. All law is the imposition of someones ideology on others. Duh.

      December 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  11. Chat Pata

    If it weren't for guns, Australia, Africa, and the Americas would not have been Christian continents. The ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, Australians, and Zulus would not have taken place, and the echo system of this world would not have screwed.

    December 31, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      And everyone on those continents would still be living in mud huts

      December 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  12. christ_child1991

    In my opinion as a gun owner I feel everyone whether its a fully automatic machine gun or a BB gun everyone should have to have a check to see if they have a mental illness that would prevent them from owning a gun and I would not have a problem having that done to me and when it comes down to evangelicals speaking out every child of GOD needs to be heard. The Bible says in Exodus 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill." it does not just mean with a gun or a knife it also means 1 John 3:15 "Anyone who hates his neighbor is a murderer" because if you have done it in your heart you might as well have actually done it

    December 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Mike

      What if the Government begins considering practicing a religion a mental illness? It could easily happen. Judging by most of the post on these walls alot of people already do. I would like to keep my rights not turn them into government regulated privaleges.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • interestingDIRECTION

      great, we'll just have the gun issuer run down to the store and pick up a mental illness urine test...

      December 31, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • christ_child1991

      Well if religion is a mental illness then I am glad to be mentally ill and give up my right but it is not a mental illness and will never be one I believe

      January 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  13. Bob

    The less evangelicals have to say about anything, and the fewer evangelicals there are, the better off humanity will be. The evangelical state of mind is a psychotic state – a particularly bad one.

    December 31, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  14. Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

    It must be truly sad to live in such denial that you cannot see your own hypocrisy. Well, most of the people who are evangelicals will *never* see their hypocrisy, because they cannot pry themselves from the teat of their delusion.

    December 31, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  15. Earl

    May CNN News read the very urgent warning in http://www.thename.ph especially the Biblical message about Jeremiah 25:29-38 on its main page and inform all people, most importantly the religious leaders, priests, and pastors about God’s judgement upon them. Thank you.

    December 31, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • Rainy in Michigan

      Please, leave god out of this! These tragedies are perpetuated by the deeds and hands of people who only think about themselves. No one will truly know what went through the shooter's mind that day, or the minds of many others who pickup a gun just for the hell of it! I'm tired of people like you and Mike Huckabee taking advantage of these situations to reaffirm your hatred for your fellow man! Not everyone subscribes to your religion and you need to stop shoving it down everyone's throats! Stop posting threatening messages about god's judgement, we don't need that kind of thing right now!

      December 31, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • Bob

      So Earl, your god is a vindictive, human rights abusing ASS HOLE. No thanks. Keep him to yourself, silently.

      December 31, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  16. Bibletruth

    The author speaks of "violent" weapons. LOL. Anyone else ever see a "violent" weapon? As opposed to a "peaceful" weapon I suppose. Really, it is truly pathetic the articles that are being written. Its as if the brains are impaired...maybe with alcohol? I know he means well as do most all but they lose their credibility when speaking in ways where it is obvious they are ignorant . A weapon is used for criminal violence in the hands of a person with a criminal/violent heart (mind). The weapon in the hands of a school guard ( I think I jheard there are 23,000 schools that already have armed guards) is considered a necessary, good thing. The weapon itself is not "violent" or "peaceful". It is of course an inanimate object, capable in itself of nothing.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Akira

      "Really, it is truly pathetic the articles that are being written. Its as if the brains are impaired…maybe with alcohol?"
      It is an opinion, hence the ti tle "My Take"...why on earth, even if you do not agree with him, would you think that anyone is impaired?

      December 31, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  17. Phillip Rinaca

    Quite interesting Mr. Darling wrote such an extensive article without learning facts of subjects he wrote on. Mr. Darling I sure hope you are much better at saving sinners than you are at creating such ramlblings as you did here. Honestly sir, I would have expected far better performance from a person of your rank. Next time please check out all the facts before you begin your banter and it may not turn out to be just that - banter for not using profanity.

    December 30, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  18. Phillip Rinaca

    O.K. so we ban all AR15's and that sollves a problem so I wonder what the difference is between an AR15 and a .223 caliber auto loading hunting rifle; the fire power of the two weapons are the same. Mr. Darling quite apparently has no knowledge of what he is writing about.

    December 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  19. johnson of go

    Of course, the author of this is for the gun. He says there is no position of bilble concerning guns. He shoud be kidding or what?
    According to Jesus: You should love your brother as yourself. That means you are defending suicide as something good. You are going to give to others what you want for you! Bullets, murder, kill...
    Not to mention: Thoug shall not kill. Let´s stop lying, the bible has a point on the subject of guns. But if you like the bible or not, that I would say yes. It´s up to you!!!

    December 30, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  20. Frank

    Why specifically evangelicals?

    December 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Carl

      Because, when you think of redneck, hillbilly gun owners you just know that they're also "Saved"!

      December 30, 2012 at 5:43 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.