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.
Thanks for a great article with good balance. As a Christian I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything you said. The only thing I would add is that sometimes, in self -defense, violence is indeed justified. Just because we are Christian doesn't mean we are doormats.
Also I am against using video games as a scapegoat in this or any other situation. However you are right about assault weapons 100% they must be banned for good.
All cults tend to be self-effacing.
The religious message is "turn the other cheek" which means that we really shouldn't use a gun to defend ourselves. Like so many things that message goes against our cultural expectations. If we followed all the teachings we'd be living more like monks or the Amish.
AND THAN KARMA CAME BACK UNTO ONESELF , AMEN
I am sure that if CNN looks hard enough they could find an "evangelical pastor" that supports any of their fruit loop beliefs...
"Fruit-loop" is Evangelical.....no excuses.
Evangelicals should jump on this hot button topic just like the media.......maybe they can scare up some more business- err members to fill their coffers. the Media is playing both sides trying to drag out this virtual gold as long as they can.
There in lies the sickness of Christianity...........
DOG ATE DOG SOCIETY AND SO DOES CAT ATE CAT ALSO , AMEN .
Cats have better taste than that.
The Bath School disaster is the historical name of the violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan that killed 38 elementary school children and six adults, and injured at least 58 other people. Kehoe first killed his wife, fire-bombed his farm and set off a major explosion in the Bath Consolidated School, before committing suicide by detonating a final explosion in his truck. It is the deadliest mass murder in a school in United States history.
Hmm... Odd no mention of an assault rifle...
Weird and very lame correlation!
ROFL!!! Okay... Hmm... School massacres have been happening in the US since the 1920's. But now it is imperative that we ban "assault rifles"???
Why did we not renew the assault ban in 2004 when it came up for renewal if this is such a big deal? It wasn't a big deal then, but now it is?
This author ignores the fact that there are already reasonable restrictions on gun ownership and that you cannot buy military-style combat weapons. He suggests that we should ban these already banned weapons in the hope that it might, maybe, perhaps, although there is no support, avoid another Sandy Hook type massacre. Perhaps it would be better to know what one is talking about, before they write an article?
You are wrong, I own and regularly shoot 3 AK's. Two 47's and one 74. And I fully support very tight regulation of them and the purchase of their ammunition. Annual federal permits and certification that they are kept in a gun safe, if need be. Background checks on all purchases should be mandatory along with mandatory registration in a federal database must be required.
Why not making it mandantory to have a gun permit to buy a gun and require that all gun owners lock up all their guns in a safe if they are not in use. Most of the guns used in these shootings by kids were retrieved by either be stolen, or from their parents house. Kids did not buy these guns on their own.
Do unto others before they do unto you.
THE HELL COMMANGMENT , AMEN .
CRAZY SOCIETY ONLY KNOW HOW TO KILL AND KNOW HOW TO LOADING UP MORE BULLETS , AMEN .
The very word 'evangelical" sends chills down my spine.
I depend on my guns, you know, just in case.
STUPID SOCIETY ONLY KNOW HOW TO KILL , AMEN KARMA WILL ON IT WAY , AMEN .
I believe Christ said to "turn the other cheek." He said nothing about stand your ground, or shoot before they shoot you. Gun nuts are not real Christians.
ROFL, so you disregard numerous other verses saying that God is a warrior and he trains my hands for battle? It's okay, it is easier to pick and choose verses to make your point...
You can only turn the other cheek once.
Seriously, the core of your argument would have made Hitler a very happy man – "turn the other cheek..." But you have to understand the scripture you quote the same Lord who told us to turn the other cheek in the context of being persecuted by others – also asked his disciples, "Do we have any weapons.." "yes Lord two swords..." when he was being led away Peter attempted to take out one of the guards – Jesus healed that man's ear and told him to put the sword away – that he had ten million angels who would fight for him – if that was the outcome he was looking for....
We have seen a core degradation in our society – the Asperger's kid was mentally ill and the Joker was mentally ill and didn't know what they were doing and they got big guns and killed people and if we take the guns from everyone – especially the mentally ill -it's fixed –
But we won't use the word "evil" "given over to Satan..." "diabolical..." We'll quote Christ all day to get the guns out of people's hands – but we won't refer to the obvious negation of who Christ is.... and recognize that –
The closest we'll come is to tell everyone about positive energy and negative energy – like we are all in an episode of Star Wars –
And that's not the reality – because we will bury the actually reality – we will more people puppeteered by Satan and more victims – and all the gun control laws we come up with – it will not save us -
URINE ARE NOW MORE VALUEABLE THAN GOLD , AMEN . AND SO DOES THE HUMAN WASTE ARE ALSO COMING UP , AMEN ;
THE HELL KARMA COMMANDMENT , AMEN
HELL SOCIETY EAT AND THAN POUP AND THAN URINE AND THAN EAT AND THAN POUP AND THAN URINE IT KEEP ON REOEATING AGAIN AND AGAIN ALL OVER AGAIN , KARMA
Take your meds.
The Sixth Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill."
What is remotely ambiguous about that?
Self defense was never considered wrong in the Bible.... Cold blooded murder was, there is a difference.
Unfortunately, Eric, context matters. One finds the Commandments in a book (the Bible) where the alleged author, or source, of the Bible – God – is a genocidal maniac. Wiping out everyone on the face of the Earth except for Noah and his family???? That's not killing???
I hear you, but what about self defense? I doubt you will find many who would argue that the commandment against murder precludes protecting yourself and your loved ones.
The old testament was a bloodbath though. In some translations, it's thou shalt not murder.
Your translation is incorrect, it should read murder not kill.
@ Lief – if the Commandment represents the actual command of God, it is clear – thou shalt NOT kill. There is no asterisk and footnote saying *except in self defence. Did god make a mistake? Did god leave something out? or is the commandment simply a part of a book written by people for people – no god involved?
And didn't Jesus apparently believe in turning the other cheek? If you believe in Jesus, you wouldn't engage in self-defense.
Actually, when the word "kill" is translated, in hebrew the word is –murder–. Thou shalt do no murder. Or, in another sense, 'lying in wait'. Thou shalt not lie in wait to do murder.
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.