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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. mudfoot

    I would think the Evangelicals would not worry about whether firearms are banned, but, would prayer in schools have kept this tragedy from happening?

    January 7, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  2. christopher reid

    There is a scripture where JESUS was asked "and what should we do "by soldiers and He answered them" Do not to use the position they held to exploit others .

    January 7, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  3. raeafdd

    Sometimes people need to die.
    We have a right to own these weapons, and they are NOT meant for hunting.

    I hear canada is nice and gun-free.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:06 am |
  4. Cato

    Gun laws do not impact gun murders. In the UK there was an average of 60 firearm murders a year in the 5 years leading up to their ban in 1996. In the proceeding 5 years there were about 60 firearm murders each year following the ban. The same is true for Australia. What is interesting to note is both countries saw an increase in all types of murder after the ban was put in place. Just presenting facts.

    Gun manufacturers know firearms better than politicians so they will always tweak the mouse trap to not meet the definition of an "assault weapon". California has had a ban on "Assault Weapons" since 1989 and you can go to any gun store in the state an buy and AR-15 or AK-47 style firearm. The firearm the Norway shooter used to kill 69 people, mostly kids, does not even meet California's definition of "assault weapon" (Ruger Mini 14).

    January 7, 2013 at 1:59 am |
  5. Wayne

    This man is on the right track. And to think our politician didn't olike what he said. The truth hurts.

    COLUMBINE STUDENT'S FATHER 12 YEARS LATER!!
    Guess our national leaders didn't expect this. On Thursday, Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton , Colorado , was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee. What he said to our national leaders during this special session of Congress was painfully truthful.

    They were not prepared for what he was to say, nor was it received well. It needs to be heard by every parent, every teacher, every politician, every sociologist, every psychologist, and every so-called expert! These courageous words spoken by Darrell Scott are powerful, penetrating, and deeply personal. There is no doubt that God sent this man as a voice crying in the wilderness.. The following is a portion of the transcript:

    "Since the dawn of creation there has been both good & evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

    "The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used.. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain's heart.

    "In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA – because I don't believe that they are responsible for my daughter's death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel's murder I would be their strongest opponent

    I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy - it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best.

    Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
    Your words are empty air.
    You've stripped away our heritage,
    You've outlawed simple prayer.
    Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
    And precious children die.
    You seek for answers everywhere,
    And ask the question "Why?"
    You regulate restrictive laws,
    Through legislative creed.
    And yet you fail to understand,
    That God is what we need!

    "Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation's history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine's tragedy occurs - politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts.

    "As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America , and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him. To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA - I give to you a sincere challenge.. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone!
    My daughter's death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!"
    - Darrell Scott

    Do what the media did not – - let the nation hear this man's speech. Please send this out to everyone you can.
    God Bless

    January 7, 2013 at 12:25 am |
  6. henry

    leave it up to a liberal to get it wrong once more. The democratic party is the party of the Ku KLUX KLAN and yet the democrats state that the republicans use the southern startegy to win elections also untrue. Not all democrats are racists ku klux klan members but all ku klux klan members are democrat look it up and open your mind. whatever the democratic party tells you is a lie do the opposite they would want you to go against republicans becuase our country is not a democracy its a republic people wake up the republican party isnt about the rich its about all of us lower taxes for all the republican party is about smaller government not intruding in your life the democrats know this and started a class war to make blacks and hispanics flood their cause im a 24 latino and switched republican last year i was fooled my whole life read history and you will see im telling the truth

    January 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  7. Pippa

    Peter carried a sword the reason the Romans were carrying swords as well as the lance..Peter carried a sword to defend himself from the Romans..

    January 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Where's your proof of that? Where's your proof that Peter did anything? If you have nothing other than the bible, you're citing a fairy tale.

      January 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • Cato

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son –

      The books of the bible are the most validated writings in history. They have found thousands of manuscripts in different parts of Africa, Middle East, and Eastern Europe during the centruries following their writing. All are consistent with each other. We only have a couple or less manuscripts of Julius Ceasar, Plato writings, etc... Everyone takes those as gosphel, but thousands of manuscripts of the books of the Bible are not enough and never will be. Look up the manuscript evidence and you will then move on to some other argument for not believing the Bible.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:10 am |
  8. Allan

    Would someone please look at the Gospels to see why Peter had a sword in the first place?

    There's nothing in the essay that a lengthy course in Logic couldn't cure.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  9. Funny Americans

    You are all so scared of your countrymen that you buy guns to kill them. Pure entertainment. God Bless America.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Nisism Levy

      Christian Fundamentalism int eh United States is a mockery of anything that Jesus ever preached. They are the false church of Satan.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
  10. Tatiana Covington

    Guns are beautiful. Why? Because with them one can take and hold one's rights, properties, and freedoms. One can also uphold one's decisions, enforce one's policies, and have one's way.

    And send one's enemies to hell.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • moose1

      Tatiana......You go, girl!!!

      January 6, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      Wow, what a good Christian girl you are. Jesus would be so proud!

      January 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  11. moose1

    I have a responsibility to protect and defend the life that God gave me and my family. The Bible affirms the right to defend ones home from intruders, thieves, rapists and murderers. I will meet the intruders with the best weapons that I can afford to oppose them. If the intruder is armed with an illegally obtained (stolen or black market) military-looking semi-automatic rifle with a high capacity magazine, should I not be allowed to meet him with equal defensive armament? Police officers are now being issued AR15 rifles, in order to be armed equally with the criminals. Just remember: When seconds count, the police are just minutes away!! You better be ready to defend YOUR family!! There is no individual right to police protection!!

    If we choose to disarm the citizens of the United States to make a more civil population, I suggest leading by example: Disarm the Secret Service first!! It's terrible to have armed men and women surrounding President Obama's children. The Secret Service can easily protect the president and his family with their bodies used as human shields.

    January 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • vincastar

      Get an alarm system...it is more effective and safer. Guns don't protect people, God does. Just remember what Jesus said about violence...if you read anything else in the Bible that differs you are living in the old life.

      January 7, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  12. vincastar

    Ummm, people...Jesus's view on violence is pretty clear in the Bible...Do not take up arms... Matthew 26 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."

    January 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  13. gary

    Evangelicals are by definition delusional. More than just a little off kilter.

    January 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • vincastar

      That statement is ironic because delusional is belief with the lack of reasoning... you made a statement without reasoning which is by definition delusional.

      January 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  14. Arthur King

    The 'faithful' should oppose gun proliferation with all of their body and soul for they have been sold a false 'bill of goods' in the pro-gun stance of the republican party which was originally devised to stampede the liberals into a gun ban, a scheme that did not work, but greatly increased the danger of the 'faithful' being physically exterminated by these guns at some time in the future. Guns greatly increased the effectiveness of revolting serfs (slaves) and it has always been the church that they revolted against, in America in 1775, France in 1789, most of Europe in 1848, Russia in 1917, China in 1946, all of Central and South America over a period of time, Cuba in 1958. If there is another armed rebellion against 'authority' (slavery enforcement), it will surely be against the church again. The christians are spelling out their own potential doom in their support for the proliferation of firearms. The current gun congtroversy was devised to cause a total gun ban, making it safe for christendom if and when it regained it's political control over the slaves but the opposite has happened, making it physically impossible for that kind of political control to ever be regained.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • RDKirk

      Your education in history is quite erroneous. The only one of those rebellions that can be said to have been even remotely against "the Church" would have been the French revolution. The revolutions in 1775 was by Christians using Christian arguments against what they interpreted as non-Christian aggression by the state. China was certainly not "Christian" in any significant measure prior to their Communist revolution–less than it is today, for that matter. Nor was the Russian revolution particularly about religion, but mostly about economics.

      >> it has always been the church that they revolted against, in America in 1775, France in 1789, most of Europe in 1848, Russia in 1917, China in 1946, all of Central and South America over a period of time, Cuba in 1958. If there is another armed rebellion against 'authority' (slavery enforcement), it will surely be against the church again.<<

      January 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  15. gatecrasher1

    WWJP? What Would Jesus Pack?

    Since Jesus is from the Middle East, I'd say he'd favor an AK-47, although I'm sure he would favor the superior AR-15 and variants if he gave them a shot. Of course, it's easy to hide a MAC-10 under those robes for drive-bys on the Pharisees.

    January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • billmosby

      He had people around him who carried swords. Well, at least one, anyway. Today they would be carrying Glocks, or perhaps a folding-stock automatic of some sort.

      January 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • vincastar

      No billmosby. Please read the Bible. He stopped that one with him from using his sword and told him do not take up arms those that do will die by it...read Matthew 26:52

      January 6, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • moose1

      Somehow, I see Jesus as a Smith & Wesson man. I picture him with a matched pair of engraved M&P 40's in a dual shoulder rig. Maybe a .40 S&W Shield as a back up! J C you da man!!

      January 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
  16. Farrok

    Jesus has caused more deaths than an Atomic bomb......................

    January 6, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • gatecrasher1

      But not nearly as many as Mohammed

      January 6, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  17. So What

    I loathe evangelicals and their sel made holy cr ap. These idi0ts should stay in their churches and not spill over into policy making. Religion and politics makes evil, vile and brutal dictatorships.

    January 6, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  18. mason

    Jesus said "I bring not peace but a sword, sell your goods and buy a sword"...Christians should kill with swords as instructed by the zombie

    January 5, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Emily

      If you're going to quote the bible, at least get the quote right. Ignorance of a faith is the worst reason to justify your positions.

      January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  19. .

    In 2009, at the behest of the Obama administration, the United States joined 152 other countries in endorsing a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty Resolution. The resolution establishes an international conference to be held next year, at which leaders from countries around the world—many of which have deplorable human rights records—will draw up an international treaty designed to severely restrict or even outright ban your right to sell, purchase, carry or own a firearm.In reversing Bush’s opposition to U.N. mandated global gun control, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared, “The United States is committed to actively pursuing a strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible, legally binding standard. …”

    January 5, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  20. .

    A teenage student wielding an attacked several children at his school in Germany Thursday, wounding nine before he was arrested
    Germany has 2 distinctions 1 they have the strictest gun laws and 2 they have the most school attacks of any country.

    January 5, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      He was "wielding an attacked"?

      Maybe you should just shut up.

      January 5, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How many of the kids did he kill? Any? No? Gee, I guess you really have a point. It's on top your tin-foil hat.

      January 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • David DeForge

      Define an 'attacked' or at least cite a source.

      January 6, 2013 at 10:48 am |
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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.