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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. The first of many

    "There are many things about which Christians should be unyielding; the right to own a killing machine should not be one of them."

    Tell that to Cain.

    ... and yes, I know that Cain killed Abel before the time of Christ. The analogy is still relevant.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  2. Canadian Jack

    The second Amendment is where it starts. Now other colony rebelled against Britain. You guys did. Why? Were you treated worse than every other colony? I do not think so. The Men who decided to break from the empire did not understand how bad it would be for you in the future.. They merely thought about their academic concept of liberty. In 1815 slavery was abolished throughout the empire. In the USA it took the lives of many of your men and some women and it was not until 1865 that was abolished. Blame your founding fathers for the mess you are in today. Stop for goodness sakes looking up to these conceited aristocrats. Morality starts with humility. You are not important. Everyone is important. Morality requires you to understand and not judge. Morality requires you to be a citizen of the world in order for you to develop compassion.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • PevanB

      The above statement comes from a country that still kisses a$$ to all they know. Canada is a whimpy bunch of no ones and the only thing that they give the world is dudly do right and an example of what a true bu++ kisser looks like. If we were you my little northern friend we would all have stretch marks on our backside from getting it in the shorts

      December 29, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Under the thumb of England

      "Now (sic) other colony rebelled against Britain (sic – England). You guys did. Why? (LOL) Were you treated worse than every other colony?"

      No we weren't. But we were the only ones with the stones to stand up to tyranny and win.

      My question to you is WHY didn't the other colonies when they were being so soundly abused and exploited?

      We were independent in 1776. As a Canuck I suppose you're familiar with Nelson's Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada in 1838? But you were soundly thrashed.

      In your own words, 'were you treated worse than every other colony?' So why did Canada want to break away from such a magnanimous and gracious ruler, eh? What's that? Ah, no answer.

      At last, Britain's Parliament passed the Canada Act in 1982 which gave your country full control over it's affairs. Welcome to the club, Jack, even though you're a bit late.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • AK

      Love notes from America's Hat.

      December 29, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • john

      I'm from Canada, and I think Canadian Jack is smoking something that rhymes with his name.

      January 13, 2013 at 3:03 am |
    • john

      Americans weren't treated bad by the British? An academic idea of liberty? Jack, what are you talking about?; they were treated serfs. Actually, the American revolution happened because they wanted to have British liberty, the liberty of their British brethren back home, which the King was denying them. You're honestly an idiot and probably in a second grade university history class taught by a Marxist at the University of Toronto; Canada at that time didn't even have much of an economy or population.
      Canadians at one point in Ontario were thinking about having a Canadian Revolution, but, luckily, the British political leaders learned from their horrible failing in their treatment of Americans and they gave Canada a lot of political and economic rights—more than they gave the Americans, and they then gave us our own country.
      I honestly feel more in common with even the most red blooded Americans that fools like you, Jack.

      January 13, 2013 at 3:11 am |
  3. Idiot Liberal

    Hope they ban all subway trains in New York City. After this weeks 2nd incident where a lunatic pushed a person in front of a moving train. This is clearly the trains' fault. Hopefully evangelicals wake up and ban all trains before this becomes an epidemic.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  4. Common Sense

    Why does the US let Afghanistan civilians own a fully automatic ak-47 assault rifle (not the semi automatic sport rifles that the liberal media incorrectly considers assault rifles) for home defense? They have better 2nd amendment rights than we do!

    December 29, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  5. The fact of the matter

    The author clearly demonstrates that he does not know what an assault rifle actually is. His ignorance is typical of the knee-jerk mentality of gun control freaks.

    That he chooses to bypass the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" fact only shows that he has no effective argument against it, preferring instead to continue along the path of "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up".

    Okay, in the interest of placating your desire for relevant information, here are some more facts for you, ignorant author.

    1. Taking guns away from innocent people will not protect innocent people.
    2. The best way to silence a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
    3. When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
    ... (too old for you? It's still true. But in the interest of penetrating your thick skull, I'll dumb it down to your level.)
    4. The only people who will be affected by even more (useless) gun control are law-abiding citizens. Criminals by definition do not obey laws.

    Happy now?

    December 29, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  6. Mdrn Plgrm

    As an evangelical, I believe God deals with individuals and families. That idea is the real fuel which fired the belief in liberty which was popularized by the Protestant Reformation. The way we have taken the Bible out of the schools has been an attempt to rewrite that history. Applied here, no broad ban will fix the problem. Our young people need to study all religions as if they had and have meaning in people's lives, to include that of our forefathers. We need to build a culture which puts both rhetoric and resources behind the value of all life, born or unborn. Finally, we need to close gun loopholes such as those for gun shows and the mentally unstable. In my view, these three things are consistent with liberty as described in the Bible.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • JB

      While you're at it, why dont you find a way to regulate mental illness?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Omgami

      You are welcome to hold your beliefs, but not to dictate mine. If you would like for your children to have religion in school then teach them to silently pray each day in school. If everyone that professes to practise a religion were to do this then there would be a whole lot of praying and God in schools everwhere. What I oppose is the practise of reciting a govenment mandated school prayer, seems insincere to me.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  7. Jerry

    Gun control isn't the only issue evangelicals get it wrong. Why do they lump the gospel of Jesus Christ with faving lower taxes (not caring for the poor) ,deny global warming (not being good stewards for the environment) , refuse reasonable gun control (being common sense good citizens)? The gospel of Jesus Christ has to do with the Kingdom of God, responding to the love of God and walking in love with the One who loved us and gave us His all. Claiming to know God and walk with Him while not caring for the poor (Big on God's heart), not being good stewards for the environment He gave us, and not being responsible common sense citizens, doesn't make sense at all, and frankly casts doubt wheather you really have encountered Jesus or know His heart....

    December 29, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  8. Kassim Thunder

    Its total hogwash to say people kill people not guns.If the people dont press the trigger the guns will not go off.If only hunting rifles were available less people will die.So lets get rid of all guns except hunting rifles and lets see how many people will die in a year.Its about time we stop all the crap about finding sweet talks and protective statements to hang on to guns which eradicate people and now children.If we are not going to stop these gun voilence then what is the difference between us and Hitler.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  9. mprewitt

    It's a little silly that the poster picture for this article about gun control shows a plain ol' pistol, when the debate (currently) is about military-style assault weapons.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • mprewitt

      Just to be clear, the above comment was not about the picture at the top of this article, but the picture for the story on the CNN homepage.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  10. dreucalypt

    Gun fanatics know nothing about Christianity. There's no Jesus in them.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • JB

      woooow....must be nice to be so narrow minded

      December 29, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • rdeleys

      No, there's too much Jesus.

      December 29, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  11. Sam West

    Religion, Christianity included, recognizes no rights at all including the right to own and use weapons. The moral essence of Christianity is self-sacrifice to God and to others. Of course, having a right to posses a gun to protect oneself is a selfish and unchristian. That is why the moral essence of the US that men have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is diametrically opposite of the selfless, self-sacrificial Christian morality. If the Christians had their say in this country it would be the Dark Ages again.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Common Sense

      God is a warrior, he trains my hands for war, just a couple verses that come to mind. But make up your own Christianity, whatever makes you feel better...

      December 29, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • mprewitt

      Most gun-owning Christians would say their gun works just as well for defending other people (their family, neighbors, etc.). Which is a fine example of selfless service.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  12. JL

    Well, pastor – DARLING.....;
    I'm a Born Again believer, and lifelong outdoorsman / sportsman and have fired guns since I was old enough to pick one up. Always under supervision of course until I was old enough to attend – and pass – the hunter safety education course offered (sanctioned by, and held inside my public school and taught by the staff with with aid of short films, discussion and additional lectures by officials from the Pennsylvania Game Commission)

    Growing up in a rural community, gaining the PRIVILEGE (we understood it as such) of getting your first hunting license was a rite of passage for a 12 year old. But safe gun handling was taught from the earliest age.

    The cardinal rule; "NEVER point a gun at anything you don't intend to kill". It was drilled into me (vehemently) that the same principles applied my BB gun. And I respected that.

    We not only learned to respect weapons and the power they have, we were taught the importance of humane taking of game. That was the early 70's. And responsible gun owners know and respect the same guidelines regardless of where they grew up. The home I grew up in was not a "Christian" one, however, we valued the life of others.

    I'll end with this; "A GUN NEVER KILLED ANYONE. BUT PEOPLE WHO DO NOT VALUE LIFE HAVE USED THEM BY CHOICE TO TAKE THE LIVES OF OTHERS".

    Let it be noted that
    1. TAKING GUNS AWAY FROM LAW ABIDING CITIZENS WILL NOT REDUCE CRIMES COMMITTED WITH THEM AS CRIMINALS WILL ALWAYS OWN GUNS. (Crude ones are often "made" by incarcerated criminals)
    2.As a sportsman, I have never owned "assault" weapons (e.g.; rapid fire sub machine auto repeat). However, I know folks who do. They are good people and have the same respect for the power they hold. They fire their weapons at sanctioned firing ranges and observe safe practices required there.

    I agree there is no clear biblical position on gun ownership, however, there is precedent to respect human life on every page.

    A criminal is one who's soul is so void of the light of The Gospel they are incapable of compassion. And if a murderer cannot find a gun on the face of the planet, they will use other means. How many activist groups are advocating the removal and destruction of every automobile on the planet? To follow the gun control point of view, such groups ought to exist. Because every day, individuals with a murderous heart, take the lives of many, many people by deliberately running down a pedestrian, or forcing an innocent motorist off the road, resulting in death by deliberately aiming and wielding a 2 1/2 ton pile of steel at a high rate of speed.

    Respectfully,
    Jeff / Berea Ohio

    December 29, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  13. Common Sense

    Time to ban fast food! Did you know that after Abortions, heart attacks are the #1 killer of Americans? We must get those assault weapon cheeseburgers off the streets!!!

    December 29, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Really?

      You're right! You can kill a lot of children with 1 cheeseburger.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  14. Meg

    I am a liberal chrisian, but this article expresses my views better than anything l have read. I assume othere feel the same way whom have not spoken up.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Common Sense

      You must be in the 8% group with this pastor...

      December 29, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  15. mattski

    Many evangelicals have long since given up Jesus, or never knew him. Jesus was about love, compassion, forgivenness, and charity. A total liberal. Sorry, evangelicals, but you've missed your own boat.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  16. Rich

    we,for sure,need backround checks...

    December 29, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  17. bassmaster22

    Guns, god and nascar. That's what life apparently is about for most folks these days. My life is just fine without the magical sky person, metal rods that fire projectiles (wow, really exciting stuff), and left hand turns for hours on end.
    Who needs any degree of intelligence when you can enjoy those things and then die.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Jrock

      I'm sure your hobbies are so much more relevant....

      December 29, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  18. Common Sense

    And look how good Chicago's stifling gun control laws are stopping gun crimes in Chicago... And Detroit.... And DC....

    December 29, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • forinfan

      ... cuz it's not stopping them in nearby cities, states or towns ... use your noggin'

      December 29, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Common Sense

      I was being sarcastic.... It is not stopping them IN the cities either.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  19. SCBAMA

    Wow. You found 1 redneck preacher from Chicago to give his divine opinion. I will be sure to take his word as the gospel.

    December 29, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • ladyofthelake

      Why so angry? Could we please listen to each other? And why do you assume he is a redneck? From his language and sentence construction, it is obvious that the author is a well educated, thoughtful person.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  20. Colin

    Yesterday, there was a knock at my door and I opened it to see two evangelicals.

    John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

    Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"

    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."

    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

    Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"

    John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."

    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts out of you."

    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

    Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

    Mary: "Well, maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."

    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

    John: "In this town, Hank is the same as good luck. All good things are attributed to Hank'"

    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."

    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."

    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

    Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"

    John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

    Me: "Who's Karl?"

    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

    John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

    From the Desk of Karl
    1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    2. Use alcohol in moderation.
    3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
    4. Eat right.
    5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
    6. The moon is made of green cheese.
    7. Everything Hank says is right.
    8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    9. Don't use alcohol.
    10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.

    Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."

    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

    Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."

    Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"

    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

    Me: "How do you figure that?"

    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

    Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."

    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it plausible that it might be made of cheese."

    John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists don’t know everything, but we know Hank is always right!"

    Me: "We do?"

    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."

    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"

    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."

    Me: "But...oh, never mind.

    From Jhuger.com

    December 29, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Jokesterer

      Nice.

      December 29, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • The Truth

      "For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

      40 “He has blinded their eyes
      and hardened their hearts,
      so they can neither see with their eyes,
      nor understand with their hearts,
      nor turn—and I would heal them.”[a]
      41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him." John 12:39-41 NIV

      December 29, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • PevanB

      You should get a hobby, that was a complete waste of time. and I bet that no one including me read more than three lines.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:06 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.