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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
Evangelicals do not follow the preaching of Jesus christ-few Christians do. Turn the other cheek
You turn the other cheek and get shot in the back. Let's see what you think when a massgun puts a gun to your forhead and slowly pulls the trigger. You would give anything for someone not to turn the other cheek.
So, some maniac is shooting a bunch of kids in a school, a good, law abiding Christian citizen has a gun, and can save the kids,
and you want them to turn the other cheek, and just watch it happen?
Thank you CNN! Finally, a report showing a Christian who actually is consistent with the teachings of Jesus, not the typical mental midgets you see these days claiming to be Christian. Here's a hint so-called Christians who seek a gun, not God's sword we have been given; when the Romans came to arrest Jesus, what happened next? Easy, non-violence is the only way Jesus wanted us to defend ourselves as even at the risk of our own lives or the lives around you. To be a true Christian, you do not take on actions of violence even to defend your own or others' lives. That is key to salvation. That is what Jesus did, it's really simple, there is no pro-gun Christian as they are not Christian, just another servant of the devil and on a highway to hell.
Wow....really? I own guns and I'm going to Hell! Thanks for letting me know....I had no idea!
More blood has been spilled over religion than for any other reason. Stop with the "real christians" don't own guns speech.
You really sound like a nut.
As I sit here crying about being a sinful gun owner, I'm contemplating what to do with my guns! I'm going to donate the to those boys out in front of the liquor store. They look needy and are surely headed to Hell already!
well then, get me a hand basket!
@Tracy "Wow....really? I own guns and I'm going to Hell! Thanks for letting me know....I had no idea!" This is how I feel when I hear from Christians that if I do not hold their beliefs then I'm going to hell. I seriously doubt that you hold the answer of eternal life for me.
Have you listened to piers moron "interviewing" 2nd amendment advocates? Just like this guy. The Bible is quite clear: Rev 12:9 clearly states Satan has deceived the whole world. And he hasn't just deceived these gun control advocates, either. The claimed 8% of evangelicals who are for gun control also vote for Obama, as I am sure does this poor deceived fellow.
A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
(c) Economics; or
You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
(c) NASA astronomer; or
I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
(a) A gifted psychologist
(b) A well respected geneticist
(c) A highly educated sociologist
(d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
(a) a delusional schizophrenic;
(b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
(c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
(d) your average Christian
Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
(a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
(b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
(c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
(d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
(a) A victim of child molestation
(b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
(c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
(d) A Christian
The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
(c) Archeology; or
What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
(a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
(b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
(c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
(d) All of the above.
If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
(a) a deep psychiatric issue;
(b) an irrational fear or phobia;
(c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
(d) my religious belief.
Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
(a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
(b) A mafia boss
(c) A drug pusher; or
(d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
(a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
(b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
(c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
(d) All of the above.
The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
(a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
(b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
(c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
(d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.
WTH Christians are the gun problem.
The assault weapon ban was SOOOO successful in stopping gun crimes the LAST time, liberals want to do it again... What is the definition of insanity? Oh yeah, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different response...
We never had an assault weapon ban genius.
LOL, what do they teach those kids today?
Yes, we did, Tim. For about 10 years.
They only like to protect the rights of child molesters.
The last time our Party pushed this gun control horse *hit was in 1994, and you see what it got us, loss of the House AND Senate for 12 years.
Do you suppose the principal was in want of; A) Bible and recollection of words from a religious leader, B) Kevlar, C) The actual handgun pictured in the article?
It's amazing all of the people with agendas of how they are going to elevate their position or make money.
I preached about the proliferation of violence which is at the root of more than just gun crimes. And the root of violence is spiritual. Unprovoked, sibling murder was the first recorded sin after the expulsion from the garden of Eden. Violence will not be eliminated, but it can be reduced by acknowledging its source (sin) at both ends of our society (president & citizens). Accept that some people are broken beyond repair/treatment as evidenced by their repeated and serious offences.
Have reasonable restrictions to gun ownership, encourage gun owners to be responsible with their guns (Lock them up when not being used!) and hold criminals responsible for crimes (including the death penalty for murder in all 50 states).
Pastor, where there are concealed carry laws, and FEW restrictions on lawful gun ownership by law abiding people, crime DROPS.
Think about it-WHERE would you go if you wanted to massacre a bunch of folks????
Is your church a "gun free zone?" Better be thinking about it....
At you have a reasonable request!
That was supposed to say "At least you have a reasonable request!"
But, I'm still keeping my "assault rifles"!
Jesus is returing with a Rod of Iron, are you going to ask him to put the weapon down?
Yeah, but it ISN'T an assault rifle... So... Jesus must support the ban! :)
"Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." Jesus Christ
He trains my hands for war, my arms can bend a bow of Bronze
So called assault rifles were banned in the Nineties, and it helped nothing.
Gun bans, and their advocates, enable, and help, the homicidal maniacs kill people, by turning law abiding, innocent people into easy targets.
Of course not. Jesus doesn't need an assault weapon. He has a host of assault angels. And he has supernatural assault powers.
God, Guts, and Guns?
One of the Nation's LABOR UNIONS, the UMWA, uses the slogan, "GOD, GUNS, and Guts made the UMWA great."
I love CNN, how they always go dig under a rock to find somebody like this, some so-called Christian, and never, ever balance anything out.
CNN = one sided all the time.
And yet you are here... (Again). This time posting to another article.
I find it laughable that CNN would even publish any opinion from an Evangelical pastor. CNN never has any use for religious opinions unless of course it is to promote their agenda.
Dearest liberals, I have a right to own my evil "assault weapon" look alike. If you don't like that, Molon Labe....
Yeah, I know, you don't know what that word means... You really wouldn't... Go look it up, it might change your life! :)
Clearly you have no idea what a "phrase" is.
LOL! So, did you look it up?
No need to look it up. I already know what the phrase translates to, and its' origin. I was merely pointing out the error of your arrogance.
A $ $ Hole
Those who will not provide for their families, including PROTECTING THEM, are WORSE than infidels, according to Jesus.
Could you please give me a reference from Scripture where Jesus stated that?
1st Timothy 5:8.
And before you choke and say that was Paul, remember, the Holy Spirit of Christ inspired Paul to write that...
On Sunday, 2 days after the CT shooting, a man went to a restaurant in San Antonio to kill his X-girlfriend. After he shot her, most of the people in the restaurant fled next door to a theater. The gunman followed them and entered the theater so he could shoot more people. He started shooting and people in the theater started running and screaming. It's like the Aurora, CO theater story plus a restaurant! Now aren't you wondering why this isn't a lead story in the national media along with the school shooting? There was an off duty county deputy at the theater. SHE pulled out her gun and shot the man 4 times before he had a chance to kill anyone. So since this story makes the point that the best thing to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun, the media is treating it like it never happened. Only the local media covered it. The city is giving her a medal next week. Just thought you'd like to know.
But Larry, shouldn't the poor targets, er, I mean people, have thrown popcorn at the gunman, instead of actually taking constructive action????
Great point...I agree 100%
Thanks Larry. I just googled the story. Amazing we never hear anything about these types of stories.
Gee, with all these examples of how guns save lives, gun related homicides in the US should be a fraction of other countries where there are strict gun laws, I mean there only the bad guys have guns so they must be having a field day with their guns and the unarmed populace......oh, completely the opposite, strict gun law countries have a fraction of the gun homicides of the US...oh and a fraction of knife homicides as well, and other method homicides as well.....oh well, forget it. Gun possession in the hands of the law of THE land one thing, guns in the hands of ANYBODYS law quite another.
As you stated, it was an off-duty police officer which means she had the training to handle and use that gun effectively and safely.
Isn't it simply common sense that us regular civilians should have some sort of training to handle a gun? After all, we do have to take both a written and a driving test before we are allowed a license to drive. The car, in the wrong hands of a person, is deadly. Do I have to state the obvious with a gun?
I do not champion taking away firearms but simply wish for those (including myself) that have them to be required to have the necessary knowledge to handle these firearms properly and responsibly. Or... in other words... to be well regulated.
But if the gunman did not have a gun in the first place? He would just be a man. Problem solved.
I will speak out against guns when there is no need for guns for self defense. Thanks and have a blessed day!
Rosy - I suggest that you quiet down your life and choose your intimates, friends, associates and neighbors more wisely - You evidently have had some upsetting experiences. . I am 80 and have never been confronted with the need for a weapon but one time. . THAT time, I decided that the issue was not worth taking a life and losing mine in prison.
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.