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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. Craig

    Get your damned religion off my 2nd Amendment rights! I cannot believe the absolute NERVE of any christian calling for gun control of any kind, not after they have slaughtered millions over the centuries in the name of Jesus. Did you think we'd forgotten? For shame, pastor, for freakin' shame! And BTW, keep your damned religion out of my nations' politics, too. Your opinions are not wanted there, either.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Common Sense

      You did read that supposedly only 8% of pastors are for stricter gun control. I find that percentage a bit high...

      December 29, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Antipacket

      I disagree with Craig: these comments are welcome.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  2. Bryan

    Liberals are interesting people. They claim they want to protect children by banning guns. They even call out evangelicals to support their cause but when it comes to abortion they are pro-choice..More children die from abortion every day than are killed by guns. They even put heretics like Al Sharpton on their show and try to pass him off as a reverend.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • El Flaco

      We pray that every pregnant woman makes the right decision, but it is her decision. We don't want every miscarriage to become the reason for a criminal investigation.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Antipacket

      Lets take both off the table, No guns and no abortion. Who can I vote for to make that happen?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Bryan

      I respectfully disagree with El Flaco. Saying it;s a woman's choice to destroy her child is no different than saying it's Adam Lanza's choice on whether or not to destroy a child. Taking an innocent life is always wrong and should not be left to anyone's choice or decision.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Bob

      You bring up a very good point. I do wonder if CNN would give this "pastor" this forum to explain the many biblical reasons that abortion is wrong, or if you only get space to try to use a preacher and the Bible to push what CNN believes.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Bryan

      Hi Bob,
      I agree with you. The news networks and political parties use Pastors like pawns in a chess match. I am Christian and believe there is a definite line between right and wrong and people should be told the whole story and not selective parts that are convenient for an agenda. It confounds me how political parties and news media pick and choose Evangelicals for their positions.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  3. johnnyhouse

    If, an when, you come home and find half of your possessions gone or you have a bunch bent on robbing you in your own home and beat the devil out of you don't try to tell anyone how to live their lives.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  4. Bill Fitzgerald

    How many mistakes can be made in one article? It would take another article twice as long to unravel it. Good guys with guns kill bad guys with guns. It really is that simple. Az. Sherriff Joe for president. And thank God for the common sense laws in Utah. Guns in school keep idiots from walking in and kill them if they do.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  5. Name*jim

    You have heard of separation of church and state ? You sir are church and the second amendment is state, so shut the hell up your opinion does not matter. And I don't see either party protecting my family and property.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Dan

      To put this into perspective; If Daniel Darling was against fishing (guns) for ever reason and I handed him a lighted stick of dynomite in my boat, he would have two choices: Fish or die. I think he would fish. Just saying. Unless he is a mentally Ill evangelical.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  6. mandiegracetaylor

    No one will ever tell you that satan groomed that kid and had him to that school so the mothers and fathers screaming and falling to their knees in the school parking lot could feel the misery that Bethleham felt under the tyranny of the deranged Herod. That they could scream and drop to their knees because "their children were not..." and that the devil himself wanted to serve it up to Christ because the fact that Christ was born in the first place and came to be the salvation of the world is still enraging him. Satan puppeteered that boy and killed the innocents. It was purposeful. No one – no pastor, no priest, no one wearing Ephod will say it –

    You will hear "he had aspergers, kids picked on him, he had a break with reality....just take the guns away..." You will hear and hear it again – and the devil will declare victory in this way over the United States –

    We are as Ninevah – we don't know our right hand from our left – we have become as Israel in the times of Judges – "every man and woman did as they saw fit in their own eyes."

    We are cutting ourselves off from the only person who can address the problem – and we have looked upward and have echoed Satan in saying, "YOU ARE the problem." that's all Jesus ever hears – 24/7 in the states – that he is the problem.

    Other nations don't bother addressing Christ that much – because they have decided that Christ can't be the problem since he is either dead or never existed.

    So this one strand in the US culture – that Jesus Christ is the problem – leaves a tiny crack of hope – at least we think he is actually up there – to chastise and proclaim day and night, "Hey, Jesus – you're the problem...."

    December 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  7. ?????????????

    Why does it matter what they say .
    Origin of Life: Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics
    Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  8. 2357

    America by birth and definition was and is an insurgent outlaw against the world's supreme monarchy. It was an unpopular war, at a time when the spoils seemed paltry and the odds pathetic. America could not have succeeded in independence without her firearms, but more importantly she could not have succeeded without Divine providence. Without God she becomes lost in the storm. Without God she becomes Nancy Lanza.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  9. Colin

    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) a reptile handler who has severe mental issues;

    (b) a five year old boy who just read a fairytale;

    (c) a scientific fraud; or

    (d) an Evangelical Christian

    December 29, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • Common Sense

      The Tollund man?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  10. dave

    Another simplistic believer with a simplistic approach to a problem.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  11. Dan

    Let's go back 4000 years when cave men used rocks and spears to survive and protection from others. No man is perfect, god tells us that in the Bible. To take away the rock and spear is to undermine man and his god given right to protect his family. Do I hear an AMEN ???

    December 29, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Antipacket

      Hopefully we have evolved a little in 4000 years. There is a major difference between defending yourself and the right to have an automatic rifle. There is no way a single person should be able to kill so many innocent people. That should be nobody's right.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  12. Common Sense

    Assault weapons were banned in 1994, it did NOTHING to curb gun violence, so it was allowed to expire in 2004. Did the liberals learn anything from this? I guess not...

    December 29, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  13. Colin

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet 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 religion of:

    (a) The ancient Celts;

    (b) Ignorant Bronze Age Egyptians;

    (c) Pre-Colombian Aztecs; or

    (d) Modern Evangelical Christians

    December 29, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Common Sense

      Obamaism?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  14. randy

    time to bans guns is now. polls have shown over 50% of Americans are in favor to ban guns. you have to remember slavery was only beaten by 2 votes. as long as we stick together we can win.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Common Sense

      You want my "assault weapons" so bad, come and take them...

      December 29, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • JB

      Ban guns? yeah right! No way 300 million guns are going to get confiscated on top of all the people who wouldnt give them up willing, i wouldnt even give up my "assault weapon" willingly. Banning guns is not the answer

      December 29, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  15. Craig

    Luke 22:36, "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. Jesus clearly stated the having a sword to defend yourself and your loved ones was more important that clothing. The sword was the primary concealed carry weapon of the time, and more than adequate against most foes. If Jesus had spoke specifically about the concealed carry weapons of today that are needed for adequate defense against the foes of today (17 round semi auto handguns), they wold have called him crazy and crucified him. Wait...

    December 29, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Colin

      Jesus als othought the World went no further than the Middle East, that it was flat, and that it would end within a generation. He was also likely illiterate. You might like to update your source past your over-rated Middle eastern hippie.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Common Sense

      Actually Job, the oldest book in the bible mentions men mixing metals, calling constellations by name and that the world was round. Might want to update your atheist info sites...

      December 29, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Colin

      @Common Sense. So waht. I am talking about what Jesus likely believed. The Old Testament also has a talking snake, a man living in a whale's belly, a talking donkey, gaints, witches, people living to be 100s of years old. Do yoou believe all that mythology too? Simpleton.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Craig

      Instead of attacking the religous beliefs of millions of people based on your opinion, I chose to point out the error in the "Evangelical's" story.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Common Sense

      @Colin – try actually READING the bible. You will be amazed at what you will learn. Hey, you might even be able to have an intelligent argument with those backwards Christians too. Beat them at their own game maybe?? :)

      December 29, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Ladervijd

      "The sword was the primary concealed carry weapon of the time, "

      Been playing too much Assassin's Creed? Besides that, if you had no garment, what you (try to) conceal a sword with?

      Besides that, it seems there is reference to two different persons there, with the latter resembling a kind of caveman.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Ladervijd

      Also, as summarized on:
      en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Live_by_the_sword,_die_by_the_sword

      "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." (Rev.13:10 KJV)

      "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matthew 26:52 KJV)

      "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:17 KJV)

      "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12 KJV)

      So, while there surely also are many more parts of the Bible, and not saying that swords weren't often commonplace, it doesn't really advocate for anyone to run around etc. with any kind of rifle/gun. True, if your foes are about to engage you with guns, you'd probably also want one. And arguably sure, especially suburban settings with persons living alone or in small numbers are somewhat different than in other times and places. Nevertheless, especially in public, how many civilians are capable of surviving a shoot-out against a moreorless trained person, or against e.g. gangs-shootout? And if someone just wants to rob you with a gun and you go for defense and are not successful, fault sure would be on the robbers' side, tho you'd be the one eventually shot, and killed.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Ladervijd

      Rev 13:10 i'd understand "sword" also as "weapon", tho as mentioned, it being rather an "ewww" about weapons than a security-fable and even less an "ooohhh". And it surely also isn't about idolization of sort of wild-western style.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  16. Dylan

    As an evangelical, I support the freedom to own guns. Chicago has tightened fun control in recent years and crime has gone through the roof.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Common Sense

      FUN control??? No wonder Chicago sucks!

      December 29, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  17. moosewithaj

    Got a great idea, if the Religious and def. Mentally disturbed want to do away with guns, Lets make Religion illegal as considering more religious events have killed people than firearms over the last 900 years. I mean there's the crusades, the spanish inquisition,The popes that have abused their powers over the years, Nazi's who used their hatred and religion to fuel their war, and hundreds of thousands of wars and murderers and usually not with guns. So We Imprison the religious nuts for doing away with fire arms...we have win/lose situation. We get the best scammers off the street and at worst we get firearms away from good citizens protecting themselves. A win/lose situation perfectly. Just a thought.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  18. Walter

    Once again, CNN's "Belief" column fits in nicely with their liberal agenda. How convenient.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • rick

      i see your persecution complex is in full stride

      December 29, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  19. Mike

    My good pastor ... You'll have to forgive this born-again Christian for saying that I have trouble accepting anything said by anybody from Chicago. And you can blame your own President for that.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Antipacket

      How about a little respect for our Country? The President won fair by vote by the majority of Americans. If you can't defend our country and President then you probably shouldn't have a gun. This country has become too divided over the Politcal parties. If Americans can't learn to come together then we will become weak.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  20. Laurie

    Guns are dangerous weapons, but it is the deranged people with the guns that are the problem. What needs to be addressed is the question of why and how we cultivate evil in our society. Removing all the guns is not going to solve that problem. Evil people will still manage to get hold of one on black market or will find other ways to kill. So....Let us look further to the root of the problem.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Ladervijd

      if no one carries a gun, it is easier to detect a gun if anyone appears with it.
      if everyone carries a gun, it is more difficult to find out who isn't supposed to. Especially urban settings.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:29 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.