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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. David

    Once the 2nd Amendment has been dismantled there's nothing protecting the 1st.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • 13directors

      Nobody's trying to dismantle it. That's just fear getting the better of you. The bible talks about that also.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • vet4life63

      All gun confiscation programs start by chipping away at the outer barriers of gun ownership. Like termites slowly chewing away at the wooden skeleton of a home, anti-gun proponents start small and end by destroying the entire edifice. Anyone who believes Feinstein’s legislation will begin and end with AR-15’s and AK-47’s is living in fantasy land. That said, the 2nd Amendment was not established for hunting purposes. Nowhere in the writings of the Founding Fathers do they mention “hunting” as their primary concern. Instead, gun rights are protected in order to ensure that the citizenry remains dominant over any centralized government that turns to corruption. We are supposed to police our own political leaders, and without military style arms, this becomes increasingly difficult.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  2. John

    "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."

    BS. If a deity created everything HE (or SHE; explain to me why a deity needs a gender at all, and if they are ALL anything when they need a mate to complete them) then that deity owns death too. DIdn't 'god' create 'the evil one?' (What for?)

    Anyway, believers should RELISH death, it is their ticket home, right? Or are only Taliban-types so discerning?

    December 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  3. johnnyhouse

    If you are not comfortable around any kind of weapon do not possess them.I would suggest it will take a minimum of 30 minutes for any police or sheriffs office to respond to your call. It will take that long while you are standing there bleeding for the 9-11 operator to get your life's history.Remember in five minutes that nut killed 26 people.One person could have handled him, if trained to do so.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Saraswati

      Any kind of weapon? So you're comfortable with people having personal nukes? If not, you already support drawing a line; the question is only where and will never be simple.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • glock4k

      The toyota prius kills 21 people due to safety recalls with the acceleration – Sandy kills 26. Why dont you care about the car deaths? When are all of you anit-gun people going to start a prius ban? Better yet, heart disease is the #1 killer . Where is the ban on fast food?

      December 29, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  4. Jason

    I love this article primarily because of this forum board. The article is a joke but CNN knows it makes good news and will attract readers thanks to the headline and gun pictures. I mean, religion will attract all the religious people and guns will attract the gun people. Remember, it's not news, it's CNN.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Tom

      Whats wrong with the article Jason? Why is it a joke to you? Its a known fact that most evangelicals are also conservatives and are republican. This means they support the range of Republican platform planks, including the position on guns. the joke I see, is that you expressed a STRONG opinion without understanding.

      No the bible does not obviously mention guns as they did not exist. Swords existed and those are not mentioned either. But Jesus says in the new testament that we should not be violent towards each other and should love one another. So in my opinion, evangelicals should be condemning violence in general, whether it be by fists, knives or rifles. They can support gun ownership since many people own guns for sport or just for collecting.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Andy Reeves

      Not quite sure where the author going with this propaganda? Many of the pastors I know carry concealed weapons even on Sunday morning services! Think about it. I've heard on average 1 person in 100 is clinically insane. Well in a good sized congregation of say 2,000 folks, that means you have ten or twelve or more seriously mental ill. The pastors I know either carry OR have armed security in the crowd at most evry service!

      December 29, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • vet4life63

      CNN pushing a agenda thru selective reporting, and bias? Naw they wouldn't do that would they? (:

      December 29, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  5. john

    Christian groups balkanized by selective interpretations of parts of the bible are trying to agree on how they choose to interpret the 2d Amendment. That should help clear things up.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  6. hillside

    "There are many things about which Christians should be unyielding; the right to own a killing machine should not be one of them."
    Are you really willing to walk everywhere you go? In the hands of the most innocent of people, a car can be a killing machine.
    You and I pastor have not done our job as disciples to show the love of Christ and be an example of how people should treat one another. We the church have dropped the ball, we cannot legislate morality, if it does not begin early in a person's life then it is less likely to manifest itself later in life.
    We don't cherish life in the nation, we have at least 2 generations that have grown up with the fact that Roe v. Wade is law of the land and if we don't care about the unborn, how can we care about a living person?

    Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  7. vet4life63

    I have heard it argued that Americans are passive. We didn’t rise up against the last Assault Weapons Ban. We didn’t rise up against the Patriot Act. We didn’t rise up against TSA molestation. We didn’t rise up against warrantless wiretapping, the assassination of U.S. citizens, or even the NDAA. The people who make this point, though, are not looking at the larger issue. It is one thing for our government to pass legislation; the wider application of that legislation on our streets and at our doorsteps is another matter. To put this in the most basic terms: registration and restriction equals revolution. Count on it. It is not a matter of what we “want”, it is a matter of what is necessary. Without a citizenry armed with weapons of military application, we lose our last deterrent to tyranny, and thus, we lose everything. When backed into a corner, a victim has two options: he can lie down and die, or, he can fight regardless of the odds. Sadly, this is where we are in America; fear, servitude, subservience, or civil war.

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

      Agreed

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

    They won't. Most evangelicals are hypocrites. They simply follow the parts they agree with, and ignore the rest. Donate to the church for useless mission trips? Good. Pay taxes so poor people can obtain food and shelter from welfare? Bad. Abortions? Bad. Death penalty? Good. Gay rights? Bad. Right to own weaponry designed to kill as many people as possible in a short period of time? Good.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Teresa

      The bible says, in no uncertain terms, THOU SHALT NOT KILL. How people get from there to support of a weapon whose purpose is to kill many people in a short period of time, I have yet to understand.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • vet4life63

      @ Teresa. There is a bigger problem than guns killing our youth. Ever hear of "late term" or partial birth abortions? Many on the left think that's just fine and dandy.
      He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Luke 22:36

      December 29, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • mikes

      You must be reading the poor translation known as "The King James." It actually says something closer to "Do not murder." You might also want to read Exodus 21:17.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  9. Sabre546

    Another day another Anti Gun from CNN, And the find a pastor from chicago with highest shooing rate and toughest gun laws.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Netsurfer3141

      It doesn't matter if Illinois has tough gun laws if people can just get guns from other states with lax gun laws. The author is arguing for uniform gun laws across the US that would make it impossible to purchase assault weapons. I am a supporter of the 2nd amendment, but disagree with the fact that private citizens are able to get assault weapons with 30 round clips. How much do you need for home defense?

      December 29, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  10. El Flaco

    If forced to choose between banning guns or banning the Bible, most Conservatives would say, "Oh, hell, I never read the Bible, but I use my gun all the time."

    December 29, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  11. Peter

    The USA is the most violent western nation on earth. Two reasons: 1. Minimal social security coverage leading people to commit crimes simply to survive 2. Unrestricted gun ownership. You jail people at a rate greater than any other western nation but it doesn't help. Wake up and understand that harshness breeds harshness. What God says is that "He who tries to save his life will lose it" (Luke 17:33). Compassion and self sacrifice is the only answer.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Saraswati

      I support tightening gun laws, but you have no clue how much more complex this is. First, read up on Columbia, a western country that is far more violent. If you want a country for comparison, try Brazil, with whom we share more history and characteristics than, say, Sweden. The are hundreds of factors at play, of which guns are just one. And "fighting to survive"? The poor are on average consuming more calories than the wealthy here and almost never violent to get medications, so your definition of survival must be unique.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  12. turby

    Why is it that the issue of GUN CONTROL is always limited to the Gun's use. We need, not should, to discuss the purpose of the 2nd Amendment. To protest ourselves from the government which would over-tax us, over regulate us and take away our liberties. Guns ownership in America is about being pro liberty! Has nothing to do with hunting. Pastors should encourage their congregants/citizens to be lawful and AMERICAN. That would mean owning a gun for the day when you are called up to be in the militia to overthrow the tyranny in DC.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • B4Cons

      how do you get that it's to protect ourselves from "our" government? ..... it CLEARLY states " a well regulated Mitlitia being necessary to the security of a free State..." ...... our Militia at the times of our founding Fathers SUPPORTED our Military against Foriegn Forces ...... as we did in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 ...... and hasn't been necessary since.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  13. Common Sense

    Wow, leave it to CNN to find the only pastor in America that is pro-gun control...

    December 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • David

      Why is it the US did not experience any of the political terrors of the 20th century? Guns in the homes of private citizens.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  14. Evangelism

    How dismal it is to see present day America yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Ewing

      Excellent!

      December 29, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  15. Futureman1

    Attention Guntards

    Enough with the canard that the crime rate in gun free zones are proof that they don't work..if there were guns aplenty in them the death rate would be staggering, and the fact is guns that the guns in the inner cities get there after being stolen from idiots who don't secure them in the guns a plenty zones. The only solution is too ban all high capacity firearms, including the Bushmasters, the Glocks. You can have shotguns, rifles, and pistols. None with clips. It will take a generation to accomplish but its taken a generation to get to where we are... The other step is to do something about the mentally iIll...if someone in your home is mentally ill or on medication you should not have firearms available.. even if you think they are hidden or locked up.. your relatives rights end at my relatives coffin...

    December 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • JB

      Clearly you know nothing about firearms, there are no high capacity firearms, is the size of the magazines ranging from 5 all the way to the 40 rounder and yes in some cases even drums. Glocks are the same way. There is no high capacity glock. Once again it is the size of the magazine that you put into the firearm. Please do your research.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  16. Joshua Patrick

    Yes! "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." As Americans, we seemed more concerned about our personal rights, than those of others. I have been sickened by the outpouring of selfishness over people's 'right' to own an automatic rifle. Can't we sympathize with the children first? This country could get better if we get back to the idea of asking what "we can do for our country."

    December 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Name*jim

      You people are very misinformed, only police, military and a very select few class 3 ATF licensed gun dealers can have automatic assault rifles, and the horrible terrible people at the NRA spend millions a year teaching gun safety, gun responsibility, gun training and promote legal gun ownership, a gun is a firearm, a tool that only becomes a weapon when the one holding it intends to harm another, until then it's a gun. Get your facts right before you want to take away my rights

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

      Then why are you depending on your government for self-defense they can't provide? P.S. For the last time, Automatic weapons are ILLEGAL to own.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  17. David

    We have assault weapons in our homes to prevent political and criminal tyranny, not for the availability of the criminally insane.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • B4Cons

      don't see those words in the 2nd Amendment.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • jeff

      @B4Cons

      The Supreme court would disagree with you, after revisiting the 2nd numerous times. P.S. The 2nd also does not mention Muskets.

      December 29, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  18. Stan Boddie

    America will very soon rid ourselves of this souless serpent known as the Neanderthal and Rats Association. This slimy Lucifer incarnate NRA snake slithered across our nation planting slices of NRAbot monsters and sleeper agents of death and destruction throughout our land. We will climb every mountain to track down each of these NRAbot monsters. We will cross every stream to neutralize these NRA sleeper agents of death and destruction. We will follow every byway until we have eradicated our nation of this plague. We will transform the NRA envisioned dream of evil into a never ending nightmare. America will defeat this NRA plague.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • jeff

      Wow, kind of sounds like NAZI germany, and you want to take my rights to defend my family against nutjobs like you.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • B4Cons

      There ae over 90 million registered gun owners in the US ...... There are 4 million NRA memebers .... These Extremists DO NOT speak for the rest of us.
      It's like the GOP and the Teabillies .... you can't hear the intelligent majority over the loud obnoxious minority.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  19. MelB21

    Can everyone be sensible and try to come into agreement on this topic. Keyword on this issue is looking at SENSIBLE gun control laws and screening process to mitigate the risk of this happening. We know that even when the good guys have fun people still get hurt/killed. Columbine, recent shootings at police stations, shootouts, Newtown Killer's Mother, and plenty of other examples. If this type of ammunition, high capacity clips, and military style gun are take a off the streets we can reduce the number of people killed. It's horrible that we have to start thinking that way but it's the truth and this is no time to blindly support and issue when we know this can work. Let's make harder for evil people out there not continue to make easier. Truth is a human mind is not perfect, mental illness exist, evil exist, and we need to screen better for gun permits to again mitigate risk. No one is saying this will never happen again, but we need to take a stand and do something here.

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

      We already have thousands of gun laws, yet criminals still aquire illegal guns. Of course when your federal government knowingly arms these criminals, no law can stop that.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • JB

      You mean just like how our government gave weapons to the Mexican drug cartel and ended up with 500 mexicand and 2 of our border patrol officers dead? The government sounds pretty responsible

      December 29, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  20. Displacedmic

    Wait, an anti-gun article on CNN? i am shocked...SHOCKED.

    December 29, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • B4Cons

      A wing nut confused between Gun Control and Anti Gun .... I'm Shocked.

      December 29, 2012 at 8:59 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.