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. .

    A knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult outside a primary school in central China as students were arriving for classes Friday, police said, the latest in a series of periodic rampage attacks at Chinese schools and kindergartens.

    January 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
  2. .

    Fienstien has 5 armed body guards and a carry permit for her guns and she wants to disarm us

    January 5, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
  3. .

    The Loganville mother of two assumed the knocks on her front door Friday afternoon were from a solicitor.“Don’t answer she yelled to her 9-year-old twins playing downstairs.When the visitor began repeatedly ringing the doorbell, she called her husband at work.“Get the kids and hide,” he told his wife.As he dialed 911, his 37-year-old spouse, who works from home, collected the children and hid with them in a crawlspace adjoining her office. By that time, the intruder had forced his way into the three-story residence on Henderson Ridge Drive with a crowbar, authorities said. He allegedly rummaged through the home, eventually working his way up to the attic office.“He opens the closet door and finds himself staring down the barrel of a .38

    January 5, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  4. .

    According to the FBI annual crime statistics, the number of murders committed annually with hammers and clubs far outnumbers the number of murders committed with a rifle.This is an interesting fact, particularly amid the Democrats' feverish push to ban many different rifles, ostensibly to keep us safe of course.However, it appears the zeal of Sens. like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) is misdirected. For in looking at the FBI numbers from 2005 to 2011, the number of murders by hammers and clubs consistently exceeds the number of murders committed with a rifle.Think about it: In 2005, the number of murders committed with a rifle was 445, while the number of murders committed with hammers and clubs was 605. In 2006, the number of murders committed with a rifle was 438, while the number of murders committed with hammers and clubs was 618.And so the list goes, with the actual numbers changing somewhat from year to year, yet the fact that more people are killed with blunt objects each year remains constant.For example, in 2011, there was 323 murders committed with a rifle but 496 murders committed with hammers and clubs.While the FBI makes is clear that some of the "murder by rifle" numbers could be adjusted up slightly, when you take into account murders with non-categorized types of guns, it does not change the fact that their annual reports consistently show more lives are taken each year with these blunt objects than are taken with Feinstein's dreaded rifle.Another interesting fact: According to the FBI, nearly twice as many people are killed by hands and fists each year than are killed by murderers who use rifles.

    January 5, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  5. .

    Ian Thomson was finally acquitted this week, after the judge ruled the former firearms instructor had no choice but to defend himself when attackers firebombed his rural Ontario home. Thomson has spent thousands defending himself."I frankly don't know how I am going to come up with the rest of the money," Thomson told Sun News Network's Brian Lilley on Byline.Canada's justice system has a knack for punishing people for defending themselves and their property, often called "castle law.MORE: Court drops final charge against Ontario man who fired shots to protect his home under attack by firebombers
    Joseph and Marilyn Singleton of Taber, Alberta spent $30,000 in court. When the couple returned home in May 2010, thieves that had ransacked their house tried to drive through their garage door. Joe hit one of the thugs with an axe handle to keep him from running over Marilyn. The homeowner was charged with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm.Lawrence Manzer from Burton, New Brunswick was dragged through court after he was charged with possessing a weapon for a purpose dangerous to public peace. The former Canadian Forces soldier had carried an unloaded shot gun onto his neighbor's yard to help protect his property from vandals. The case was eventually thrown out on a technicality.

    January 5, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  6. JB

    God bless, what makes this country great is that everyone can speak his/her mind... Well, I think you need to answer the question as to why the Pastors are arming themselves, I train with the Pastors who believe they have a duty to protect the Flock... I don't know but could it be that they don't agree with your "no one should own a killing machine". Or could it be they just want to protect their Flock and themselves, with "one of those killing machines".
    And one other little fact: What the gun grabbers are looking to ban aren't "Assault Weapons"(they have been banned since 1934)..... If you read the new assault weapon bill it covers every semi-automatic weapon made, pistol, rifle, and shotgun.... Well I will not be one of the sheep, I am a sheep dog and will protect me, mine and any innocent that happens to need it.
    God Bless the Sheep....

    January 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  7. None can deny that Jesus is the most powerful influence in all of history.

    Anyone who sees created things and deny the fact that there is a Creator is clearly a blinded fool born to perish. I wont waste my time on proving something that is so obvious. A blind man will never see unless he is given sight and that's one simple truth. I will leave all you non-believers with a few simple verses.
    Job 27:8-"For what hope do the godless have when God cuts them off and takes away their life?
    1 Corinthians 1:18-"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
    1 Corinthians 2:14-"But people who aren't spiritual can't receive these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can't understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.
    John 14:17-"the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you
    John 8:47-"Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don't listen because you don't belong to God"
    John 6:47-"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life"
    John 3:36-"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
    John 3:18-"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
    John 5:24-"I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life."
    Matthew 25:46-"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
    Romans 6:23-"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

    Life is nothing but a CHOICE. No one is forcing anyone to do anything, you all have a CHOICE. Just know and understand that some decisions will have permanent consequences. Life by right and by eternal law belongs to the Giver of life. He can take it and give it to whom ever He pleases. Life is a choice. Finally before you judge my Lord and God, the Creator of all things; take into considerations His words. Ezekiel 18:21-23-"But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. I don't want wicked people to die." declares the Almighty LORD. "I want them to turn from their evil ways and live."
    I pray that your eyes and ears are open to the Word of God and you choose life and not death. Peace and grace from my Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

    w w w the eternal wisdom . com

    January 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  8. Andy in Nicaragua

    In our country, there is very very little violent crime. One of the many reasons is that there are very very few guns. If one desires to kill someone, it requires taking up a machete and expending the energy necessary to commit the evil act. I am not sure why our friends to the north are so insistent that guns protect them. From what? Each other? It is crazy to me.

    January 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  9. Ralph Monkman

    Guns KILL! Knives, and clubs require the pepetrator to get dangerously (for the pepetrator) closer to his victims. Guns give you mass murderers a safer distance and a much greater capability for mass murder. Eliminate guns (ALL GUNS) and the murder rate would drop to an astounding low.(see Canada, Great Britian, Germany etc)

    January 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  10. Carlos Rivas

    "In God We Trust"? Yeah, right. Americans trust their guns more than God. If this was true, why would they have guns?

    January 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
  11. Wiking

    As both a scientist and a Christian, I can tell you that both require lots of faith. As we as human kind begin to find out more about the universe, both areas continue to be challenged. The notion that science is some panacea with all the answers is as flawed as saying religion has all of the answers. The discussion really flourishes when we keep an open mind and allow people to think big and creatively. Guns were created by science – so is science to blame? I think our destruction will come from advanced weapons technology, a product of science, falling into the hands of unbalanced religious people. Ultimately, both will be to blame. There is no doubt there is evil in this world and reckless hatred, I just hope it continues to remain in check as much as possible.

    January 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Sue

      Wiking, you are an incompetent scientist if you think that science requires faith. Faith and science are antithetical.

      January 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  12. Dennis

    For the first time in the history of the United States of America more people under the age of 30 have never attended church and yet we wonder why our young people are so misguided. No guns themselves are not the problem but they add to the problem. Maybe if they weren't so readily available when somebody got angry or what not they would not be used. In the old days a fight involved fists which was bad enough. Now some people take it to the next level and pull out the weapon. What we have here is a failure of morals and for many people, they get their moral grounding from their faith. If you don't think that you ultimately have to answer to God for your behavior, then it is pretty much a free for all and anything goes.

    January 5, 2013 at 4:23 am |
    • Ryan

      Morals come from your home and your community and the environment you live in. I suppose an argument could be made that if more children had more attentive parents we might have less incidents. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where if you have 2 parents at home chances are they both work full-time in order to support you.

      January 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  13. Nietodarwin

    "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith . . . We need believing people." (Adolf Hitler. April 26, 1933, from a speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordat of 1933.)

    January 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No he was a megalomaniac who scapegoated Germany's problems onto a segment of its citizens who happened to be religious.

      January 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • On A Related Spout

      Abdication of personal responsibility for one's actions to a fici>tional all-powerful 3rd party for "forgiveness" is a key part of most mainstream religions, although only a minor aspect of why they have such large followings.

      January 4, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  14. Petercha

    Why should evangelicals speak out on guns? Unless someone uses them, guns just sit there by themselves and don't do anything to anybody. However, I would agree that we should speak out against murder by whatever means. Murder using a bat or a knife or whatever is just as morally wrong as murder using a gun. Plus, guns have other uses, such as hunting to feed your family (my father did so when I was growing up), or shooting rabbits that are eating the vegetables in your vegetable garden, and so on.

    January 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Oh, the old line, guns don't kill... There is no appropriate application, nor any argument, for having rapid reloading ultra rapid firing guns in cities among the general populace. Hunting is simply not applicable there.

      January 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • scieng1

      Yes, the idea that guns are the problem is NOT in the interest of evangelicals. Evangelicals are interested in modifying behavior to fit the Christian ideology, not in disarming the innocent to promote more killings by those who refuse the Christian ideology. Promoting love, honesty, and responsibility is in conflict with disarming the innocent.

      January 5, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  15. Nietodarwin

    "But calling someone with a more primitive thought system mentally ill is like calling hom'o erectus...or a baboon...mentally ill for having more primitive thought." Well, that may be a valid critique, but I was raised xstian, learned to appreciated science, and abandoned those "primitive thought" patterns. I still maintain that religion is mental illness, (even though all cultures have evolved with religion.) Dodo birds losing their ability to fly just because they had no survival need for it WAS mental illness, that lead to their extinction at our hands. Religion will be the cause of our extinction (again at our hands.) People who cut themselves, or continually attempt but never succeed at suicide, are mentally ill. Religion is mental illness, and its mission is to spread it to the rest of the species, (while empowering and enriching those who preach it.)

    January 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops.
      Richard Dawkins
      That statement and Einstein's definition of insanity seem to be good enough qualifications to define religion as mental illness.

      January 4, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  16. GAWD-DUH

    I'd like your christians to stop using my name & my sons name during invocation of prayers for the successful killing of your so-called enemies.

    Go back & read your ten commandents. What part of Thou Shalt Not Kill do you need an explanation on?

    In fact, christians are so evil I don't want them using my name at all.

    January 4, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • wo

      I was such a great christian until I find out how evil and bigoted they can be. I am so much happier that my GOD is a humble toad.

      January 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  17. Fladabosco

    Anyone who claims to know what god wants is arrogant beyond belief. Ancient scripture, especially Jewish and Christian, has been translated (how's your Aramaic?), abridged, added to, interpreted, edited and generally confused. If the all-knowing god wanted us to have guns, why doesn't the bible say 'you can have guns.' No, it has to be interpreted by a modern person through their own spyglass, and that almost always means (ta-dah!) that the bible means what the individual wants it to mean. One the reasons people base their lives on these religions is because they are so flexible and adaptable to different opinions, viewpoints and customs while the people who don't agree with your interpretation condemn you to eternal hellfire.

    January 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  18. Nietodarwin

    Christians are experts at mass murder. The man killed the children because he was MENTALLY ILL. Belief in "god" (and thus "the devil") is MENTAL ILLNESS. The statistics in this article shouldn't surprise anyone, (8% of evangelicals favor more gun control.) FAITH = MENTAL ILLNESS. Penn Gillette says it well;

    “What I have a problem with is not so much religion or god, but faith. When you say you believe something in your heart and therefore you can act on it, you have completely justified the 9/11 bombers. You have justified Charlie Manson. If it's true for you, why isn't it true for them? Why are you different? If you say "I believe there's an all-powerful force of love in the universe that connects us all, and I have no evidence of that but I believe it in my heart," then it's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that Sharon Tate deserves to die. It's perfectly okay to believe in your heart that you need to fly planes into buildings for Allah.”
    _ Penn Jillette

    January 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Live4Him

      So, your position is that since I don't believe that magic created the singularity, I'm mentally ill? Grow up!

      January 4, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Religious belief is a normal human function. I may be willing to call religious believers less evolved than some non-believers (only a small and more rational subset and with a rather questionable assumption on the direction of evolution), but even that would be within limits. But calling someone with a more primitive thought system mentally ill is like calling hom'o erectus...or a baboon...mentally ill for having more primitive thought.

      January 4, 2013 at 3:33 pm |


    January 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Fladabosco

      Here's a psalm for you all:

      A guy with an AK 4-7
      Killed some kids who were half of eleven
      When the arguments started
      America parted
      But when we ask god why god says, uh, well, uh, it's really hard to figure out terms like, well, your whole post, which while yelled, is really rather confusing and doesn't seem to say a lot and needs to be interpreted, just like any ancient scripture.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  20. Hey Billy

    Bill Deacon
    Since you are in the mood for supplying historical facts, today. How about coming up with some dates and numbers of victims in massacres perpatrated by the RCC. Don't be shy, talk about the pot calling the kettle. By the way did you notice the Vatican involved in yet another financial scandal?

    January 4, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Are you saying that because other authoritarian perpetuate violence that creates an argument for disarmament of individuals or are you merely attacking my Catholicism in an effort to discredit my argument?

      As to your second point, I understand the media has portrayed the situation to cast the Church in a bad light but it really only demonstrates that the EU along with the media have an anti Catholic bias. I would like to know more of the facts and motives involved before I decide whether the Church or the government is the one in error. Do you have information that the "scandal" is more than an effort to exert financial control that is not needed?

      January 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Bob

      Bill, the problem is not really the media. For example, those priests really did bugger those little boys and the pope and others in the RCC did act to try to hide the facts. The media reporting that as such is actually doing their job, whether you happen to like it or not. The media isn't perfect, but they do get credit here.

      Please stop trying to cover that up. You'd do well to take a closer examination of your beliefs. They really aren't supportable.

      January 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Well Bob, we've moved from my belief in second amendment rights of the U.S. Constiitution to allegations of financial scandal and a repeat of child abuses crimes. So what do either of the latter two have to do with the 2nd amendment?

      January 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Wait... I had to look at the article again. Yep it's about gun control. I guess my religion has nothing to do with it.

      January 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Gus

      Bill, Bob was obviously responding to your statement, re the Catholics and supposed media bias. Try to grow some balls and respond instead of dodging yet again, you wimp.

      January 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      And my remark was a refutation of the previous comment using an attack on the Church to try and negate my argument in favor of 2A rights. Either stay on topic or resort to ad hominems. Oh wait you already chose.

      January 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Gus

      Bill, again, show some guts and respond to what was stated, coward. Or just remain silent. Enough of your dodging.

      January 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
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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.