Culture Theology

Guns and Plowshares

Debate has begun raging over government restriction of firearms. I don’t watch the news very much (any more) but every few days I’ll hear someone talk about guns—often about the President and his developing policies.

I’m not an “expert” on the U.S. constitution, on states’ rights, on gun statistics or on much of anything. I’m sure there are plenty of things to say about all those topics. But the primary thing that I’m thinking about is Christian conversation about these issues.

There is a sensationalism in our culture that is always looking for the next giant crisis in social and political life. The crisis de jour seems to be that the President is taking away our constitutional rights, impinging on our freedom and aiming to take over the world. Perhaps that last one is an exaggeration, though perhaps not in some circles.

Christians are called to be colonists of heaven in the world. To borrow some of the language of Revelation, we are to live as countercultural citizens of New Jerusalem in a world dominated by the values of fallen Babylon. So why are Christians joining with the sensationalism of a particular subculture and becoming (almost) militant in defense of weapons?

I’m not a pacifist—as much as I would like to be one. Best I can tell—from the witness of Scripture (e.g. Rom 13:3-4, 2 Pet 2:13-14), from experience and from logic—the current state of the world needs policing. Evil must be kept in check. The vulnerable and powerless must be defended. Sometimes on a personal level and sometimes on a national level.  And sometimes by force.

But really, should Christians be among those uncritically defending particular kinds weapons and supplies being made available to the public? From the few articles I’ve read on this subject, the President is making reasonable proposals to try to prevent repeats of the tragedies  we’ve recently seen in Aurora and Newtown. And from all I have read, neither he (nor anyone else) is trying to “take all our guns.”

But even if he were, should Christians be clinging tightly to their guns and their Bibles when their Bibles insist there is a day coming when swords will be beaten into plowshares (Isa 2:4)? Should Christians be championing their Second Amendment “rights” more than they are championing the cause of the oppressed (e.g. Isa 1:16-17, 23)?

In our broken, busted world, the case can be made that force is sometimes needed to defend the fatherless. But is that honestly what is being carefully discussed by Christians? I hear Christians demonizing proposals to reinstate an assault weapon ban and limit the amount of ammunition in gun clips. Can a case honestly be made that these measures are contrary to the will of the God who bore our violence rather than returning it?

There are no easy policy choices to be made here that I can see. But I do wish that we—those of us who follow a crucified King and trust that his resurrection will come to us—would be leading the way in honest, nuanced and critical discussion about these issues.

Much of what seems to be driving our discussion is fear rather than faith. Fear that the government is taking over. Fear that we’re losing our “rights.” Fear that “they” will be prying my Bible out of my hand after they rip away my gun. And perhaps they will if Christians are known primarily as defenders of weapons rather than defenders of widows.

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