We have to be progressive, because the future is coming whether we like it or not. But being sensible is also a good idea, because learning from history is a lot less painful than learning from mistakes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Should Christians own guns? What Would Jesus Say?

As I wandered a maze of booths hawking guns and other eclectic items at a gun show recently a thought occurred to me: What would Jesus do? Would Jesus be happy I was there? Would Jesus want me to join an anti-gun crusade? Would Jesus direct me to buy a Glock for self defense, or kick those tables over and preach non-violence? Would he distinguish between hunting rifles and assault rifles? Would he be against a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds?

As Christians try to understand what faith calls them to do to follow Christ, questions on self defense and weapons are unavoidable. Though all Christians know their immortal soul is held safe by grace in the hands of our Lord, whether a Christian should take steps to protect his mortal being and family or trust in God for protection remains a point of debate. And proponents of either view use the same passages from the Bible for support.

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Daniel said...

I have often asked myself the same question and remember that my job is to provide for my family, that means food, shelter, and security. I remember the verse in Nehemiah:

And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

I enjoy reading your posts, thanks for the insight.

Anonymous said...

If I may inject a question, just exactly between whom did Jesus come to make peace? Between Man and Man or between God and Man? I would suggest that it is the latter. HE came to restore peace between God and man that was lost as a result of Adam's sin. As long as Adam's sin reigns in the world their will never be universal peace between men. See the book of James regarding "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?"

Stephen said...

You know ... I never looked at the subject from that POV.

Focusing on peace between men ... Jesus certainly taught us to seek peace and not violence. i.e. not retaliating for a slap on the cheek (at least if it is delivered because of our faith) or a legal injustice. And he did say that "blessed are the peacemakers."

But you are certainly right ... perfect peace between men will not be attained until Jesus returns and brings the new kingdom. Our fallen nature/original sin will see to that (or, for non Christians, our predatory nature).

Anonymous said...

I know this post is long dead but in the event another adventurer should show up I add my two cents.
What a wise and noble discussion. As a Bible scholar, I find all of the theology of my early Christian days vanishing, to be replaced by contemplative resignation that discussions and conclusions, like the one posted, bring me great comfort that the corporate Christian world had not lost all of its intellect.
I could not add anything from my decades of study. I also am a gun owner and reflecting on the words posted did come to the decision that should the authorities come to my door to demand my rejection of my Lord I would gladly follow them to the prison or gallows of their choice. Nevertheless, should someone come to my door to rape my children and pillage my home, I would also gladly defend the sanctity of my dwelling and lives of my loved ones by busting a cap on their sorry asses.
Brother David

Stephen said...

Thanks for the flattering comment!

This is probably my most widely read post, so people WILL see your comment. It's been read enough that it shows up in the first few on Google for many searches. Gets several hits per day every day.

I also agree that much of what Jesus said speaks to accepting persecution for our faith -- not persecution from whatever violent predator finds his way to our door.

In the scenario you give ... I think you give the best biblical conclusion. Though that doesn't mean that in the right situation I can't join with others in a movement to stop governmental persecution.

It's a sticky question. I hope it's a dilemna I never have to face.

Anonymous said...

Your site came up through a Google search on "sensible Christianity". which may hint at where I'm coming from... although not geographically!

I am British, which means that while pacifism as a political/ethical stance might be an issue for me, and indeed has been in the past, the idea of carrying guns for personal protection is something we just do not discuss in this country. Gun owners in the UK are either farmers, sportsmen or crooks, it's that simple. There is an armed division of our police and occasionally shots are fired in anger; but most of our police do not carry firearms and that's the way we like it.

We look at America and certain things about your country appal us. You still have capital punishment; you have Death Row. Yet your homicide rate is much higher than ours, higher indeed than in Western Europe generally. In this context I would ask you to consider whether gun ownership is any sort of *Christian* issue at all, rather than one generated by the peculiarities of American history and culture. "Should Christians own guns? What Would Jesus Say?" Perhaps - I had no idea my followers would ever consider such a thing.

Stephen said...

Mr. Bradshaw ...

Interesting commentary, sir. Thank you for taking the time to write. This page is often discovered in searches and so your comments will be read.

On the political side ... the death penalty is always a sticky issue. Though I have no problem with it overall, it seems to have no deterrent effect and is very expensive to prosecute because of decades of appeals (cheaper to incarcerate). And of course it is rather difficult to correct an injustice if one is discovered after the fact -- which is unlikely because of appeal processes.

But in terms of violence in general ... I blog often on this subject, and you can easily discover yourself that while America has had changing gun laws (becoming more restrictive over the decades) there has never been an effect on the murder rate.

UK, on the other hand, used to have much more open laws, and has closed them up entirely, and from the statistics I see there was no effect on the murder rate overall -- more knife crime. In fact it appears the murder rate has crept up.

So for numerous reasons, America is simply a violent country in terms of murder. UK, though you have a higher crime rate overall than we do, is simply not violent to the level of murder.

I often hypothesize on the reasons for the above, but to me the bottom line is simple: Murder rates are an effect of culture, not gun availability. And on an individual level it is what is in the heart, not what is in the hand, that makes a murderer.

So because gun control is clearly not a cure to end violence, it becomes a question of politics and morals.

I make the case politically often on my blog, and I stand behind that. And we Americans who believe in gun ownership are just as appalled that the people of the UK, upon whom we base so much of our culture and government, have voluntarily surrendered the right of weapons ownership when it is the last defense against both domestic tyranny and foreign invasion. And we would say an identifier of a "subject" who lives at the complete discretion of his government and a "citizen" who demands the government answer to him, is how empowered that citizen is against that government.

Morally ... well, I make my case above. Would Jesus, whom depending upon your view (calvinist, armenian, etc.) knew at least the general future of mankind, not know enough of our hearts to understand violent times to come? Would he not have found the means to give us guidance on this issue if he found it critical? Why did he tell his own disciples to "sell their cloak and buy a sword" to carry with them if he did not believe in self defense?

For many reasons America is a violent country. Would I not be remiss if I did not pursue every possible option to keep my family safe?

Lara Mueller said...

It's simple:
If you hunt, and God does know if you hunt animals for food. You may have a rifle.
If you are a soldier of an official Army serving your country and praying for guidance, you will have a gun but you may never use it for brutal force but in actual combat.

Anybody else who has a gun no matter what the justification is is simply not a Christian.

Period. Not a Christian.

Jesus Christ does not tolerate violence even as an answer to violence no matter who or what you say
you are protecting.

This is not even fuzzy in the Gospel.

Praise Jesus Christ!

Stephen said...

Hey Laura ...

I've used scriptural references and a common sense reading of them. It's crystal clear and not fuzzy that there is NO scriptural mandate against owning weapons or self defense of life and family. Period.

If you believe otherwise, please present a biblical case. Because you are very, very wrong, and such a case can simply not be made.

Whether you own guns or not, you can be a Christian. Whether you are prepared to defend yourself against violence or not, you can be a Christian.

By your logic, no police officer can be a Christian.

Jesus welcomes us all. As for praising him ... that I agree with wholeheartedly!