Violence, Guns, & The Christ Follower

Last Friday we had a terrible reminder of how fragile life can be. A broken and selfish man took young precious lives.

And then the aftermath… People hurting and grieving. Millions of people via social media saying what they think should be said in these circumstances.

I’m alarmed at a few things:  First, the violence itself, also the scores of Christians with a religious devotion to guns, and the conversation or inability to have a conversation about preventing the next tragedy.

The Appropriate Response

In the immediate time after this sort of tragedy, the only appropriate thing to do is mourn, cry and be near the ones you love.

However I have to admit that I’m conflicted. Those who desire to have a serious nation-wide discussion on gun control and gun violence are rightfully told to that in the immediacy of a tragedy, this is not the time. But perhaps they don’t heed that advice because the time never seems to come.

We must ask the question: When IS the appropriate time to have this conversation? I know there are many on the conservative side of the gun control issue who are open minded and really do believe that we can have a reasonable debate about guns, but I fear that for many pro-gun advocates the answer to the question of when?, is: never. I also wonder if many in the pro-gun community believe this conversation should take place SO distant from any tragedy because they don’t want the ugliness of this violence to be so fresh on our minds, so that we can distance ourselves from the repugnance first.

So while I agree that the very day of a tragedy and perhaps the next are not appropriate times to begin the conversation of prevention. I have to ask; How long do we have to wait?

My fear is that those who are so repulsed by gun control talk after a tragedy are not really repulsed by political talk, but by political  talk that they disagree with. In fact I remember very quickly after the shooting at Virginia Tech, hearing pro-gun advocates claiming that this would have never happened if other students and teachers were also carrying guns (a case by the way that will be harder to make now that this tragedy has taken place in an elementary school), and I didn’t hear other pro-gun advocates chastising those people for talking politics so soon after the tragedy.

For some people the issue is not even about time, but that people dare offer gun control as a solution to gun violence at all. On Friday after the twitter-verse had erupted with response to the catastrophe, a prominent Christian tweeted

“You people that use a horrible act of evil to promote your gun control agenda should be ashamed of yourselves.”

We sometimes have a bad habit of calling our opinions “deeply held beliefs” while others opinions are “agendas.”

What kind of event should be used to begin a serious talk about gun control? Arbor day?  The NHL playoffs? It seems to me that this is the most appropriate event to make us sit back and ask how we can better prevent violence. Saying that we cannot use this tragedy as a way to improve, is like saying that we should not have used September 11th, 2001 to begin talking about how we should respond to the perpetrators of such a horrendous crime and how we can prevent it from happening again.

It’s also worth noting that plenty of people have been using this horrible act of evil to promote a pro-gun agenda. On Friday and throughout the weekend pro-gun facebook pages and groups were popping up as well as countless statuses ensuring us that guns are not the problem. Who is telling them that this is not the time?

Just A Fallen World

A common theme I’ve heard this weekend is: “This happens because we live in a fallen world.” I whole heartedly agree. Billy Graham hit the nail on the head, shortly after the school shootings at Columbine High School, when Larry King asked him why it happened;

“Thousands of years ago, a young couple lived in a garden called Eden, and God placed a tree in the Garden and told them not to eat from the tree”

But I fear that this response is sometimes used as an excuse to avoid dealing with the problem, code for – “this is inevitable, we just have to accept that it happens.”

We have to ask ourselves, does the gospel call us to step back when faced with the problems of the world- poverty, famine, hunger, without engaging them and meeting those needs? Why does this issue deserve special treatment?

Christians Religious Devotion to Jesus Guns

I wrote here recently about idols. I fear that guns and maybe even the idea of guns and what they represent have become great idols of the Christian Church.

When you don’t have to drive far to see a bumper sticker saying “God Guns & Glory,” that should be a wake up call.
When calls for less violence via gun control provoke an angry and hateful responses inside of us, that should sound an internal alarm.
When our views on guns don’t match up with Jesus’ views on the sword, we must pause and ask why.

Pathways To Less Violence

Let me be clear; I don’t think the government should be able to take away my dads collection of hunting rifles. I’m not a advocate for prohibition of all fire arms.

Gun control doesn’t have to be a black & white/ all or none issue. We have to ask if making assault weapons available to the consumer is wise, if longer waiting periods and other hoops to jump through are a bad idea.

It’s also not exclusively about guns, but also about care for the mentally ill.

I have no comprehensive gun control solution for which to advocate. What I do advocate is the discussion, a call to the end of demonizing others who don’t share our opinions, and for Christians to love peace, abhor violence and go to great lengths to prevent more of it and protect life.

UPDATE: I posted in a comment that the NRA was the largest PAC in the country. It’s not, and not even close. Thanks to David for pointing that out. That being said, it’s still very powerful and vocal.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 comments
BarbaraBlackburn
BarbaraBlackburn

Oh God, am I glad to hear that there is a sane Christian when it comes to this issue. I have so many friends and family who just go NUTS when I talk about the need for gun control. You can't even bring the subject up without them spouting stuff that nobody can argue with because, IMO, it's just too stupid. Thanks for being sane.

David
David

Its just not accurate to say that we are unable to have a conversation about gun control in this country, even less than a week after the shooting.  The conversation has begun.  There may be people who say we shouldn't be talking about this now, but they aren't being heard.  The conversation is not necessarily one where the nation's political leaders sit down in a room and start talking.  It is a national conversation that takes place in commentaries like this: http://bit.ly/UdbCNyhttp://huff.to/Udcf9H.  It takes place when the President sets up a commission on guns and House Republicans respond with indifference.  There is just nothing to the argument that we are unwilling to have the conversation.

 

I'm not sure why the fact that this took place in an elementary school makes it harder to argue that it may have turned out diffently had someone in the school had a gun.  There are plenty of examples of tragedies being less tragic because someone actually shot back.  Bill Bennett does a great job of making this argument in the article I posted above.

 

Finally, its simply not accurate to say that the NRA is the largest PAC in the country.  They aren't even in the top 20 in PAC contributions to Federal candidates in the 2012 elections.  They also aren't the largest interest group by membership, not even close.  The AARP has over 37 million members.  The NRA has only around 4 million.  My point is that the NRA is not the juggernaut everyone makes them out to be and they do not have omnipotent power to thwart the collective will of the American people as executed by their elected representative.

 

 

Patrick
Patrick

Hi Shane,

 

Thanks for posting this. I am grateful that you are urging us to try a new way forward. I didn't grow up in church and now plant churches. I am often at a loss about our insistence of our 'rights' over the words of Jesus: Enough of this! Thanks for your blog. I enjoy checking in.

Howard Thursby
Howard Thursby

Shane,

I certainly don’t see guns as something to idolize, and here is the reason I don’t want to engage in a gun control discussion. It is my firm belief that gun control proponents enter the debate with the mindset that they will take any compromise they can get and view it as simply a small step toward their ultimate goal of banning the private ownership of firearms.  There is always the NEXT STEP.  If there was a reasonable compromise that we gun owners could make, and that would be the end of it, we wouldn’t be so reluctant to have the conversation.  We want to put it off indefinitely because gun control proponents are relentless in the pursuit of their ultimate objective and it’s the ultimate objective to which we object so vehemently.

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @BarbaraBlackburn It's such a charged issue. By the way many Christians respond to gun control it's hard to call their feelings toward guns anything but idolatry. Still I have my idolatry too, and I respond best when people speak to me in love and kindness even when they disagree.

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

Sorry I haven't responded. For some reasons the emails that alerted me to new comments stopped coming. Ok first, thanks for correcting me about the NRA. My inaccuracy wasn't on purpose, and I'll correct it in the post. I will say that it is still plenty powerful and a very vocal minority.

 

Now, you are correct that there is a gun control conversation taking place. Many are answering the call for a conversation, and I acknowledged that in the post.  "I know there are many on the conservative side of the gun control issue who are open minded and really do believe that we can have a reasonable debate about guns..."

What I was calling out was the sentiment that was plastered all of over my twitter and facebook feed (similar to the example I gave), which I'm sure can be found on the national stage as well that would like to never question guns of any type, and will bully people into thinking that they "should be shameful" for trying.

 

About the significance in of this taking place in an elementary school; I remember after the Viriginia Tech shooting hearing a conservative radio personality (not one you'd think of), and many others saying that if the students of VT were allowed to carry guns then they would have stopped the shooter quickly. My point was that unless we're in favor of arming elementary school kids with fire arms, that argument is off the table. I wasn't addressing an armed guard scenario. 

 

As for the guns stopping/preventing tragedies. I don't see why some better gun control would stifle that. Has a situation arose in which a gunman has been neutralized by a semi-automatic assault weapon? Has there been a situation in which someone would have been armed and neutralized a gunman if only they weren't in a waiting period before being able to purchase a firearm? I just find it hard to believe that semi-automatic assault weapons are a net gain to society and why waiting periods are a bad thing. 

 

I found this and think Larry Alan Burns said it better than I can. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-burns-assault-weapons-ban-20121220,0,6774314.story

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

Patrick, 

Thanks for sharing. You hit it right on the head: "our 'rights' over the words of Jesus." Our dual citizenship often becomes serving 2 masters. 

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @Howard Thursby Thanks for commenting!

I know there are many people like you who are safe, and reasonable, and I don't worry about those like you owning guns. I know also that many like you believe in the slipper slope argument.

 

That being said I think the it's hard to believe that there would/could ever be a total prohibition of firearms in the US when the largest political action committee in the country is the NRA. Furthermore being a proponent of total prohibition is political suicide in 90% of the country. 

 

Many of our laws are a practice in moderation, we understand that there is a balance of freedom and safety. How can we not be willing to have common sense gun control laws when it could stop tragedies such as we've seen recently. There is a world of difference between hunting rifles and the AR-15 used in Newtown and Aurora, Co.