I recently came across an article on my Facebook newsfeed from Christian Today entitled Should Christians Own Guns? A British theologian’s view. In this article, British theologian Krish Kandiah made an attempt to lend moral authority to the same old leftist anti-gun talking points that you would see coming from Bloomberg or the Brady Campaign. While I am not inclined to legitimize the opinions of any Brit theologians on matters of armed self-defense in the United States (we won that argument at Yorktown), I have found that the views expressed in this article are held by many American believers; and thus a response is warranted. Below I will do my best to address each assertion made by the article.
The piece starts off by detailing several tragic deaths caused by accidental shootings, as is commonplace in the gun control crowd. The thing I notice from each one of the incidents he cites is that failure to follow gun safety protocol was at fault in each one. This evidences a need for proper training and discipline as opposed to a need for a gun ban. With a quick google search I can find thousands of examples where carbon monoxide produced by household heating devices has killed entire families as they slept. Does this mean that we should ban indoor heating or does it necessitate education on the dangers of carbon monoxide and why you should install an alarm? If you apply the author’s logic to everything that, if misused, can cause death or serious bodily injury; we would be banning almost every modern convenience from automobiles to space heaters. Opening a piece on the morality of gun control with these statistics is a red herring at best and I would tend to expect better from someone with the title “theologian”. The author then launches into a refutation of another “theologian” by the name of Wayne Grudem. Grudem has apparently written in defense of Christians owning firearms with 6 basic points. While I have not studied Grudem’s work in depth, I will deal with the author’s treatment of his argument assuming that Grudem made his argument as detailed therein.
- Constitutional Right
The author makes the case that protection against tyranny is not something that is relevant in our “stable democratic environment”, and that just because the constitution allows something does not mean that it would be appropriate for a Christian to do it. On the first point, I would like to remind the author that his dear Great Britain has in fact exercised tyrannical powers quite recently, and that the handguns we are able to possess legally in the United States have in fact been banned by the UK in all of its territories. Just because we aren’t likely to need to defend ourselves from King George again anytime soon does not mean that tyranny is not a real threat, or that the 2nd Amendment isn’t relevant in that context. The fact that the British never had anything in their founding documents that protected the right to bear arms is why it was so easily taken away at the behest of the mob in the wake of some gun tragedies in the 90’s. Americans aren’t about to let that happen, and I don’t expect a Brit to understand that, as the author clearly does not.
On his second point under this heading, I agree that just because something is “allowed” by the state does not mean that Christians ought to partake. However, the Bill of Rights does not “allow” anything. The Bill of Rights protects natural rights from being infringed upon. You cannot “allow” or “disallow” a fundamental human right, so his argument starts from a false premise to begin with. Furthermore, the author chose two more red herrings by bringing up gay marriage and abortion to illustrate his point. The Constitution does not protect either of these things. The courts may have ruled on them, but the Constitution is silent on them. This is a clear attempt to force the armed believer to defend their stance on two totally unrelated topics as a way to deflect the absurdity of the author’s claims about self-defense. I can find no passage in scripture that would frown on me practicing my right to bear arms for self-defense, while I can find plenty of scriptures that frown on abortion and homosexuality. Just the fact that I am forced to make that statement, which is likely to offend some 2nd amendment proponents who may be gay or pro-abortion, is evidence of the way the left tries to manipulate the argument. There is no prohibition against owning weapons for self-defense, implicit or explicit anywhere in scripture. Clearly, the author can’t find any such prohibition either, or he probably would have detailed it.
The author argues that just because self-defense is a right does not mean that someone necessarily has the right to own a gun. This argument implies that while we know that violent men do in fact possess guns and frequently use them to harm innocents; that we should make it such that their potential victims are less prepared to defend themselves by disallowing them the same tools that their assailants possess. While this logic is flawed on its face, the author again employs his favorite logical fallacy with the red herring of “rocket launchers”. I can think of no armed Christian who is making the case that they should be allowed to possess a rocket launcher for self-defense. This guy should really learn to argue better. When swords and daggers were the weapons of choice, it would have been ridiculous to prevent the private ownership of those tools (though I’m sure the Brits tried that too); and since we live in an age where the most efficient and readily available weapons are firearms, we cannot expect to protect ourselves from bad men with firearms without being allowed to possess firearms ourselves. The author would apparently have you believe that the best defense against a bad man with a gun is good intentions. Just because the author has a right to publish this article doesn’t mean he needs a word processor to do it. See what I did there?
- Protection of Others
The author argues that if guns were more highly regulated, it would be harder for bad guys to get guns and then he quotes another “Christian” gun control activist to say that civilians just can’t be trusted to shoot the right people in the event of an “active shooter” situation. To his first point, regulations that make it harder to buy guns only make it harder for people who buy guns legally to buy guns. Bad guys typically get their guns from the black market and by theft. There is no instance I can think of where a mass shooting was thwarted because the bad man went to Academy and wasn’t able to buy a pistol because he failed a background check. Even in the author’s beloved UK, gun violence is still a thing despite the attempts to regulate it away. Furthermore, guns are just one tool that can be used for murder. Murder is the action we are trying to prevent; I don’t care what tool is utilized in its commission. Would a mass stabbing be more palatable to the liberal theologian?
On the second point, I would agree that citizens need to take gun training more seriously. My primary mission as an educator of armed citizens is to make people aware of their responsibility to train and point them to the places where they can do that. That being said, there is no example on record where an armed citizen has responded to an active shooter and killed innocent bystanders. It just hasn’t happened. It flies in the face of human psychology for an armed citizen to indiscriminately open fire when there is a risk to innocents in the immediate area. There are several instances such as the Oregon mall shooting where the exact opposite has happened, and armed citizens have held their fire for fear of hitting innocent bystanders. This mythical fear is parroted by so many so-called “experts”, that even some individuals in the supposed pro-gun community have used it as an excuse to infringe on the rights of the churchgoer by prohibiting legal concealed carry. Yes, people should train more. No, we should not use lack of training as an excuse to infringe on someone’s rights. With all of the training that these theologians get, they still can’t always get it right. I guess we should ban them from writing articles. See what I did there, again?
If the pro-gun guy that the author seeks to refute used “sporting purposes” in his defense of gun ownership, he set himself up for failure. As we can see in the article, liberals don’t want you to own guns for any purpose. We as a community have got to get away from the ‘sporting purposes’ defense for this very reason. The author goes so far as to suggest that Christians ought to forego hunting if it will mean “fewer people dying”. I think the author should forego writing so that fewer of my brain cells will explode trying to comprehend his logic. He cites the Salvation Army’s prohibition of drinking alcohol as an example of when Christians have given up one of their rights in order to show a positive example and promote cultural change. In my opinion, it is always a mistake to adopt that line of thinking. Alcohol must be ABUSED by a person in order for it to ruin his or her life. It is the actions of the individual using the objects that are harmful, not the objects themselves. When we start assigning morality to amoral inanimate objects, whether bottles of liquor or guns; we are going to be setting ourselves up for failure in the logic department. It is what you do with the alcohol or the gun that is good or evil, not the object itself. There is an appropriate time to partake in alcohol, as is clearly detailed in the scripture; just as there is an appropriate time to make use of arms for hunting and/or self-defense. Possessing the tools or objects themselves cannot be evil by itself and does not promote evil; and getting rid of the tools or objects cannot prevent evil either. Evil is in the heart of man, not in the tools and objects he uses to bring it to fruition. This was the whole failure of the Law of Moses and the whole work and person of Jesus Christ in fulfilling the law. Jesus did not and does not focus on the things and rules of this world; He works on the hearts of men. We cannot prevent murder by foregoing hunting; we can only do that by spreading the love of Jesus, and I’m obviously all for that.
- Biblical Precedent
The author takes issue with the interpretation of a passage that I love so much, I decided to put it on a t-shirt (which stirred much debate): Luke 22:36-38. In this passage, Jesus is talking to his apostles shortly before His arrest in the garden, and is warning them that times are about to change. Only a few days before, Jesus and his disciples were welcomed into Jerusalem with great fanfare, while in a few hours from this passage; they would become enemies of Rome after watching their leader face execution at the hands of the state. This is what Jesus is alluding to when He tells the apostles to make sure that they have a money bag and a sword; two things that would be appropriate to possess as hunted men, which the apostles would soon be. It can be seen clearly from this passage that there is a metaphorical purpose that Jesus has in making His statement about the need for a sword; but that does not negate the literal part of it. If Jesus had a problem with the apostles carrying swords for personal defense, he would have chosen a different metaphor. Furthermore, a few minutes forward, during Jesus’ arrest; Peter slices off the ear of a Roman soldier. This would have been an appropriate time for Jesus to scold Peter for his possession of the sword, but he instead tells him to merely “put it back in its place” i.e. a scabbard (Matt 26:52). Notice that He doesn’t tell Peter to get rid of his sword altogether, just that his use of it in this instance was inappropriate given the circumstances. He tells Peter “He who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword.” This is another important distinction: Christians should not put their faith in defensive tools whether it is a sword, a pistol, or bare hands; our hope as believers is in the Lord. That does not however mean that we should not possess weapons for the times when using them is appropriate any more than it means we shouldn’t go to work every day even though our faith is in God to provide for us. As is detailed in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time and place for everything; and using weapons for self-defense when appropriate would definitely be included in that.
There are a number of other passages in both testaments that endorse self-defense generally and use of weapons specifically from the Law of Moses to the reconstruction of Jerusalem in Nehemiah when families were in fact commanded to be armed. I cannot possibly go into detail on all of these passages in one article, but if you want to see for yourself; checkout www.biblicalselfdefense.com. There is no mandate for Christian pacifism anywhere in scripture and one theologian’s liberal agenda does not change that fact, no matter how much he might wish otherwise.
- Cultural Identity
This is one aspect that I especially don’t expect a Brit to understand. Gun ownership is in the blood of the American citizen. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has appropriately titled gun fighting as the “American Martial Art”. In Japan, they have the Samurai, and in America, we have the Pistolero. We as Christians should find our ultimate identity in Jesus Christ, but there is nothing remotely sinful or wrong about taking pride in one’s heritage. God himself chose to preserve the Scripture in part by giving the Jewish people a strong desire to preserve their culture and heritage. If the Jews had not been a proud people with a strong oral and written tradition, and had they not carried that out over millennia; we would not have the scriptures. God does not begrudge a people their traditions and culture until those things overshadow their devotion to God himself. Winning the world for Jesus Christ is obviously far more important than preserving the gun culture in America; but the two are not by any means mutually exclusive.
At the end of the day, this ham-fisted attempt to lend moral authority to the gun control movement was both disingenuous and shallow from an argumentative and theological standpoint. To remove the right to self-defense and the possession of weapons to that end from the Biblical narrative is to ignore and discount most if not all of the narrative of the Jewish people and the coming of the Messiah. Jesus didn’t command any of his followers to own firearms; but He certainly didn’t condemn it. Armed believers should never be ashamed or made to believe that their possession of lethal instruments for self-defense is sinful or inappropriate. Great armed men of God from David to Peter are evidence to the contrary.