Guns and Christianity

The Bible is a very long and complex book.  It is well worth the effort, though.  Not only does it have plenty of fascinating and insightful material on its own, it is the primary source of religious knowledge for all Christians.  Any serious scholar of religion knows that there are right and wrong ways of reading the Bible.  It isn’t a text book, interpretation is a necessary part of the experience.  But, not any old interpretation will do.  If someone says that Moses was never allowed into the Promised Land because Jews aren’t worthy, that person is reading it wrong.

For Christians, there are a few things to keep in mind.  The New Testament trumps the Old Testament (aka the Hebrew Bible).  The sayings of Jesus trump everything else.  And Jesus often spoke metaphorically.  Here are some examples:  The Old Testament lays out the conditions and procedures for a couple to divorce.  The New Testament specifically says that remarriage after divorce is committing adultery.  So, it doesn’t matter, for Christians, what the Old Testament said, divorce and remarriage are not allowed.  Peter and Paul never contradict anything Jesus said.  It’s not like Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” and then one of the Pauline Epistles starts with, “Well, actually. . .”  And when Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” he is not talking about somehow squeezing a camel into a tiny hole (or enlarging the hole to the size of a camel).  It is a metaphor.  It is saying that the moral pitfalls that confront the wealthy are very difficult (or impossible) to avoid.

The Bible is naturally silent on the issue of guns since guns hadn’t yet been invented when the Bible was written and made canonical.  That, however, doesn’t mean we cannot glean what Jesus would have us do with the issue.  This gets into a somewhat tricky area, it becomes kind of a, “What would Jesus do,” scenario.  But, there is a pretty good way to look at the issue from a Christian perspective.

Basically, we just have to decide what it is that guns are for, and then figure out what Jesus says about those activities.  We should set aside the government’s use of guns (military and police) since separation of church and state precludes using the Bible to legislate, and the personal moral question is much more interesting.  So, what do regular people use guns for?  There is sport, hunting, protection from nature, self-defense, crime, protection from the government and collecting.  Most of these are pretty obvious.  Sport, hunting, protection from nature and collecting all seem OK.  I can’t think of any relevant Biblical passages that comment on these things, and certainly not in a way that would ban them (perhaps the Kosher laws would have something to say about hunting as it circumvents the proper method of slaughter, but Christians normally believe that Jesus created a new covenant, making the Kosher laws unnecessary anyway).  Crime is simply not allowed.  Both the Old and New Testaments agree that crime is bad.  They may not always agree about what constitutes a crime, but we can all agree that Jesus would not allow guns for criminal activity.

That leaves just two reasons for owning a gun that might be difficult to know what Jesus would want us to do, self defense and protection from the government.  But these aren’t really hard at all.  The quote above about rendering unto Caesar goes a long way towards answering the protection from the government reason.  If we combine it with one of the most famous passages in the whole Bible, both of these reasons are non-starters for Christians:

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Many would say that this passage is the single most important Christian teaching.  And according to this teaching, self defense is wrong.  We must love our enemies, not fight back against them.  So, it seems that someone who wishes to follow the teachings of Jesus cannot own a gun for self defense or for protection from the government.

We shouldn’t make too much of this.  This isn’t a claim for government action or morality in general.  It is simply a look at the some of the more famous sayings of Jesus and how they apply to the gun debate.  If a person is really interested in being a Christian, then hand guns, automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, high capacity magazines, armor piecing ammo, etc., are all impermissible since their only uses are self defense or protection from the government (or crime).  It’s interesting how many of the loudest and proudest Christians seem to value their guns more than their faith.

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