So I think now is the time to talk about guns. Now that all the fuss has died down.
I get it: Letting a flooded market of guns just saturate our culture so that people will be too afraid to shoot each other instead of anxious to shoot each other is naive.
I get it: Trying to ban all guns will just take guns away from law-abiding citizens and keep them in the hands of law-breakers and a sporadically tyrannical government, which makes it also naive.
Amidst the Noise demonstrates the importance of looking beyond the pro-anti-gun-availability false topic.
As this guy will tell you, gun violence and crime statistics are complex. You can’t just say “look, gun violence dropped after _____ happened, therefore ______ solves the problem.” This is the classic fallacy of the unproven cause, the post ergo hoc. And I am speaking to people across the gun control spectrum here, from hardcore gun owners to anti-gunnists. How dare you post an allegedly witty cartoon hours after a tragedy involving guns where everyone can see it just so you can use tremendous grief as a platform! Shame on us, oh friends of Job!
See, America’s defensive gun ownership obsession is unique in what a Harvard study calls “a substantial social-cultural phenomenon.” On the one hand, the fear of guns does statistically seem a deterrent to crime. On the other hand, our crime rates are so high despite this that the deterrent isn’t working like it ideally would. Other nations that have high gun ownership and low murder rates never had high murder rates with low gun ownership., so it’s not necessarily the guns. Yet, America is unique in a way. Though we have many gun freedoms, we also have a high violent crime rate. In America, gun ownership seems to function both as an accessory and as a deterrent. But as the study suggests, “both sides of the gun prohibition debate are likely wrong.” The burden of proof may lie on those advocating more gun restriction, but the evidence is not overwhelming or consistent in favor of unregulated gun ownership.
Obviously, it would be foolish for President Obama to restrict our gun ownership rights when he himself is constantly surrounded by armed guards. But that does not give us license to walk the way of the gun. It’s not that disarmament is a bad thing, but that our government has no right to be the one to initiate it on others without demonstrating it themselves. I would perfectly welcome a government decree of unilateral disarmament, so long as the U.S. government was included.
Let’s move beyond that talk of laws and regulations and freedoms as written by plantation owners. Because it’s not about gun rights at all. It’s not about the second amendment and what it means at all. It’s about our culture’s obsession with violence, with the way of the gun, an obsession that does something to our collective consciousness. It’s mythos is steeped in the colonial conquest by means of guns over spears, in the Western frontier’s lawless shenanigans that Hollywood has glorified, in our rap and country music (and Foster the People too), in our trash-talking to strangers who we play Call of Duty with, and the very real (but distant) wars we send our children to that Call of Duty games are based on, in which other children are killed. We think our culture civilized, but we are far from that.
We see our land as some land of pure, unadulterated freedom that was earned through a righteous pursuit on some glorious, ever-continuing battlefield against non-American un-freedom. Our nation foolhartedly believes it was entrusted by God to be the premiere awesome civilization of the world, “light to the nations”. The Church, and the Church only, fills this role of light to the nations, it filled this role very well long before America existed, and it only fills this role so much as Christ lives in it. Is is the blood of Christ that is redemptive, not the shedding of the blood of enemies.
The love of Americans for their guns transforms into idolatry as easy as the love of Americans for their man-made flag. We believe too much in redemptive violence, and our right to redeem ourselves through violence. Guns are not evil, of course. But they are designed to destroy the bodies of living things, and they can amplify the ability to do evil, so we must always keep that in mind. Some weapons are designed to be especially efficient at taking out multiple bodies with ease, and can amplify the destruction of those with such intent. No, they are not evil, as they are just objects. But the purposes for which they were crafted allow more potential for them to amplify evil than to amplify good.
The way of the gun is the way of escalation. If your enemy carries bigger guns, you will want to carry bigger guns, which will want to make him carry even bigger guns, which will make you want to carry even bigger guns. We must fight escalation by not following along this destructive trend. It does not encourage people to love others, but to fear them enough to prepare to counter them with like force. Maybe even revenge. The way of escalation says, “an eye for an eye, and then some.” We want to render revenge, and we seek the means to do so more easily. Law-abiding citizen or criminal, our love of guns makes us the same in this regard.
Guns are symbols, too, and our nation—even our Christians at times—treats them as religious idols. We see this in the many filthy memes pairing Bibles with pistols, presenting to us that the Sword of the Spirit and the Sword of man are to be dual-wielded if we want to be happy and free.
But wielding the Sword of the Spirit is a two-handed task. It is double-edged, and to handle it with another blade is not only sloppy, but potentially idolatrous. What American Revolution coolonial soldiers died for is irrelevant in the face of Jesus. Jesus died so that, among other things, you and I would never dream of straining the gnats out of a man-made law in order to grip man-made swords to a greater capacity, especially in the aftermath of a violent tragedy.
Jesus told his disciples to get swords, but then they say they have two, and he says “that is enough”. It certainly was not enough to defend themselves with (12 fishermen with 2 swords?), and we know that later Jesus disarms Peter. So what is only two swords enough for? The only room we have for any understanding is that it was enough for him to demonstrate later that using the swords of man was to be no part of defending his kingdom. The sword of the spirit, that divides the heart, the sword that we plunge into us and receive new life from, being an opposite of a sword of man, is the sword we wield. We don’t fight with the dysfunctional weapons of the world. If we do what Peter did, we end up slicing the ear of the servants of our enemies, rather than testifying to our enemies. If Jesus’ remarks to Peter were only for that occasion, just for his arrest and death, then he would not have uttered the universal maxim, “those that live by the sword die by the sword.” He told him to put the sword in its place—that is, where it belongs: The sheath.
But rather than being on the front lines of peace and laying down of earthly weapons, contemporary American Christians often put themselves on the front lines of stocking up on weapons in fear of the next big revolution. Why do we do this? I have no answer other than to point to our love for our nation and it’s 2nd amendment exceeding our love for the kingdom and it’s greatest commandment.
If we look to the first century, we will find a different story. We see a people willing to be martyred before their enemies as witnesses to their faith, a people with a tendency to refuse to become soldiers, or attend public executions (unless it was their own people). They certainly didn’t get the idea from hippies or beatniks, and whoever else you want to characterize as “sissy” and “amoral”. And this tradition is so solid that when various people (such as Campbell and Stone of the 1800s) began different movements of restoration throughout church history, this paschio-ism (non-violent passion-ism) was among the teachings brought forth (including refusal to participate in Caesar-sanctioned violence, often called “war”).
Someone was asked, “why would you want to carry assault rifles?” His answer was, “because the government gets to carry assault rifles.” The explanations seems to be this: “We should conform to the world because we fear the world’s ability to hurt the body”. In Christ can I conform to the world? In Christ should I fear that which hurts the body but not the soul? If anything, “you’ll have to pry this gun from my cold dead fingers” conforms more to the world than the Gospel. As Shane Claiborne has said, “The fact that Christians throughout the world regularly identify with a victim of violence — and a nonviolent, grace-filled, forgiving victim — is perhaps one of the most fundamentally life-altering and world-changing assumptions of the Christian faith. Or it should be. ” If less guns is not the solution, neither is more guns. It’s just Jesus.
I’m not interested in taking your guns away. But I also won’t fight for your gun rights. I’ll surely poke fun of a gun-toting government that wants to limit your gun rights, but that’s all the help you’ll get from me. As a Christian I will try to demonstrate how to treat potential threats and enemies as I believe Christ would have us do. “Do good to those who hate you”. “Pray for those who persecute you.” “Resist not the evil-doer.” Jesus wasn’t just talking about the guy down the street that gets on our nerves, as if his kingdom were some kind of sitcom. He meant something very earth-shaking. He was preparing us to be ready for martyrdom in any generation, in any land.
We must understand that our response to tragedy should be Christlike and not pagan. We must also understand that living by the Sermon on the Mount means we are putting our lives in great danger, submitting to the world peacefully, potentially being led like lambs to slaughter, as Christ was to the Cross. It is foolishness to the fleshly way of the world, but wisdom to a spiritual God. Indeed, this would be completely foolish without the hope of the resurrection. The question is, do we believe in the resurrection? When I think about those children who lost their lives so early and so tragically, I know I believe in the resurrection, and I hope to see those children some day.
I don’t want to take away your guns. You might use them to hunt, and it would be wrong to rob you of a tool you use for food. I’d much rather see them hang empty and inert on your mantle (provided you’re not hunting with them), where they will rust and clog while your kitchens brew with use and re-use in preparation for a feast to which even your enemies are invited.
[Added approx. one week later, further thoughts]
So what about this meme?
In the words of Joseph Kelly,
“I agree with this picture. Let’s have the average U.S. citizen, before they are allowed to carry a gun, go through the training that a secret service member must go through (not once, but throughout the course of time they carry a weapon), and let us require that they demonstrate the necessary proficiency to perform well with a firearm under extreme pressure. If they refuse the training or can’t perform well, they can’t carry a gun. Also, let us require that anyone carrying a gun swear an oath that they will put themselves in the line of fire for an unarmed citizen. I think these are reasonable standards for those who wish to exercise their second amendment right.”