Ready … Aim …
My Google search for Christians and Gun Violence got some 1,130,000 ‘hits’ [no pun intended] in .38 seconds [still no pun intended].
Relevant Magazine writer Dargan Thompson said that Christians need to bite the bullet and discuss guns. She could have said, ‘THEIR guns.’ Each Advent, we proclaim Jesus as Prince of Peace. Yet rhetoric and behavior belie another truth about Christians and gun culture. In the US, guns are themselves a religion, and evangelical Christians are their prophets.
Guns Я Us
Like guns, perspectives on them and their control are plentiful.
Sharon Hodde Miller [presumably] says that all Christians can back better gun control. Russell Moore is suspicious of gun control. Equip.org offers two views and lets you decide. After the perfunctory hand-wringing, Got Questions courageously declares this to be a personal, not a moral issue and lets you decide. And Pastor Whitney’s Institute on the Constitution? With courses relating God and government, Christianity and Constitution plus cordial relations with the Liberty Council, you can likely guess. If not, masochists can gratify their darkest desires with Mr. Bullets Я Beautiful.
Finding our Voice
While mass shootings gain attention and motivate activists, far more gun related deaths happen in other circumstances. Fox News assembled these gun related deaths for a single day. Eugene Sutton and Ian Douglas put this in perspective across time.
Every 7-8 years, one million Americans are killed or injured by firearms in a country that has nearly more guns than people.
Thompson is correct. Discussion is needed. It is also happening. It will continue to happen because it must. One venue for this conversation is the Armor of Light documentary on the subject featuring Rev. Rob Schenck.
‘Many pastors share with me privately that they are very concerned with the number of people who are not just procuring firearms for defensive purposes, some are bringing them to church.’
He says that:
‘Most pastors have said to me, “I just don’t touch it. It’s too volatile. It ends up dividing the church.”’
And he says:
I had a growing concern as I watched folks in my own evangelical community demonstrating a kind of escalating fear about a lot of things—government, terrorism, fear of home invasions, of being robbed or murdered.
Noel Murray also interacted with Rev. Schenck and writes:
‘Schenck finds his fellow evangelicals parroting the idea that firearms “protect the innocent.” Even harder for Schenck, the goalposts keep moving for gun enthusiasts, from mere “self-defense” to active vigilantism.’
Thompson also interviews Abigail Disney for her role in this production. Disney believes that it is among white, evangelical, conservative Christians where:
‘…the disconnect is … largest between language about the sanctity of human life and the embrace of this culture. It’s not just the gun, it’s a language and a set of values around the gun. I call it yippie-ki-yay culture—this sort of looking forward to the conflict, not exhausting all the other possibilities first, and a blitheness and a disregard for the taking of human life.’
I can’t say whether this passes the formal definition, but perhaps yippie-ki-yay culture, looks a little like this:
Facing our Steel Dragons
If there’s one thing we grip as firmly as our guns, it’s the narratives that rationalize them. Of course for many, guns are their own rationalization. And as safety and justice arguments easily replace trust in God with a sidearm, today’s video is on target to regard the hold guns have over us as idolatrous. It isn’t that we keep guns as much as our guns that ‘keep’ us.
Chad Hall is Director of Coaching with Western Seminary faculty. As a much needed corrective to Mr. Whitney’s Institute on the Constitution [IOTC], Hall says that American values such as patriotism, nationalism and war [etc.] are not necessarily Christian values, and that the assertion to the contrary quickly devalues religion. Hall sees that often, there is nothing uniquely Christian about the way gun debates are framed.
We have to ask, What does God think of all this? And how should a Christian approach this issue in a faithful and thoughtful way?
Hall notes that God’s kingdom brings the world under Christ’s authority not from a gun barrel, but on a cross. Perhaps in somewhat that spirit, Brian Kammerzelt’s 4 things Christians Need to Remember about Gun Control is no polemical piece but a simple reminder of four things:
- Love God
- Seek first the kingdom
- Love others
- Love your enemy
A Christian Response
Liturgy is a powerful and essential part of Christian worship and witness. And as some see it, narratives of patriotism, nationalism, chauvinism, individualism, etc. are liturgical counter-inventions that contest God’s kingdom. From this perspective, all life is a litany practiced toward God or idols. Surely then, church can incarnate in appropriate ways a kingdom of God perspective in reply to this and other crises of our time.
- A Litany for Gun Violence Prevention
- Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence
- The Way of the Cross: Challenging a Culture of Violence
- Sample Prayer Vigil on the First Anniversary of Newtown
This interfaith liturgy alone gives fundamentalists their desired rationale to boycott such events and to host anti-gun restriction events in their own political temples. But those who prefer witness minus anal retentiveness might be open to attending events.
Several other starting points for potentially useful resources include:
It’s time to ‘bite the bullet’ on gun culture. As analyses and rebuttals on mass shootings multiply, it behooves Christians to know where lies their faith allegiance lies in these things. It is not only the power of guns but the sway of this culture which indicates that we are discussing one of the ‘powers of this age.’ Nor should we forget the staggering amount of money that changes hands as guns are sold and bought each year.
The sheer number of gun-related deaths, the dominance of cultural fear, the evolving cultural narratives surrounding guns, and their power to silence proclamation in the church — these require that Christians take their stand beneath the sign of the cross, and face our steel dragons.