Before we get into the meat of the article I want to acknowledge how potentially volatile the topic of guns and gun control can be. Unfortunately, this article may only increase that volatility as I am going to take this time to be an equal opportunity offender believing that Christians on both sides (progressives and conservatives) are fighting the wrong fight when it comes to gun control.
To my conservative friends, the fight for our rights is the wrong fight
I’ve seen a countless number of posts over the last week posting about our “right” to gun ownership. While this is a right as written by the framers of the Constitution, we must not mistake this for a Christian right endowed by God that people are seeking to strip away. The discussion in 1 Corinthians of whether or not Christians could eat meat sacrificed to idols is a perfect analog of our right to gun ownership today.
Whenever you went to the meat market in Corinth you ran the risk of purchasing meat that had formerly been used in ritualistic sacrifice to a god (i.e. idols). For Gentile Christians, this posed no problem because they learned in their conversion that those idols were meaningless pieces of carved architecture. They weren’t real gods, so you could eat the meat with a clear conscience. This was not the case for the Jewish Christians in Corinth. The Jews, who had thousands of years of recorded idol worship and subsequent punishment in their recorded history, wanted to avoid the meat at all cost for fear of repeating their ancestors grave mistake of falling prey to idolatry yet again. The Gentile Christians said “eat and be merry” and the Jewish Christians “you’re sinning and encouraging me to sin with you.” Who was right?
According to Paul, both groups were correct. Did the Gentiles have the right to eat the meat? Yes, because idols are nothing more than worthless carvings (1 Cor. 8:4-6). Was it acceptable for the Jewish Christians to be offended and, dare I say it, triggered by the Gentiles eating of meat? Yes, because of their former association with idol worship (1 Cor. 8:7).
What do you do when both sides are in the right? Here’s what the Holy Spirit says:
“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Cor. 8:8-13)
BUT PAUL I HAVE THE RIGHT TO EAT MEAT!!! Yes you do, but that right is not more important than the souls of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians then valued steaks more than their fellow Christian’s conscience and many Christians now do the same by clinging to their guns to the destruction of their fellow Christians soul. It’s not wrong to have guns, but it is wrong to wave them around and shame fellow Christians who believe it’s wrong to have one. You may have the right to own a gun, but don’t tout that right to the spiritual detriment of others.
Let’s step back from the “fellow Christian” perspective for a moment. What impression do you think non-believers have of Christianity when they see Christians cling to their guns after a school full of children has been massacred? What impression is left when we say “we’re pro-life” in the fight against abortion only to turn around and ignore the recent loss of life to defend our guns? I’ll tell you what they see, hypocritical Christians who care more about lifeless steel than they do lives full of promise and hope. Wrong as they view may be, we can’t blame people for looking at Christians that way when that’s the picture we’ve drawn for them.
Conservatives, we may have the right to own guns, but there are other, more private ways (like calling representatives in Congress), to show your support for guns that won’t result in the tearing down of fellow Christians and the tainting of Christianity in the eyes of those who don’t believe.
To my progressive friends, the fight to remove guns is the wrong fight
For the sake of the (predominantly conservative) audience that reads my articles, I want to do my best to properly characterize the argument about guns from a liberal standpoint. Most progressives do not want to outright ban all guns. There are those who would like to ban all guns of course, but most want to either ban a few guns, or make the gun buying process more stringent (or both). Tighter gun laws, lead to less guns in the hands of those who would do evil, which leads to less tragedies like Parkland, Sandy Hook, and others. This, from what I understand, is the line of reasoning.
This issue with this line of reasoning, in my estimation, is two-fold. First, laws are helpful to the law-abiding. The lawless will continue to ignore the law, meaning stricter gun laws really only keep those that should be able to get guns from getting them. A similar argument has been made in regards to abortion by progressive to conservatives saying: “if laws on abortion become tighter, people will go to less-sanitary environments to accomplish the goal” (There is a dual-purpose in bringing up abortion here that I will get to momentarily).
Second, laws do nothing to change the hearts of individuals. People who do not value human life will not begin to value human life just because there is a law telling them too. People who want to kill themselves or someone else will not stop because there is a law against it. There were no guns in the time of Cain and Abel, and yet Cain was able to slaughter him without problem (Gen. 4:1-8). The problem with Cain? His low view of God, shown by his lazy sacrifice, led to a low view of God’s creation.
The removal of guns will not keep people from having a low view of God’s creation, specifically the lives of other humans. We can pass laws all day long, but none of them will change the general disregard and lack of care we have for others. Furthermore, when you deny the rights of others to carry a gun for fear that it will cause loss of life, but affirm the right of a woman to choose what to do with the human inside of her, whether they will allow it to live or die you portray the same disgusting hypocrisy prevalent in the lives of conservative Christians.
Progressives, you have every right to fight for stricter gun laws, but you’d be far more successful addressing it on a personal level, speaking to the hearts of individuals, rather than trying to enact sweeping gun laws that will ultimately accomplish very little.
Perhaps you disagree with the points I’ve laid out thus far, but I hope you can agree with me on the following: the public grandstanding we do on social media does not lead to anything productive in regards to gun control and in spreading Christianity to others. If I’m correct and these wars we’re waging are ineffective and hurtful to Christianity, what are the correct battles we should be fighting?
So what is the correct fight?
Fighting for the lives of others – Conservatives, if we’re going to say that we’re pro-life, we need to fight for the lives of all people. This means listening to others discuss laws and actions they believe will lead to better protection of lives from guns. It is nonsensical to ignore all discussion of stricter gun laws. The fact of the matter is, far too many lives are lost every year due to gun violence, it would be prudent to listen to potential preventative measures it indeed we are as pro-life as we say we are.
Fighting for the souls of others – Progressives, its okay to concede that getting rid of guns won’t get rid of the malice in the hearts of evil people. Guns are one of many tools that evil people use to kill others (knives, bombs, cars, and fists also accomplish this goal each year). If you really want to fight against guns, get to the heart of the issue. Stricter gun laws, though potentially helpful, will not serve to eradicate the problem. People need to hear that their life matters because they were created in the image of One who loves them deeply.
If you’ve made it this far into the article, I applaud you for your patience with me as I try to navigate my way through these tumultuous waters. Chances are good that you’re tired of hearing about this subject, and it’s on that that you and I can completely agree.
What if instead of posting about guns, we started posting about ways to reach those around us. I think we’d find that turning our attention from guns to our neighbors will accomplish the desired goal that both conservative and progressive Christians share, bringing others into the kingdom of God, to be heirs with Jesus, and be called the children of God.