In a recent exchange with a Christian friend who I normally agree with on theological related questions, the matter of Christians owning guns came up. This is not much an issue in the UK, which is just as well since it is illegal to do so, but in the USA it is an issue, especially given the number of gun related massacres taking place in recent years. Some argue prohibiting owning guns might have prevented this and others having guns might prevent worse. Among those arguing for the Second Amendment right to bear arms are many theologically conservatively inclined, prominent Christian leaders, who likely agree with me and my friend on most matters relating to theology. While my earlier consternation that there are otherwise sound Christians who thought like this has gone, this is not so with my friend, realising we have some honest disagreement.
It got me thinking as to why some USA Christians whose theological perspectives I share for the most part should feel so strongly on the matter. My instinct was that for the most part, most in the UK accept restrictions on their liberties, such as not being allowed to own guns, as ingrained in us as part of our history and the price to pay as a citizen. For our USA friends, there is historically a different take – they settled in America in order to find freedom from tyranny, such as what the Pilgrim Fathers faced when the set on their adventure to leave the UK and settle in the New World. My Google search trying to delve into the minds of Christian gun advocates was mainly disappointing, since most hits pointed to material written from a liberal perspective, arguing that those who thought along these lines were mostly misguided, except one titled: “Why do Christians seem to like guns so much?”
In the article the author argues in response to the question: “We carry guns, not because we want to harm people or because we are obsessed with violence, but because we want to be left alone to worship God as we please. This is the purpose of the first Amendment- that Congress shall make no law establishing a state religion, nor prohibiting free practice thereof. We are not violent people. We do not advocate violence against anyone or anything. We are peaceful people. However, if the right to worship God as we please, whenever we please, however we please, is abridged or threatened or prohibited by any means, we will fight. We refuse to live in a place where our freedom to worship God is not guaranteed. If you study history, governments typically do not allow freedom of religion. The vast majority of governments in this world have some kind of restriction on worship, whether it is outright banning of Christianity under Communism and Islamist governments, or soft persecution by extra taxes, etc. The only time governments do not infringe upon the rights of people to worship is when the people are armed. Then, governments leave the people alone. We Christians know this- we’ve studied history and we know that an armed populice leads to limited government. We Christians are not obsessed with guns- we are obsessed with freedom. We believe that we have inherent human rights given by God that no government can take away. Gun ownership is simply a means to ensure that we will always have those rights.”
I am not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing, but I get his point, and don’t see being armed as necessarily contradicting the teaching of Jesus to turn the other cheek, when it relates to our family and community and their rightful expectation to live in peace and security. When my friend quoted “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” Matthew 26:52, it occurred that only a few hours previously Jesus told his disciples: “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one” Luke 22:36. This raises all sorts of questions as to when and whether a Christian should carry weapons, including that of reading verses in context and comparing scripture with scripture. It has also been a bone of contention for some when it comes to military conscription in times of war. My point is while I may not share the strong convictions that my American second amendment friends share, I also take issue with those who argue they are biblically in error to do so.
And while what I write is by way of a stake in the ground for the benefit of those wishing to debate the matter, that is it for the time being. I hope in raising this contentious issue, friends who think differently will remain friends, respecting that freedom of religion includes freedom to think according to conscience. Also, while we do well to remember we are citizens of a heavenly country, we cannot ignore the implications of being citizens of our own earthly country.