As published in Crossroad:
Here we are again.
You’re reading the latest article grappling with the most recent public shooting in our nation, and we’re asking the same questions about gun violence. I’ve said these things before. You’ve read them before. The questions aren’t new to us, but every time this happens—the first shots, the events unfolding in alerts and sentence fragments, the aftermath in real time—the questions become more perplexing. Why? How? What’s to be done?
Our pastors are reluctant to talk about it—a reality this magazine has detailed at some length—yet without the clarity of a biblical edict, it seems talking about the problem is the best we can muster. At the same time we must admit that talking about it has yielded few results and no concrete solutions. We’ve reluctantly agreed to disagree, and in doing so failed to produce a meaningful result as a body united in spirit.
The time has come, and it is overdue, when we must yield to the fact that talking about gun violence isn’t actually helping to solve the problem—that people in our communities face death at the barrel of a gun in far greater numbers than in nations with similar cultures, customs and beliefs. “The conversation” has been had, and the situation remains as dire as ever. If the Church is intent on effecting a positive change within its culture, then action must be the result.
What would a roadmap for the Church’s response to gun violence look like? Let’s consider the steps the Church must take—not merely at the congregational level, but at least—to begin offering solutions to the problem of gun violence in our communities.
Recognize guns for what they are: tools of violence.
In this interview, evangelical leader and president of Faith and Action Rob Schenck explains his firearms instructor’s view that unless one is prepared for a circumstance where they will be willing to shoot and kill, it’s better he or she not carry a gun. Schenck recognizes that the primary purpose of a gun isn’t for self-defense—that in fact carrying in self-defense means to accept the destructive nature of a firearm.
Beginning with this bare fact is helpful because it helps us to resist engaging primarily in speculative exercises like asking whether an armed citizenry is a deterrent to gun violence, whether that deterrent is necessary, or how our rights as Americans might change if stronger gun control measures were enacted. The act of killing is treated in the Bible with gravity and warning, surrounded by some of Scripture’s strongest rules and most direct verbiage.
An appropriate view of guns provides a useful structure to operate within. As Christians, we are ultimately anti-death. And as Christians, for whom preserving life’s sanctity is a moral imperative, viewing guns as tools with a deadly design and purpose (and the presupposition rather than the occasion of violence) best serves our moral framework.