Should Christians support gun control?

Published 10:41 pm Friday, August 17, 2012

Last month, The Rev. James Martin, a priest writing in the weekly Catholic magazine “America,” argued in light of the recent tragic shootings in Colorado, that if Christians are to be consistently pro-life they must be in favor of gun control.

Though it is true that the central motifs to the moral teachings of Jesus are peaceful, it is not true that the sum of the Christian message is innately pacifistic.

Proponents of Christian pacifism often cite Jesus’ reaction to Peter having cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus on the eve of the crucifixion in John 18. They say “Jesus plainly rebuked Peter for his violence!” Not so. Jesus rebuked Peter for his misinterpretation of Jesus’ need to endure the violence of the Cross.

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Jesus said, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11 NIV84) Remember, Peter had been following Jesus for more than three years, and he was still carrying a sword. That fact all by itself smacks against the pure-pacifist view of Jesus. Apparently, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with armed friends.

What about Jesus’ words in Luke 22:36? “He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (NIV84)

Surely a central tenet of the Christian faith is non-violence. Christians are instructed to pray for their enemies. They are instructed to combat evil with love. It’s also true that Jesus clearly allows his followers to be prepared to defend themselves from the vile deeds of wicked men.

Logically we must concede that there is no such thing as a pure pacifist. Any pacifist who utilizes his freedom to avow pacifism does so because another man was willing to fight to secure that freedom for him. Such a man employs violence for the sake of self-defense and the promotion of liberty by proxy — through the willingness of others to fight on his behalf.

Getting at the root causes of violence is the concern of true religion. Violent people inflict violence. We can talk of stricter gun laws, but that is a bit like trimming the hedges, rather than chopping the root.

It has been said that it is madness to talk peace to a wolf. Martin’s proposition is to defang the wolf, to disarm violent men. However, he will still be instinctively a wolf and remain dangerous. We need to tame the wolves in our culture, not manicure their fangs.

Men and women are principally enslaved to violent behavior, because they have no peace within themselves. The violence they inflict on the world around them is a reflection of the unrest inside them. It is to that unrest that religion speaks.

We cannot love our neighbor until we love God, and we cannot accomplish a greater degree of love for God and acquire the consequent love for our neighbor it brings with even the strictest of gun laws. We need heart change, not stricter gun laws.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV84)