Guns & Christianity

14 04 2009

One of the benefits of growing up in South Korea is the freedom from worrying about gunfire. My friends and I could pick a fight with anyone and be assured that the most dangerous thing the opponent would pull out would be a knife, probably a kitchen knife and maybe a butterfly knife if you were a gangster-wanna-be. Most of my friends who ended up in the States for college immediately stopped any of our violent, delinquent activities for fear of retribution by way of gunfire. Knifes, we could handle, but guns were another story.

(From Chattanooga Times)

America truly is unique in its culture of arms. Bob Herbert, in today’s NYTimes Op-Ed column “The American Way“, paints a bleak picture of the culture of violence that is often unnoticed by many. We can blame  such absence in limelight on the media’s overcoverage of the War on Terror and lack of interest in the less exotic local news. But if we are to play the blame game, it has to be for a rectifying purpose, or else we might as well be apathetic. But how do we rectify this culture of violence? 120,000 Americans dead from nonterror homicides since September 11, 2001… And the NRA (National Rifle Association) continues is spreading of arms, for what? To protect ourselves? From each other? Is there an internal Cold War going on where we just ‘up one’ with our weapons in the name of protection? Herbert mentions that Texas is actually considering a bill to allow concealed guns on college campuses. Why? As a measure of protection from shootings like that of Virginia Tech. Whoever it is that drafted that bill certainly has much more confidence in the goodness of mankind than I do…

One thing that frustrates me more than the NRA is the association of Evangelicals with guns. Why is it that people like Sarah Palin who is a professing Christian, love to go hunting and would not want to give up a little bit of individual rights (right to arms) for the sake of another or a society? Why is it that such Christians are so prevalent in America? Do they not understand the second greatest commandment of their own religion? Or is American mainstream Evangelicalism so individualized that it’s lost all sight of any communal good….

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5 responses

1 05 2009
Charlie Fritsch

DC has really strong gun laws, yet they are consistently ranked among the most dangerous big cities in America. In 1954, London reported only 12 cases of armed robbery. Keep in mind this is after a huge war where basically every male learned how to shoot a gun and pistol/shotgun ownership was extremely high. The early 90’s saw a shotgun ban and over 1000 armed robberies a year. Later in the 90’s, a handgun ban was followed by another 10 percent increase in armed robberies. Clearly the amount of guns isn’t what kills people.

Hate to say it, but South Korea wasn’t founded on pure freedom. They were founded on a half-hearted attempt on America’s part to give the world freedom. Now, the ultimate authority there is our guns wielded by our military, and that’s what their freedom is based on. Sadly enough, instead of our freedom in America being protected by individual rights channeled through representative government, we have legislated ourselves right back into the same tyranny we fought against over 200 years ago. Like James Madison said, “Our Constitution was only made for a moral and religious people.” Moral and religious people should be trusted with guns. And who is to say the powers-that-be who do wield the guns are going to use them for moral reasons and not tyrannical ones? It’s all checks and balances baby; the citizenry has to be armed or else we will be tyrannized by the unlimited power that is inherent in most of the governmental systems ever created. The Founders’ system was predicated on gun ownership.

1 05 2009
Paul Park

Thanks for the comment Fritsch. And you’re right, the amount of guns isn’t what kills people. Like that well known quote (supposedly coined by Eddie Izzard), “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people…” Though my post hints at it and though the statement per se may be true, it would be overly idealistic of me to say that ‘if we had no guns at all, then we would not have a gun issue,’ let alone it being unhelpfully naive. And this is because of human depravity, violence is the actual issue, guns are the means to it.

But with that said, the point I was driving at in the post was the issue of abdication of freedom, that is, freedom in the modern American sense. For hunters, guns are related to leisure (correct me if I’m wrong, some may believe self-protection to be a huge part), and I believe it an important Christian ethic to be willing and ready to abdicate a good freedom for the sake of another (Rom 14). And that is why I do not think it correct when Christians are categorized to be gun supporters, republicans, or democrats for that matter. Most American Christians who are supporters of freedom to bear arms, most likely misunderstand the true freedom of Christianity, which is freedom IN the law, not freedom FROM the law. And thus, explaining my comment on abdication, we are able to give up good freedoms for the sake of others, because we are justified to be free IN the law. I believe this has to be the starting point of any discussion on guns restrictions or right to arms, especially for a Christian

1 05 2009
Charlie Fritsch

I totally agree with you on how Christians shouldn’t be categorized as gun supporters, Republicans, or Democrats. Christians should be able to understand these labels in their broader Kingdom context. However, I think the crux of the situation here is whether or not abdication of the right to bear arms would actually work for the good of others. It seems giving up this right would work more for the good crooks, and not as much for your average law-abiding citizen.

Just because the majority of a population wants a gun ban, that doesn’t make that gun ban any more good than if only a small minority supported it. The Founders understood gun rights were a necessity for their government and social system to work. Without gun rights, the whole system would collapse and stray from the founding principles. The fact that we have strayed from those founding principles doesn’t make them any less right. I believe a Christian can, in good conscience, support the right to bear arms that was granted at the founding of this country, and still be free in the law. I think a Christian contemplating abdicating their right to bear arms would seriously have to ask themselves, “Am I giving up this right because it will truly benefit my fellow citizens? Or am I giving up this right because the majority wants me to? And does agreeing with the majority necessarily mean that it works for their good?” Until gun control is proven to reduce crime, the Christian should defend their right to bear arms and not fall into the trap of thinking that agreeing with the majority always works for the majority’s good.

5 05 2009
Paul Park

You’re right in that the crux of the disucssion here is whether the abdication of the right to bear arms would actually work for the good of others. The article cited in the post indicates 120,000 homicides, most of which were gun related. You cite some statistics about armed robberies but I’d like to know how many of them resulted in homicides. Armed robberies are not exactly the same as gun-related deaths and this distinction must be clear to have helpful statistics because if there were no guns in this world, it still does not guarantee the decrease in crime or violence, what it guarantees is the eradication of gun-related deaths. (I say gun-related deaths because robbery can be commited regardless of the weapon, so the issue is specific to gun-related homicides)

And I don’t think it’s fair say that for a person to support gun restriction laws means their way of thinking is “agreeing with the majority always works for the majority’s good.” I think that is a caricature of the other position and is an ad hominem fallacy. I’m sure some supporters of the gun restriction laws have a well developed argument for their position, as I am neither an adamant supporter or a holder of a well developed argument. I just imagine, unrealistic as it may be, what the world would be like without guns, thus the comparison to Korea. It will not necessarily be a world without violence or crime (there probably will be more!) but I suspect, perhaps, a lessening in the lethality of violence and crime.

6 05 2009
charles

alright, let’s have a duel to determine the winner

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