Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gun Control

My article from this week's Algona Upper Des Moines regarding Gun Control:

Q:  Is there a Christian position regarding Gun control, and what principles would guide Christians in their consideration of this question in our nation?

It is only very rarely that I encounter someone who is neutral and has not formed an opinion on one side or the other of this topic.  Among Christians, those on both sides of the issue seem to think that their opinion is the same as God’s position on the matter.

As we consult the Bible on this matter, it is important that we first recognize, as with many issues, firearms were not present in Bible times.  This is the reason we will find no verse actually giving a definitive answer on this subject.  However, other forms of weapons, such as swords, and questions regarding self-defense are addressed in Christian ethics. 

A tradition does exist within Christianity called Pacifism.  This tradition holds that Christians should not engage in violence for any reason even self-defense.  The assumption here is that God will defend the Christian if that is His will, and that if He does not defend them, whatever does happen was His will. 

Those who hold this position would cite such things as Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek” when slapped by a rival or His warning to Peter that “those who live by the sword will also die by the sword.” 

While this tradition is primarily found in small numbers, such as Quakers and certain monastic communities, there has frequently been questioning among Christians about the propriety of Christians engaging in warfare and other forms of violence, even for honorable reasons such as military service to their nation. 

The broader consensus over the course of Christian history and among Christian ethicists, though, has been that self-defense is a permissible Christian action, that military service is an honorable Christian vocation, and that in some instances, such as a father defending his family, a man is required to resist, even to the point of death in defense of his wife, daughters, or others for whom he is responsible. 

In this case, it would be contended that Jesus’ admonition about turning the other cheek regards those who insult or humiliate a person, and not those who pose a credible threat.  They would point to scriptures such as Paul’s instructions in Romans 13 to honor the government, which acknowledge that governments “bear the sword” in God’s service and for the good of their citizens. 

With the exception of governmental commands that require Christians to sin, it is the New Testament’s consistent position that Christians are to obey their government and work for and within good order in their societies.  For Americans, this means honoring the constitution to which our nation is committed and upon which it is founded.  Whatever position Americans take, it ought to honor the constitutional protections provided or to work only through lawful means to amend them to fit present circumstances. 

Ultimately, we cannot say that there is a single, universal, Christian position on gun control.  This is not an issue where we are deciding between sin and righteousness, but rather one where we are faced with the contrast between wise and unwise action.  In such cases, different Christians will be equally convinced in their own positions.  I firmly believe in the wisdom of one side of this argument, but another Christian might believe firmly in the wisdom of the opposite stance, and in the end, there is not a Biblical command as to which of us is right or wrong.

The Christian’s concern in such circumstances would not be for defending his own position or his own self-interest, but instead to work in the interest of enacting the wisest possible solution within the boundaries set by the laws and constitution of the nation.

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