Most of us realize that, to avoid arguments, it’s best to steer clear of two subjects: politics and religion. Lately, because of the huge debate over gun control, a third topic guaranteed to elicit heated words in many settings is the issue of gun ownership. Ask ten people what they think of gun control and you’re liable to get a dozen or more opinions.
Mix any two of these subjects, in certain venues, and you could probably sell tickets to the ensuing brouhaha.
An ABC News poll revealed that 83 percent of Americans, when asked, “What is your religion, if any?” named one that was recognized as a Christian religion. According to Texas Almanac, at least 56 percent of Texans claim to be Christians. Texas ranks number fourteen on a list of most Christian states, and Houston is the ninth most Christian city in America. Dallas edged Houston slightly at number eight, and San Antonio came in twelfth.
This column is not an attempt to irritate or inflame, but since the majority of Texans identify themselves as Christians, it seems logical to address the question of whether Christians should be gun owners. It’s been said there are two sides to every story, but ethic, moral, and religious issues are often more complicated than that. While the question of gun ownership for Christians sounds like a ‘yes or no’ query, many see it as a gray area.
To be clear, the question is not whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to gun ownership for individuals. The Supreme Court has ruled that it does. The question is one of Christian ethics, and it would seem to be relevant to everyone who claims to adhere to the Christian faith and also supports gun rights.
Some argue that government allowance of an action for its citizens does not authorize the same action for Christians. This is a valid argument with which most Christians would agree. Many states allow other acts viewed by most Christians as contrary to their faith, such as abortion. Government authorization does not necessarily agree with the Bible.
The counter argument is that our government is not God, and the constitution is not the Christian creed. Christians answer to a higher power than the president, although Romans chapter 13, among others, requires obedience to the law of the land, as long as it doesn’t contradict God’s rules.
So the issue of gun ownership for Christians hinges on what the Bible says about it, not the government. But instead of clearing up the issue, that fact seems to complicate it even more, because opinions vary widely as to whether Christians should be armed.
Some claim the ‘Golden Rule,’ from Matthew 7:12, means Christians should not hurt anyone, because they would not want anyone to hurt them. If we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, shooting someone seems a poor choice of action. There is also the admonition from Jesus, earlier in the same section, to ‘turn the other cheek’ when confronted with evil.
Of course, if a woman encounters a rape in progress, her choices would be to ignore the crime or try to stop it. By ignoring it she would be treating the rapist(s) as she would want to be treated in that situation. By stopping it she would be treating the victim as she would want to be treated. And the only way for her to stop such an event, especially if there were multiple attackers, would be if she were armed herself.
So the question is prickly, but there seems to be a mandate to help others throughout the Bible. Some, then, believe having a gun would facilitate service to God through helping the helpless, or victims, we may encounter.
But what about self defense? When Jesus was arrested before his crucifixion, the apostle Peter drew his sword and cut off a man’s ear. Many argue that, because Jesus told Peter to put his sword away, we should not defend ourselves.
Of course, Jesus had spent the previous three years with Peter. It seems unlikely that the sword had gone unnoticed all that time. And Jesus didn’t tell Peter to throw the sword away, He told him to put it away.
Indeed, in Luke 22, while sending out His disciples, Jesus commanded them to buy swords. Some claim this is figurative speech, others that Jesus meant what He said. If Jesus meant it literally, it would seem that He intended His followers to defend themselves.
The bottom line is that there isn’t really a bottom line, and even those who advocate gun ownership for Christians agree that it should be a personal choice. Believers are commanded to protect the weak, but the Bible doesn’t explain exactly how they are to do that.
To non-Christians, the question may seem like shadowboxing, but to the majority of citizens, the issue of gun ownership is not just political, but religious.
The only predictable factor in the debate is the fact that those who advocate gun ownership for Christians hold that everyone should decide for themselves. Those opposed insist that no Christian should own firearms.
Both sides agree, however, that whatever you decide, you will one day have to answer for your choice.
Make it carefully.