The gun control debate is dominating the blogosophere lately and this question has popped into my head a few times. Really, I don’t have any really strong feelings about gun control. I think there are too many guns in the world and I would like to see fewer of my Christian brothers and sisters talk about them as if they are sacred, but as it stands as a political conversation, I think the whole debate is muddied by politics, dirty money, and . . . well, crazy people.
Guns mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I live in a part of the country where hunting is a huge deal. Hunters love their guns. I’ve never been a big fan of hunting and am not sure I could kill an animal with dry eyes, but I respect their rights to want to hunt (hey, at the end of the day it keeps fewer deer from my front fender). I am also coming to better understand the urban culture of protection and defense better. Professional athletes have largely opened our eyes to their need to feel “protected.” My house has never been broken into. I have never been held at gunpoint or knife point . . . so who’s to say that wouldn’t change my mind about everything.
IT’S OUR RIGHT! IT’S ONE OF OUR LAST LIBERTIES! These are the kinds of things I hear Christians saying and see them writing about in their public forums. I put it caps because more times than not they seem to be yelling. To say it is a passionate base would be an understatement.
But today, I conjure up the spirit of Charles Sheldon and his century-old quandary of “What Would Jesus Do?” One of the chief problems of Sheldon’s question is that it sets us up to create a Jesus who looks a lot like ourselves. None of us are very good at seeing Jesus at odds with our own personal beliefs and stances. He lived in such a different time and era, this question often serves as a more of a red herring than anything significantly contributing. But, when it comes to America’s love of guns, I think it is a valid question to ask. Would Jesus get his conceal to carry permit? Would he feel the need to protect himself just in case he was threatened? If someone tried to kill him? We need good guys to use guns to stop the bad guys . . . so the logic goes.
And this is where the Bible gets tricky. We want to uphold Jesus as moral exemplar . . . while at the same time acknowledging that . . . well, he was Jesus. So, we cut ourselves slack at times and provide caveats for following his example. The prospect of more and more innocent Christians throwing their bodies in front of firing weapons is disgusting and seems to prove the aforementioned point. Unless someone stoops to the level of the shooters, how will they ever be stopped?
I understand these questions, and I respect their motives. And yet . . . it’s hard to see Jesus strapped with a pistol to the inside of his robe. I think even the most robust Christian gun-lover would have to admit that – it’s hart to picture. It’s hard to picture him raising his eye to the sight of an assault weapon. It’s hard to see him defending himself when he was attacked . . . be cause he was attacked . . . and he DIDN’T defend himself. It was part and parcel with his message.
John Howard Yoder and others talk of the power structures of our world being organized and ordered by God, but not necessarily meant for Christian participation. Perhaps the only way to stop a tragedy like those that have happened in recent months is to fight force with force. But this is not the way of Jesus. It’s fallout from a Fallen world – and it is not meant for the Christian. We must believe that Jesus’s death was not simply a one time redemptive event (thought it was that), but that it was also an example of what the new kingdom looked like.
I don’t have strong feelings at all about gun legislation. I think that discussion exists as much to distract us from reality as much as anything. My concern is for the tone and rhetoric used by Christians when speaking of weapons. Perhaps asking Would Jesus have gotten his conceal to carry permit is too far afield and instead we should be asking How would Jesus talk about guns? How would he talk about the “right to bear arms” . . . we all realize that that’s not in the Bible, right?