The PB is certain about gun control, or, A comment I wish we hadn’t deleted
Back on December 27th, one of our readers asked why SF kept going on about gun control without bringing in the Bible. An SF colleague deleted the comment, with an explanation you can read at the link.
But I wish I’d engaged the question, especially now that the Presiding Bishop of TEC, fresh from calling people who disagree with her terrorists and mass murderers, has proclaimed gun control advocacy as a(nother) Christian duty. It is so cool how many articles of faith emerge from a church that proclaims itself a core doctrine free zone.
So, a belated series of thoughts on why an ostensibly Christian blog might critique gun control advocacy. And I’ll bring in Scripture.
1) Gun control advocacy, like any number of other litmus test issues, inevitably devolves into legalism and a false religion of human works: “If you don’t support this, you’re not a ‘good person.’ And being a ‘good person’ is the message of Jesus, right?”
Well, no, that’s wrong. Profoundly wrong. It hit me full force reading the Daily Offices over the last few weeks:
“...we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:16)
And it’s loud and clear in the Epistle for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany:
“If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
We’re not justified by supporting gun control or any other cause. The church obscures the message of Jesus when it spews out litmus tests and club membership handshakes in place of Christ crucified.
Now, I’ll concede here that I would be wary of someone saying, “Here’s the New Testament reason for the 2nd Amendment.” I actually agree with some of the progressives who cringe when somebody proof texts with, “Jesus said, ‘Get yourself a sword.” Arms are a symptom of the fallen creation, and if you want gun control, bring people to Christ so they will live in the new heavens and new earth from which violence is banished.
2) Jesus warned against
You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:24)
Not to trivialize gun violence, but what we have right now are some statistically rare but sensational stories driving a “There oughtta be a law!” panic. The odds of such incidents happening are, as they say, less than getting struck by lightning/attacked by a shark.
Meanwhile, there are camels being swallowed. Alcohol does demonstrably more harm, in more ways, than gun violence. But Episcopalians continue to wink and nudge about booze as a church staple. Bars do well when our conventions come to town. While we pass resolutions about “recovery,” they’re kinda like having a greasy cheese burger and fries as an a.m. hangover cure. It’s back to the bar in the p.m.
But advocating for gun control lets us put on our pious face for the public. Costs us nothing, demands nothing of us but “correct” opinion, and demonizes everybody else as the problem. Strain out their gnats, swallow our camel.
3) Gun control advocacy mires the church in proof texting every bit as silly as that which it claims to scorn.
The PB’s latest message says,
“We believe all God’s people should be able to live in peace, as Zechariah dreams, ‘old men and women shall again sit in the streets…And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing.’ The prophet reminds his hearers that even if this seems impossible, with God it is not. [Zech 8:4-6] I urge you to add your voice to those clamoring for peace. Call your legislators and sue for peace.”
dreamed spoke God-given words about ruined Jerusalem and its temple being rebuilt by God’s mercy. They were in ruins because God had lifted his protection, due to the people’s routine, cavalier disregard for the Law of Moses. They weren’t innocent people, slaughtered because Babylonians lacked sword and bow control. They were an internally weakened community, ignoring God’s prophets, and overpowered by a more powerful ungodly community. Future peace is offered, not by legislation (they were dispersed and not even functioning as a nation, if you actually read Zechariah), but by the mercy and inspiration of God.
In New Testament terms, Zechariah’s prophecies open up our understanding of Jesus, the one coming to gather us out of earthly exile and into the coming kingdom of God. Gun control advocacy reduces this magnificent message, treasure for which we are called to be stewards, to a moralistic exhortation to write letters and pass laws.
In short, church advocacy for gun control distorts and trivializes the witness of the church. It can squander our moral voice and render us bullies and hypocrites, as we pass laws that don’t cost us much and which demonize others while glossing over our own substantial sins.
A Christian might find gun control a prudent social policy, and debate this on the merits of evidence. But other Christians might, on the evidence, find it an unwise policy and argue against it.
When you start saying, “This is God’s will,” you’ve probably run out of evidence. And Biblical evidence for or against arms control, on this side of the coming kingdom, is scant to nil. Christians practice peace as fruit of the Spirit, not because the state deprives them of a particular weapon.
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