Sandy Hook and the Tearing Asunder of Evangelical Christianity

Sandy Hook Evangelical
Is it just me, or is the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting doing more to point out the great rift within evangelicalism than the publication of any Rob Bell book?

I’m not just talking about evangelical bloggers and intelligentsia.  I’m talking about the ordinary followers who broadcast their opinions about every headline and every event on social media.  In the wake of the elementary school massacre, many Facebook and Twitter users immediately took the opportunity to spout their ideology on gun rights, gun control, and school prayer—most without regard for tact.  This post was born from my dissatisfaction, even disgust, with what fellow Christians were posting on these sites and their personal blogs.

In addition to terrifying every parent out of their minds (myself included), this event has shockingly revealed the gap between traditional evangelicals and Red Letter Christians more than any other recent event.  Despite our differences, I’d like to argue that we as believers can carefully parse our words of criticism while maintaining the unity of the evangelical church.  Now, I’m not sure if this is possible—or even desirable.  There seems to be two competing visions of God at work here.  To illustrate this, I’m going to highlight two of the main points of discussion, post-Sandy Hook, that have captured the Internet: the topics of guns and God’s public role.

1) The Antichrist Gun Culture (yes, I wrote “antichrist”)

The first area is the wide (and widening) gap over guns.  Christian leaders like John Eldredge, a teacher I once held respect for, blamed the crisis on pure evil and mocked any suggestion that gun control initiatives would alleviate such violence.

Let me preface my opinion here by stating that I am not particularly zealous about gun rights or gun control.  I do not own a gun nor have I ever been hunting in my life—although I’m from an area of the country and an extended family where guns and hunting are prominent.  This is not an issue to which I’ve given much thought or passion prior to Sandy Hook.  (I’m sure this might be different if I was raised as a hunter or if someone close to me were a victim of gun violence.)  But far too many Americans—and even Christians—treat guns as American as apple pie and as sacred as the cross.  After reading so many ridiculous defenses of the need for more guns over the past two days, I think it is my Christian duty to respond.

The equivalent of a gun in Jesus’ day was the sword.  This isn’t a perfect analogy but it is the only one we have to work with.  In what’s become a cliché but is forever relevant, Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword” (Matt. 26:52, HCSB).  Judging from Jesus’ response to Simon Peter’s reliance on a weapon to defend Him from arrest, relying on a gun for self-defense seems quite un-Christlike—even antichrist.  The only sword praised in the Bible is the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, the double-edged sword proceeding from the mouth of the triumphant Christ.  Like the Psalmist of old, we should trust in that for protection.  Leaning on anything else trusts in our own ways—in other words, self-salvation.

Related: James Dobson, “I Think He [God] has Allowed Judgment to Fall Upon Us”

The NRA suggestion that a gun is necessary for personal protection proves Christ’s words of wisdom.  While perusing the Sandy Hook updates the other day, I came across a story about a 4 year old who found his parents hidden gun and accidentally shot his 2 year old sibling to death. Try and tell this family that guns don’t kill people, only crazy people do.  A handgun hidden (albeit poorly) for “personal protection” ruined this family when it tragically took one of their child’s lives.  Go ahead—blame the negligent parents, but without the gun in the home, this tragedy would never have happened.  Go ahead, blame the mental illness or blame the mom, but without easy access to guns the Sandy Hook tragedy wouldn’t have happened as it did.

To paraphrase the above scripture in Bob Marley fashion, “Put your [gun] back in its place because all who take up a [gun] will perish by a [gun].”  Back in its place.  I’m not arguing complete gun control here.  While the world might be better off without guns in some ways, clearly guns are here to stay.  Hunting rifles obviously serve a constructive purpose in many peoples’ lives. What I am arguing against is the gun culture that many Christians have bought into.  Absolute gun control is not the whole answer (but obviously banning assault rifles is a common sense step that even Justice Scalia admitted was constitutionally permissible).  It’s the gun culture that we as believers must attack—and certainly not embrace.

Jesus made clear at least once that it was allowable to possess weapons.  He tells the disciples to trade their cloaks to buy swords in Luke 22.  When they note they already have two in their possession, Jesus says “That’s enough.”  I know some will note this was a one-time authorization to fulfill the “outlaw” prophesy of Isaiah 53:12.  But this passage also tells me two things: 1) The disciples were carrying weapons and Jesus had not previously chastised them; and 2) Jesus told the disciples that an excessive amount of weaponry was unnecessary (i.e., two was enough for all the disciples; so large weapon caches are inappropriate).  But let us not forget, he then made clear that these were not to be used in self-defense or defense of His freedom or honor.

So, while I am not calling for strict new gun control regulations as the end of all violence, I am calling into question the claims of fellow believers who desperately cling to guns as if they are the instruments of their salvation.  There is no account of the early church fathers using these two swords to defend themselves after Peter’s indiscretion in the garden.  They willingly accepted their martyrdom in all cases.  Christianity and the gun culture is an unholy alliance.  We don’t often hear this pointed out because of the perception that American conservatism (and its fetish for guns) is one and the same with true Christianity.  Come on church—let’s get back to our roots: Christ and His teachings!  Let’s trust in God, not guns.

This division over guns is what the Very Rev. Gary Hall calls “the gun lobby” and “the cross lobby.” It’s a shame that some Christians are coming down on the opposite side of the cross.  They are redefining their Christ as a vengeful monster from a bad comic book.  (Yes, such a comic does exist.  I suggest gun-carrying Christians take a look—and before you yell “Blasphemy!” think about whether a Christ-follower with a gun is any less absurd.) If we can’t agree that Jesus and automatic weapons don’t mix, how do we agree on anything?  We must serve different Jesuses—that is the only conclusion one can take away.

2) God and Public Life

The second area is the continual discussion of God’s place in public life, including schools.

Brave New Films

I study religion and politics.  Let me tell you—religion and public life are so intertwined in America, and Christianity has such a privileged place, that we are unique among the nations of the world.  (Of course much of what passes for religion is superficial at best, but genuine faith will always be hard to come by—see Matt. 7:14.)  To blame a lack of reliance on God for this most recent tragedy is a slap in the face of the victims and their families who attended church before or after the shooting.

James Dobson, Bryan Fischer, and Mike Huckabee all blamed the shooting, one way or another, on a lack of official recognition of God in America and His judgment upon our land for rejecting Him and/or His teachings.  Dobson’s explanation of God’s judgment sounded disturbingly similarly to Westboro Baptist’s take on things.  Do you serve a God who punishes policymakers for rejecting Him by killing children?  If Christians want to place blame, blame the culture of violence—not the Prince of Peace.  The Westboro Baptist god is not our God, no matter what Dobson says.  Huckabee later rolled back his claim that prayer in schools would prevent such tragedies.  This was just for the cameras because fellow Christians all know what he meant.

Also by Joshua: Red Letter Christians on Campus – Do We Have a Responsibility to Shut Our Siblings Up?

Head’s up Huckabee—kids pray in school every day.  There is no ban on prayer!  I even led a prayer group in high school that met regularly.  We do not need the government forcing us to say officially-sanctioned prayers in school each day.  Do we think being forced to say a prayer is any prayer at all?  Do we think that in the not-so-distant days of Christendom, when all members of society were considered “Christian” and our nations were “Christian,” that faith was genuine? We have come so far and need to respect the rights of other religious traditions.  We argue for freedom for our missionaries to evangelize in Islamic countries but then we want to remake America in their same restrictive mold.  Sure, today, our faith is sometimes looked down upon, marginalized, and spat on—but the church is in a much better place now that we have regained the pre-Constantinian role of sojourners in a sinful world rather than the inquisitors of godless governments.  Let’s open our eyes and do the good work of God instead of expecting our government to do it for us!

John Eldredge, as I said before, blamed the crisis on the evil acts of the enemy.  While I agree with his overall take on spiritual warfare and the need for the church to recognize the battle we’re in, expecting policymakers to pinpoint evil as the target for policy solutions is outright ridiculous.  Public policy is based in measurable steps to combat public problems.  I know—I have two graduate degrees in the field.  Can you imagine how ludicrous it would be to have a discussion on Capitol Hill about a bill to combat the forces of absolute evil?

Wait, I can!  Defund war, reign in the availability of automatic weapons, and end capital punishment.  This is not what Eldredge is referring to in his comments.  He likens any efforts at gun control to “crying for the trees to be cut down while [we] ignore the [evil] wind.”  (As if the wind doesn’t become a much greater threat when it has trees to work with.)

Progressive Christian bloggers have rightly responded to the Christian Right—some with harsh, explicit language.  I have seen no less than five blog posts (even on RLC) using profanity to refer to these Christian teachers as “f*cking idiot[s]” and purveyors of “bullsh*t.”  When I read these, I initially wanted to think, “Yeah, give it to ’em!  Tell them what they really are!”  Then I stopped and wondered if this kind of “dialogue,” if you can call it that, simply serves to highlight the weaknesses of a more-progressive Christianity and—far from convincing our conservative brethren—simply pushes them farther away from where we want them to go.  There may be a time for strong language, but there is always a cost to such outbursts.

In Sum

It is clear that my God, the God of Jesus, is not in favor of the gun culture or forcing himself on non-believers with government-sanctioned school prayer.  Shouldn’t this be obvious to all Christ-followers?

But what larger point am I trying to make besides critiquing conservative takes on God and guns?  As Eldredge says, this tragedy and the reaction to it are “more important than we think.”  In my mind it is revealing just how little Red Letter Christianity has in common with a faith that elevates the Second Amendment over the First.  I think these two differences are too great to simply chock up to liberal and conservative politics.  (You cannot excuse a perversion of the faith by simply claiming the labels of liberalism or conservatism.)

What can we each do about this division?  For starters, we can be civil and work to spread the Red Letter teachings of Christ far and wide.  And continue to call out our fellow believers in love—and in a tasteful manner—whenever they express beliefs or attitudes at odds with the Christ of scripture.  Let’s make clear to the world that these religious teachers, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, do not speak for God.  And pray, as Jesus did in John 17, for the unity of all believers in Christ.  It’s just that in recent days it’s been much easier to live this out with our Catholic, Orthodox, and mainline Protestant brothers and sisters than with our fellow evangelicals.  I hope this changes as more and more younger evangelicals begin to recognize the institutionalization of antichrist teachings in the church that alienate the world from the true messages of Christ—peace, love, and grace.

To paraphrase Tiny Tim this Christmas, “May God help us—everyone.”

Joshua D. Ambrosius, Ph.D., is an urbanist, religionist political scientist who is completing a book manuscript titled A Politics of Selflessness, a rethinking of Christian political theory and action. Holding graduate degrees in public policy from the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Louisville, he is currently an assistant professor at the University of Dayton, a Catholic Marianist institution in Dayton, Ohio. His latest research on religion and politics appears in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, downloadable for free here.

Print Friendly

About the Author

Joshua D. Ambrosius

Joshua D. AmbrosiusJoshua D. Ambrosius, Ph.D., is an urbanist, religionist political scientist who is completing a book manuscript titled A Politics of Selflessness, a rethinking of Christian political theory and action. Holding graduate degrees in public policy from the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Louisville, he is currently an assistant professor at the University of Dayton, a Catholic Marianist institution in Dayton, Ohio. His latest research on religion and politics appears in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, downloadable for free here.View all posts by Joshua D. Ambrosius →

  • otrotierra

    I can’t find any scripture where Jesus demanded government-sanctioned mandatory public prayer. But Jesus did have something to say about praying in public… who will tell Mike Huckabee? Will he and his followers listen?

    • Frank

      Jesus was talking about those that pray publicly to elevate their own sense of self-importance. Public prayer is not wrong unless the heart is not in the right place.

      • Indeed – Jesus commended one public prayer, when it was “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Motivation is at least as important as place.

  • Mrs Woo

    Thank you. A very interesting post. I try not to get sucked in to generalizing about people but sometimes I am tempted beyond what I can bear into thinking American evangelicals are crazy people. I think that many have an evangelical veneer (for cultural respectability perhaps) rather than anything that would find itself at home in the gospels. I do not believe that christianity sits easy with any culture, whether that is a wider secular culture or religious sub cultures.

  • The demons are making themselves known in the evangelical church. Just like in the story of the Gerasene demoniac, the pigs are racing for the cliff, which is hopefully revolting enough to those among us whose hearts haven’t been completely hardened.

    • Drew

      Congratulations on getting published on Huffington Post, where liberal secularists go to get their daily news. I hope you take great pride on identifying the sins of conservative figures and putting them all in one post; great research skills. However, as a “pastor,” perhaps you should be more worried about the decline of Christianity rather than being hopeful that conservative Christianity go into decline.

      • Why is Jesus absent in your posts, Drew?

      • 22044

        I read the post. It’s not bad. I have a different view on some things than Morgan does, but as he describes his journey within the evangelical culture, he’s come to some conclusions that may be helpful.
        I have to disagree with the opinion that D’Souza is an “Obama hater”. I continue to be concerned that Christians who voted for Obama may see his re-election as a sign of advancing God’s kingdom. Since Morgan is a pastor, he needs to be extra careful because of God’s harsh judgment on those who are called to pastor or teach.

    • Mrs Woo

      Blimey Morgan, what a great piece and what an insightful vision. I really pray that a growing movement exists of believers who are able to make the distinction between faith in Christ and the American culture

  • Frank

    We are a cu.ture that celebrates the killing of over 21,000 innocent unborn children each week. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions based on this fact.

    • 21st C. Episcopalian

      Luke 1:39-45 The “fetus” Jesus jumped for joy in his mother’s womb. Oops, the pro-“choice” folk didn’t catch that scripture, I guess.

      • Minor nit-pick – it was John the Baptist jumping for joy. But still, point well made.

        • 21st C. Episcopalian

          You are correct; I need to edit better before posting.

  • Great article, and I very much agree. The only question I have is, why NOT call for strict new gun regulations? America has more guns than Australia, Japan, the UK, France, etc. and we have more gun deaths than those nations. The problem and the solution is pretty obvious to everyone else in the world (gee, America, why do you let anyone buy any gun they want, especially when schoolkids and moviegoers get slaughtered pretty often?), but in America we refuse to deal with it. We wrap ourselves in the flag, in cowboy hats, and in the Bible, pontificating on human evil, blah blah blah. But human evil doesn’t explain Newtown; the presence of killing machines in Nancy Lanza’s house explains it. I have no doubt that Japan is just as evil as the U.S., and even more secular, but somehow their schoolkids don’t get shot. Ours do. They have gun restrictions, and we continually remove ours. As they say, do the math.

    America is like a small town that refuses to erect a stop sign at a dangerous intersection, because the rich guy in town won’t let us. Every time there’s an accident, the churches rush out to pray that the bloodshed will end, but won’t exactly demand the erection of a stop sign, because, you know, “a stop sign will never stop human evil…” How weak and pathetic is that? If the church wants to be a countercultural force, take a stand against the NRA’s insanity, and remind the world that Christ would never tolerate the slaughter of 6-year-olds.

    • Frank

      Christ would never tolerate the slaughter of over 21,000 innocent unborn children either yet many celebrate the choice to do so. Now THAT’S pathetic!

      • Good stance, Frank. Do nothing on any other issue until Roe is repealed. That’s incredibly passive but I applaud your commitment to sitting on your hands.

        • Frank

          Rick you only expose your own bias and lack of discernment to assume I am doing nothing.

          Meanwhile innocent children are being slaughtered daily. What are YOU doing about it?

          • Well, I helped found the Democrats for Life chapter in my state. Thanks for asking, Frank.

        • Undergraduate

          Know what Rick – you’re the fucking hypocrite here pal. You and your ilk may actually think that the horror of Sandy Hook is going to propel your lunacy to legitimacy, and that you’ll be able to ban “assault” weapons. Tell me this, Rick, how are you going to get my AR-15? By persuading me with your “logic” that “we” will be safer if I don’t have it? don’t think that is EVER going to fly, pal. And, know what? Nobody in Congress, really, believes that either. So go on, pontificate, blather, whine, simper and complain about guns and the “gun culture.” That’s ALL you’ve got.

          • Is your AR-15 stored next to your Bible in your magic patriot drawer, Undergrad?

  • Drew

    Congratulations, Editors of RLC. You have successfully posted another disgusting, inflammatory article that has little to do with Christianity and pushes a fundamentalist, secular, progressive, ecumenical agenda down our throats. This site no longer resembles anything close to Evangelical Christianity or the viewpoints of Tony Campolo.

    The track that this website is taking troubles me. Up until last year, RLC was a place where Evangelical Christians could gather and discuss Christianity, whether it be “liberal” or “conservative” views of Evangelical Christianity. Sometime last year, RLC became a place where liberal Christians of all denominations began to rally to discuss liberal Christianity, with almost no opposing or challenging viewpoints. This past week, RLC has went off the rails, a place where fundamentalist liberal Christians try to shove down our throats the ecumenical and fundamentalist liberal Christian movement. If you like guns, you’re the antichrist! If you are angry and hateful and intolerant, you’re an OT prophet!

    Josh, there is not a chasm in Evangelicalism between conservatives and liberals. The chasm is between the majority of Evangelicals that take the Bible seriously and the minority of Evangelicals that are liberal/conservative fundamentalists that take politics and secular ideologies seriously, that seek to redefine or splinter Evangelicalism. I know you want to frame it as “us” vs. “them,” the fake conservative Evangelicals and the “real” Christians, the RLC’s. You do realize how fundamentalist this sounds, correct?

    Your call for civility is weak, especially since you spend the entire article stereotyping conservatives and gun owners. You also essentially take a pass on calling out incivility, more worried about how it effects the “movement” rather than the incivility in and of itself.

    I haven’t even really gotten to the core points of your article yet, and that’s because there is not much to discuss. I disagree with both sentiments. The theological arguments you use are thin or non-existent, and your article is full of sterotypes and caricatures of people and viewpoints that you are in opposition to.

    What’s going to kill Christianity is what has always killed Christianity, and that is love for other things besides Christ. U.S. Democratic Party politics is right up there on the list. I don’t know how Christians can say guns need to be outlawed because they “can” be used to kill people to the tunes of thousands a year, while they say that abortions need to be legalized and tax-payer funded because they “always” kill people to the tune of millions a year. If that’s not worshipping the U.S. Democratic Party lock, stock, and barrel, I don’t know what is. (Not saying that you have this viewpoint, Josh, but many of your compatriots do).

    • If you don’t like caricatures, why the nasty caricature of Democrats?

      • Drew

        I’m glad that’s the only thing you want to quibble about in my entire post.

        The Democratic party platform supports abortion without restrictions and taxpayer funded abortion. This is a fact. The Democratic party platform supports banning assault weapons. This is a fact. In other words, what I am saying about the U.S. Democratic party is 100% factual, as per their own written documents. Not all Democrats believe everything their party is selling, which is why I didn’t say “Democrats,” but rather, U.S. Democratic Party.

        Sorry to burst your bubble, Rick, but your “gotcha” tactic fell a bit short.

    • Trevor

      You are right, love for other things other than Christ is what kills Christianity. If we are too attached to politics, then we are killing Christianity, whether liberal or conservative. Now it is fine to look at gun control in light of what the Bible says and we may come to varying opinions. But it was a rude and harsh remark to say that because “democrats” approve of abortion they have no room to talk about gun control. Next to no Christians (liberal or conservative) are pro-abortion, and to claim that since the liberal position on abortion is unbiblical how can their position on gun control be? I don’t even know that I agree with everything in the article, but all you did here was attack the writer and democrats. You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself here.

      • Drew

        I vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and voted Obama in 2008 and 2012, so I am not against Democrats or much of the Democratic party platform. What I am against is allegiance to the Democratic Party platform over the Bible. I see many liberal Christians that make arguments on abortion and gun control that have no basis in the Bible but can be found verbatim in the Democratic Party platform. That deeply troubles me (Republicans do the same thing as well). However, not all Democrats follow the Party Platform, including myself, so I was not speaking of all Democrats.

    • Plenty of teeth gnashing and frothing-at-the-mouth, Drew. TIme to worship at a different altar.

      • Drew

        Ever since I have been on this site all I have seen you do is post negative comments about conservative Evangelicals and Evangelicalism. I have never seen you engage in dialogue more than one or two sentences, content to talk in cliches and in one and two line vague prose, bemoaning the “politically correct.” If you have something to say in response to my post, please by all means say it. If all you have is cliches and one-liners, you’re wasting your time.

        • Why is Jesus missing in your comments, Drew?

          • 22044

            Oh, one more thing.
            Where is Jesus in your comments, Otro?
            I never see Him in those.

            Not that I need it, but I’m still waiting for you to apologize for slandering me & others on

            this blog?
            You know who delights in the language of slander, right?
            Try to have a merry Christmas anyway.

          • Completely off-topic, but quick clarification: are you and otrotierra the same person, or two different people?

          • Drew

            I knew you were incapable of engaging in dialogue; thank you for proving it.

        • 22044

          A better question is, where is Christ on this website? He is not a Democrat, or a Republican.

      • 22044

        You vainly called me an accuser on another posts. Your comments propose something else. Drew’s posts can be discussed, but you are clueless as usual.

    • 21st C. Episcopalian

      Drew, I feel your frustration. I have difficulty even wanting to click on RLC articles when they appear in my Google Reader. The Frank Shaeffer post was the worst; his dad must be spinning in his grave (figuratively speaking of course).

      Just know there are others who are not right wing fanatics, not voters or supporters of the GOP, share progressive/liberal views on “caring for the poor/oppressed”, “nonviolence”, etc, but are still rooted in the historic inspired reliable scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as indeed God’s Word through the mouths of prophets, poets, apostles, and historians within the OT&NT texts. Not literalists or fundamentalists, but firm believers in the historic scriptures as written.

      The Bible is God’s Word to mankind, and especially to his people. When God’s Word is tossed it aside, or eisegetically revised to retrofit into self-as-“god” people’s pre-determined cultural wishes and passions, the truth is gone, replaced by truthiness (based on feeling), and the lies (ie; not telling the full truth) leads the wolves in sheep’s clothing who try to lead away the sheep; all the while missing the real content and power of God’s grace.

      2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires [literally, “passions” – my insertion], they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

      • 21st C. Episcopalian

        epithumia= defined by Strong’s as “desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust”
        (sorry for replying to my own reply LOL)

      • jambrosius

        Amen: “Just know there are others who are not right wing fanatics, not voters or supporters of the GOP, share progressive/liberal views on “caring for the poor/oppressed”, “nonviolence”, etc, but are still rooted in the historic inspired reliable scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as indeed God’s Word through the mouths of prophets, poets, apostles, and historians within the OT&NT texts. Not literalists or fundamentalists, but firm believers in the historic scriptures as written.”

  • Stuart

    To many, the poor/crass theological statements given by some evangelicals conveys a message that we believe in a sadist God, who is not content just to kill his own child but other parent’s children also. This is not just a mockery of the Gospel, it is a blasphemy. Every family in Sandy Hook has my thoughts and prayers but these so called fundamentalist Christians only confirm the profound truth ‘that the emptiest vessels make the loudest noise’

  • Mark E

    Thanks! I am very disappointed in religious leaders who have an opinion on everything but are silent on the subject of gun violence. They need to learn that “pro-life” doesn’t end at birth.

  • Mrs Woo

    So many views and arguments and mud slinging about violence. Which is, in itself just more violence. Violence of the heart. What a shame nobody has any interest in supporting or applauding the work for peace that Shane has just posted about.

  • Jon Garland

    When you say the gun culture what are you saying exactly? The celebration of an american’s liberty and freedom to own a gun for protection and safety? If your saying that is a bad thing then I can only determine your against personal liberty and want the government to be solely in charge of our protection which is irresponsible and dangerous. Can you promise that the cops will get to my house in under 5 min to protect me and my family or perhaps they’ve invented a teleportation machine that they can get there in mere seconds, idk. Why not focus on all the different elements that are involved in this discussion like violence in our culture, guns, and mental health? Your upset with the right’s ideology but your equally culpable as well. Jesus cannot be co-opted by either side, not the crazy evangical right or the brash progressive liberal left either! Notice Jesus didn’t say it was wrong to own the weapons, he was more concerned with the condition of the heart and our understanding of his nature…this can only be accomplished when we allow ourselves to get out of the way and admit we don’t know everything.

  • anyeone

    I am not a Christian but I highly respect your version of Christianity, and wish the other kind of Christians would join you.

    • jambrosius

      Thanks for posting…this is why I write for RLC. Keep investigating the faith…the Christ of scripture is so much more amazing and counter-cultural than what many of us have been sold.

  • mac

    Why does gun control frightens people who should support it?-
    * Nazi Germany: confiscation of guns
    * Communist Russia: same
    * Do you really trust who controls those in Washington?
    * The mental health establishment has no effective involuntary commitment policy since Ronald Reagan emptied the mental hospitals in the late ’80’s; only observational stays & voluntary commitment or prison when the mentally ill act out.
    * The US military are now required to swear an allegiance to fire on whomever their commanding officer orders… foreign OR domestic.
    * Criminals will ALWAYS have weapons.
    * Jesus said take up your cross, not leave your loved ones defenseless.
    * “The Hunger Games” struck a cord that is hard to ignore, verging on prophetic.
    I wish guns would go away. They won’t. If the public’s guns are banned there is no buffer against tyranny. (I should say I have Native American heritage. It is obvious to me what happens when the weapons “deck” is not balanced.) We do not want to think these things can happen, but the probability is all too real.

    • NeartheEdge

      Hi mac,

      Out of sheer curiosity, not sneering, not anything besides just sincere curiosity….

      Is there any form of armed self defence you would not support?

      I mean, say, depleted uranium munitions became available or, small nuclear warheads?

      Would these still be within the rights to bear arms, and would you support it?

      Just curious.

      • mac

        Seriously? You got to: “depleted uranium munitions became available or, small nuclear warheads” from my comment? Short answer: No.
        Long answer:
        – better mental health care: {as an educator with 30 years experience, k -12, in public education; the red flags go up early with potential offenders and stay up because in spite of all efforts these kids do not get the help they need (When all else fails, home school. We see how that went.)}
        – heinous crimes are almost never committed by concealed carry, registered individuals.
        – “An armed citizenry is the best protection against tyranny.”- Thomas Jefferson.

        – Who will be the best protected in the event of governmental or societal collapse? Not the poor, not our children, but those in power.
        – When you assume you know the reasons behind an individual’s stance you may jump to conclusions that are irrelevant. I prefer bow & arrow for hunting, you see it is a necessity to hunt for food in our family. Guns are an ugly reality now but wishing them away will not leave my family safe from the possibilities.

        • NeartheEdge

          Thanks mac

        • I. E.

          Hi Mac,
          I definitely agree that more can be done with mental healthcare. It needs to be a part of a comprehensive solution. However, the issue is “easy access to assault guns”. I agree that law abiding citizens don’t misuse their guns. Adam Stanza’s mom did not misuse her guns. If Adam did not have easy access to her mom’s guns Sandy Hook may not have been so tragic. (BTW, I live about 30 minutes from there, and I have a daughter the about the age of those kids that were massacred). When Adam was done, he had enough ammunition to potentially kill more kids. Thank God it did not get any worse. Thank God for the first responders swift response. The point of this article is not to take all guns away, but to sensibly control easy access to high capacity ammunition guns.

          Now to the argument that we need guns to defend ourselve: “an armed citizenry is the best protection against tyranny – TJ” isn’t this a little obsolete? Whe he said that, guns and weaponry were not as sophisticated. Maybe citizens could have defended themselves, but do you really think we can defend ourselves against even one battalion of the US Army if they were to turn on us? Our semi automatics will be like shooting beebee guns at their tanks. The guy on the street of Afghanistan with an RPG is probably more equipped. And if they attacked us at night with night vision goggles and attack helicopters and all of their 21 st century arsenal, do gun advocates still think we have a hance against the best military killing machine known to man? I think that argument is ludicrous.

  • While I hesitate to comment on how another democracy orders its affairs, in UK we have almost the lowest rate of gun homicides in the world
    The only people who legitimately own guns are target shooters (ie with rifles, not automatic weapons) and hunters and farmers with shotguns or occasionally rifles. They are legally required to keep their guns in locked cabinets (which can be inspected) and licenses for use are not automatically granted. We see no possible reason why any gun enthusiast could ever need an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.

    We are also very comfortable with the fact that our police are not armed most of the time, and that even in an armed seige situation, they do not usually end up as a shootout. We also worry that armed response units have often been quite trigger happy, and end up killing people, often mentally disturbed folks, who did not, as it turned out, pose a serious risk. I don’t think I have ever seen an armed policeman ever, apart from anti-terrorist patrols at our airports.

  • nckwu

    It is actually a bit curious that even though Americans have laws against using firearms for purposes other than its intended use (like self-defense), the mentality towards firearms seem so casual in many respects. This is unlike subjects that sociologists describe as “sacred”, compared to “profane”. In other words, the apparent sacred right to life liberty and safety from intruders is achieved via profane means, namely firearms that are treated almost like toy collections to some people. In Switzerland however, where gun ownership is actually compulsory, the treatment of guns is viewed very differently.

    There is also the issue that the public cringes at the idea, like Switzerland, all guns are owed by the state. It is as if there is an inherent distrust of the American people on the government that they have consciously entrusted to govern in their behalf. Is democracy not all about trusting your fellow man to do what needs to be done for the good of the people, including yourself? There seems to be a security (heh) issue with Americans deep down where they are so attracted the power of firearms for protection. I didn’t want to use the word idol, but there ya go.

  • janmarie

    I’ve been reading all these comments and they are all good, both sides of the complicated issues. I don’t think that anyone needs an arsanal of semi-automatic high powered weapons but I also belive in the right to defend yourself against a clear and present danger. I believe in birth control, adoption and not abortion….but it’s sad to see unwanted children neglected, abused and killed….

  • Sarah

    Thank you for your article. I am a passivist Christian in the middle of the “Bible Belt” in a state that just passed a law that one may carry their gun out in the open! Dear Jesse! It’s hard to sit and only hear “Christians” be so radical about guns. It hurts, it makes me angry and I wonder if they read the same book I do. Anyhow, it is just refreshing to read such a well educated and well written article on the matter. I too do not believe a ban on guns is the answer. But how is it too much to ask that armor penetrating bullets and assault rifles be banned? I just don’t understand the level of selfishness and ego that believes that to be “my American right, bless God” (said in a very thick, southern accent).

Read previous post:
Shane Video
VIDEO: Shane’s Trip to Afghanistan

Shane Claiborne recounts his recent trip to Afghanistan to meet the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Thanks to Shane's friend Dan for...