This is the second installment of recent efforts on my blog to engage the topic of guns in the United States (assault rifles, high-capacity magazines -or clips- and armor-piercing bullets in particular). The first one can be found here: If You Give A Man an Assault Rifle. Just in case anyone is uncertain about my own feelings on the matter, I believe that too many of us U.S. citizens have a bizarre and unhealthy fixation with firearms. Our addiction to guns is almost always defended by clinging to a particular interpretation of our Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, which safeguards citizens’ rights to “bear arms” in general. However, this amendment makes no provisions concerning the types of weapons which are safeguarded in particular, so for us to believe that the author’s meant that any type of weapon ought to be included in this right is questionable to say the least. As my friend David Manning has pointed out, when the 2nd Amendment is carried to the extreme it could even be (ab)used to justify private ownership of nuclear weapons. That no reasonable person on any side of this issue argues for nuclear ubiquity indicates that recognizing limits to the 2nd Amendment are both healthy and necessary. The argument has never been IF we are legally entitled to have “arms,” but rather “which kinds?”
I have no problem with the 2nd Amendment as it is written. Neither do I necessarily want all the guns to be taken away from my fellow USAmericans (though I have been accused of this). Even though the framers of the Constitution only had single-shot, front-loading muskets and cannons in mind, I admit that we should probably be allowed to retain a few types of hunting rifles and pistols that go beyond what they had in mind. However, it is also clear that citizens do not need more than a few rounds in any given firearm to accomplish the tasks that they can legally complete with such weapons (hunting and target practice).
In my other blog-post I said that as many as 5 or 6 rounds in any given firearm would probably be reasonable. However, I believe it is completely unreasonable to have magazines/ clips that hold more than this, can be fired at a semi-automatic or fully-automatic rate and/or contain armor-piercing bullets. As I have said time and again, the only thing these items are for… is killing people, and this is exactly what our history (of civilian violence) has demonstrated over and over again.
Despite the provocative drafting of Willy Wonka to push the agenda, in the present blog entry I would like to change the scene a little and focus the issue of firearms around the person of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, this is a blog dedicated to exploring faith in him (not the U.S. Constitution). If we focus on Jesus, the United States Constitution becomes secondary (at best) and cannot be the ultimate authority for what Jesus-followers should and should not engage in. I believe the Constitution is a good document and perhaps among the best that people can do. However, my faith is in Jesus, and I want to understand and follow him, not just the Constitution.
So I want to look at the two most common arguments for possessing guns (hunting and self-defense), and consider them in light of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Hunting can be a legitimate endeavor that, apart from trophy-hunting, poaching and killing threatened or endangered species and/ or killing in unethical ways (leg-traps and bear-baiting etc.), has limited ethical issues associated with it. I don’t think Jesus would have any problem with a deer rifle used to hunt deer. However, I also have to point out that guns are not absolutely necessary for hunting. Truly skilled hunters use bows, arrows, spears, nets, etc., and this engenders a secondary question: Is having guns for hunting worth the risk of using those same weapons to murder humans? I think the answer is “no,” but I can understand why some people might disagree with me (especially unskilled hunters) -wink-.
However, the question of self-defense is even more suspicious, for this itself is a tacit admission that guns kill people and that is precisely what gun owners intend when they make use of this argument. This is a problem for people who follow Jesus, or at least it ought to be, for when we become willing to use violence, we have stopped following the Prince of Peace altogether. This is precisely why the first few generations of Christians refused to join armies and other instruments of violence and war. Christians are still called to trust in Jesus/ God, not in the ways of the world that are opposed to Christ and his message. It seems to me that when we take up the weapons of violence, we are trusting in them, not Jesus. To put in the form of a question, “Can we shoot and kill someone in some sort of civilian/ vigilante justice and still be ‘following/ trusting Jesus?’” I don’t think so.
So the key question for my purposes here is: “Would Jesus own guns, and why?” A non-anachronistic substitute might easily be a “sword,” so we can ask that question if it helps move the conversation forward.
Would Jesus own guns (or swords)? Why?
Please tell me what you think.
Welcome to the discussion.