…still be a problem.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that we’ve had yet another mass shooting at a school. On October 1, 2015 a man who legally purchased all his guns went on a murder spree with them at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Nine people were killed before the previously “law abiding” gun owner shot himself in the head. You can read about the gun-murder spree in this NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/02/us/oregon-shooting-umpqua-community-college.html?_r=0
In the days that followed this latest mass shooting, the 291st in 2015 (so far), I have witnessed (once again) more than a few of my fellow Christians take up and parrot the usual NRA propaganda. You know, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and “If we really want to protect our families, then we need MORE guns everywhere, not less,” and “This is really about mental illness, not guns,” etc. If anyone is interested in some sample rebuttals to these bogus soundbites, this blog entry might be of some use: If You Give A Man an Assault Rifle.
But in a slightly new twist (new to me, at least), many conservative Christians have decided that mental illness is no longer the best tool used to steer discussions on gun violence away from guns. Mental illness still gets blamed a lot (since blaming guns is off limits), but the new culprit we are apparently supposed to focus on is sin, or the churchy term that Christians use interchangeably with evil in motion. Guns are not the problem we are told. Mental illness is not (really) the problem either. It’s sin, and if we can just get everyone to become a Christian, then sin will be defeated and gun violence will no longer be an issue. We don’t need restricted access to guns; we just need us some Jesus.
Okay. Let me just say that on philosophical grounds, I agree with the notion that evil is a real problem, and the root of all the other manifestations of “sin” we see in our world. As a Christian myself, I think the Bible is on to something when it describes the state of humanity that has turned away from love and care for our neighbors and enemies (and environment). I also agree, at least in theory, that if everyone always followed Jesus and his “greatest commands” that we love God and our neighbors as ourselves, then yes, gun violence would go extinct.
But how often are told that it is Liberal la-la land to think that gun regulations and bans work because “If we outlaw guns, then only outlaws will have guns”? Apparently we can’t expect everyone to be a law-abiding citizen (that’s just unrealistic), but we can expect everyone to become a Christian, and that is supposed to be the answer? Can we not see the inconsistency in assuming that every one can become a Christian, but that these ubiquitous Jesus people will nevertheless not be law-abiding citizens? This is an internal inconsistency problem that some fellow believers have bought into. And that is about the nicest thing I can say about it.
This logic also fails to consider the present reality that Christians are not known in Western Civilization for their peace and love, either amongst themselves or their non-Christian neighbors. Claims to Christian “peace” and “love” are particularly suspect if you happen to be gay, black, brown, Native American or a woman. The indisputable fact is that being a “Christian” has never been a very good guaranty against violence, genocide, or systemic oppression. In fact, many times throughout the history of the West (as well as today), Christianity has been used as the pretext for these heinous evils. That is a pretty big fail.
I agree that “sin” is a real problem, but how can Christians honestly address the messed-up state of humanity without focusing on the means that we use to perpetuate evil? With reference to the out of control gun violence that our nation witnesses on a daily basis, how can we Christians claim to fight evil while concurrently refusing to fight the means by which it is expressed in deadly and oft-repeated fashion? It makes no sense at all. It is hypocritical. It is revolting, and it is anything but “following” Jesus, who, by the way, didn’t make bland statements about evil in general, but took very specific actions to shut it down and to rescue those who were targeted by it. Can we not follow his example? What does it say about us if we want to make spineless blandishments about sin while refusing to even admit that guns themselves are part of the problem that sin makes use of? Whatever it is, it is not good.
If that is not depressing enough, I recently posted a much shorter invective against Christian hypocrisy on gun violence on my Facebook page. I have included it below, as well as one of the comments left there by a Christian I previously believed was my friend. The response he left was ultimately deleted from Facebook (but presented in its original, unedited form below), because I tend not to put up with name calling in mixed company. But what is particularly saddening is that he actually defends genocide and is so upset at my calling out Christian hypocrisy that he claims I am following the Antichrist, Satan, that I’ve lost my mind, and that *I* am helping usher in “anialtion” [sic] and “genecide” [sic]. That’s right. Because I spoke against gun violence and Christian hypocrisy, I must be worshipping Satan and fomenting some sort of coming genocide. Face. Palm.
I am not often left speechless, but this insanity did the trick. At least until now, that is. With apologies to Hinduism, apparently unfettered access to guns is such a sacred cow in some conservative Christian circles that these folks would rather assign me a place in hell than consider that maybe, just *maybe* the claim that “guns make us safer” happens to be the opposite of reality and needs to be addressed in meaningful ways.
For your viewing displeasure, below is my original Facebook post followed by the response offered by my apparently not-friend.
Corbin says: “When some of my fellow Christians say that gun violence is really just an extension of sin, and it would not be a problem if everyone just became a Christian, I just have to ask about things, like, you know, the Crusades, witchunts, and the various Inquisitions of our sordid Christian/Western history. Oh, and let’s not forget the systemic genocide Christians foisted against Native Americans or why some contemporary Christians load up on guns and ammo for “defense,” or why there is a freaking assault rifle company emblazoning their killing “tools” with Christian imagery and Bible verses. And by the way, how is that Make-Everyone-A-Christian project coming? If we Christians blame sin for violence, gun violence in particular, without talking about serious and lasting gun restrictions or plausible means for limiting gun violence, then we are full of it. And the world knows it.”
Jesse D. Armstrong replies: Actually you paint that picture, the world doesn’t know it. Your God… if you claim the God of Christian’s, led his people to drive entire people groups from their lands… corrupt and wicked people who probably were “loving” to their children but who did not know or acknowledge him as Creator. When Christ comes again he will bring a sword for war and destruction…. judgement upon a Godless people. You may not like it but armed men still protect what is God’s today. I personally have two guns which have never killed anyone but that might if anyone threatened my family. These days… as in the days of the U.S. independence, O/C Government and foreign teligion are enemy #1. I say this only because of the antichrist mentality that they are under… which you also seem to be under. You are hell net on a way that is not Christ like. You preach rightly that God forgives but miss entirely that within the relationship purchased by Christ’s violent death men must repent or be even further temoved from the Creator than they first were. God serfs men to trust in his love then to surrender their lives to him… their desires and their wills. I have never used a weapon but I have stood up to homosexuales men trying to rape my boys on the streets of Nica… I have stopped a mmen from beating their wives by force… and by God’s power I will do these things again. The issue is that men no longer want to hear about Jesus because it requires their whole life, but you don’t know that Jesus it seems. Tell men about their sin and about freedom from it. Your gun issue is a smoke screen which Satan is using to accomplish an even greater anialtion yet to come… and you are there promoting this genecide. Your mind is lost Corbin.
Well gee whiz. I hope Jesse will forgive me if I am not persuaded.
Thanks for reading me.
Commenters: Jim Killebrew , Jesse Saxon