I don’t understand Christians who love guns.
I don’t mean Christians who own guns or use guns or even like guns, but those who champion them, glorify them, flaunt them, cheerlead for them, fight for them, worship them, lust after them, and revel in them.
The combination of a Christians and a gun was not on my radar as a young boy. Growing-up in a Catholic elementary school, I was unaware of the NRA or the 2nd Amendment or American gun laws, but knowing what I knew about the Bible and what I understood of the teachings of Jesus at that time, it would never have even entered my mind that a follower of Christ and an advocate for guns could be compatible vocations, let alone intimately connected ones.
A Christian with a passion for firearms feels an awful lot like a vegan with a love for fur coats and leather shoes. For me, it just doesn’t compute. It’s an absolute disconnect; a pairing of two incompatible causes.
As I’ve gotten older and seen the endless debates rage and the battle lines drawn on guns and on our “rights” as Americans, it has always startled me that the support for guns has always been most vocal and most fervent from Evangelical Christians; from the people of Jesus. Moving to the South ten years ago only magnified what already seemed to me to be an oddity.
One time I remember driving behind a pickup truck that had a bumper sticker that read “GUN CONTROL MEANS HITTING YOUR TARGET”. It was right next to another one for a church (whose logo thankfully, I did not recognize).
Being a pastor in an Evangelical church for nearly twenty years, it ‘s always just been assumed by my friends that I should be for guns. It’s some strange Christian “given”, and to be honest it’s always been a place where I often feel like an alien on my home planet.
It’s not that I don’t think Christians whose cause is guns have any less faith than me, love God any less than I do, or want Jesus to be honored any less than me. I just don’t see the connection between those shared desires—and celebrating weapons of deadly violence.
There is so much suffering and injustice in this world, and with all of the things one who follows Jesus could fight for, lobby for, slap on a bumper sticker for, I could think of a million things that seem to make more sense as a follower of Jesus than guns; poverty eradication, racial equality, abolishing human trafficking, gender equality, sobriety, cancer research, life, education, marriage, prayer, puppies, and on and on and on—but guns? How have they become a flaunted and foundational part of our American Christian tradition?
Can we really read the Gospels and get from them any sense that Jesus would want his disciples carrying? Can we see his words and his manner (and his death) and still claim lethal self-defense as a sanctioned personal priority?
I remember hearing a story about a friend of ours whose father is a country pastor, and from time to time he makes it a point to let the congregation know from the pulpit that “The Preacher is packin’ “. I’m sure it gets a good laugh from folks in the pews and more than a few hearty “Amens” from the faithful, but I’m just not sure any of them are coming from Jesus.
Guess the loaded preacher hasn’t read the Apostle Paul’s writings closely. Paul, faced with continual danger and violence and threat, says: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) He is essentially saying that death is not a reason for me to ever fear, because it only brings me closer to Christ. Paul’s God was big enough to do the defending. Maybe that’s what this gunlust really reveals in us: a tiny, nurtured, wimpy God. I wonder just how much we really trust God is who He says He is, if we’re that consumed with fear, that preoccupied with our own protection, that trigger happy.
For me this is not a political issue, it is a theological one.
It’s not a Republican vs. Democrat, Conservative vs. Liberal battle.
This is my own personal fight for Christlikeness. It’s the way I feel called to emulate Jesus.
I often hear or read Christians defending guns by using the 2nd Amendment as their justifying ammunition. Now we could argue until Jesus comes back about what those words actually mean for us today, but the question I have is, “Since when is a man-made law the final one Christians answer to anyway?”
Aren’t we supposed to be walking a narrower path than our culture? Is consent from government something we’re supposed to be concerned about? Is it what Christians are known for these days—accepting the government’s position?
There are all kinds of areas where Christians protest and defy current American law, when we loudly reject our President or government’s policy and position, but when it come to guns all of a sudden America is the final authority, and she gives us the go-ahead to holster up and so we roll.
Here’s what I know, friends: When I read Scripture and pray, and in the quiet of my heart and the silence of my room when I see Jesus as clearly as I am able to in this life, there just is no room and no use for firearms. I simply cannot see Him and them occupying the same space and you won’t convince me otherwise. I don’t need this to be true of you, but it is my personal faith conviction.
To all my Christian friends who are passionate about guns, I leave that to you as your right, not as Americans but as those free in Christ to decide. I do not judge you or begrudge you at all, but I do flatly disagree with you. It’s a road I cannot in good conscience walk.
So for as long as I am alive, I can promise you—this preacher ain’t packin’.