Whether we like it or not, violence is a part of our daily lives. We see it daily in the multitude of news sources we have today. We watch it addictively on television and in the movies. We even celebrate violence in the form of sports that leave their participants with major physical repercussions for the rest of their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, when I say “we” I include myself. This is not meant to be preaching at anyone, but simply a statement of what is so. I enjoy a great many of the activities listed above, too, so I am not trying to advocate for a violence-free America. But I would pose the question of how much is too much? When and where, morally, do we draw the lines?
The broader category of violence naturally leads to a topic that we will be hearing about for the next year of presidential politicking in America: Gun Control. In the wake of so many school shootings it seems that there is a moral obligation for Christians of both political parties to open our minds in consideration of what the Bible might steer us toward on this issue.
Every single candidate for president claims a religious affiliation that is tied in some way to the Bible … so what does the issue of Gun Control look like Biblically? I have my own views, but my aim here is to set those views aside to try and learn what a “Biblical view” might look like.
So, let’s look at some Bible verses that might pertain:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39
“Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9
I have focused on the New Testament here, and more specifically on what Jesus had to say on the issue of violence. There are many instances of violence in the Bible … the Old Testament is littered with fairly graphic accounts in watered down language. However, I believe that as Christians it is our duty to search out and try to discern what stance Jesus might take if he were alive today.
Clearly Jesus is against violence, however the issue of Gun Control is not so simple as simply saying you are anti-violence. Guns can be and are used in self-defense, to protect the innocent, and uphold the law, as well as all the horrific stories we see daily on the news. In the hours before Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he mentions buying a sword, which could be considered the equivalent of a gun in today’s society, for the sake of his disciples potentially defending themselves.
Jesus asked them,“When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?” “No,” they replied. “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.”
“Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.”
“That’s enough,” he said. (Luke 22:35-38)
One could make a 2nd Amendment argument based on that passage alone that weapons are needed for “rebelling against the government,” but according to the Jesus I know in the Bible — the one who focuses on love, compassion, turning the other cheek and even advised his own disciples not to fight on his behalf in the Garden of Gethsemane — it is fairly safe to say that Jesus was a pacifist. However, even a pacifist can still own a gun. To say that owning a gun means someone will get shot is like saying if you own a knife someone will get stabbed … and what household is without knives?
So, it would seem that a Biblical stance would most likely be one of compromise between the two polarized political parties on this issue. A stance that allows for gun ownership but also advocates regulations to keep guns as safe as possible and out of the hands of those who would use them for non-defensive violence. A position that would be respectful of individual rights and yet also seek to protect and nurture the precious lives all around us.
Yet, in today’s vastly divided political climate there is very little room for compromise … compromise seems like a dirty word in modern politics. So where do these candidates stand? Let’s take a look:
|Far Left||Centrist||Far Right|
|Hillary Clinton: Wants a national gun registry and believes police should be able to monitor gun ownership information. Wants to legalize lawsuits against gun manufacturers for “misuse”.||Bernie Sanders: Wants to ban assault weapons and limit rounds per clip to 10. Is strongly pro-hunting and calls for “sensible gun control legislation”. Does not support lawsuits against gun manufacturers for “misuse”.||Jeb Bush: Has an A+ grade from the NRA and recently said, “Stuff happens” after a school shooting. Signed into law the controversial NRA-written bill allowing Floridians to use deadly force when threatened in a public place.|
|Martin O’Malley: Supports restrictions on the right to bear arms. Supports Federal ban on assault rifles. Supports fingerprinting and licensure for gun ownership and micro-stamping of guns.||Donald Trump: Supports a ban on assault weapons and consideration of mental health restrictions. Supports a longer waiting time to buy guns in order to conduct background checks.||Ben Carson: Does not support owners registering their guns stating that, “if you register them they (the government) just come and find you and take your guns.”|
|Carly Fiorina: Does not support any further restrictions on the right to bear arms. Does not support assault weapon ban. Supports people on the No-Fly list being able to purchase guns.|
|Marco Rubio: Says new gun laws are ineffective and thus does not support passing new gun laws. Voted no on limiting clips to 10 bullets.|
|Ted Cruz: Honored by the NRA in 2008. Is against limiting gun clips to 10 bullets. Does not support “unreasonable” or “burdensome” gun restrictions.|
I find it curious that the two candidates who display a willingness to compromise on this issue also started as “dark horse” candidates and now are near the top of the polls for their respective parties. Could it be that Americans are tired of the polarizing politics as usual?
photo credit: mele avery (via Flickr), cc