The ‘Christian’ answer to gun violence? Eliminate guns

Dan Webster, an Episcopal priest, writes for RNS:

While politicians parse which kinds of weapons or how many bullets can legally be in a clip, it’s time for followers of Jesus to speak up.

I don’t mean worshipers of Jesus — there are millions more of them than there are followers. I suspect many arguing for no limits on guns would claim to be “God fearing Christians” who worship Jesus in a divinely anointed America, the “shining city on the hill” as it has been described from John Winthrop to Ronald Reagan and beyond.

But for those who follow Jesus—actually taking his words to heart and do what he said—only one response seems possible. And it’s not gun control. It’s gun elimination.

Matthew 26:52 is the most obvious scripture verse: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Jesus teaches his followers to change the way they have been living. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemies. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45) You’ll find similar admonitions and in his actions throughout all four Gospels.

Yet America—this so-called Christian nation–has increasingly become a militaristic culture, worshiping the power of weapons over the power of peace, compassion and mercy….

…we can put forward a plan that emphasizes training in conflict resolution in our schools, communities of faith and local service clubs. From the earliest ages, when children argue over who gets which sandbox toys, we can teach non-violent ways to be better human beings. We can give people the ability to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence, whether with guns or fists.

That will have to be coupled with meaningful emphasis on mental health care that has never been embraced in a country that has ignored the mentally ill for too long….

…If the followers of Jesus are committed to making the Kingdom of God a reality here on earth then we need to heed the words of our hero, the Prince of Peace, and consider how we move our country from a culture of violence to a culture of peace.

See also today’s essay on Daily Episcopalian: Guns and choices

Category : The Lead

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9 Comments
  1. Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

    With all due respect I think the elimination of guns is a rather simplistic answer to a very complex problem. While I agree with the pacifist position, I think it must be pointed out that not all guns are intended to do violence to other human beings. Some people legitimately use them for hunting.

    – Cullin R. Schooley

  2. revsusan

    And with all due respect Absolutely No One — including Dan Webster — is calling for “the elimination of guns.” What is being called for — demanded — is a re-examination of the culture of violence that turns people into killing machines and of the perverse distortion of the 2nd Amendment that transforms assault weapons into modern day golden calves that our culture not only worships but to which our children are being sacrificed.

    Enough is enough.

    The Reverend Canon Susan Russell

    All Saints Church, Pasadena

  3. Gary Paul Gilbert

    The problem I see is that once Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire and Christianity eventually became of the official religion of the Empire, prohibitions on violence were dropped. The church embraced the pax romana, which was no peace but violence.

    Kiekegaard said no country can be Christian: there are no Christians, just approximations.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  4. Ann Fontaine

    Sounds like elimination to me “But for those who follow Jesus—actually taking his words to heart and do what he said—only one response seems possible. And it’s not gun control. It’s gun elimination”

    Not that it might not be a good thing – just not going to happen and does not advance a conversation about what can be done in the US.

  5. As Ann said, while gun elimination may be a good thing, here in the US it’s just not going to happen right now. Christians should stand up for non-violence, but when we advocate for gun legislation, we have to look at what’s possible and what will make the our country safer, even marginally, if not as safe as we would wish it to be.

    Dan is very right about the drone attacks which kill innocents, women and children, and we don’t blink an eye. The culture of violence at home and around the world should be addressed by Christians in the US. Still, we need stricter gun laws, and we won’t get there by calling for the elimination of guns.

    June Butler

  6. Rev Nawny

    A strategy that says if we eliminate guns then we will change the culture of violence is naive at best and includes a memory lapse of how humanity has been killing each other since our creation. It is also a brilliant disguise which allows me to hide my own violence behind and “us and them” wall and lets me off the hook. The only violent human being you or I have any control over is ourself. Healing the violence, the fears, in our own hearts will heal the world. Violence only exists “out there” because it first exists in our hearts. This is where it begins and where it ends. Taking responsibility for violence anywhere means saying “I’m sorry for my part, for the ways I’ve contributed to a violent culture. Please forgive me.”

    Tammy Lewis Wooliver [added by ed.]

  7. Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

    Re Susan Russell: Actually, gun elimination is exactly what Dan Webster is suggesting and he says it quite clearly in this piece: “And it’s not gun control. It’s gun elimination.”

    In full disclosure, I do not hunt or own a gun. That being said I do not believe the elimination of guns would solve the problem of gun violence. The same point could be made about abortion: Making abortion illegal would not prevent abortions from occurring.

    Reasonable, common sense gun laws are absolutely necessary. Increased regulation of automatic and semi-automatic, military style assault weapons would be a great place to start.

    Regardless, something MUST be done.

    -Cullin R. Schooley

  8. tgflux

    So extreme as to make all gun control proponents appear crazy.

    *IF* when we (EFFECTIVELY) ban semi-automatic weapons and large clips, the “gunshow loophole”, and nation-wide background checks, we still face mass shootings from determined hunting-rifle/revolver shooters, then it will be time to eliminate further classes of weapons. Meanwhile, let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good?

    JC Fisher

    …who doesn’t hunt, but lives w/ someone (and his guns) who does. Venison, duck: delicious! (Apologies to vegetarians)

  9. Ben

    It is time for the government to step in and take military style assault weapons out of the hands of ordinary citizens, period.

    That would be a start, but it will never be the ultimate elimination of the “darkness” that the gospel of John speaks of.

    We hold in our hands the reign of free will, a God given privilege procured by our metaphorical original parents, Adam and Eve. With this free will there are obvious choices. As Christians, we are commanded,not asked, by Christ, to be the Light in the darkness, and often that means forging paths that others are afraid to pioneer. TEC is doing that. As we fight for social justice, standing up in the face of political and religious clichés we are lighting the way for others. We are as the Reverend is saying bringing the “kingdom of God” here among us.

    Eliminating all guns isn’t the answer anymore than eliminating all knives or common household cleaners. However, it is time for new regulations on guns, as I said in my opening statement.

    The answer to the darkness and the defense and victory over evil in this world is Jesus Christ.

    We hold in our hands a two edged sword. Wielded one way something positive happens and in the opposite, negative. Let us pray for the guidance of Holy Spirit and try, and fail as we might, to bring this “kingdom” so freely given us of God, and just as easily denied by us, to a broken and hurt world.~Ben Miller

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