That’s the question posed about an article by Peter Manseau over at Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitprop machine The Trace (yes, them again). To be fair, Manseau attempts to be fair about the scriptural underpinning to Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms — at least until the last paragraph. Like this . . .
The fact that “gun” appears nowhere in the Bible means that literal evidence of a divine right to bear them is not available. Instead, believers find their proof in words seen as conveying God’s gun-friendliness. Sometimes the “rod” is cited, as in Psalm 23: “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me …” Others times, hands and fingers are enlisted to suggest the weapons they might wield, as in Psalm 144, a passage quoted reverently by “Saving Private Ryan’s” scripture spouting sniper just before he pulls the trigger. “Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”
I reckon Manseau reckons that scriptural justifications for armed self-defense are ridiculous on their face. Which they’re not. Anyway, here’s Manseau’s rebuttal, from his own pen.
The message for believers gets murkier, however, when considered in the context of Jesus’ other teachings. Elsewhere in the gospels, for example, Jesus rebukes the apostle Peter for using the very weapon he suggested his followers should carry. When the disciples see their teacher seized by armed men the night before he will be crucified, Peter lashes out and cuts off the ear of a priest’s servant. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Peter to put his weapon away; his fate is sealed, and there can be no fighting it. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus adds a general opprobrium against meeting force with force, saying, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
Manseau writes for Bloomberg. He has to end his article with a shot at Americans who base their right of armed self-defense on their faith. Specifically those who believe they should be able to be armed in church.
Yet as often as tales of armed and muscular Christianity have been told throughout American history, far less heroic stories of firearms in churches could also be told: In 1885, a scuffle at a church fair in Emporia, Kansas, ended with a preacher arrested for shooting a member of his congregation from the pulpit. In 1889, a disagreement between two men erupted in a pew-emptying melee after one deacon shot another. (“Some say a woman was at the bottom of it,” it was reported at the time, “while others claim that it grew out of a church argument about regeneration.”) Gunfire in churches did not cease with the arrival of the 20th century. In 1979, when two members of a Pontiac, Michigan, church called New Hope settled a disagreement with a gunshot, a 65-year-old woman was killed at 9:50 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Examples are never more than anecdotal evidence, but they are reminders enough that houses of worship are no less likely to serve as venues of conflicts that escalate uncontrollably because of the presence of a gun than the non-religious spaces currently covered by stand your ground laws. “We’re creating a problem we don’t necessarily need,” Senator David Jordan predicted during debate on the bill Tuesday. “Everybody’s going to be packing a .45, even the ministers.” If more weapons begin to turn up in congregations in Mississippi and around the country, we may soon hear stories of church guns and their unholy uses told and retold, like so many verses from scripture.
Is Manseau equating journalistic reports with scripture? Shame on him! But the question remains: Does the Bible enshrine a ‘God-given right’ to shoot in self defense? As a Jew, I can tell you that the Torah commands us to defend our lives. As a Christian, what can you tell me?