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I used to attend a Reformed Episcopal Church in Amarillo, Texas. I’m not there any more and neither is the church. (It seems traditional values are somewhat out of fashion in both marriages and churches, nowadays). The former rector of the church is a close friend, and he’s moved on to “greener” pastures (Amarillo is a lot of things. Green is not one of them), where he’s now the rector of a flock in Houston. Today, he posed a rhetorical question on his blog – is carrying a gun a spiritual discipline?

I would argue that it is – but not for the reasons you might think.

You see, not to go all “God” on you, I’m a believer. It’s not important what faith, or what denomination for the purposes of this discussion. It’s enough to know that I believe in both a higher spiritual authority, and what C.S. Lewis called moral law. In other words, there is a fundamental morality that transcends our legal system.

You can break a moral law without breaking the law in civil or criminal court. You may not get slapped by Johnny Law, but you still screwed up. If you accept that premise (and I know many do not – that’s between them, their consciences, and God, should they choose to believe in Him), then it’s easy to understand – or follow – my logic.

I believe that God put us here for a purpose. Part of our purpose is to figure out why we’re here. (That God . . . what a comedian!) I believe that God wants us to be productive, and use whatever talents he gave us and build on them, making the world a better place for it. To do that, each of us must concern ourselves with our own survival, sustenance and well-being. You see, it would be hard, I think, to carry out whatever God wants us to do, if we allow ourselves to starve, die from lack or shelter, or allow some gang-banger to jack our cars and leave us dead on the side of the road.

From that perspective, defending yourself is more than just common sense. It’s a moral imperative. Because bad guys are nothing if not persistent, it’s a reasonable idea to add a gun (or two or three) to your options for self defense, since bringing a knife to a gunfight is a sure way to lose.

The Bible doesn’t say jack about guns, but it’s all about covering the moral implications of violence. (I’m just waiting for some PC pinhead to try and ban the Bible or slap an Adult Content Advisory sticker on it for violent content. And don’t get me started about all the sex in the Song of Solomon.) If you read the Ten Commandments (in something other than the King James translation, sil vous plait), we hear THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT MURDER.

[NB: it does NOT read “Thou shalt not KILL.” The confusion arose because, at one time, “kill” and “murder” were synonymous in King James-era English. If you go back to the original texts, it’s clear the “original intent” of the Commandment was a proscription against murder.]

That’s a small, but vitally important point: the Bible (and by extension, God) is anti-murder. On the other hand, God is something of an expert at this smiting stuff. (And I say that from personal experience, as well as through my keen powers of observation.) Sometime’s there’s no other choice but to kill or be killed. Or as Dennis Miller once put it, “sometimes, you just need to thin the herd.”

I don’t believe God wants us to go around shooting each other. But I do believe God would look on it as a righteous shoot, if we had our home invaded, and I shot some scumbag trying to hurt my family.

Father Sangster is a Biblical scholar, and something of an authority on a number of Christian theologians, including C.S. Lewis. He carries, even when he’s performing the Sacrement of Holy Communion.

I’ve got no problem with that. Even if you discount the statistically-improbable number of shootings in churches in the last dozen or so years, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have access to weapons in your place of work, your car and your home. Remember – a gun sitting in a safe somewhere inaccesible to you is every bit as useful as no gun at all.

Doug jokes that by carrying a gun, he’s helping bad guys to either see the error of their ways, or to help them see God a little sooner, so they can talk it out Mano to Deity. But I think he’s right. If we are charged by God to defend ourselves, our families, and our sacred honor, how can carrying a gun in defense of those things be wrong?

Sure for some, carrying a gun is a spiritual kind of thing in a counterpoint to the same kind of logic that David Carradine used to espouse in Kung Fu regarding his affinity for the non-violent path (usually in soliloquy form, right before he beat the snot out of some bigoted bonehead, going all kung fu on them).

But I’m not talking about the love affair between man and machine. Nor am I insisting that pulling out a semi-auto is the modern-day equivalent of a Deus ex Machina solution to life’s little problems. Nope. All I’m sayin’ is that it’s a righteous thing to defend yourself, your property and your loved ones. And if the bad guys up the ante and attempt to go all Smith & Wesson on you, you better have the firepower to answer them back. Just sayin’ . . .

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  1. A fine exposition Brad. I would add one thing – we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means illumining the darkness with a muzzle blast if necessary. If Christians are committed to the triumph of the gospel they will lobby for both capital punishment and the private ownership of guns. The limp-wristed effetes among us will surely argue that Jesus was a passivist. And I would direct them to the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation. God bless you, and keep your powder dry.

  2. This is a terrific topic and I appreciate your thoughts on it. I agree with you… but I'm curious how you and Fr. Sangster reconcile your positions with Jesus' teachings (quotes below from the King James Bible). The language is very straight forward. In Matt 5:38, Jesus dismisses the Old Testament way of doing things as obsolete and then he lays down a new law. He teaches that Christians should endure whatever your enemy inflicts upon you. In fact Christians are obligated to love them and offer more to their abusers than is demanded. Be merciful: God's sunlight shines on the home invader as well as the home owner. There's nothing in here about butt kikkin' or name takin'.

    Matthew 5 ("The Sermon on the Mount"):

    38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

    39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

    40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

    41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

    42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

    43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

    44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

    Luke 6 ("The Sermon on the Plain"):

    27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

    28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

    29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

    30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

    31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise…

    35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

    36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

    37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

    • About four times in my Christian life I have had to use what I consider quite a bit of force to deal with different obnoxious people that were hurting me and others. I did it with a lot of prayer, agonizing prayer. After I was prepared, because the Lord had changed my heart towards the other person, to forgive them and do what it took to help them. I was able to be an instrument in at least one person's desire to change their heart.

      Another person who I used force against was humiliated. I had achieved what I wanted but the Lord spoke to my
      heart to forgive them and humble myself before them to help heal the situation.

      If you ask the Lord to help you deal with the situation that requires force be prepared to agonize about it, pray a lot, and with tears in your eyes do what you have to do to deal with it. Then be prepared as I was twice after praying about it to help the other person.

  3. Bill,

    I don't see any conflict with the Bible's teachings (in the New OR Old Testament) and the idea of self defense. There's a difference in turning the other cheek and allowing some scumbag to ventilate it with lead. All kidding or sarcasm aside, I think the Good Lord wants us to love our neighbor, but when our neighbor misbehaves, I think He understands the need to respond with an appropriate level of force in certain situations. I think the point Jesus makes is that we are to be generous, cut the other guy some slack, not extract retribution for every slight, be good for goodness sake (oh, wait…that's Santa), and be non-judgemental, forgiving, and generally slow to anger, quick to fahgettaboutit. BUT…the Jesus in the Temple with the moneychangers is a different story. He didn't just give those clowns a Ned Flanders-style good talking to – he drove them out of the temple. You can imagine how big that went over. The Sanhedrin had largely turned the temple grounds into their own little money-making scheme. When some country bumpkin would bring his "first fruits" for sacrifice, the priests would tell them their goods weren't good enough – then twist their arms to exchange their own produce, livestock, and coins for the "approved" versions from the Temple stores. At a significant markup. It was literally a den of thieves. Jesus objected. Strenuously. He reacted with a show of force of his own, overturning tables, freeing livestock, essentially shutting down the Shops at Temple Square.® I'm not saying that, had there been guns in that time, Jesus would have shot up the place (although there is something appealing to think of Jesus laying down some suppressive fire from an M-16 on full auto. THAT would have gotten everyone's attention. Still…), but he wasn't a turn the other cheek kinda guy that day.

    I think Jesus wanted to teach us trigger discipline – for our tempers and our souls. I don't think he expects us to act like lambs to the slaughter, when confronted with danger.

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