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Is gun control a religious issue? More pointedly, it is a tenant of Christianity? Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence president Paul Helmke, Republican former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, says that for him it is. Since the interview took place on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, a program that that I’m sure nobody in America actually watches, click here for the transcript. “[Gun control] does fit into my religious tradition,” Helmke says. “I went to a Lutheran grade school growing up. We talked about nonviolence. The story of the garden of Gethsemane is put down that sword…

… you know, is what Jesus is telling the disciple. That’s the lesson we need to learn, and it really gets into how do we relate to our fellowman? Do we live in a state of fear of everyone we’re dealing with, or do we feel that we’re a community of faith and that you respect the other, that you deal with the other, or do we bring a gun to every confrontation?

I’m tempted to dismiss Helmke’s comments due to the obvious disingenuousness of his next statement, “I’m not anti-gun. I’m not against the gun.” However, he brings up a point that must be reconciled by Christian gun owners.

The New Testament records that Jesus taught people not to defend themselves (“I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”), that he had no interest in fighting tyranny (“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”), and that he was a fisherman and shepherd, not a hunter.

Jesus put his money where his mouth was by submitting to abuse, torture, and ultimately execution at the hands of a kangaroo court (i.e. the Sanhedrin) and tyrannical government. So, if you worship at the altar of the Second Amendment and profess to be a Christian, how do you square your beliefs?

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  1. A few misconceptions:
    The “turn the other cheek” was not a call for non-violence while being assaulted. It was a call for ignoring an insult. The cheek slap was a cultural thing of the middle east that was highly insulting, much like the oriental “lose face” issue. Turning the other cheek was actually a way to tell the other person that they cannot insult you, that they do not have the power to insult you. You rob them of their power by turning the other cheek. This is not suggested if, instead, they swing at you with a sword.

    • So you are saying Peter was right when he attempted to protect Jesus in Gethsemane? Why then did Jesus rebuke Peter? And why did he not defend himself from harm?

      I think you are interpreting this too narrowly. Yes, turn away from an offense. But he prefaces the comment by saying we should not resist evil people. Evil behavior can be manifest very broadly.

      • William, Christian theology teaches that the purpose of God becoming flesh (Jesus) was to become a living sacrifice for sin. Jesus had to die on the cross in order for the salvation plan to work. You cannot take his actions there and use that to justify non-violence in other situations. I know it’s a subject that is open to multiple interpretations, so you’ll have to come to your own understanding there.

      • There is a bible passage that expressly commands a man to get on his roof and watch and defend his home from ill. I don’t know what part you guys want to hear from your god but my God says to protect those I love.

  2. Second issue – render unto Caesar. This isn’t a statement that we as Christians should not fight tyranny, but that the goal of Jesus was bit broader than the overthrow of any single worldly leader. This was a proclaimation, in response to a pointed question, that the reformation of the Jewish religion into the Christian religion was not a threat to the existing govt. Jesus came, not as a new Jewish warlord to lead their army, but as a crucial figure to redefine the religion. To put it in modern terms, we are not called to establish a Christian theocracy, but we are encouraged to vote our conscience.

    • I realize the context of this quote is a response to a specific question regarding taxation. However, it is characteristic of his apathy toward government. Likewise, when he interacted with people who were enslaved, he appeared unconcerned that they didn’t enjoy inalienable god-given rights. Did he not care about slaves? Did he not care about the Jews living under the boot (sandal) of the centurions?

      Were the English worse tyrants than the Romans? Hardly. Where, then, is the New Testament justification for Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton et al to forcibly declare independence from King George?

      • Again, Jesus was manifestly concerned with the spiritual aspects of creation, not the material aspects. Government is strictly a material aspect of the world. His apathy toward it was intentional. A slave would still be a slave, no matter his religion. Jesus sought to free his/her soul from damnation, and once saved the shackles of worldly government would not be an impediment to righteous living. Again, Jesus was a big picture type of guy. Little things like Roman tyranny didn’t concern him.

        • I completely agree with you. But the question at hand is in regard to Christianity and gun control. If Jesus was unconcerned about the Roman occupation, including all of the rape, murder, and injustice that accompanied it, then why would he be concerned about you defending yourself against a carjacking or home invasion? If you and your family were tragically killed at the hands of a murderer or tyrant, without you having spilt blood, wouldn’t you return sooner to heaven? Isn’t that a good thing? Wouldn’t you be rewarded for your restraint?

  3. Finally, the matter of armed response falls down to belief in the sanctity of life. Defending your life (or your family) from those who would commit murder is an affirmation of your belief that life is sacred and important. Failure to do so is tatamount to saying, “yeah, my wife and kids, they’re not that important”. Obviously the attacker has already proven his disrespect for life (yours, his, others) by his very actions. This brings up the issue that a) I won’t shoot a guy just for stealing my TV, but b) if he’s breaking into my house, how do I know ultimately what his intentions are? I’ve heard more than several Baptist preachers address this very issue and I’ve yet to hear any of them suggest that we shouldn’t arm and defend ourselves from violence.

  4. 67dodgeman says: “a) I won’t shoot a guy just for stealing my TV,”
    Well not for the CRT TVs anyway, I’ll have to get back to you on whether or not the flatscreens are worth defending…

  5. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

    Luke 22:36

    • “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
      Most scholars agree that sword in this context is metaphorical.

      “Put your sword back in its place.. for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52).
      Most scholars agree that sword in this context is literal.

      • And most scholars would agree that you can pick out any random quote and use it defend yourself if you are not using that quote in the context in which God meant it to be used. God isn’t a schizo. He doesn’t say one thing in the bible and then another against what he said. Read the whole thing, not just individual quotes and you will see that God overall wants the right and just to defend themselves from evil and those that perpetrate it. We can all go on all day long popping quotes back and forth.

      • The most common interpretation is “those who live by” the sword — either military or brigands — will die by the sword.

        Peter did not “take” the sword as a living, he used it to defend his Rabbi.

        You also did not finish the passage
        Mat 26:53 Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels?
        Mat 26:54 How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?

        Isn’t it difficult to argue pacifism if God had 12 legions of angels ready at Jesus’ asking?

      • Note that he said “put your sword away”, not “get rid of your sword”.

        The distinction is important, your obfuscation aside.

  6. As has been pointed out, Jesus advised his disciples to get a sword, even if it meant selling their outer warm garment to get one. They were going to need one with everyone wanting to kill them in the near future.

    He also drove the money changers out of the temple with a whip and with violent actions.

    The best story on Christian meekness I ever heard came from a pastor of mine, who used to be a missionary in Liberia.

    The short version is that a very tall, strong fisherman on the coast of Liberia converted to Christianity after a long life as a violent drunk. His favorite past time was to get drunk and then beat people up because he was so big.

    Once he converted, he quit getting drunk and beating up people.

    The people he used to pick on heard about his conversion, and came to get payback.

    They taunted him and said, “Your God says if we hit you on one side of your face, you have to turn your cheek so we can hit you again.”

    The fisherman said the following. “Yes, if you hit me here (points to face) I will turn my cheek. And then you will hit me here (points to other side of his face).”

    After a pause of a few seconds, the fisherman added “And after you have done that, I will make a greasy spot of you on the sand.”

    The crowd of taunters left shortly thereafter.

    For another example, check out

  7. The guy who was the rector of my church in Amarillo not only had his CHL license, but also carried during church. When one of the parishioners asked if that wasn’t inconsistent with his Christian beliefs, he replied, “Not at all. If someone comes in here to do violence to us, I don’t look on it as taking his life. I see it as helping him to see God sooner.”

    I concur. The God I worship is not a meek, namby-pamby milquetoast. God does not condone murder, but He has no problem with killing in the name of self-defense.

    I love it when Liberals try and wrap themselves in the flag of Christianity to justify whatever whack-job opinion they have. Doesn’t hold water with me. (And apologies to your TTAG readers who own guns and consider yourselves Liberals. From my point of view, there’s hope for you, yet.)

  8. Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke His Disciples for CARRYING swords, He rebuked Peter for using it when he did. Why? Remember, Peter didn’t strike out of self defense, he struck out of anger. I also believe it was because it was Jesus’ time to go. His destiny awaited.
    I also think that there is a difference between self defense and “those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.

    • You can’t get angry when defending your life or the life of you loved ones?

      I actually think that his rebuke of Peter and the miraculous healing of the soldier’s ear were practical, not commentary on the appropriateness of using violence for self-defense. He knew his mission on Earth was coming to a close and He had installed Peter to run the church after he was gone. “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” If Jesus had not intervened, Peter would have been arrested, imprisoned, and possibly executed.

      (Oh, look! I’m starting to answer my own questions.)

  9. from Luke 22
    36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
    38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
    “That’s enough!” he replied.

    I think Jesus is teaching that you should defend yourself to include helping (defending) those who cannot help (defend) themselves. I believe that Jesus’ later rebuke could be translated something like “I can take care of myself. You worry about you. Two swords versus all these guards? Really? What are you thinking?”

    • “I think Jesus is teaching that you should defend yourself to include helping (defending) those who cannot help (defend) themselves. I believe that Jesus’ later rebuke could be translated something like “I can take care of myself. You worry about you. Two swords versus all these guards? Really? What are you thinking?”

      You nailed it on the head.

  10. All the holy wars were led by popes. They killed whoever disagreed with their ideas. Religion in general (just about all religions) has been responsible for more deaths and wars than anything else in history. If you disagree with the wrong person they kill you. It’s all very simple. I have a simple rule “DO IT TO OTHERS BEFORE THEY DO IT TO YOU”

  11. Well, this is how I look at it:

    The New Testament is insufficient to build a case for or against gun control. I suspect that our Jewish friends (RF and the rabbi) would have an easier time with building a scriptural basis for armed self-defense. Unfortunately many Christians mistakenly dismiss the Old Testament as passé or obsolete. But remember, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Thus the OT laws weren’t “destroyed,” but added upon with a higher law that contemplates motivation in addition to governing behavior. Yes, Jesus skewered many non-scriptural rabbinical injunctions (a.k.a. hedges, e.g. performing healings on the Sabbath), but the law itself remains intact.

    Whereas the NT is largely silent on issues of war and self-defense, the OT is quite explicit. Therefore, I believe Christians can reliably look to the OT for guidance on such issues, while adding the perspective of the higher law (e.g. What was the intention of your heart when you engaged in an act of violence? To protecting the innocent or malice?)

    And remember, the KJV translation of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” should more correctly read, “Thou shalt not murder” (Hebrew word retzach can mean many destructive acts including, to break, dash to pieces, slay, kill, murder, etc.) in accord with numerous other OT passages that condemn only unjustified killing.

    The OT clearly demonstrates that killing is justified as a consequence for crime (i.e. capital punishment), in warfare, and in self-defense of one’s home (Exodus 22:2-3).

    • Look at what Hitler did to the Jewish people. He first banned them from owning any weapons and then he murdered them.

    • Mr. Montgomery, I appreciate your appeal to Scripture. However, the NT is not the only Scripture, so to appeal ONLY to it is not what the apostles did. In fact, when Paul wrote to Timothy and referenced ALL Scripture was good for doctrine, reproff, correction and instruction in righteousness, he was specifically referring to the Old Testament. Completely separating the Old from the New is not what Paul did, nor what Jesus did. In fact, the Church was not even a new concept as evidenced by Stephen before the Sanhedrin when he refers to the assembly in the wilderness. The term is ekklesia or we know it as “church.” Point is, the OT is full of examples of the use of self defense and God’s law was clear about it, saying it was perfectly acceptable. BTW, I believe the same Jesus that spoke in the NT was the One that the law in the OT. Therefore, he does not change in regards to that.

  12. My father, a priest, has always taught me that the New Testament the “sword” is more of a metaphor to refer to defending yourself against spiritual warfare from the Devil (See Luke 11:21). He and I both believe that there is a big difference between murder and defending your family. I think Jesus would probably see it the same way.

  13. The best one I’ve heard about Peter’s defending Jesus with the sword is this. “As a swordsman, Peter was a great fisherman.”

    I think the use of biblical citations to support either side of the agrument is an obvious example of picking and choosing that which fits. I’m disappointed that Helmke got into it. I liked the idea of leaving this silliness to the pro-gun defenders.

  14. “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” …
    A short while before saying this, Jesus told His apostles to carry swords (Luke 22:36). The context shows this to be literal, not metaphorical. This is not the sword of the spirit, it is a sword.
    If He had come a few centuries later He would have told them to carry guns.
    It could be argued that it is a sin for Christians to be unarmed.
    Carrying a sword for protection is not living by the sword. Those who live violently will die violently. Those who use weapons for protection may avoid dying violently.
    Check out this website:

  15. Colion Noir said it best…

    Right after David finished praying to God, he picked up his slingshot and killed Goliath.

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