Christians and Guns

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"Shoot,
shoot, shoot," Father Giorgio Giorgi said from the pulpit of
his church in Retorbido, near Pavia, Italy, during a sermon about
a year ago. These words stirred up trouble, because a Roman Catholic
priest has hardly dared to speak in such a way in the last few decades.
Yet Father Giorgi merely said that every man, being created in the
image of God, has the right to life and thus the right to defend
life. "[Confronted by a criminal] I might let him kill me —
he added. Indeed, if I killed a bandit, I should presume to send
him to Hell, because he's not in the Grace of God. So it would be
better for me to die, because, theoretically, I should always be
in the Grace of God, given my job. But the father of a family is
not a priest. He has the right, and before it the duty, to defend
his wife, his children, and his property."

Perhaps,
rather than turning the other cheek, one should close an eye and
aim well?

Most
ecclesiastical authorities have declined to point out this line
of argument; for whatever reason, they have been reading the Holy
Bible from a pacifist's, coward's, weakling's point of view. Yet,
it should be clear that embracing gun control implies the denial
of the basic principle of individual responsibility.

"The
problem is not six-shooters; the problem is sinners. Eliminating
guns won't solve that problem…. The proximate (civil) solution to
gun-related violence is stiffer (biblical) penalties for harming
humans and property – whether by guns, knives, axes, spray paint,
or computers. The ultimate solution to gun-related violence
is the transformation of individuals by the Gospel of Jesus Christ….
The ironic solution of liberals is to lock up the guns and liberate
the criminals after a mere wrist slap," wrote Andrew
Sandlin in The Christian Statesman
, Vol. 140, No. 1.

In
reality, while inviting people to love and mercy, Jesus never said
that individuals have no right to defend themselves. Even less did
he say they should not defend their feebler brothers when such are
in danger. A person might decide to offer no resistance to aggression
if he risks only his own life, but he can't shirk the moral duty
to help others. As Jeff Snyder
has written
, "Although difficult for modern men to fathom,
it was once widely believed that life was a gift from God, that
to not defend that life when offered violence was to hold God's
gift in contempt, to be a coward and to breach one's duty to one's
community." (Nation
of Cowards
, Accurate Press, 2001, page 16.)

The
belief is deeply shared that a Christian should always stand and
be ready to sacrifice, and that guns are evil means that should
never be used nor owned. However, a gun is merely an object. It
has no soul, no brain, and no wishes. It does nothing, but its owner
does. An evil person will use his guns to do evil, and a good person
will use his guns to defend himself and others. It is people who
are good or evil, not guns. Of course, those who deny this
implicitly affirm that guns are magical things with the power to
change people's mind. That is obviously an absurdity.

In
any case, many Christians like to cite Jesus' words: "You have
heard that it was said, u2018An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you
on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:
38-39.) According to many researchers and theologians, Jesus intends
to condemn useless or exaggerated violence, not the use of
lethal force against aggression. Thus, rather than contradicting
the words of the Holy Scriptures, Jesus is cautioning his disciples
not to misunderstand the Bible. In fact, a few lines before this
statement, Christ says, "Whoever therefore breaks one of the
least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called
least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5: 19.)

Jesus
says love is better than hatred, and that vengeance can never be
the solution. On the other hand, He doesn't say self-defence is
bad. This would lead to the rule of the stronger over the weaker,
of the bully over the gentle person. And, while inviting us to turn
the other cheek, He doesn't invite us to turn the other's
cheek, which precisely is the effect of gun-control laws.

Christ
suggests to his followers that they arm themselves: "But now,
he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a sack; and
he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one"
(Luke 22: 36.) Later, as he is taken away, Jesus rebukes Peter,
who has just cut the ear of an aggressor: "Put your sword in
its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will
provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could
the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" (Matthew
26: 52-54) — from which we can see that some of the Apostles (two
of them) were armed.

As
Larry Pratt notes, "While
Christ told Peter to u2018put your sword in its place,' He clearly did
not say get rid of it forever. That would have contradicted what
He had told the disciples only hours before. Peter's sword was to
protect his own mortal life from danger. His sword was not needed
to protect the Creator of the universe and the King of kings"
("What Does The Bible Say About Gun Control?", in Chalcedon
Report
).

Years
after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, Paul writes to Timothy:
"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially
for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse
than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). "This passage applies
to our subject because it would be absurd to buy a house, furnish
it with food and facilities for one's family, and then refuse to
install locks and provide the means to protect the family and the
property," Mr. Pratt wrote.

This
also recalls another quote from the Bible: "If the thief is
found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall
be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there
shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution;
if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft" (Exodus
22: 2-3.) He who steals into another's home bears the responsibility
of his criminal action. Self-defence is not a crime.

Under
the heading "Unjust aggressor," the Dizionario ecclesiastico
("Ecclesiastic dictionary", UTET, 1959) derives the following
statement from Thomas Aquinas: "Without doubt one is allowed
to resist against the unjust aggressor to one's life, one's goods
or one's physical integrity; sometimes, even ’til the aggressor's
death… In fact, this act is aimed at preserving one's life or
one's goods and to make the aggressor powerless. Thus, it is a good
act, which is the right of the victim." There are three conditions
under which legitimate self-defence must lie: "That he who
is the target of the force is an aggressor and an unjust aggressor…
That the object of the defence is an important good, such as the
life, physical integrity or worthy goods… [and] That defensive
violence is proportionate to aggression." Under these conditions,
"One is also allowed (not required) to kill other people's
unjust aggressor."

On
these grounds, even a great Catholic author, J.R.R. Tolkien agrees:
"The aggressors are themselves primarily to blame for the evil
deeds that proceed from their original violation of justice and
the passions that their own wickedness must naturally (by their
standards) have been expected to arose. They at any rate have no
right to demand that their victims when assaulted should not demand
an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth" (The
Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
, 1995, p. 243.) In his well-known
novel, The
Lord of the Rings
,
the evil Sauron requires of free peoples that "men shall bear
no weapons," otherwise he will assault them (The Lord of
the Rings, 2001, p. 872.)

According
to George Crocker
"The Word of God does allow and encourage
self-defence.  In the Scriptures we do not find God encouraging
His people to be either “hawks” or “doves” when dealing with self-defence.
They are just to be reasonable." ("Self
Defence Or Turn The Other Cheek?
"). Mr. Crocker concludes
his article quoting Dr. A. T. Robertson: "Jesus protested when
smitten on the cheek (John 18:22). And Jesus denounced the Pharisees
(Matt 23) and fought the devil always.  The language of Jesus
is bold and picturesque and is not to be pressed too literally.
Paradoxes startle and make us think. We are expected to fill in
the other side of the picture…. Aggressive or offensive war by nations
is also condemned, but not necessarily defensive war or defence
against robbery and murder." (A.T. Robertson. Word
Pictures in the New Testament
, Vol. I, p. 48).

Of
course, the religion would not be moral, in a deep sense, which
required its followers to passively suffer aggressive violence.
Actually, rather than Christian, this approach is typical of post-Christian
thought, which avoids weighty concepts, including those of individual
responsibility or sin. "The far most important principle that
was pulled away from Christian policy is the theory of sin. This
is not an uninteresting topic of moral theology; rather, it is the
precious premise of a realistic and keen understanding of human
nature and of its free, everlasting moving to and from Good and
Evil," the late political scientist Gianfranco Miglio said
in 1946.

Many
years later, Prof. Miglio added: "I can't suffer, or understand,
the u2018social Catholics'. They seem to teach God how He should have
made humans. They don't admit men's evilness: to them, the culprit
is u2018the society'…. They hate America, the free-market, the whole
West, that has been created by Christianity."

Indeed,
among Christians' greatest virtues there is realism; they well understand
that men may freely choose to do evil, and even find it sweet. Gun-control
laws disarm all men, but only an ingenuous person fools himself
into believing that criminals will be law-abiding! Such measures
may make crime more difficult to perpetrate, but they make self-defence
nearly impossible.

"Consider
the situation of a mother in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood, moments
after an escaped psychopathic murderer has broken into her house,"
suggests David B. Kopel.
"The woman has good reason to fear that the intruder is about
to slaughter her three children. If she does not shoot him with
her .38 special, the children will be dead before the police arrive.
Is the woman’s moral obligation to murmur “violence engenders violence,”
and keep her handgun in the drawer while her children die? Or is
the mother’s moral duty to save her children, and shoot the
intruder?" ("Does God Believe In Gun Control?")

Further,
gun-control is the key to tyranny, because a dicator would find
virtually no resistance if the people are unarmed. With regard to
the motto "Obey God, Serve Mankind, Oppose Tyranny," Daniel
New noted
that "A motto can, on occasion, capture a whole
philosophy of life, and it can stick with a young person throughout
his or her life. The phrase u2018Obey God' is undoubtedly the most profound
part of that motto. No one can serve two masters" (Michael
New: Mercenary… Or American Soldier?, p. 34.)

One
could hardly make an argument that God gave some people the authority
to assault, and some others the duty to be assaulted. Indeed, He
gave men the gifts of conscience and intelligence, so that they
may decide if an action is good or worthy. So it is very hard to
justify, from a Christian point of view, a law whose prime effect
is to disarm honest people.

One
may believe banning guns is a good thing, and campaign for gun control;
nobody has the right to do it in the name of God.

August
30, 2002

Carlo
Stagnaro [send him mail]
co-edits the libertarian magazine “Enclave
and edited the book “Waco.
Una strage di stato americana
.” Here’s his
website
.

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