Renouncing Rights, Rather than Denouncing the State, is Idolatry

“Beware the man who takes pride in his humility,” advised Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, an admonition that applies to other acts of conspicuous self-effacement. Kutter Callaway’s Huffington Post essay in which he announces what he calls a Christian duty to repudiate the right to armed self-defense displays the kind of moral vanity to which Rabbi Yisrael referred.

“Let the record show, I hereby renounce my constitutional right to bear arms as outlined in Amendment Two of the Constitution of the United States,” Callaway’s essay begins. What follows is a starchy casserole of stale anti-gun ownership sophistries seasoned with appeals to pious sentiment.

His act of repudiating the right to armed self-defense “has the potential for changing both the trajectory of the dialogue [on firearms] as it currently exists, especially if it were something that the Christians did together,” writes Callaway. “By completely opting out of our Second Amendment entitlements — by not only rejecting the rules of the game but also refusing to play the game at all — I think it might very well be possible, at least within the Christian community, to shift the conversation from our inalienable `rights’ as citizens to what is ultimately `right’ for our fellow human beings.”

Callaway is intelligent enough to recognize the rhetorical sleight-of-hand involved in treating “rights” as synonymous with “entitlements.” The former are innate to each individual as a fact of his or her existence — and endowment from the Creator, from the Christian perspective. The latter are favors or advantages conferred by the State, and revocable at the whim of those who act in the name of that fictive entity.

Elsewhere in his essay, Callaway insists that rather than urging the repeal of the Second Amendment, he is, as a “follower of Jesus, simply rejecting it. I am choosing to no longer accept the rules of the world it has established.”

If Callaway is truly a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, why limit his rejection to one (inadequate, highly qualified, and deceptively written) limitation on the power claimed in the name of the State, rather than rejecting the State outright? If he sincerely opposes “the forces of death and destruction that threaten to undo the very fabric of God’s good creation,” why does he seek to fortify the State’s monopoly on violence, death, and destruction, and pretend that Christians have a moral calling to do likewise?

Many early Christian believers faced torture and death for their refusal to offer so much as a pinch of incense on the altar of Caesar and the State he embodied. Callaway would have us believe that Christians are morally obliged to offer their liberties on that altar — which would be an act of statist idolatry, rather than Christian discipleship.

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12:22 pm on December 10, 2015

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