Faith, Freedom and Guns

We as a country continue to suffer the tragic loss of life due to gun violence. Colorado and Wisconsin being the two most recent mass-murders allowed to be committed because we don't have tough enough controls on the acquisition of firearms. As a reminder, the Colorado gunman was allowed to purchase 6,000 rounds of ammunition, even after his psychologist twice warned authorities that he was a threat to himself and to society, according to ABC News. The Wisconsin gunman had a criminal record and a history of involvement in the white supremacist movement, says the LA Times.

Disheartened by the tragedies involving gun violence in Colorado and Wisconsin, I am disturbed by the frequent knee-jerk response by some Americans to defend all access to weapons as a simple matter of our Second Amendment rights. I'm am even more disturbed by the frequency in which fellow Christians seem to be the people most often saying this. The New Testament, a text that seems it ought to be at least on par with the Second Amendment in terms of a code of ethics for Christians, very clearly calls for the end of violence. Values of compassion, forbearance, forgiveness and sacrifice are seen as central to Jesus' teachings.

Why then do conservative American Christians, in favor of God and country, err on the side of unrestricted access to weapons that can cost the lives of our family, friends and neighbors? Why have we fallen into a regulatory absurdity where assault weapons, or large quantities of ammunition, or access for criminals, is blithely allowed to go unchecked? What religious base is there for continuing to defend this practice?

None. There is none.

In a religious context, we continue to defend the absurdity of assault rifles and thousands of bullets on hand because we've given up a sense of faith. It's become a sort of idolatry of power. No civilian feels safer with an assault rifle, or 6,000 bullets, in their position -- they feel dangerous. We're not talking hunting gear, or basic self-defense. We're talking about the ability to be a threat to those around us. That's not a healthy religious drive, that's a social crisis.

We like to bandy about words like "freedom" when we speak of the right to bear arms. To place any healthy restrictions on access to guns is seen to be taking away our freedoms. But what is freedom for? It's to be able to live in our diverse world as we see fit without being harmed by or harming anyone else through our actions. In the Christian tradition, the God-given gift of "freedom" -- whether it's the notion of free-will or the liberation we learn of in the Passover story -- has a goal of building a community based upon the Golden rule. Freedom is about compassion, forbearance, forgiveness and sacrifice. It's about having faith in God and in community. It's not about having faith in your own personal power. Freedom is not about doing whatever we want, however we want, to whomever we want. That's chaos.

What we're seeing being allowed to continue is chaos. It's tragedy.