Teaching on Guns and Gun Laws
This teaching started as a dialogue among our seminarians cohort in their quarterly public meeting to do theology. It then went through the pastors and Leadership Team for correction and improvement.
Jesus is the most famous example of nonviolence in world history. For generations people considered it a reasonable expectation that they, too, might be put to death by the Roman Empire as they followed his example. This radical witness by people who believed they were given eternal life fueled the rapid growth of the church. Their church eventually toppled the oppressors and took the place of the empire.
While the example of Jesus shows God deliberately on the side of the poor and regularly insensitive to the standing order of society, the Lord’s primary mission is not about social reform, neither is Paul’s. They speak to society and demonstrate the Spirit, but they primarily introduce an alternative way for people to travel. Jesus has a sense of indifference to the demands of the culture and from that place of rest and grace, he speaks and acts. We have been entranced by his revelation ever since.
Jesus’ example of suffering love leads us to our own freedom to share our lives and not fear how we may be abused. In Christ, the power of death, itself, has been defeated, and with that defeat the threat of death as an instrument of coercion. We intend to live lives of conspicuous dependence on God and help each other let go of our persistent need to control. Our highest calling is to believe we are vessels of the Holy Spirit enabled to love as God loves, even our enemies, and to see others as sacred creatures of God’s design.
On the way to everyone’s highest calling, we know that we all have a journey from where Jesus found us to our final development. In a difficult and tempting world, we often don’t know how, in a given circumstance, to respond in love and truth. With a spirit of mutual acceptance and trust in Jesus, we affirm that there are many ways to react to the present proliferation of guns and the attitudes and laws that surround them.
- Some will be firearm celibates. They will not own or fire weapons, physically or virtually. The instrument is tainted with evil. They may hold an important center for us, who witness to Jesus telling his followers to put away their swords (Matt. 26:50-52). Their prophetic nonviolence must be expressed in love and as a matter of a new imagination, knowing that they do not have practical solutions for everything this side of the age to come.
- Some will restrict use and ownership of guns to gaming: hunting, target shooting and video games. They can discern the proper level of lethality and resist the innate call to violence a powerful machine can arouse. Like Paul calls those who feel strong enough to handle things others see as dangerous, they will need to respect the convictions of others (Rom. 14:1-10).
- Some will safeguard weapons meant for self-protection. As responsible gunowners who are part of the body of Christ they will be open to people speaking into their mental health and safety measures, as well as open to dialogue about how their use of guns reflects on Jesus and his church. We know that judgment begins with the church, so we will not let our attachment to or disgust with the world override our love for God and the people of God (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Practical ways to engage
- Work to de-escalate conflict — practice day-to-day peacemaking. We might be in between those who trust in guns and those who trust in laws to effect change. More likely we would be in between warring parties. “The Interrupters” documentary out of Chicago was noted.
- Use practical guides from the church — Ways to talk about it — “A loaded conversation” is a guide for discussing different perspective. Download "A loaded conversation" here. Ways to address policy. — Check out MCC's guide to preventing violence involving guns.
- Keep working with Heeding God’s Call — like when we shut down a gun store because they would not adhere to a code of conduct. Be specific and relational.
- Be part of our flagship process (whatever that might be). Perhaps we should join with Cease Fire and work on harm reduction.
- Form a true alternative — to do something against the powers, we need to do something else, not just advance “evidence-based” policy. More of the same often results in endless argument, not transformation. We need to enter suffering from another way than a medical/science model.
- Be disruptable. — The relentless efforts of the relatively small NRA feel overwhelming as they fight even the smallest reduction in lethality lest it be a slippery slope towards Obama-like authorities taking away their right to gun ownership. The NRA is capitalism on steroids. Such ideologies must not become normal to us.
- Do theology like you are building a bulwark. — We need theological, not ideological reactions. Otherwise we are subject to the argument that what we say is just a matter of upbringing, not truth. We are discerning God’s direction, not having our prejudices verified. From there we can look toward a common good that resists individualism and restores community.
October 15, 2018