On all Saints Sunday, 2017, 26 martyrs for Jesus Christ entered into glory. Having attended their small Baptist Church in Texas and, because of their presence there, fallen to a murderer, a troubled young man who became an instrument of evil, they are now in the communion of the saints, never to suffer again. For their loved ones left behind, for whom faith is still lived in a curtain of uncertainty, who are suffering the aftermath of this mayhem caused by evil, “Thoughts and prayers” is a very empty consolation. This post is NOT intended to minister to those whose grief is now raw for the sake of loved ones who are victims of violence. To those close to situations and walking alongside the grieving, different expressions of presence, consolation and patience are needed. This post is written by and intended only for those who are several degrees removed from the event, but who feel visceral responses of anger and disgust at this uncurbed epidemic of mass murder through fire-arms.
We clamor for people to “do something.” For some the solution is to disarm everyone, which means we clamor for Congress to do something, and for others the solution is to arm everyone. so we clamor for regular folks to go out and get their conceal and carry permits.
In whichever way a believer in Jesus may be convinced on that social-political question, we must all admit and confess that evil is real, evil actively seeks to do harm, and evil finds a way to do harm no matter the precautions taken by society. The alternative is a society that is itself evil for being repressive. To believers Jesus also gives the warning that in the midst of such persecutions as these “love of many will grow cold.” To encourage us to keep our love for God, our neighbors and our enemies (those who would harm us) warm and engaged, I have two comments on the politics of guns, followed by two comments on Christian witness.
On the Politics
1. My first comment regards the Constitution of the United States and its second amendment. Those who oppose guns think the problem is with the amendment. Those who are advocates seem not to give equal weight to both sides of the statement, which reads, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Thus the point of the Second Amendment is to promote security by regulating the militia — that is, the great mass of armed citizens who are NOT professional soldiers but who DO bear arms. The purpose of this regulation of fire-arms owners is to promote the common defense and guard against tyranny. Thus an interpretation of the Second Amendment that makes society less safe and secure is a poor one. Yet that is our condition in society today.
Guns are rampant and available, with no discipline or accountability to a public militia.
It would thus be in keeping with the spirit and the letter of the Second Amendment to require criminal background checks, mental fitness examinations, courses in usage and safety, and oaths of loyalty to the US Constitution. This can and should be done right away, while local jurisdictions should begin to consider again establishing public militia — probably the state, although militias might also be raised at county levels. Thus gun-owners could be required to report twice a year at a militia station for continuing education units. By excluding from these restrictions weapons that are designed and marketed for hunting/sport, these regulations could cover every fire-arm sold which is designed for anti-personnel and is marketed for personal and home defense. All of this together would be a means of improved domestic security through an established public militia, while upholding and safe-guarding all parts of the Second Amendment.
2. Those who suppose that wide-spread conceal-and carry or holstered fire-arms would be a deterrent to the deranged mass murderer need to consider America’s own past. Many frontier towns began to pass ordinances during the Wild West days because it became apparent that easy access to holstered weapons promoted rather than deterred gun violence. Many times those who advocated for these local laws requiring guns to be turned in at the town limits, were the churches.
I applaud the courage of the two men who engaged the shooter outside the church at their earliest opportunity. Perhaps other lives were saved, it is still early in the developing narrative to know. It is one thing to post on how things should be, but that in no way implies a criticism for those who acted in the power they had in the circumstances that now pertain.
Two comments on Christian witness:
1. Some pastors are advocating armed security at their churches. I disagree. The historical witness of the church is non-violence and sanctuary. If that means we become as sheep to be slaughtered — then we continue to fulfill the New Testament picture of faith.
2. We mourn with those who mourn, we continue to shine the light of gospel and grace into a world that hates the light because its deeds are evil. Too much of the testimony of the Church is stained in the blood that Christians have drawn from others in the advance of the Church’s causes. There have been plenty of occasions where the testimony of believers has been of martyrdom and meekness, and these are the occasions to which the ethics of Jesus and of the New Testament describe. In the meantime our assertive witness to a holy and merciful God should continue unabated, in the attitude of Paul that to live is Christ and to die is gain, and that whether we live or die we belong not to ourselves but to Christ.