I have never owned a firearm, packed heat, strapped up, or “toted.”
I have never eagerly thumbed through a Cabela’s Gun Catalog searching aimlessly for a pistol I don’t already have.
I have never obeyed the edicts of “No Shave November,” never methodically planned my life around deer season, and never spent any appreciable time at a gun club.
On my side of the street, the term “side piece” doesn’t mean the gun that I carry on my waist, to the side. It just doesn’t.
I have assembled and disassembled M-16s ad nauseum, and I have been trained to use firearms, but the thought of having one in my possession makes me sick to my stomach.
And while the notion of carrying or owning a gun is distasteful to me personally, I understand why many in America are fascinated with them.
The NRA and millions of gun rights activists love guns the way I love the opera, the way I love the hum of a microphone, the way I love the crackle of a Coltrane LP.
Gun rights activists are quick to remind us of our Second Amendment right to bear arms, and they labor under the perpetual belief that President Obama is bent on ignoring this right, and is personally coming to “take their guns away” any day now.
They have also been effective in inculcating the idea that responsible American citizens should be allowed to legally possess firearms to protect themselves from criminals who obtain guns illegally, because “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Certainly, these are solid and persuasive principles on which to build a campaign for gun rights.
So, it’s no surprise that 43 percent of all Americans own a gun. I get it. But, what doesn’t follow is that many of those gun owners are Christians.
In fact, there is a sizable contingent of religious institutions that not only condone Christians having guns, they allow them to be carried on their premises; even during worship time.
Naturally, those Christians who are also gun rights activists trot out the shooting and killing of nine individuals at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, as indicia of a need to protect institutions with guns.
This, in my estimation, is incompatible with the the basic tenants of Christianity.
There are several underlying themes of the biblical scriptures. One of them concerns the intrinsic value of all human life. Christians value human life because God created it, and we leave the decisions concerning life to and with God.
When Christians justify using guns or even carrying them, we are undermining our trust in God’s judgment concerning life. We are also debasing the notion that God will ultimately protect God’s people and institutions.
And yes, I’m aware that Jesus called for his disciples to arm themselves with the guns of the first century Roman empire — swords.
But Jesus and his disciples ware living certainly in a different time. There were calls for their lives daily, almost hourly. They were facing a very real threat on their lives.
There is a considerable and increasing amount of gun violence occurring in our culture. Mass shootings. Drive-by shootings. Street killings. And even shootings within churches and schools.
But as Christians, our challenge is to find non-violent solutions to this violence. Our challenge is to use the liberating principles of the Gospel, the love of the Gospel and Jesus, to bring about change and world peace. It is entirely possible to do so.
If we as Christians are concerned about protecting our families, our people, and our institutions, perhaps we and the community would be served better by taking measures to prevent the shooters and alleviating their motivations to shoot on the front end, rather than harming ourselves in a reactive fashion.
Not by packing heat.