“Christianity and Self-Defense” Guns and Faith: A Two Part Series

The following post is inspired by a recent comment, which touched upon faith and guns. Always interesting how koincidence works, as Eric Shelton of the Handgun Podcast recently was discussing this issue as well.

In fact, a large portion of this post is derived from notes written back in 2008 for a podcast that never happened. Eric Shelton, Kenn Blanchard, Mick McCart & myself had bounced around the idea of doing a show that focused on “faith and guns”.

So how do firearms & self-defense fit in within the faith of Christianity?

QUESTION I: Doesn’t the 10 Commandments say “not to kill”

Many will point out the passage in Exodus 20:13 “Thou shalt not kill.” Wouldn’t this alone preclude any role of firearms within the life of a Christian?

Of the nearly 50 uses of this word ratsach in the Bible, only five are translated “kill”, most are translated as slayer or murderer.

The word can be used for “kill”, but has a very strong connotation with “murder” and/or “manslaughter”. In the Book of Numbers, the passage describes the judgment and distinction between one who lies in wait to vs one who without deliberate malice or premeditation kills his fellow man.

For the latter, a provision is given, a city of refuge. A safe haven for which one guilty of manslaughter may remain and be safe from the “avenger of blood”. However, for one who murders, no such providence is given. It is interesting to note that there is in fact a role of the “avenger of blood”. A role which is incompatible with an interpretation of “though shalt not kill” in the broadest sense as opposed to thou shalt not murder. Furthermore, why would there be a provision of a city of refuge if any killing of a fellow man was wrong. That interpretation would condemn accidental manslaughter. If an individual dressed in black jumped in front of your car at night, you’d be condemned under such an interpretation. That is why most rabbinical scholars believe the law to be more aptly translated “thou shalt not murder”.

Furthermore, there are in fact instances in which God commanded the Israelites to kill. These included certain breaches of laws, and certain tribes. Some have struggled with understanding why God instructed the Israelites on rare occasion to wipe out their enemies, every man, woman, child, and beast. It’s a hard pill to swallow along with a belief in a loving Creator God. The understanding that I have, is that in those rare instances, it was because that particular tribe was infected with disease. And it was to ensure that the disease did not spread. Similar to having to put down a pet because of rabies or feline leukemia – it doesn’t mean you don’t love the pet. But you know they’re going to die anyways, and letting them live may harm others.

So what do we come away from this understanding?

MURDER is WRONG

Murder being an unjustified killing, by one lying in wait, with deliberation. Society was instructed to put these sort of people to death. Our society at present suffers, because we have to great a tolerance for such individuals. Even if you oppose the death penalty, all should agree that such individuals should never be released back into society to repeat their crimes.

QUESTION II: What does Scripture say about self-defense?

Exodus 22:2 “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.”

This would appear to be very straightforward. Call it God’s recognition of Castle Doctrine; now if only the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would recognize such a fundamental truth. Defending your home is not viewed as a guilt upon the defender.

There are some other aspects to this rule depending on whether it’s day or night. Essentially, at night one could deem any such theft a threat. Where as during the day, there was some obligation as to whether the individual was indeed a threat before one could be justified in killing them.

Genesis 4:23-24 reads “Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” (NKJV)

Lamech was clearly not at his abode. He was out and about when he encountered a young man who wounded him. Lamech defended himself, which lead to the other man’s death. Scripture seems to make it clear that defending ones self, both in and out of the home, is not viewed as a condemnable event.

Nehemiah 4:17-18 “Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built.”

QUESTION III: Can I use force to protect others?

Genesis 14:13 “And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them…”

Abraham, the gang buster. Okay, so don’t try this unless you happen to have a small private army. Abraham utilized force in order to retrieve his nephew.

1Samuel 17 “And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock….he LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. “

Why is this interesting?

Because in the Psalms David praises God for giving him the skills to do so. Psalm 144:1 reads “A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:”

In fact, the Bible even teaches about “reloads” in 1 Samuel 17:40 “[David] chose five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag”. He knew Goliath had four other brothers. He carried reloads.

QUESTION IV: But I’m a Christian. That’s all Old Testament…don’t we worship the God of the New Testament?

First off, there is a poor mis-conception in Christianity that God is somehow different. Hate to break it to you, but He is one and the same God. While certain passages may be difficult to comprehend. Realize that the Old Testament repeatedly documents mercy, forgiveness, kindness and love. Just read the Book of Jonah. In which a prophet who despises a mean neighboring nation is informed by God that he loves and cares for them. And wants to have mercy on them. And just read some of judgments in the New Testament be it from Revelation or the deaths of Anais and Saphira. God never got out of the judment business. Rather, he offered everyone a pardon if they chose to take it.

But let’s look at some of the passages in the New Testament…

The most challenging of the passages is found in Matthew chapter 5.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

This is the same chapter that says “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Let’s address that first, because that is a far easier passage to deal with. First off, the offense here is not one of mortal danger. Rather, it is one of insult. Akin to the Renaissance period where one might remove their glove and slap another man across the face.

“evil” [pone-ros] – annoyances, of a bad nature, bad in an ethical sense, evil wicked

We are instructed to offer the other cheek. And frankly, anyone who carries concealed needs to take this passage to heart. Many a man has found himself in a brawl because he chose to protect his pride and ego. Men have both died and killed for personal insult. If you choose to carry a firearm, you need to set the ego aside.

Regarding pride and insult. To be slapped across the face is not a matter of self-defense; rather it is a matter of insult. And it is wrong to kill a man for merely insulting you.

QUESTION V: Aren’t Christians opposed to the use of force?

Luke 22:36 reads “Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one”

Or to modernize that passage…

“But now, he who has a wallet, let him take it, and likewise a backpack; and he who has no gun, let him sell his garment and buy a Glock.”

This was an admonition directly from the mouth of Jesus, to his disciples, to take a sword. The disciples responded:

Luke 22:38 “So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” Why would he have instructed the disciples to bear swords. If he did not understand the need for self-defense.

To answer the question of What Would Jesus Do? Was Christ totally opposed to the use of force?  Would Jesus have advocated the use of force against criminals and predators?  I’ll let you decide…

John 2:14-15 “And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.”

At a minimum, this is pretty de facto evidence for the use of non-lethal force.

WARNINGS & CAUTIONS ABOUT ARMS

“don’t instigate”

Matthew 26:52 “But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”

First off, in this very passage, we receive the answer for their putting down of swords. This event was pre-destined to occur. It had to happen that way.

The second aspect “of perishing by the sword” may actually refer to that given moment being a warning to both sides not to take up arms or it would result in their deaths. Let us take a broader scope of the words as a statement that “violence begets violence”. One must take not that the situation at hand was one of Peter instigating violence. Peter initiated an attack, when his life had not been threatened. This is a very important insight. One should not go looking for trouble nor instigate violence, such will get you killed.

If you decide to walk into a gang ridden neighborhood and starting shoot drug dealers, you’re probably going to get yourself killed.

“don’t be rash, be merciful and understanding”

Proverbs 6:30 says “Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry”, while it goes on to say that such a man is obligated to restore 7 fold. There are different types of crimes. There are those in which a man is merely a predator preying upon the weak and unsuspecting. Pure unadulterated evil. And there are those of desperation. Stealing of food to feed one’s starving family.

They are not the same soul. When I was young, some one broke into our basement and robbed us. It occurred a few weeks before Christmas. They stole nearly $200 in meat and food from our freezer. But they left my bicycle and numerous other items untouched.

Were I to catch such a criminal, I would not shoot them. I’d probably tell them to come back tomorrow, I have some work for them to do. If they come, I’ll give them some more food, and they can work off what they stole so that their conscience can be clean.

“an unarmed nation”

Judges 5:8 “They chose new gods; Then there was war in the gates; Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.”

Interesting that one of the criticisms that God levied against Israel in the above passage was a failure of the people to be armed and ready to defend themselves.

America must be careful that we do not find ourselves in a situation where a firearm cannot be found amongst 40,000 people.

Final thoughts from a personal perspective. I’ve always been pro-gun, but for the longest time I did not own a firearm. I am pretty affirmed in my faith, and I saw little reason to trade my life for anothers. Especially one who I believe might really need some salvation (ie: murderer). But when I became a husband and a father the perspective changed. Now it was not just my life, but the life of my loved ones that I had need to protect. It was time for me to own a gun.

Read more about that here

*****

An Interesting Aside…two of my favorite quotes come from Ghandi. One is about christianity and the other about guns:

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Ghandi

“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.” – Mahatma Ghandi

Lastly, there is a passage in Scripture that talks about seeing wrong doing, and doing nothing about it being wrong. I can’t remember the verse reference. If anyone recalls it, please email to me. Thank you.

Here is an additional perspective on the matter. I discovered it after writing my post. But I believe the author came to similar conclusions as to myself.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 11:21 pm  Comments (6)  
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“Perceptions of ‘guns’ and Christianity” Guns and Faith: A Two Part Series

Addressing a concealed topic…

I was recently asked about “recognizing when to, and not to, (also who to) speak openly about gun ownership in a religious setting”.

This can be a challenging hardship for one of faith. I have found that many people do not know their own Scriptures. They hold on to traditions of thought very strongly, revealing a Scripture that speaks otherwise will have little effect other than to upset such individuals.

For individuals of said mindset, there is little you can do to alter their view or perspective until a horrendous event adjusts their perspective. Trying to get into a rational argument with such an individual will simply put them off. If you sense that someone falls into that demographic. It’s best to just let the topic drift and move onto other discussions.

That said, do not expect all church goers to hold to the interpretation that “guns are evil”. Many hunters and church goers across America, are the same people. Strangely, I’ve actually found many pastors to be much more friendly to firearms than their congregations.

We used to attend a predominantly black/urban church. I invited our pastor out shooting. He had a blast. He was prior military. He even expressed surprise at how much fun he had going out shooting. (It’s a lot more fun when you’re not trying to qualify or shooting at the beck and call of a drill sargeant.)

About a year later I lightly touched upon firearms while with my pastor and another pastor within the denomination. The other pastor mentioned he really liked shooting the 40S&W. Next thing I know, I’m chatting about guns with two pastors. Turns out the other pastor actually owned a 40S&W.

Often, the men are much more open to firearms, but usually give their wives as the reason for not owning one. This is a cultural gap that is not exclusive to the church. Women have not been given as much opportunity in our culture to utilize and embrace firearms. Often their only familiarity with firearms are the news reports talking about how another young kid has been killed by another human being (er, I mean gun). If there is a nut to crack in the church to open the acceptability of firearms; it is with the mothers in the church. Mind you, this is far from universal. Sarah Palin is not the only pro-gun church going mother. Trust me…

So how do we come out of the closet as gun owners?

A couple of suggestions I have for this. First off, be knowledgeful. Be able to provide every man (or woman) an answer. Why do you own? Why do you carry?

Second, be responsible…be safe…be polite! People are much less afraid of knowing you own a gun if you are always polite, respectful – the type holding the door open for everyone at church and taking out the trash. A gun in the hands of a “good man” is far less frightening.

Third, consider being involved in a shooting sport. Be it hunting, trap or competitive shooting. It is a lot easier to start up a dialog on guns when you can mention a recreational aspect to your ownership. It’s easier for me to tell everyone at a church event, “I’ve got to leave. Got league tonight.” And let them ask “Oh, what sort of league, bowling?” And politely respond “No, actually it’s a shooting league. Competitive pistol target shooting. It’s a lot of fun. We all have a great time.”

You just started the conversation off from a “playful” spectrum, rather than the nitty gritty. You’re already ahead of the ball, and can start to gauge reactions. Get a sense for who is offended, who is polite about it, or who’s ears and eyes perked up with interest at the mere mention of such a thing.

Rest assured, you’re going to get the individual who simply “hates guns”. It’ll be from a more emotional spectrum. You might even be able to provide some reasons for your gun ownership that they can accept. But for themselves, they’ll declare “I still hate guns”. That’s okay, let them be…. “pray for them” 😉

Have your answers, be able to provide them. But don’t try to win an argument. Doing that will back them into a corner. That’s not our goal as gun owners.

Lastly, be evangelistic, offer to take them out shooting. Maybe that’s too far. Especially for someone who dislikes firearms. Instead, offer to teach them how to check and disarm a firearm. Explaining it’s good knowledge, even if they don’t like guns, to at least know how to disarm them and make sure they’re safe. Just in case one is ever found or brought to them. The mere act of seeing them mechanically can help to lessen fear. Changing the perspective of a gun from a “symbol of death” to merely a “tool”.

Who knows…maybe you’ll find a handful of closet gun owners, and next men’s fellowship finds itself at the local range.

See the next post for some expository on Scriptures and self-defense.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Introductions….

An explanation of what N.U.G.U.N. is all about. As the title states, this blog is in essence a diary and sounding board for a “New User of GUNs”. And that is exactly what I am, a new user of firearms.

My plan is to share what I learn along the way.  Perhaps pointing out those ideas and thoughts that many of us who are new to guns have, that many of those far senior to us may not even remember having.  As the saying goes, there are a lot of people out there who have forgotten more than we’ll ever know about firearms.  Some of that forgotten knowledge may in fact be the memories of what it was like being new.  So I thought I would share my experiences and perhaps others can learn with and from me.  I make no claims to be an expert, in fact, I make the very opposite claim.

BIO:

My name is Jason…

I’ve always been pro-gun, but until recently I never owned a firearm.  I had made a decision largely inspired by my faith (Christianity) not to own a firearm. No, I do not believe my faith is opposed to self-defense. I just personally felt that I knew where my soul would be if I died, and I did not want to take another’s life in trade for my own.  The time was not right for me to own,…this was a personal decision. And in no way do I think anyone else is obligated to think similarly.

However, in 2004 I met a young beautiful intelligent gal, amazingly in 2006 she married me and we moved to her home state of Pennsylvania.  One year later on Friday the 13th of July, Jason became a father and our daughter was born.  These two important and monumental events in my life changed the paradigm. While I had decided not to trade my life for another; it’s a different matter when it comes to my wife and daughter. As a husband and father I believe it is my responsibility and duty to keep my family safe. It is my hope that I’ll never need to use my firearms for anything other than sporting uses. I do not want to take a life – I really would prefer not to have that mental burden. It’s my hope that I’ll never find myself placed in a situation that would require such actions. But…

I’ll trade anyone’s life for that of my wife and daughter’s lives, even yours, and most especially a criminal’s.

It had become clear to me, the time for “me” to be a firearm owner had arrived…

***

I grew up in California until age 10 then my family moved to Connecticut. While in California my father owned a Ruger .357 Magnum Security-Six and a Marlin .22 rifle.  I was taught at a very young age that firearms were not toys. In fact, my father insisted that even toy water pistols should not be pointed at people.  I am thankful for my father instilling such tenets.

That said, I went most of my youth having not fired anything other than a .22 rifle about 3-4 times in my life.  So while my viewpoints were very pro-2nd Amendment. I really had little experience with firearms.  Likewise, my wife had had some experience with a .22 but not much more. So I had to decide what firearm was right for my family.

Strangely, I found myself much more drawn to handguns than long guns. I also felt safer and more comfortable with the concept of a handgun than a long gun.  This may not seem to make sense, but it “just was”. This goes back to my point – that so much about being a firearm owner is a very personal thing.  We also live in a small house with not a lot of room. It’s much easier to store a handgun. Furthermore, the thought of being a mediocre skilled owner of a firearm trying to defend myself with a long gun in very close and constricted quarters did not appeal to me.

So I made a decision for my family that our first firearm would be a handgun. I also decided to stick with what we were familiar with, namely the 22 caliber. So our first handgun was a .22 pistol.  (Even though my wife was inclined to something “bigger” with more killing power – yes, I love my wife, she rocks.) But a number of factors made me choose to go with a 22 Caliber.

– It’s an easily controlled accurate round.
– It’s cheap, affording much more practice time.

I figured, we could learn the basics of safety and handling with the .22 and afford to practice a lot more than we could with any other caliber – and I was right.  Now I understand that a number of gun advocates will argue for rounds that have more stopping power for self-defense.  But the argument in my mind was this “What’s the point of more stopping power if I can’t hit the broad side of a barn door. I’d rather have a firearm that I could capably hit the target. Because hitting with one .22 is more effective than missing with ten larger rounds.  That said, the .22 did not remain by it lonesome for long and it was quickly joined by a number of other firearms.  It’s now been about a year and a half since our first purchase.

So if you’re interested in knowing what the first handgun we purchased was…sorry, you’ve got to wait until my next blog post.  (But hopefully that will be within the next day or so. And I’ll include a laymen’s review as well.)

– NUGUN

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 5:47 pm  Comments (8)  
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