There are quite a few people who are having problems with me posting a video of my son Will shooting our AR-15 (a rifle) on Facebook.
The question is should Christians, in America, own guns or support the right to own guns?
The Second Amendment reads this: “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.”
EDUCATION MUST COME FIRST
I didn’t quote the 2nd Amendment merely as an introduction to remind people of it, but because I believe a very sad fact: most Americans have never even read it or really thought about it.
The hearts and minds of America (and American Christians) must be won first through education. Most Americans have very little notion of what America is all about, what Bono, the rock star Irishman, calls “the idea of America.” And the idea of America includes the right to bear arms and, as I will argue, something beyond this.
ROMANS 13 AND OUR RELATION TO THE GOVERNMENT
It is interesting that Jesus in Luke 22:35ff tells the apostles to get a sword. Now, I, personally, would not claim this is an exact parallel to the idea of the 2nd Amendment, but it does have some bearing on whether citizens can have a sword (an instrument of death).
In the book of Romans we are told to obey our government. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). If we do not obey, we should fear the consequences as the government does not “bear the sword for nothing” (Roman 13:4).
The government “bearing the sword” does not in any way exclude citizens from having one. In fact, the passage might very well assume that citizens carry swords also. The idea here has to do with whether or not the government should be able to exact penalties for criminal activity, even the penalty of death. Paul’s assumption is that this is an obligation the government bears.
However, any time the government no longer functions as a legitimate government, the higher law, a natural law, the “Lex Rex” (King Law or “the law is king”) says that people have the right and obligation to overthrow such government. Aren’t we supposed to submit to the government? However, this assumes that the government in question is a legitimate government. It is hard to know where to draw the line from a biblical standpoint (and I have no intention of exploring that question here), but from the standpoint of our government that “we the people” set up and rule over, this is an obligation we carry.
Because of our biblical obligation to the government expressed by Paul in Romans 13, I would say that owning a gun is something that goes beyond just a right, it is imperative to the well-being of our county. Notice this again in the 2nd Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” “Militia” is a term that may bring up misunderstanding. People will no doubt think of a rouge of hillbilly nuts who hate the government and form their group to create a cult whose purpose is to disturb or destroy our government. This is not what is meant. What is meant is a group of people who love America, whether or not they agree with the policies of any particular presidential administration or the rulings of any Supreme Court. These are citizens who are intent on obeying the government by keeping the government in check. What an incredibly unique and necessary situation our forefathers set up. Not only are there checks and balances in the three branches of our government, there are also checks and balances of power between the formal government and the people. Our forefathers knew all too well how unguarded governments can and most often do turn into tyrannical messes. And they wrote as one of the first amendments something to deter tyranny.
HOW CAN WE EXPECT TO FIGHT AGAINST FIGHTER JETS AND PLANES?
This is a question that I have wrestled with over the last few years. I sympathize with it and was at one time persuaded that the 2nd Amendment’s original intent was void due to it’s impracticality. After all, what can hand guns and rifles do against jets, submarines, drones, and tanks? Not much if it is a person lining up against a jet. However, this is not how it would play out. If the majority of American citizens have guns, it would be much different than you think. First, once tyranny starts, it starts slowly. Once the government moves in this direction, it would attempt to disarm citizens. Adolf Hitler famously gave these rules:
“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police.” (Adolf Hitler, Dinner Talk on April 11, 1942)
So, the government would not just send jets to all the houses who have guns, it would start slowly and locally. This would pit local militias against governmental law enforcement. If we have guns, courage, and discipline, we would probably win this first stage and take many strongholds in the local government. Then, the government has to count the cost of going against this heavily armed “army” we have created. With this situation, the government would more than likely back down as they would have to essentially destroy much or most of their own people. But if they did continue in their ideology, they would have to send in troops to all the houses, farms, and cities as drone, missile strikes, and fighter jets can only do so much. And they would probably fare about as well as Britain did in the Revolutionary War or we did in Vietnam. But (and this is the point of the Constitution), if we bear arms, it would never get to this point.
In fact, to put this in perspective, I could imagine a situation where our Government supported a branch in our military that was a “militia” branch, being trained and dedicated to stop tyranny on the federal level. I believe that this would be quite in line with the 2nd Amendment.
BUT WHY DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO HAVE GUNS?
I believe that there is a responsibility for us to have this kind of power immediately available to all Americans. The truth be told, if there are any Christians who have a hard time with this (and I know there are and I do sympathize with the objections), we must understand that to obey Romans 13, we must, at the very least, support the right to bear arms. When we go against, we may do so because of conscience or fear, but we have nothing to fear as long as we take all the necessary precautions and educate and train all those who do bear these arms. It needs to be well regulated on the “militia” level and on the level of the individual. Is it dangerous? Definitely. Is a car dangerous as we allow 16 year olds to drive them? Absolutely (I have one of those). That is why we should have diligent training for both. Will people use them for evil ends? Definitely. We live in a fallen world with fallen people who seek their own gain. But, ultimately, we have to understand not only the disobedience to Scripture when we go against the 2nd Amendment, but the radical danger there is when the government disarms its people.
I am not really saying that every individual Christian is ordered to have a gun. If it is something that is truly against your conscience, don’t get one. But those who can, should (and go through training, following the safety rules). But, at the very least, I do believe that in order to obey God, we should support the 2nd Amendment.
This is my musing on gun control. I am willing to change my mind if someone can convince me otherwise.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]