I have been thinking a lot about Christians and the Second Amendment. I know, in the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park, “hold on to your butts.” In my tradition, the big E., it is often argued that the Second Amendment, much like the Ten Commandments was chiseled into stone and law by the hand of God himself to give us the tools to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government, religious persecution and you know— assault by godless foreigners who were fractionally human at the time of the writing of the Constitution, even though we would never say it out loud but it’s in there, between the lines.
Logically, it is argued (cough) that since our Founding Fathers were all Christians and they created the United States to be a Christian nation, a shining city on a hill, the new Israel, that if they put it in the Constitution then it must be from God. Consequently, the Constitution, and by extension the Second Amendment, is tantamount to Holy Scripture. God wants every citizen to be able to kill anyone who threatens their life with impunity and a clear conscience.
The only problem as I see it with Christians embracing the Second Amendment is, well, the whole story of Jesus. When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to prepare the way for his message of nonviolence, self-giving, service and sacrifice he warned them that some people would reject this message of love and respond by trying to silence the message and the messenger through violence even murder.
His instructions for dealing with this danger were radical: “ Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Notice that Jesus makes no mention of arming the disciples or meeting violence with violence, his message is clear: life on this side of heaven, in whatever dimension we currently inhabit, has priorities that transcend what we wear, what we eat, and even whether we live or die. Jesus emphasizes this reality as he concluded his instructions to the twelve,
“ Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”
What is important in this life is following Jesus in the way he lived and died—by trusting in God to protect, defend and vindicate us in all circumstances. Consequently, if God is our ultimate Defender who will make all things right, then we have no need to defend ourselves and we are free to offer love and forgiveness even in the face of mortal danger. Exactly like Jesus did while experiencing his wrongful and unjust arrest, trial, and execution. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
I am not able to reconcile the life and teaching of Jesus with our tradition’s sacrosanct view of the Second Amendment. Now before you completely dismiss me, please understand, I am not advocating universal pacifism. I believe God has granted governments with authority to protect its citizens and oppressed peoples with force when necessary. I also believe individual Christians may find themselves in situations where physical force is necessary to protect self and others; however, the proliferation and deification of guns in our culture have escalated most physical conflicts from self-defense to mortal combat, i.e. George Zimmerman v. Trayvon Martin.
To summarize, our worst-case scenario for being able to own as many guns as we want or need, a tyrannical government, religious persecution, attack by godless foreigners and wrongful prosecution happened to Jesus and he changed the world forever by meeting that force with love and forgiveness. So help me out with the part where following Jesus includes automatic rifles. As always, this is me keeping it 100 and who cares what I think.