Est. May 2008

22 December, 2012

God and Guns

Back in July, in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting, Susan B. Thistlethwaite wrote a post at WaPo asking whether Americans trusted guns more than God; she concluded that we do, and that the bigger societal problem was a lack of ‘obedience to what God wants for human life’.

Fast forward a bit to the aftermath of another mass shooting, this time at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  This time, Ms T calls for stricter gun control measures; she’s joined in this call by members of the faith community who gathered at the National Cathedral, as well as by the usual Democrats and liberals.

This call by ostensibly Christian people for stricter gun control laws makes me wonder: do these folks trust gun-control laws more than God?  Do they truly believe, in the face of inescapable evidence that our current gun laws – which, by the way, criminals tend not to obey – do not work, that even more laws will make a significant difference?

It’s painful for me to watch professing Christians and other people of faith go down that road; God made us reasoning beings; He called His people to reason together with Him (Isaiah 1:18); Jesus reasoned with His opponents, as did Peter, Paul, John, the rest of the apostles, the disciples, and the early church fathers.  Yet today, apparently, ‘reason’ has a different definition than it once had: today it seems that ‘reason’ (among some people, at least) means dispensing with evidence and grounding your arguments on anecdotes and personal feelings.

Certainly we are to put our trust in God, but not at the abandonment of our reasoning abilities.  What of Governor Nehemiah?  Was he placing his trust in God, or in swords and spears and the arms of men when he and the returned exiles rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 4)?  Was his choice to arm those men an affront to or disobedience of God?  Hardly.  Nehemiah trusted in and prayed to God continually, but he also reasoned that even though he had the imprimatur of King Artaxerxes to rebuild, the king was too far away to provide adequate protection for his builders; and even if (though we’re not told) there were soldiers of the king stationed in or near Jerusalem as a policing force, there wouldn’t have been an adequate number of them to police both the general citizenry and offer adequate protection for the people engaged in wall-building.  Therefore, Nehemiah made sure his builders were armed so they could defend themselves; the governor couldn’t afford to depend on Artaxerxes’ ‘spear-and-sword-control’ laws (even if something like that existed at the time) because help was too long in coming if something happened.

That the returnees actually had weapons at their disposal speaks to this topic as well.  Traditionally, conquering kings laid strict anti-weapon edicts on the people they conquered in order to stop uprisings; if Artaxerxes allowed the returnees to possess weapons means wither he didn’t consider them a threat (hardly) or that he realized they would need to defend themselves.  Thinking that Artaxerxes wouldn’t have known the returnees had weaponry is a non-starter – after all, all the problems they had rebuilding the temple and the wall was because the king’s sycophants in the area wrote letters to him about it; it strains credulity at best to think they wouldn’t have told Artaxerxes, ‘Those new people have weapons, great king!’

Ms Thistlethwaite and others maintain that Americans put more trust in guns than in God; I maintain that Ms Thistlethwaite and those same others put more trust in the laws of men than God.  You must trust in God, but you must also use the reasoning capabilities He’s granted you in decision-making. 

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