On December 28 Reverend Rob Schenck — chair of Evangelical Church Alliance — argued that Christians have no right to use guns for self-defense.
Schenck said he understands the tendency to want to acquire arms — “especially after terrorist attacks” — but he contends that doing is to violate biblical commands.
Writing in The Washington Post, Schenck said:
The gospel begins with God’s love for every human, and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although he once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with “a sword,” that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess.
Christ words are recorded in Luke 22:36(NIV): “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
So in the the midst of a contention that Christians have no right to defend themselves with a gun, Schenck admits that Christ “once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with a sword,” and also suggests Christ posited one as the limit on the number of swords that could be owned. In other words, Schenck’s own proof text betrays him.
In another part of the column Schenck writes:
I disagree with my community’s wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun. For one thing, our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life. And our belief in the basic sinfulness of humankind should make us skeptical of the NRA’s slogan, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” The Bible indicates that we are all bad guys sometimes.
Schenck makes a number of errors here. For starters, when he says we ought to “err on the side of reducing threats to human life” he fails to note that gun ownership is a key part of reducing that threat. This should be evident in light of Schenck’s emphasis on the sinfulness of man. Surely sinful, strong men are going to attack weaker, vulnerable persons. And in that situation a gun is a tool that lets the outnumbered and overpowered person level the playing field.
On December 28 three alleged home invaders forced their way into a home in Ohio where a mother was at home with four children. All the invaders were armed and the lives of the mother and four children were at risk. But the danger ended when the mother managed to retrieve a gun she kept hidden in the house, after which she opened fire on the invaders, killing one.
Would Schenck rather have seen the mother unarmed and left to the whims of the three invaders? What about the children?
Schenck also makes a big mistake in arguing that mankind’s universal sinfulness rules out one man being the “good guy” who stops a bad guy with a gun. If we followed his line of thinking to its logical end we would have to contend that no amount of authority can be given to any man in any time or place because all men are sinful and therefore untrustworthy.
Instead, our Founding Fathers understood that even fallen men can display social good, but it is a good that has to be constantly monitored and hedged in with checks and balances.
In Federalist 51 James Madison wrote:
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
And just as each of the various branches of our government were designed to be check on the tendency toward evil in those occupying offices in other branches, so too the right to keep and bear arms was hedged in as way for one neighbor to keep a check on the evil of another and for one community to keep a check on the evil of fiends and marauders who might enter a town to steal, kill, and defile.
To argue that pacifism is the correct response to evil is tantamount to arguing that the weak must remain defenseless.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.