My husband and I went to a flea market last weekend, not realizing that it was automobile-centric until we got there. (I think my husband was secretly thrilled; like all males, he responds to any sort of thing that goes vroom!) We passed a vendor selling slogans to put on one’s vehicle, many of them religious: “Jesus is my savior,” “God is my co-pilot”, etc. Right next to this display was another display, only these slogans took a more aggressive tone: “I’ll give up my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands,” “My guns, my rights” and that sort of thing. It seemed an odd juxtaposition. On the one hand, it seemed to shout, “I am Christian.” On the other, it proclaimed, “Owning guns is quite possibly the most important thing to me.”
I get it. Guns are useful objects, if one is a hunter or needs to protect oneself. What I don’t understand is how they became the object of an almost cult-like worship by so many Americans. You don’t see this in other parts of the world. Of course, other parts of the world don’t have our murder-by-gun rate, either.
This quandary takes center stage at the moment, as our government discusses new gun control laws. You don’t have to listen very hard to hear the bays of outrage against this possibility. And I get it. It’s in the Constitution; we have the right to bear arms. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing our forefathers visualized assault weapons, armor-piercing bullets, and stockpiles of weaponry that could arm a small nation, all in the hands of a single person.
There are those who would say (and do) that a hammer can be used to kill someone, and ought we to outlaw hammers? All I can say is that I’d rather be attacked with a hammer than a gun. A hammer can’t take out dozens of people in the span of a few minutes. A hammer can’t be deployed from across the room.
But all this rhetoric is not the point. The point is the curious attachment we Americans have to our firearms. We claim to be a Christian people. How do guns fit with that notion? Jesus, Prince of Peace, would never touch a weapon of any sort. The Bible exhorts us to love one another. The Ten Commandments not only direct us not to kill, they tell us up-front what is most important: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” No other gods. I submit that if you are willing to give up your guns only when someone plucks them from your “cold, dead hands,” you may need to rethink the First Commandment. Your love of guns is veering awfully close to idolatry.
I’m not asking for all guns to be done away with. I’m not pretending that people (sick, angry people) are not the real problem — a gun is just an object; only a person can be a murderer. I’m just asking, “Can we try to be consistent?” Guns and God do not go together. In the words of Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the other.” What if — and I’m just suggesting — we put God first and then discern where guns belong? I suspect they would fall rather farther down on our list of priorities.
God is love. Love doesn’t need an arsenal. That’s all I’m saying.