It has become mantra of many in America in recent weeks: We need guns to defend ourselves.
And I use the word mantra to express more than the idea that they say it over and over and over again. A mantra, in eastern religions, is a syllable, or word, or a series of words thought to be capable of creating change. By repeating this phrase: We need guns to defend ourselves. We need guns to defend ourselves. We need guns to defend ourselves gun advocates demonstrate that they believe this to be a phrase of great power.
But despite their ceaseless repetition (We need guns to defend ourselves. We need guns to defend ourselves. We need guns to defend ourselves.) I am not convinced.
We need guns to defend ourselves – means that we are afraid of others. Whether they are the imagined “drug crazed maniacs” or “rapists” breaking into our homes or the hypothetical tyrannical kings threatening to makes us his subjects , discussions about gun control invariably bring up these boogiemen. It would be foolish to pretend that assaults and home invasions and rapes do not and will not continue to occur. But to say we need guns to defend ourselves is to live in perpetual fear; it is to view those around us as threats, and enemies, and dangers, rather than friends and neighbors. I choose to not live in fear of others.
We need guns to defend ourselves – means that we value our lives (and the lives of our families and our property) more than the lives of others. If I am willing to shoot and to kill someone -even someone intent on breaking into my home - it means that I value my life (and my property!) more than another human being. I cannot live like that, not if I take the Apostle Paul’s admonition seriously, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2: 3 English Standard Version) I choose to value others –to love them – as I value and love myself. (Matthew 22: 39)
We need guns to defend ourselves – means that we believe that the best (or the only) way to deal with violence (or the threat of violence) is with a return of more violence. Using a gun in self defense is returning evil for evil – something Christians are told not to do (1 Peter 3:9). Using a gun in self defense means that we don’t take seriously Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek. “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39 English Standard Version). This is not a guarantee that we won’t be attacked. This is not a promise that we will never be harmed. It is, instead, an instruction to not attack and harm in return. I choose to forgo revenge and to feed and clothe and bless those who would hurt me. (Romans 12: 19 – 20)
We need guns to defend ourselves- means that we are unwilling to trust God. If God is our shield and protection (Psalm 28:7) and if we trust him, we do not need guns for self protection. God will protect. But what about those imagined drug fiends breaking in to steal my stuff or deranged rapists assaulting my wife? Evil is real and evil individuals do terrible things but, if we take our faith seriously, we will trust God to protect us. And like the three young men thrown into the furnace in Babylon we say “Even if he doesn’t…” (Daniel 3:18) we will not be pulled into the world‘s fear and hate. I choose to trust God for the protection of my life – even if he doesn’t.