Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Response to “The Death Amendment”

In his post titled “The Death Amendment” Eutychus paints a grim picture of gun violence in our society. I would agree with his assertion that gun violence is a substantial problem in our nation. I could not disagree more with his focus on guns as the source of the problem or his proposed solution. Were we living in a “Terminator” or “Matrix” type scenario in which non-human gun/machine creatures were engaged in the killing of human beings I would call for the eradication of these machines – in fact I would be actively engaged in the fight – but this is not the case. The evil that perpetuates violence through guns does not live in the wood, metal, and plastic of a firearm – it exists in the wicked hearts of men.

While I am sure that Eutychus is well intentioned, I will assert that attempting to quell gun violence through efforts to eradicate firearms is frankly harmful to the fight against violence in our culture. Why? For two reasons.

  • First, it diverts our attention from the real problem – it implies that the problem lies outside the hearts of men and in doing so it weakens our ability to attack the real problem. It diverts attention from the fact that as a nation we have lost, rather ejected, our moral core – our Judeo-Christian values system and replaced it with a secular-humanistic set of beliefs. It allows us to maintain the facade that gun violence is a result of the existence of guns and not a result of sin.
  • Second, it weakens the ability of good men to stand against this violence in their homes and communities as they protect their families through the use of firearms (when absolutely necessary). It is cliché but true that when it becomes criminal to own firearms only criminals will own firearms.
    Attempting to resolve the issue of gun violence in America by removing access to guns is a bit like a doctor treating a cancer patient with pain-killers. It may mask the symptoms for a period of time but it does nothing to deal with the disease, and without intervention the underlying problem will eventually kill the patient.

So on what grounds do I support the idea that law abiding citizens of this country should have the right to own firearms. There are a couple of different angles of approach. First a political argument and then something of a theological defense of the position.

Personal liberties (and the corresponding responsibilities) are at the foundation of our national identity. There is no denying history’s account of founding of this nation by those seeking personal and religious freedom. The 2nd amendment reads (as presented to the states for ratification) “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Now I hold no advanced degrees in English, and in fact I rather despised the topic in high school and college, but there is little to argue here. There are two statements here – one indicating that a well regulated militia is necessary to a free state, and the second that the rights of “the People” to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.” Lawyers for the anti-gun lobby would argue that the purpose of the peoples right was the maintenance of the militia, but history would tell us something else. When we look at the process through which this amendment was written we find that late in the course of tuning the wording of the amendment a proposal was made to add the text “For the common defence[sic]” to the second section of the statement. This would have led us to the conclusion that the intent of the people in the creation of this amendment was to ensure an armed citizenry for the more exclusive purpose of maintaining the militia (the position taken by most anti-gun lobbies). However, this proposal was defeated and that text was excluded from the amendment[1]. It is clear that those who wrote and approved the 2nd amendment did not intend it solely for the purpose of maintaining the militia. Unfortunately this truth is ignored by the anti-gun movement as it does not suit their argument.

It is worth noting that most of those who hold the position that the government should limit access to guns do not want to fight the fight by the rules – they prefer to warp the meaning of the original text in an attempt to make it fit their desire. We see this in issue after issue where rather that pursue the constitutional remedy (an additional amendment to the constitution) the left plays word games in an attempt to see the constitution support their position.

Second – a scriptural/theological response. Eutychus references Genesis 9 – this chapter deals with God’s covenant with Noah and I assume that verse 6 is the portion that he was considering in his post as it says:
"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

He also references Exodus 20:13 – the sixth commandment:
“You shall not murder.”

Both of these verses are indictments of murder. A review of a number of commentaries found no substantial support for anything else – particularly there is no indication that either of these passages should be interpreted as a total prohibition on killing. So, insofar as the intent of his post was the condemning of murder - I stand with Eutychus – we should not murder. That said, we MUST differentiate between prohibiting murder and prohibiting all killing. In fact the Genesis passage is relatively clear in its position that the penalty for murder should be the death of the murderer. I would not use this to support vigilante justice, but it certainly stands opposed to the idea that there is no just taking of human life.

Beyond simply rejecting the idea that there is no righteous taking of human life, I will suggest that there is biblical support for the bearing of arms and while guns did not exist in the days when the bible was written the sword did and the bible references repeatedly the use of the sword to defend persons, property, and nations (references to be added this evening I hope). Beyond the references to taking up arms, the bible is filled with references to justice. I suggest that Micah 6:8 can be used to support the position that men arm themselves. When we are told that the lord REQUIRES us to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” are we constrained in the means by which we are to “do justice?” If a man with a sword had lined up a classroom of school children and was methodically killing them – would it be the “doing of justice” to stop him? Absolutely! By what means would I do this? How about my wife – how would she stop a large man with a knife intent on harming my daughter? There is a place in our society for guns the challenge is molding our society to one that uses them in a manner that is biblically consistent.

John Adams is quoted as saying “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In this country our freedoms are such that if we do not self govern (control our behaviors at an individual and personal level), our nation will rapidly degrade into anarchy. I would suggest that we are well on our way to that place today. A free society can only remain free if the members of that society are willing and able to govern their own behavior. Beyond simply believing that that free citizens should be able to defend themselves, I believe strongly that EVEN REMOVING ALL GUNS FROM SOCIETY would not solve the problem of violence (youth or otherwise) that we are facing. This course ignores the fundamental problem; the loss of a biblical worldview in this nation and the related loss of the concept of the sanctity of human life. We are growing a nation of people that have been trained to believe that humanness is no longer special. This stems from teaching our children that they are the product of ooze and evolution not created in the image of the living God; from our abortion culture; from the lack of biblical fathers in so many homes; from the church’s abandoning culture and science. Guns are not the issue; respect for life is the issue, and secondarily a respect for the law.

If we truly want to see a decline in violence in our culture we need to change our culture. Removing one implement of violence from society will not drive this change and arguing that it will ignores the root of the problem. To reduce violence in our nation we need to redeem our culture and this is a change that must occur in hearts and minds of the American people. Failure to turn our society away from its current path will have much graver consequences than the statics presented by Eutychus. If we fail to turn our culture away from its current trends we will see our society decline towards anarchy (something that we can see happening today as people demand ultimate personal freedom without any overarching moral control) and then, as those that want order but deny biblical truth respond to anarchy, we will see a move towards tyrrany/facism as the state assumes more and more authority in it’s attempts to curb the evils of a Godless culture. History shows us that the move to remove guns from society is a step in this direction.

So what must we do? We must attack the disease not the symptom. Christians must work in all aspects of life to redeem our culture beginning with the defense of innocent life. We must live out Micah 6:8 and do so publically – not just within the walls of our church buildings, and we must pray for God’s supernatural intervention in our nation, to multiply what we are doing in obedience for the redemption of our nation.



Eutychus said...

Certainly, folks will have fruit for thought with this response.

Quotes and questions:
“This course ignores the fundamental problem; the loss of a biblical worldview in this nation and the related loss of the concept of the sanctity of human life.”
When did the people of this nation, in total, ever have a biblical worldview?

“To reduce violence in our nation we need to redeem our culture and this is a change that must occur in hearts and minds of the American people.”
Who will redeem this society? How will our society be redeemed? When will this redemption take place? What Scriptural documentation is there for “your hope” of redeeming this society?

Jim said...

Well stated, Nathan. After some discussion with a friend last year concerning the Virginia Tech massacre, I came to the conclusion that it was a necessary step to become armed for home defense. Let me be clear, I do not relish the thought of killing an attacker; I hate it because of what my Bible tells me. I bristle at the commonly held view that it’s somehow manly to be cavalier about taking the life of an intruder. Yet, I could no longer abide by the idea that I was helping my family or neighborhood be safer by simply hoping that bad-guys would never show up.

When talking with another friend about the murders that happened last year in a Colorado YWAM center and then New Life Church, that person was disturbed by the idea of a church having armed guards (who actually shot the murderer in the act), asking, “What were they doing having guns on their church campus?” My reply was that they were evidently saving a lot of lives. I applaud the New Life church leaders who mobilized an armed team in the space of 18 hours between the YWAM killing and the attack on New Life. That crazed killer had lots of ammunition and could have killed far more people than he did. These killers choose their targets on the basis of having large groupings of people present, easy and open access, and the unlikelihood of an armed response. This means that most colleges, churches, and malls will continue to attract their attention, until these locations stop advertising themselves as targets by stating that they are supposed “gun-free zones”.

Nathan Miller said...

To be clear about my position on the use of deadly force – I hold that it would be appropriate to us force to prevent the death or grievous injury to myself or another person. I can not envision using deadly force to protect property – even though this is legal in some states (Texas for example). I have done a ton of Socratic method thinking about the use of deadly force to protect myself and others and have come to the conclusion that using deadly force, no matter how righteous, will leave an emotional burden forever. This weight would be associated with the fact that I had taken a human life. I am convinced that if I used deadly force to prevent the death of another person (an innocent in the situation) I would be able to live with it. The killing would not be something that you look back on with any joy or glee - but with a sense that what was done was just. The use of deadly force is never a first/or preferred option but there are scenarios in which it is the best/necessary option.

I never asserted that this nation was ever 100% Christian. That said, from the time that the first settlers came to this country until the very early 20th century the bulk of the American people believed that God was real (I am traveling today and do not have my reference material – but George Barna has written substantially on this). They were not all Christians – but they (nearly) all believed in biblical right and wrong.

Ad to who will redeem our society – my answer would be that God can redeem our society and that the church is/should be His “local action arm” in this place and time. Scripture references – the Lords prayer for one – “Your will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” This is Christ teaching us how to pray – and he is praying that God’s will will be done here and now – not just in the perfected kingdom. Secondly – I refer to Colossians 1:15-20 - a passage that asserts Christ’s dominion over all things not simply the souls of men.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Jim said...

I'm with you on that, Nathan. A reasonable belief that someone poses a threat to human life is the the only justification, not property.

Nathan Miller said...

And from a practical perspective...

Chicago has some of the strictest gun/anti-gun laws in the nation.