Should Christians Be Pro-Gun?
Pro-Life and Pro-Glock?
Rev. Lance Lewis, PCA pastor at Christ Liberation Fellowship in Philadelphia recently (9.15.2008) posted some comments on his blog site in the form of the above formulated question. In this installment, I want to take a few moments to respond to my colleague on the issue of Christians and guns. By way of clarification, I am in favor of the right described in the Second Amendment. I believe it extends to every United States citizen. It seems clear to me and others much more knowledgeable in constitutional law that the Second Amendment, like the others, describes an individual right. The Second Amendment does not require every U.S. citizen to have a gun, although it is important to point out that there was a time when certain states did require it and, in light of the current state of affairs in our country, it might be advisable for the citizens to arm themselves, even though it’s not required.
The language of the Second Amendment clearly states that we have the right to keep and bear arms and that this right shall not be infringed. As I respond to what Rev. Lewis wrote on his blog site, I will, as much as possible, use his own words. That is to say, I will allow him to state his case and then I will respond to what he asserts. There will be points of agreement between Rev. Lewis and me, but there will also be points where we differ and disagree.
His piece begins with a description of a fictitious Star Wars weapon United Federation of Planets Attack Phaser. I’m not certain what that is, but I’m pretty sure that Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Barack Obama would want to put more controls on it. John Edwards probably wishes he had one to fend off the reporters at the bathroom door, especially since Rev. Lewis informs us that the UFPAP is equipped with a Variable Power Setting. Even in the language of Star Wars that sounds like a selector switch that gives the owner full auto capabilities. The worse thing that could happen is for one of these puppies to fall into the hands of decent, law-abiding citizens. Nope. Every UFPAP should be rounded up and given to the Klingons, of Star Trek fame, for safe keeping.
It should be clear by now that I am not a Star Wars fan (I know perhaps what might pass as the bare minimum about Star Wars, except that Darth Vader has asthma), so I will forego further discussion about it. Rev. Lewis seems well pleased with Star Wars, which, of course, is fine. I would just add that the UFPAP with VPS sounds like something I’d like to fire.
What becomes patently clear from Rev. Lewis’s position paper is that he is opposed to owning a gun for self-defense, which is his prerogative—to a certain degree and in a certain sense. There are some biblical qualifiers, however, that we need to take into account. I’m relatively sure that Rev. Lance knows what I’m about to say, but I believe it will be helpful as a review. First, we know from Exodus 22:2 that the Lord was not against self-defense. In fact, the text is clear that if there is an intruder in your home and you kill him, there is no harm; no foul. Self-defense is totally justified.
Second, the Westminster Larger Catechism (Q/A 135) makes it equally clear that one of the duties required of Christians in the sixth commandment is the following: “The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others…” (Emphasis added.)
Third, the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day 40, Q/A 105), after giving a spiritual interpretation of the sixth commandment states, “Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself.”
It would have greatly enhanced Rev. Lewis’s thesis and position if he had made reference to these documents on his blog post. Surely, he had to apprehend that Christians who held a view opposite from his would cite these references. Therefore, he should have explained carefully why he thinks these documents are wrong. He did not and therefore his post suffers enormously.
But this isn’t the only great hole in his post—or holodeck from Star Trek. As we shall see, Rev. Lewis will have a bold type heading suggesting that he is going to deal with a particular issue (i.e., non-lethal personal defense weapons), but where he never mentions that form of personal self-defense at all. On balance, this was an ill-conceived and poorly thought-through and explained post as will become increasingly evident as we proceed. That being said, let’s begin.
The Reality of Non-Lethal Personal Defense Weapons
The third heading in Rev. Lewis’s article deals with non-lethal responses to assailants. For an article that purports to be an aid to us in non-lethal self-defense, it might have been helpful for Rev. Lewis actually to have listed what some of those non-lethal responses are. I mention this simply because this type of writing will increasingly typify and characterize his post. At times, his words are illogical, while at other times they are irrational. In other words, in his paragraph on non-lethal responses one would expect something along the lines of: You can choose pepper spray, a civilian taser, or a duck call. Something. Rev. Lewis doesn’t mention any however, which is a little odd.
Therefore, allow me to pick up the slack and mention some of the most common non-lethal responses. First, there is the civilian taser. These can be purchased for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000, depending upon the make and model. A well placed taser shot will knock a person down sending approximately 50,000 volts through his body for about ten seconds. If the person still gets up, you can repeat the procedure simply by pulling the trigger on the taser. The initial shot will not only incapacitate an assailant for about two minutes, providing most people with ample time to flee from the scene, unless you’re Michael Moore, who needs about two days.
In addition to the outlay of cash, a taser requires that you practice using it—preferably on someone you don’t like, such as a neighbor or Elder. You’ll also need to know how to carry the taser so that in the event that you’re accosted, you’ll be proficient in using it both quickly and effectively. This isn’t always the easiest part of being armed with a taser. A drawback of being armed with a taser is that it requires you to be in close proximity to your assailant. In most cases, however, that isn’t much of a problem, since if you’re cornered by someone with a knife or gun, you will be in close proximity. Therefore, you’ll have to be about twenty-one feet or less from your attacker when you fire the taser and—and—you must hit him with it. For those who are new to this, twenty-one feet does not give you much time to react and there is no room for error. If you miss, your assailant is on you and you’re dead meat, or at least in hand to hand combat, where most people do not want to be since they are not skilled in hand to hand.
Second, there is pepper spray. This is a reasonable and at times viable non-lethal response to an assault. Two key matters must be considered however. First, your attacker must be very close (six feet or less) for you to employ pepper spray. It is effective when used properly, however, and should provide you with an opportunity to escape—unless you’re Rosie O’Donnell. Second, the wind can play an enormous role in when, where, and how you use pepper spray. For example, there have been instances when the victim aimed the pepper spray at his assailant only to have the wind blow the spray right back into their own eyes. Clearly, this is an undesirable side effect.
Third, experimentation is being done in excessively bright light that brings on nausea. There is also some ground-breaking work being done in the area of incapacitating noise. As far as I am aware, these are only in the hands of the military at the present due to their experimental nature. Possibly, some law enforcement agencies might have this as well.
Fourth, if you want your assailant to fall down laughing, you might want to try hitting the panic button on your cell phone. This particular procedure is very well documented as a sure means of bidding farewell to this life.
Finally, if you are somewhat proficient in hand to hand grappling (this is not for the faint of heart, most women, and Bill Maher, Chris Rock, or David Letterman), then you might want to attempt the “raw naked choke hold.” When properly applied to an assailant, this choke hold causes unconsciousness in ten seconds. Keeping it on your assailant for twenty seconds or more will cause permanent brain damage (except in the cases of Al Gore and Michael Moore—oh yeah, and in Anne Lamott) or death. So since we’re discussing non-lethal techniques, make certain you keep a close eye on your watch while you apply the hold.
Here’s the caveat for all encounters of the close kind: The adrenalin will flow in buckets, which means that your fine motor abilities will go into “shut down” mode. Therefore, prior to an assault you had better give some partially sanctified thought to what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. And be realistic! This is no time for Polly Anna-esque theories. You could very well end up in close combat to the death, so you need to decide beforehand what your tactics will be. If your United Federation of Planets Attack Phaser with Variable Power Setting hasn’t arrived from eBay, you’re going to need an alternative plan.
Ironically, in the section that ostensibly purports to tell us about non-lethal resistance, Rev. Lewis provides us with no insight or information about how we might defend ourselves in such a fashion. Instead, he states, “…I am convinced by Scripture that all humanity has a duty to protect and preserve life and that those who believe in Jesus Christ should take care to do all within their power to see that no harm comes to anyone.” (Emphasis added.) Let’s reflect upon that statement for a moment. It is clearly biblically true that Christians are to have a high regard for the sanctity of life. After all, Scripture teaches us that man is created in the image of God. As such, even if he doesn’t acknowledge it, he has intrinsic value. Simultaneously, Rev. Lewis’s assertion begs an ethical question: Does Scripture require us to have an absolute regard for life? Please keep in mind that I’m not asking whether the Word of God is absolutely true. It is. I unashamedly confess the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. This is a question of a different order. I’m asking if the absolutely true scriptures require an absolute regard for human life in any and all circumstances.
Dr. Jochem Douma reminds us that Scripture nowhere demands an absolute respect (eerbied) for life. Rather, Scripture teaches us an absolute regard for the sovereign Lord God Almighty (cf. Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Eph. 1:20; Col. 1:16; Gen. 1:29; 9:3, 6; Rom. 13:4). He concludes that these verses teach us that the Bible does not teach an absolute regard for life. A couple of simple examples can suffice here. In the case of a loved one, who might be kept alive another few hours or days, the ethical decision can be made to remove unnecessary medications and/or other artificial means of keeping him alive and opt for giving water and nourishment until he passes into the next life. At the same time, if Scripture propounded an absolute value for all of human life, how would the lex talionis (the death penalty) ever be justly or justifiably applied? That is to say, given the numerous cases that required the death penalty in the Old and New Testaments it would be quite difficult to argue for an absolute value for everyone.
While it is true that we are called to live in a peaceable manner in the Kingdom of Christ, we also know the reality of total depravity or radical corruption. Not everyone, therefore, desires to live peaceably with his neighbor. The fact that our prisons are filled to overflowing is a clear manifestation of this truth. Should Christians have a high regard for all life? Yes, they should. Does this mean that we should do everything in our power to see that no harm comes to the life of a convicted murderer? No, we should not. God’s Word tells us that there is to be life for life. There is nothing biblically wrong about retributive justice (cf. Obadiah 15; Jer. 50:29; Hab. 2:8; Ex. 21:24; Gen. 9:6, Rev. 16:6; 18:6-7). One of the recurring themes in the wisdom literature of the book of Proverbs is that the wicked fall into the snares they set for the righteous (cf. Prov. 1:18-19, 31; 10:16; 11:8; 26:27; 28:10; 29:6. Comp. Ps. 35:8; 141:10).
Finally, it would have enhanced Rev. Lewis’s article if he had provided his readers with some scriptures to support his position. Unfortunately, even though we received two paragraphs of Star Wars, we are not the recipients of one shred of biblical text. In our next installment, we’ll listen and respond to Rev. Lewis as he gives us his (non) reasons that contribute to his passionate (his term) anti-gun stance and his question of how long evangelicals can be both pro-life and pro-Glock.
 In Ms. O’Donnell’s case, she’d simply have her armed body guard shoot you. You see, Ms. O’Donnell doesn’t want you or me to be armed, but it’s okay for her body guards to be armed to the bicuspids.
 Jochem Douma, Rondom de Dood, Vol. 10 in the series Ethische Bezinning, (Kampen: Uitgeverij van den Berg, 1984), p. 23.
 Ibid., 24.
Labels: Gun Control