Should Christians Be Pro-Gun? (II)
I am responding to Rev. Lance Lewis, PCA pastor at Christ Liberation Fellowship in Philadelphia. He relatively recently (9.15.2008) posted some comments on his blog site entitled “Pro-Life and Pro-Glock?” I called Rev. Lewis’s church office and got his voice mail. I left a message and my phone number if he wanted to get back to me and offered to email him what I’m writing about his blog. To this point, he has not returned my call. I want to continue in this issue responding to precisely why Rev. Lewis has such—and I use his terms here—a passionate anti-gun stance. Therefore, without further ado let’s unpack Rev. Lewis criteria for being anti-gun.
His fourth heading deals with his passionate anti-gun stance. He begins, “I do not believe Christians should support, own, or encourage the use of these weapons of individual destruction.” The most obvious question to Rev. Lewis is: why? Ultimately, what Rev. Lewis does is to manifest how ill informed he is on this matter. For instance, he opines, “I realize that the Supreme Court recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to bear handguns.” What!? I suppose Rev. Lewis is referring to the recent Hellar v. Washington D.C. decision, but he misses the mark here—horribly! The Supreme Court decision had to do with the lifting of the handgun ban that had been unconstitutionally foisted upon D.C.’s citizens. But here’s the important point: that landmark decision did not rule that citizens—of D.C. or anywhere else in America—have a constitutional right to bear handguns. I would further argue that the Second Amendment only put into writing what the Founding Fathers believed was a God-given right to free men.
You would think that Rev. Lewis might provide us with some substantive reasons and statistics concerning why he believes Christians should not own guns, but he doesn’t. Apparently, the best he can do is to misinterpret Hellar v. D.C. and give us his personal opinion (“I simply disagree with that decision as I don’t believe it promotes the culture of life that we as believers should seek to cultivate in this country.”) Rev. Lewis has not even begun to tell us why gun ownership promotes or does not promote a particular “culture of life.” He might take comfort in the fact that yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that, and on and on, 66 million gun owners neither murdered nor killed anyone. The (incorrect) insinuations are that non-Christian and Christian gun owners are the problem and adhere to a culture of death! This casts great aspersion on law-abiding, upright citizens, and suggests that they are a kind of less sophisticated, Neo-Neanderthal, redneck sub-culture.
In point of fact, however, this perception is contrary to reality. Statistics, which Rev. Lewis seems to want to ignore, direct our attention to a quite different scenario. For example, when the National Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a mail survey of 15,000 sheriffs and police chiefs in 1996, “93 percent said they approved of law-abiding citizens arming themselves for self-defense.” So who actually owns guns in the United States? It is indisputable that “In a nation where at least half of the households have a gun, it would be difficult to regard gun ownership as an unusual or deviant status.”
After declaring that he does not believe that Christians should support, own, or encourage the use of these weapons of individual destruction—note the tendentious language—the Rev. proceeds to his next thesis in this section, namely that “The handguns manufactured and sold in this country today are designed and built for one purpose and one purpose only; namely the destruction of human life.” (Emphasis his.) Once again, we are faced with an unsubstantiated statement. Rev. Lewis’s modus operandi appears to be truth by declaration. I don’t know who he’s been reading or where he’s getting his information, but what he just said sounds very much like Pete Shields’s book Guns Don’t Die—People Do. Shields argues that guns are “good for only one thing—to kill.” Assuming for a moment that Shields is correct—which he isn’t—then his argument cuts both ways. That is to say, “whatever technical attributes guns have that make them suitable for committing crimes necessarily also make them useful for a variety of lawful applications.”
But beyond that, let’s respond to Rev. Lewis’s thesis about the reason handguns are manufactured. First, there are folks who enjoy hunting with handguns. That is their primary use for the weapon. Second, a number of people buy handguns not to destroy human life, but for self-defense. These law-abiding citizens hope and pray that they’ll never have to use the gun in self-defense, but if the occasion presents itself, they are prepared to defend themselves and their loved ones. Statistics point us to the reality that handguns are used 2-3 million times a year in America to stop violent crimes. In the overwhelming preponderance of these events no shots are ever fired and no one is killed. The showing of a gun is, in the majority of cases, sufficient to send the assailant packing. No harm; no foul. We need to keep in mind that many criminals are cowardly thugs and seek weak (hopefully unarmed) victims. At the sight of a gun, they turn tail and run. Did you ever wonder why criminals don’t attempt to rob police officers? It’s because they are clearly armed. All this has totally escaped Rev. Lewis. He concludes, therefore, “Thus in my view they (guns) have no place and can serve no constructive purpose in a society that strives to value life.” Apparently, he doesn’t understand that an armed society is a polite society. (In subsequent issues, I will return to the blatant misconceptions that many people hold about guns and their applications, but for now I want to proceed with Rev. Lewis’s article.)
But what about automobiles and swimming pools, both of which take their death tolls yearly? Rev. Lewis retorts, “A handgun is not like an automobile. A reckless individual can misuse a car ending someone’s life. Yet the manufacturer did not make the vehicle with the intent that it would be utilized in this way.” That’s very helpful and explains why I have so much difficulty driving my gun to the church every day. Rev. Lewis’s explanation has some weight, but that does not rule out the fact that over 6,000 teenagers leave home every year in our country, never to return home alive. This explanation from Rev. Lewis also elucidates why the military issues long guns and handguns to the troops and not cars. It simply proves the time-honored adage: never take a car to a gun fight.
The Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution thought differently about the matter. Gordon Liddy writes, “As former English colonials, they were, of course, particularly aware of the history of England, a history that included a king’s attempt at gun control which reads like recent acts of Congress—and which cost that king his head. Those who believed in God understood that the right of the individual to keep and bear arms is a God-given right—a moral obligation, in fact, because God, having given us our lives and blessed the unions that resulted in our families, holds us accountable for preserving those lives. Even those Founding Fathers who did not believe in God understood the right of the individual to keep and bear arms to be an inalienable natural right.”
It is important to note that “All of the Framers of the Constitution understood…that the right of individuals to keep and bear arms preexisted, and existed independently of, any government they could or would create.” Richard Henry Lee, who was a main player in the Bill of Rights said, “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.” Patrick Henry not only said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” but also stated, “The great object is, that every man be armed.” As to the perennial “militia” question in the Second Amendment, George Mason affirmed the following: “Who are the Militia? They consist now of the whole people.”
Rev. Lewis continues to move farther and farther afield with his statements. If handguns serve no constructive purpose in society, should we take them from law enforcement officers? If Rev. Lewis answers in the negative about taking handguns away from law enforcement officers, then who in our society will be armed? The short answer is: the cops and the criminals. In other words, law-abiding citizens will be fair game for every criminal because they’ll know that the populace has been disarmed. The disarming of the public has been a major ploy of every dictator including Hitler, Stalin, Castro, and Amim. Did it ever occur to Rev. Lewis that law-abiding citizens are not the problem regarding guns? Is the prevention of crime by law enforcement or a private citizen a “constructive purpose”? If an armed woman is able to fend off a rapist with a handgun, is that a “constructive purpose”? If an armed father is able to stop a child predator from sexually assaulting his child, might that qualify as a “constructive purpose”?
I would argue that it is precisely because we value life as Christians that we take a realistic view of these matters of self-defense. Christians desire a peaceable life, yet, they understand (because of total depravity) that there are people on God’s green earth, who are not peaceable nor do they want a peaceable life. Rev. Lewis, as a PCA pastor, would do well to refresh his memory on what the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms say about preserving life (our own included) as well as taking it lawfully.
Rev. Lewis takes us to his fifth paragraph which is in the form of a question: “This leads me to question how long evangelicals can continue to claim to be both pro-life and pro-Glock?” Then he states, “I don’t believe we can convince those we accuse of promoting the culture of death if we are among the main champions of the latest version of the Saturday night special.” What? In the first place, it is not a foregone conclusion that honest, hard-working Americans who own guns are promoting a culture of death. Perhaps in Rev. Lewis’s mind this is the case, but it should be clear by now that he hasn’t presented us with one fact. Gun owners in America—apart from the criminals that Rev. Lewis keeps trying to protect—do not walk around with a “Wild West” or “Road Rage” mentality. It is more than a substantial stretch to contend that gun owners promote a culture of death. Good grief!
Second, it is crystal clear that Rev. Lewis associates every handgun with a “Saturday night special.” That simply isn’t the case. (I’m assuming that by SNS, Rev. Lewis is not referring to the half-price beer and buffalo wings at Chili’s.) Florida State University criminologist, Gary Kleck, defines a SNS “as small, cheap handguns.” In fact, SNS’s comprise only about 20% of total handgun production. Oh, and by the way, most American handgun owners don’t hold the gun sideways while they shoot either. Someone’s been watching too much TV and too many Hollywood movies.
Third, this is a very disturbing question coming from a man who has finished seminary and is apparently clueless about the substantial differences between being pro-life and pro-gun—SNSs notwithstanding. Typically, the pro-life movement is associated with the protection of the unborn. Pro-lifers believe that abortion is murder, the slaughter of the defenseless, innocent unborn (or partially born) life. Apparently, Rev. Lewis equates abortion and gun ownership. How, I’m not certain, but somehow, by a leap of illogic, he does. One can only guess how he connected those dots.
I have heard secularists use a similar argument with being pro-life and pro-death penalty among Christians. Is Rev. Lewis pro-capital punishment or not? It would be interesting to know. That’s for another time, though. The thread of connection, however, seems to be “death.” Abortion causes death; guns owners possess weapons that are specifically designed for the destruction of human life. If this is what Rev. Lewis is arguing, then he should not expect others to follow this flimsy, fallacious reasoning.
Other comments by Rev. Lewis leave me in a quandary. For example, he asks, “But shouldn’t citizens be able to arm themselves in case the government seeks to overthrow our rights by force?” Well, that is precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind, isn’t it? Thomas Paine said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” Jefferson quipped, “The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield.” In other words, the Founding Fathers had a healthy distrust for government and desired that the citizens be armed for their own protection. So the short answer to Rev. Lewis’s question is: yes. The Founding Fathers distrusted government and had seen, first hand, how oppressive England had been and how it attempted to disarm the citizenry. Both England and the colonists understood that an unarmed man was a slave to the whim of government. Rev. Lewis, as an American, should know this!In our next installment, we’ll look at what types of guns the Founding Fathers thought the citizens should have. This will take us into the wonderful world of long guns and assault rifles. As just a hint, I will point out that the Founding Fathers wanted the citizens to have guns that were on par with those of standing armies. Stay tuned.
 Richard Poe, The Seven Myths of Gun Control, (Roseville, CA: Forum, 2001), p. 158.
Labels: Gun Control