God and Guns

Martin Thielen

March 1, 2020

I’m not looking for trouble. However, broaching the subject of gun violence is an invitation to trouble in today’s culture. I think that’s because the gun debate in America is framed by people on the extremes.

On the one hand, you have highly vocal folks, including the NRA, who reject all efforts to limit gun rights. Compromise of any kind is unacceptable. On the other extreme, you find folks who want to take a serious bite out of the second amendment.

People in these two camps get almost all the attention in the debate. However, most folks live somewhere in-between these two extremes, including a lot of people of faith. I believe its past time for the faith community to become more involved in this crucial deliberation.

Clearly, the status quo is unacceptable. Every week or so we see another mass shooting in America, on top of the relentless steam of daily gun violence. America suffers far more gun violence than any other nation in the world, driven primarily by the vast number of easily available weapons, including enormously lethal military-style weapons.

Many of the gun-violence victims are children and youth. Try to reconcile that reality with the image of Jesus placing children on his lap and blessing them. You can’t. Something has to change.

But change will never occur until people in the middle step up and join the debate. And people of faith could lead the way. For example, we could initiate spirited yet civil discourse on crucial topics including mental-health resources, red-flag laws, gun licenses, universal background checks, high-capacity magazines, and military-style assault weapons.

We obviously won’t agree on everything. But surely, as followers of a nonviolent Jesus, we can agree that serious efforts must be taken to reduce the horrific carnage. If we raised our voices loud enough, we could demand that our elected leaders stop being held captive by extremists on the right and the left and seek some middle-ground solutions.

Nobody will get everything they want on this issue. And even the best strategies will not end all gun violence. But with some hard work and with some commonsense compromises, gun violence could be significantly reduced. And that would please God.

Christians often ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” I don’t pretend to have all the answers to that question when it comes to complex and controversial issues. But no doubt, on this volatile issue, Jesus would seek to reduce the killing.

Inaction is no longer a viable option. People are dying daily, including children and youth. The Jesus who took children in his arms and blessed them expects better than the current status quo. It’s time to act. And people of faith need to step up.