Of all the sureties on this earthly plane, there is no more fundamentally, solidly certain than this: liberals have no use for God, unless they have a use for God. So it is of no surprise whatsoever that the Washington Post has this week an editorial that relies heavily and distinctly on scripture and Biblical law rather than judicial philosophy or constitutional law. Because in this case, the author is writing in favor of gun control.
Rev. Rob Schenck writes against private ownership of arms in an argument that his headline summarizes as “you can’t be pro-life and pro-gun,” a definitionally false statement as there are many people who vote precisely that way – something he even acknowledges in his editorial – and also a logically flawed statement as it is an obvious false dichotomy. The mere existence of a gun, or the mere ownership of it by a citizen, does not, in fact, take life. You can be pro-life and pro-gun. It is an obvious thing, which I will nevertheless belabor to make the point.
Let me begin by taking some major flaws point by point.
“…I disagree with my community’s wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun.”
Straw man. Actually not even a straw man. That’s like a straw Jenga tower. It is beyond easy to knock down an argument that “anyone” should be able to buy a gun, but I would venture to guess that there is not an evangelical soul in this country arguing for the newborn’s right to purchase firearms, for example. Is mine a silly objection? Of course not. At least, no more so than his. He says that his community has a “wholesale embrace” of the idea that “anyone” should be able to buy a gun. This is just a patently false and utterly frivolous characterization. And what’s more, it does not support his thesis. He says you cannot be pro-life and pro-gun. Establishing that you shouldn’t be in favor of selling guns to anyone anywhere at any time with no restrictions is not an argument in support of that premise. Strike one.
“… our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life.”
I agree with this. It is why I oppose the death penalty. But like the above straw man, this argument does not go to the ownership of guns. The continued guarantee of the American constitutional right to own guns is not an error, and certainly it is neither for nor against “threats to human life” from objects. It is a simple task to list other inanimate things that can be used to put lives at risk, such as knives, bats, swords, saws, tractors, trucks, cars, boats, planes, hoverboards, chemicals, nature, sunlight, and green M&Ms. And while one might argue degrees of risk, one didn’t. One argued erring on the side of reducing threats to human life. No case has been made that being pro-gun is a threat to human life. Strike two.
And our belief in the basic sinfulness of humankind should make us skeptical of the NRA’s slogan, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” The Bible indicates that we are all bad guys sometimes.
Okay. So the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a bad guy with a gun, then. Fine. I’m fine with that.
This is not an argument against self-defense, and certainly not an argument against gun ownership. It’s merely a very weak appeal to guilt. Everyone is a sinner, but that doesn’t mean the laws of man or the church are incapable of determining the responsible or “guilty” party in a given circumstance. That’s simply absurd. And once again it’s no evidence that you can’t be pro-life and pro-gun.
“Assuming a permanently defensive posture against others, especially when it includes a willingness to kill, is inimical to a life of faith.”
No one is arguing for that totally fake concept. Having a fire alarm doesn’t put you in a “permanently defensive posture.” It’s simply the good sense to be prepared should the worst happen. The ownership of a likewise inanimate gun is not a “permanently defensive posture” in the first place, and in the second place I reject the idea that this is inimical to a life of faith. Does the good reverend lock his car? His home? There is an old saying from that ancient religious relic, the movie “Sinbad, the Sailor”: Trust in Allah, but don’t leave your horse untied. I think the meaning is obvious. And it goes without saying that arguing about whether you should be defensive all the time is no argument at all in favor of the premise that you can’t be pro-life and pro-gun. So, you know, wrong again.
These next two are quite a picture together:
Additionally, anyone using a gun for defense must be ready to kill. Such a posture is antithetical to the term “evangelical,” which refers to the “evangel,” or gospel.
Numerous Bible passages, such as Exodus 22:2-3, strictly limit the use of deadly force.
Note he begins with the premise that using a gun to kill in self defense is “antithetical” to the gospel. Then he closes with the idea that the Bible “limits” the use of deadly force. It is implicit in limit that sometimes it is allowed. He starts with an absolute prohibition and then closes with merely a curtailing, and with no acknowledgement of the obvious distinction. Here at last he is at least somewhat addressing the big, click-gathering headline that you can’t be pro-life and pro-gun. That is, if only he did a good job with it. Which he didn’t.
Let’s get further into this paragraph.
Additionally, anyone using a gun for defense must be ready to kill. Such a posture is antithetical to the term “evangelical,” which refers to the “evangel,” or gospel. The gospel begins with God’s love for every human, and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although he once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with “a sword,” that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess. Numerous Bible passages, such as Exodus 22:2-3, strictly limit the use of deadly force.
The Bible is also filled with countless examples of the use of deadly force, by both nations and individuals. A liberal outfit like the Washington Post is full, I am sure, of people who are happy to trot out such examples when they are engaged in their usual business of bashing Christians instead of using them to promote gun control. And not just in the fiery Old Testament either. I spoke tonight with another evangelical reverend, who notes that, in fact, you can look to the last book for an examples of from the very figure we are called to emulate and who Rev. Schenck reminds us we should be like: Jesus Christ.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
That’s from Revelation 19. Christ using the sword and smiting. Or how about when he tells his disciples to arm themselves?
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.
That’s Luke 22, and is probably the instruction the reverend deceptively characterized above.
By the way, his example from Exodus? It merely says that you don’t have to apply the death penalty in cases of theft. So pretty much nothing to do with his point.
There are, however, many more examples of the use of deadly force in the Bible, and plenty that do pertain to the supposed point of the reverend’s entreaty. So you must wonder how he will back up his claim that the Bible is opposed to all deadly force or that being pro-gun means you can’t be pro-life. But the answer is obvious. He simply offers another failure of reason, of course. Or perhaps a deliberate misdirection would be more accurate.
The impulse to protect oneself is natural, especially after terrorist attacks. But evangelicals must be careful that the noble language of self-defense is not used to cloak a more insidious lust for revenge. St. Paul wrote to persecuted Christians, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.’” We must turn away from our fears, base human instincts and prejudices, and turn toward the example of Jesus in word and deed.
The second sentence says it all. He completely tosses his entire premise up to this point, that the Bible opposes self-defense, and simply substitutes what is his actual contention: people who own guns are just vengeful, bloodthirsty jerkfaces looking for a free murder pass. After calling the use of deadly force in defense of oneself not Christ-like, he turns around and calls it noble, only to then say it’s not really why people own guns anyway. A betrayal of his entire point and article thus far. Then he throws in an admonition against this new topic he has brought up, vengeance, before suggesting that if you don’t oppose private gun ownership you’re probably full of “base” human instincts and prejudice.
It’s a carnival ride of poor thinking, poor presentation, flawed logic, fallacies, bad philosophy, bad theology, and simple factual errors, no part of which supports the claim that you cannot be pro-gun and pro-life. But, you know, other than that it’s a fine editorial which I am sure the left is eating like candy apples.
Here’s an exit question for the reverend: what about Christians in the Middle East carrying guns? Are they anti-life, too? Out for vengeance? Just curious.