I live in Montana so as you might imagine, guns are just a natural part of living. It's almost as if one's first breath of Montana air – either as a transplant or native-born – triggers an automatic gun-toting, gun-loving mentality. Not quite, but almost.
My friends from other states – states lacking equivalent gun-allurement – endlessly joke, and curiously question whether I, a Montanan, am indeed “packing.” To me the thought is laughable. I'm happy when my keys, phone, and children all end up at the same place and same time – even better when it's the right place and right time. Adding a loaded concealed weapon to the mix – that sounds like a recipe for disaster.
So maybe I'm not a real Montanan. I am, after all, a transplant. Admittedly, we do have a locked gun safe in our home, filled with a variety of hunting rifles that my husband faithfully pulls out every Fall. I rarely give much thought to them, and honestly am thankful for their service each time I open my venison-filled freezer.
But I digress. Red, white, and blue. Pick-up trucks. Apple pie. Baseball. Church on Sunday. And guns. You can't get much more American than that, or so it seems here in Montana. This week a regional newspaper posted on Facebook looking to find proponents of greater gun restrictions for an article they were writing. Within minutes the request was laughed at, belittled, and deemed unlikely. Truth is, even if someone did lean toward greater gun control, they never would have publicly responded. To utter such absurdities is equivalent to branding yourself anti-freedom, anti-American, and even anti-Christian. To listen to the rhetoric, gun control of any kind is nothing more than an eager embrace of Nazi-fascism, Chinese-communism, and the demise of all things American. And surely God would disapprove.
Which makes me wonder: what would God say about gun control? Not in some sort of glib WWJD-type platitude, nor in an entangled concoction of American freedom and Christian theology. And definitely not in a sensationalized proof-texting approach to scripture. But honestly, can our faith inform this conversation? And should it?
Discussions about guns and Jesus rarely fail to mention the Jesus-commanded purchasing and carrying of swords. But that command must be held in tension with his rebuke of the sword's use on the Mount of Olives and his admonition to pray for, rather than hate, our enemies.
Beyond that, gun control really hinges on the question of freedom. To listen to many, including the polemical, pre-recorded call from the NRA that interrupted last Friday night's activities, any limitation on gun ownership impinges on my American, and by association, Christian freedoms. But as Christians are we truly granted ultimate, unabated freedom? Or are we granted freedom from ... ourselves, sin, hyper-individualism? And freedom to ... serve God, bring justice, love others?
Is freedom really about unbounded rights to do anything I want, as long as I don't hurt someone? And who is to determine what hurts someone? The all-about-me-and-my-freedoms hardly sounds like a body of Christ, working cooperatively to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. It sounds more like the days of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
Perhaps looking to Jesus would enhance our perspectives. The God of the Universe – the one who orders chaos with a word and creates life with a breath – the one who put himself and his freedoms aside for the sake of the other. “Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7)
While scholars debate the actual meaning of his kenosis – what he gave up and how, and what he kept and why – his humble, life-giving, freedom-relinquishing act cannot be denied or ignored.
Does Jesus' kenosis say something to us about individualism, freedom and the greater good? At the very least, his kenotic-God-fully-human nature suggests we must move beyond our static black-and-white, no-guns-v.-no-restriction stances. Rabid individualism and authentic attempts at following Jesus cannot co-exist.
In reality, no law or even scripture passage will change Montanans' tendency to equate guns, freedom, and the American way of life. But perhaps, in humility, we might at least recognize true Christian freedom isn't about doing whatever we want. And perhaps we can engage in dialogue about what Jesus' kenosis means, and in the process, discover some truths about “Guns ... According to Jesus.”
Kristen Marble is a speaker and writer (KristenMarble.com) from Montana. She is a Commissioned Pastor with the Evangelical Church of North America and leads The Bridge house church. She studies theology at George Fox Seminary and is preparing for PhD studies in biblical studies.
Image: Gun control word cloud, Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com