Gun Violence

The NRA's Dangerous Theology


A membership card for the National Rifle Association. KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Tuesday was the 84th birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t know about you, but I miss his words, so I offer a few. King said “people often hate each other because they fear each other, they fear each other because they don’t know each other, they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate, they cannot communicate because they are separated.” I would add to his words: ‘and in that separation they seek guns.’ As an evangelical Christian, I’m going to make this theological. 

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said this as his response to the massacre of children at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Conn.: “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 

That statement is at the heart of the problem of gun violence in America today — not just because it is factually flawed, which of course it is, but also because it is morally mistaken, theologically dangerous, and religiously repugnant. 

Why Gun Violence Calls for Religion in Politics

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As an Oregonian who grew up deer hunting in Oregon’s forests and fishing in Oregon’s rivers (including the beautiful Umpqua River), I have a deep respect for traditional hunting culture and responsible gun ownership. Like everyone else, I was overwhelmed with sadness at seeing the news of the recent shooting in the beautiful town of Roseburg, Ore. Like so many others who are praying for these families and for this town, I cannot imagine the sense of loss that the Roseburg families are going through right now. I add my prayers to the chorus of prayers; may God help these families and this community through this unspeakable catastrophe.

The Center for American Progress now claims that in 2015 fatalities caused by guns will surpass those caused by cars. For these reasons – and adding in the massive psychological damage caused by gun violence in families and communities — it is not an exaggeration to claim that gun violence is the single greatest domestic problem in the United States today. Gun violence is also, of course, a huge economic burden. Americans spend around $230 billion a year paying for it.

When the NRA Writes Your Theology

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When it comes to the facts surrounding domestic violence (or intimate partner violence), the challenge presented in the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy remains as relevant today as it was more than 2000 years ago. In the U.S., “abundant life” competes regularly with the false prophets of violence. The terrifying rate at which women are dying at the hands of their intimate partners intersects with an entrenched American gun culture that has sold believers on the idea that more guns means more safety. In reality, women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries.

Over the course of October, or Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an average of five women per day—155 total—will be killed with guns. Intimate partners will comprise the majority of their killers, and too many who embrace death over life will come from Christian congregations.

The recent shooting in Oregon marks the 294th mass shooting in 2015 alone, a terrifying number in its own right and a reminder of just how far America has enmired itself in the consequences of its gun culture. More than half of all mass shootings also include the death of an intimate partner and family member.

Why We Need Far More Than Gun Control

LoloStock /

Photo via LoloStock /

We’d really like to have an explanation that makes these killers “other” than the rest of us. So we say they are mentally ill and demand our society do a better job caring for them.

While it’s true that we need to do a better job caring for the mentally ill, the vast majority of people with mental illness will never harm anyone. Mass murderers don’t tend to be mentally ill.

Weekly Wrap 10.2.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. 9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible

"After a few weeks of feeling confused and invisible, I decided that I just wasn't smart enough to be an activist."

2. WATCH: Obama Condemns 'Routine' of Mass Shootings, Says U.S. Has Become Numb

"As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough."

3. French Catholics Take in Refugee Family Seeking a 'Normal Life'

"The local effort is part of a national Catholic network that connects homeless asylum seekers with families willing to take them in."

Changing Gun Culture: This One's On Us

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How many times have we heard news of a shooting somewhere – a school, a theater, a workplace, a military base, a church – and felt shock and disbelief? We feel bad, say a prayer, and move on. I remember seeing the video of the shooting at the church in Charleston for the first time when I got home from work on June 17. I couldn’t sleep that night. I wondered how this could keep happening.

So when the latest shots were fired in Virginia, I was numb. If it’s going to just keep happening – new day, new place, new victims – then why even pay attention? Why become emotionally invested again?

Making Guns Our God

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While I do think there are situations in which violent conflict can be justified (the classic example being fighting to bring down Nazi Germany in WWII), I don’t think it can ever be done so in Christian terms. Theologically, we cannot agree if you assert that killing of any kind can be justified in the name of Christ. I believe this for the reasons given above, namely that Jesus lived, died, and lived again to affirm the blessedness and the sanctity of the lives we live together.

The Christ I know is one of life and peace, even in the face of death. Christ shows us that even if we can’t avoid death, much as we might like to because we are human and a fear of death is natural, we know that life wins out. This is what we’re asked to affirm in when faced with the empty tomb. Losing our fear of harm and death, and lifting up a savior who delights in lives lived fully, is our Christian call. Why can’t we trust in that more than a gun?

Weekly Wrap 8.28.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Where Pope Francis Learned Humility

Francis’ road to humility was like the rest of ours: long, hard, and prideful.

2. The Meaning of Serena Williams: On Tennis and Black Excellence

“For black people, there is an unspoken script that demands the humble absorption of racist assaults, no matter the scale, because whites need to believe that it’s no big deal. But Serena refuses to keep to that script.”

Denying Christ and Getting to the Truth

Teens across the world are still flocking to monks in France to deepen their Christian faith? Yes — and my family and I remained in awe of its tent-dotted fields and large scale kitchens staffed all by volunteers.

The Taize community of brothers from across Christian traditions — alongside sisters from a Catholic order — host religious thinkers, leaders, practitioners, and especially youth who want to engage biblically around issues spanning peace, justice, the arts, service, and Christian practice. We came to Taize as a spiritual "vacation-pilgrimage" during their 75th anniversary celebration and the 10th anniversary of Taize's founder’s death, joining religious leaders from around the world.

For American Christians who may be stuck in habits of religious thinking that promote "all or nothing," "left and right" interpretations of the Scriptures, Taize invites us to sing together and investigate the scriptures from a fresh global perspective.

WATCH: U.S. Senator Enlists Cousin Amy Schumer to Talk Gun Control

Screenshot of Amy Schumer's recorded comments on Monday. Via The Hill.

From The Hill:

The … actress was on on-hand Monday as the third-ranking Senate Democrat unveiled a three-part plan aimed at making it more difficult for violent criminals and the mentally ill to obtain guns.

“Preventing dangerous people from getting guns is very possible. We have commonsense solutions,” Amy Schumer said, supporting the senator’s push to tighten gun control laws by toughening background checks and providing additional funding for mental health treatment.