In Matthew 26:52, Jesus says, Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
In 1990, the Presbyterian Church (USA) issued a prophetic statement that read in part, The religious community must take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse.
What are those social consequences? Over the last 45 years, more Americans have been killed by gun violence than in all the wars in our nation’s history.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that since Jan. 1, more than 2,300 children have died as a result of gun violence. The statistics are staggering. One American child dies every three hours from gun violence, eight every day, 55 every week. Every 31 minutes, in America a child is injured by gun violence, 47 every day, 331 every week.
It is not just a Columbine or another Newtown, Conn., that we must be alarmed about. Our children are dying on the streets of Chicago, Detroit and even Fort Wayne.
We should be alarmed about the thousands of new guns being sold every day, weapons dealers running short on assault weapons because of increased demand since Newtown. We should be outraged by the insanity that says the answer to gun violence is more guns.
Yet, many loud voices are crying out the gospel of the gun to the point that they are supplanting God and God’s requirements for humanity – the very definition of idolatry. When Charlton Heston was NRA president, he said, sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blued steel, and more voices echo this heresy day after day.
Powerful weapons available in our society without restraint or rule is a monstrous evil. We live in a society where bad, isolated, angry, furious, vengeful, politically agitated or disgruntled people have the ability to get and use weapons only designed to kill large numbers of people, and it places our society as a whole, and our children in particular, in great danger.
As people of faith, we are called to live by different values. For Christians, this is an issue of moral and theological importance. Our faith must overcome our politics and our fear.
In Luke’s version of Jesus’ arrest, when one of the disciples drew a sword, Jesus bluntly said, Stop! No more of this! These words remembered by the disciples and passed on through generations of believers are words we need to hear and heed in today’s debate about guns and gun violence.
This is not about banning all guns. People who hunt should be allowed to have the guns and ammunition appropriate for hunting. Weapons for police and the armed forces are even supported biblically when Paul tells us in Romans that the state is given the power of the sword to wield for justice.
But it is not necessary to allow any and all people to have any kind of gun they want and all the ammunition they want in some warped view of what brings safety and security.
The voices who cry out for the citizenry to arm themselves for protection fail to mention that the presence of a gun makes it much more likely that it will be used against a family member, a friend or self than it will be used against an intruder. Our false idol of gun security is more likely to destroy us, and this is the sad legacy of idols throughout human history.
This is not a judgment against any individual. But when we look at our society with Christian eyes, we see that violence is glorified, individuals grow angry and feel threatened by any questioning of gun values, and we have diminished capacity to show grief for the thousands of victims of gun violence each year. Our society has bought into the lie that the answer to gun violence is more and bigger guns.
The epidemic of gun violence in our nation is a cause for Christians to enter first as representatives of God’s love and compassion for all people – even the sinners among us. It is a cause for grief, repentance and confrontation of our values with the words of our Savior, Stop! No more of this.