It’s been my experience that Christians who support having guns in church do so by constructing a false dichotomy:

Realistic, God-given human agency             Foolish, blind trust in God

The tone of the division would more accurately be represented as followed:

Realistic, God-given human agency

Foolish, blind trust in God

In other words, there’s an ingrained assumption by gun supporters that their opinion is based in reality and anything else, especially anything more pacifistic, is idyllic/idealistic and absurd. Again, taking guns into church is described as fundamentally good for safety while refusing to take guns into church is ridiculed as a foolish philosophy that would never work in the real world.

Once that dichotomy is constructed, it is rather easy to argue for having guns in church, since it represents the only real option.

Even though there is essentially nothing in Jesus’ teachings to support such a position, “real life problems” step in and supersede all else.

Philosophies for Peace

I’d like to clear up the underlying falsity behind the dichotomy just described. Regardless of how impassioned people argue that their gun carrying position is based solely in cold-hard-facts reality, one thing is true:

believing guns in church make people safer is a philosophical position

Both pacifism and gun carrying are philosophical positions, and both positions are rooted in larger philosophical systems.

Here’s the thing, the U.S. has the largest military in the world. In fact, it is larger than the next 8 biggest militaries combined. Although we may not acknowledge it, the U.S. military size and force affects how Americans view the world. We’ve accepted, for the most part, that our enormous supply of weapons benefits the world and creates peace. Thus, more weapons and force equals more peace according to this philosophical system, which can be called an “Empire philosophy”: we know what is right so we need to be in power, meaning we need to suppress all competing visions through force to ensure that our Empire’s ideals succeed.

The difficult part of this philosophy is that it is specious:

There is little evidence that greater force equals greater peace. And while Americans would like to hold onto the idea that everyone in the world views us as the “good guys” and keepers of peace, that sentiment is also simply not true. Furthermore, when Christians adopt the philosophy that violence brings peace, we get holy wars –– a history most Christians want to ignore and forget. In short, the Empire philosophy of “greater force equals greater peace” is rooted in earthly systems, all of which ultimately fail.

Philosophy of Love

Christians would be wise to remember how offensive Jesus’ message is. It is incredibly offensive to have to forgive someone who wronged us or to give our money away or to bless those who curse us or to turn the other cheek or to spend time with “sinners” or to love all our neighbors. Jesus offended so many people with his message of love that those in power, those working to maintain and promulgate the Empire, decided to exert violent force against him…in order to restore peace.

But Jesus’ outrageous philosophy of love knew that greater force only results in greater violence:

Matthew 5:38-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

Jesus’ philosophy simply does not make sense alongside the philosophy of force, which promotes “a gun for a gun” system. Don’t return violence for violence?! Love those who persecute us?! What?!

A philosophy of love is not a slight amendment to the philosophy of force; it doesn’t offer a corrective. No, it proposes an entirely new reality in which to live. It’s a reality rooted in God’s mercy and grace for all, since all are created in God’s image. And it’s a reality that calls followers to be ragamuffins and vagabonds, people untethered to the world’s philosophical systems while simultaneously deeply connected to the betterment of all creation. These types of disciples certainly are a peculiar people.

Does it “make sense”? Well, that all depends on what philosophy we are committed to…

“Thy Kingdom Come”

Jesus taught us how to pray, saying:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”  (Matt. 6:9-13)

According to Jesus, Christians are called to usher in a new reality based on God’s great love and grace. Further, Christians are to adopt a new philosophical system –– one rooted in forgiving others and trusting God. Empire building philosophy is, consequently, antithetical and directly oppositional to this new “kingdom” of grace and love God desires to establish through the lives and actions of believers.

–––––––

The Bible tells us that the philosophy we adopt eventually bears fruit. Adopting a philosophy of force produces more force, which requires more force without end.

Conversely, a philosophy of love produces patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and PEACE.

So if our goal is peace, then there appears to really only be one option.


Note from the Editorial Team:
Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.


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Joel Daniels

Author: Joel Daniels

Joel is currently a Chaplain-in-Resident and Ph.D. student at Georgetown University. His research focuses on how religious philosophy and ethics shape the world, life, and life in the world. When outside of academics, Joel enjoys all things family! With an amazing wife and three wonderful children, there is never a dull moment in the Daniels’ house. Whether it is building legos or forts, there’s always fun to be had!

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