I’ve had a few posts in the past in which I’ve tried to think theologically about guns. Those posts stirred up some conversation to say the least.
Here’s a well-spoken reflection from Brian Zahnd, a pastor and author at Word of Life Church in Missouri.
I don’t own a gun. I never have. Why?
First of all I don’t hunt. I have nothing against hunting. (After all, I’m not a vegetarian.) I don’t hunt like I don’t golf—it’s just something I never took up. So I don’t own a shotgun or a hunting rifle for the same reason I don’t own golf clubs. And for the same reason you probably don’t own crampons and an ice axe. Since I don’t hunt, I don’t need the equipment.
Secondly, I don’t own a gun because I don’t want to shoot anyone. Shotguns and hunting rifles are designed for the purpose of shooting game. Handguns and assault rifles are designed for the purpose of shooting people. But I don’t want to shoot anyone. So, once again, I don’t need the equipment. I’m perfectly content to allow a trained and authorized police force to handle this equipment on behalf of society. I think that’s a good idea. (If you don’t think that’s a good idea, well, then we just disagree. Don’t shoot me.) I’m not a police officer, so I don’t need police equipment. I don’t own surgical equipment either, because…well, you get my point.
Can you come up with an imagined scenario where I would wish I had a gun? Probably. Can I come up with an imagined scenario where you wish you did notown a gun? Just as easily. (And my imagined scenario turns out to be a whole lot more common in real life!)
So I don’t own a gun. What about protecting my family? Well, I’ve been married for 32 years and a parent for 31 years, and my family has remained safe. To be honest with you, home invasion is something I never think about or worry about. Am I “prepared” for it? I don’t know. I trust God and pray for protection everyday. Does that count? I don’t even have a baseball bat. (I quit playing baseball years ago.) I suppose my ice axe could be used as a weapon, but it’s in the basement with the rest of my mountain gear…because that’s it’s purpose, to climb mountains, not to be (mis)used as a weapon.
So it turns out I have no weapons. I’m unprepared for a home invasion. Of course there are endless possibilities of things for which I am unprepared. I was unprepared for my grandson to get cancer, but he did…and we made it through that. If my home gets invaded tonight, I’ll just have to trust God. Am I a fool? I don’t think so. But if so, I’m a fool for Christ. Because, though I haven’t mentioned it yet, my commitment to following Jesus is part of my decision to live without owning lethal weapons. Do you have to agree with my convictions? No. But you should respect them. Of course, someone will remind me of Peter carrying a sword (at least on one occasion). Well…I have a sword. I keep it in what I call my “closet of weird things.” I’ve used it as a sermon prop on a few occasions. Oh, and I just remembered, I also have the jawbone of a donkey. (Kept alongside the sword in the aforementioned closet.) So perhaps I’m armed after all, but only archaically so.
Ultimately I choose to live without guns because, a) I don’t hunt, b) I’m not a police officer, c) I choose to live gently in a violent world. I choose not to help swell the ranks of the armed in our society. I want to contribute to a more peaceable and gentle society. Does that mean I’m unsafe? No, I don’t think so. But if I am unsafe, well, then I choose to be unsafe. Nevertheless, I’m not afraid. And I’m not ashamed to live unarmed. Does that make me less of a man? Oh, please. That argument makes me think someone is compensating for some insecurity. My father, Judge Zahnd, never owned a gun and he’s among the men I admire most. I’m sure that has influenced me. A good influence, I think.
I’ve had guns pointed at me on two occasions. Once in Haiti and once in Nigeria. I didn’t like having a gun pointed at me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. But that doesn’t mean I want to be prepared to point a gun at someone else. I am intentionally, deliberately, thoughtfully unprepared to do that. My defense will have to come from elsewhere. Or not at all. Life is risky. I accept that. Following Jesus is riskier still. I accept that as well.
I’m not writing this to change the mind of Christian gun advocates. (I have a realistic assessment of my persuasive abilities.) I’m writing this in the moderate hope that Christians gun enthusiasts will at the very least respect their brothers and sisters who don’t share their enthusiasm. Neither is this a piece on gun control. I have some strongly held opinions on gun control—opinions that I formed 35 years ago while debating this topic in college—but this isn’t about that. This is simply a little blog on why I don’t own a gun. I don’t own a gun because I don’t need one and I don’t want one. And that is perfectly acceptable. Please try to be at peace with this. As I said, I don’t own golf clubs either, and that’s bound to upset some people too.
Unarmed, Unafraid, Unashamed,