The Spirit can change hearts and intervene even in the most life-threatening of situations.

Why This Elder Carries

by Richard W. Warner

I am one of the most boringly “normal” persons you will ever meet. I live in a modest “empty nest” home with my wife of 42 years. I’m fond of dogs and cats, and because I have a desk job I really should exercise more. Like many Christians, we read the Bible and do our fair share of participating in the life of our local church.

Whenever I leave the house, in addition to my wallet, car keys, and bifocals, I carry a Glock 19 pistol, well concealed in a tactical holster at my side.

Perhaps you’re wondering why an elder in a local congregation would ever carry a firearm or even have one in the house. Maybe you think carrying a firearm, except for police officers or soldiers, is incompatible with being a Christian. Why, you may wonder, would a Christian be so fearful? How can the meek inherit the earth if they are packing heat?

While my trust in God is, by grace, unshakable, my trust in humans is not. It is this lack of faith in mankind’s ability to rise above myriad societal ills that leads me to carry a weapon as a deterrent and for self-defense in desperate situations.

In any discussion of this hot-potato issue, Scripture is a good place to start. Most people are aware of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” “The sum of this Commandment,” says John Calvin in his Commentary, “is that we should not unjustly do violence to anyone.” Yet Calvin also goes on to state that common sense demands more than that we should abstain from wrongdoing; we should also “endeavor to resist the wicked.”

The unjust taking of a life “with malice aforethought” is against God’s law, but the taking of another life in defense of one’s own life or that of a family member, while certainly not to be taken lightly, is not prohibited. In fact, most accurate translations depict this passage as “You shall not murder.” This responsibility is found in the office of “the one in authority” (Rom. 13:4). But in the absence of, or the time lag associated with, getting the authority to show up, individual self-defense may be warranted in extreme cases.

Picture the following scenario:

“Nine-one-one; what is your emergency?”

“There’s a stranger in my garage trying to drag away my lawn mower!”

“Stay on the line; we have a unit on the way.”

“OK, but make sure they identify themselves as police officers because I have a handgun for self-defense. I’m staying inside my house and locking the door until they arrive.”

Clearly this homeowner understands that the loss of a piece of yard equipment is not worth taking a human life. But here is another scenario:

“Nine-one-one; what is your emergency?”

“I just heard the sound of breaking glass from my basement window. Someone is downstairs and I am at home taking care of my elderly mother. We are in an upstairs bedroom. Please hurry!”

“OK, lock your bedroom door and stay on the line with me.”

“We’ll stay in the bedroom, but you need to let the officers on the way know that I have a handgun for protection, and if the person comes up the stairs to hurt us, I will stop him.”

“Dispatch to all units; please approach with extreme caution and identify as the homeowner is in an upstairs bedroom and is armed.”

In this situation, the homeowner is taking prudent steps by staying put and not roaming around looking for the bad guy. But he gives notice that he will act if the situation deteriorates into a life-or-death choice. The homeowner’s intent is not to kill but to stop the threat.

Stopping the threat and a misplaced desire to cause harm or death (retribution) are not the same. No responsibly armed and legally authorized person carries a weapon with a wish to take a life.

Some Christians may bring up the virtue of “turning the other cheek” (Matt. 5:38-39). Does this mean that we should capitulate to every form of injustice or evil that comes our way? Matthew 5:38-39 is warning not against self-defense but against blood revenge, something ancient cultures were often mired in and that continues among some people to this day. Again, we turn to John Calvin’s Commentary: “Though Christ does not permit his people to repel violence by violence, yet he does not forbid them to endeavor to avoid an unjust attack.”

Consider another passage in Matthew. The mob has just come to Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. Peter becomes irate; he grabs a sword and strikes the high priest’s servant. Emotions are running high when Jesus says to him, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (26:52).

Jesus’ disciples were anticipating the establishment of an earthly kingdom and, by extension, their own status in that kingdom. In John 18:36, Jesus reminds all who would listen: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” His rebuke informs them that his kingdom would not come through human schemes (the sword), but by the Spirit. If Jesus were steadfastly opposed to the use of the sword under any circumstances, he would have prohibited his disciples from carrying one in the first place. His message is clear: Do not let anger or the desire for revenge get the best of you. Do not use aggression to advance your own personal brand of righteousness. The Lord is perfectly capable of dispensing justice. Limit your actions to self-defense.

So there’s nothing incompatible with my faith if I choose to legally carry a firearm in case of a life-threatening event. Those who disagree have the right not to carry or own a firearm. They are free to rely on the authorities to arrive in the nick of time. But using the Bible to bolster criticism directed at responsibly armed citizens is a misuse of Scripture.

Those who choose to carry firearms for self-defense in extreme situations should pray fervently that their use will never be required. That is my persistent prayer. The Spirit can change hearts and intervene even in the most life-threatening of situations. But I also pray that my faith, my mind, my body, and my training would allow me to protect my own life and the lives of my loved ones in the face of evil. In this choice, I am comforted by Galatians 5:14, where we are enjoined to both love ourselves and our neighbor with a godly respect.

That is why this elder chooses to legally carry a firearm.

 

Why I Am Unarmed

by Bryan Berghoef

My neighbors were recently mugged at gunpoint not far from where I live in Washington, D.C. A nice evening out for dinner with another couple quickly went awry as two young men pulled a gun on them and demanded their wallets and phones. The four of them hit the ground and did as they were asked. After being accosted in this way, my friends felt rattled. Unsafe. Sad.

Some might say: “If only they’d been carrying a weapon of their own, they might have been able to turn the tables, or at least hold onto their wallets.” A good thought. After all, they say the best defense is a good offense, so why not be ready to take charge in such a situation? An argument could be made that a gun might have helped. The instigators could have been forced to flee out of fear. The potential firepower might have caused panic, and my friends might have been able to take control of the situation.

But it’s also true that bringing a second gun into the picture might have escalated the situation. It is likely that the perpetrators did not plan to use the gun. There’s a good chance that these two young men found themselves in a desperate situation requiring desperate action.

I’m pretty sure this situation would not have been improved by issuing a threat of violence in response to the initial threat of violence. A response in kind, even in self-defense, is exactly what it sounds like: a response in kind.

With these types of incidents happening close to where I live—in an urban setting—some might recommend that I own a weapon. That I protect my family. That I prepare for the worst.

Yet I remain unarmed.

For me, carrying a weapon is in direct conflict with my desire to be a faithful disciple of Jesus. How can I justify responding to violence with more violence when I follow the Prince of Peace? How can I think of carrying a weapon designed solely to kill efficiently if I’m seeking to follow a God who instructs us, “Do not kill”? How can I think of owning a gun when Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who hurt us? How can I stock up on ammunition when Romans 12 clearly instructs us to “not repay evil for evil” and to “live at peace with everyone” (vv. 17-18)?

These days there is a lot of conversation about guns and gun rights, particularly in the wake of last year’s Newtown school shooting and the Trayvon Martin murder trial. Many note that it is their constitutional or even God-given right to carry a gun. Some are sure that the answer to the outbreak of violence in our schools, homes, and streets is not fewer guns, but more.

More guns in our schools. More guns in our homes. Moreguns in our neighborhoods.

The argument that we need more guns, and more people trained to use them, boils down to “we can kill before we get killed.” At some level, this argument may be right. This strategy may well be effective—even the most effective. But what kind of society do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?

One response to violence is to admit that we live in a sick society and increase weapon proliferation to deal with the issue. “It’s effective.” “I’ll feel safer.” But do we really want a society in which there are more weapons that can be unleashed on a schoolroom full of unsuspecting children? A society where our children are afraid to walk the streets because there may be a neighborhood watch person following them with a gun?

The more poignant question is this: Do I really want to become someone who has to be trained to kill someone else as the answer to reducing violence? To me, this stems from a lack of imagination and a lack of hope.

I’d rather we work on connecting better with our neighbors, getting involved in our neighborhood schools, and learning the opportunities and challenges we face together.

I’d rather we dealt with mental health issues and make counseling accessible to those who need it.

I’d rather be a person who is trained to love than one who is trained to kill—even in self-defense.

That’s why I am simply not interested in carrying a firearm. In the U.S., the Constitution may grant me such a right. But I follow someone who eschewed his rights to self-defense (and many other things).

Some will point to Jesus endorsing the carrying of swords in Luke 22 and note that even he knew when it was time to arm oneself. Yet when the disciples say, “See, Lord, here are two swords,” Jesus replies, “That’s enough.” Or as another translation puts it: “Enough of that!” The point is not that he endorses the private right to carry weapons. Rather, the display of two weapons in the face of a contingent of armed Roman soldiers from Pilate makes the point that Jesus and his disciples are not there to act in violence. Jesus notes that he has the power to call down legions of angels to his defense. But he refuses to resort to such violence, even when self-defense might call for it. He says, “My kingdom is not of this world, otherwise my servants would fight.”

When the kingdom of heaven breaks in, there is a refusal to respond to violence with more violence. There is a love that is greater than calling upon our “rights.” There is a forgiveness that can be extended even to those who would put us to death, as Jesus and many of his earliest followers exemplified.

In our society, people have the right to carry or own a gun. But I’m not going to be one of them because my hope for peace outweighs my desire for personal safety. Because my desire to follow Jesus exceeds my desire to defend myself. And because responding to a threat upon my life with an act of love, even if it costs me my life, might be one small piece of God’s kingdom being realized here and now.

There are no easy answers or solutions to the reality of gun violence in our nation and our world.

But should that stop us from dreaming? What if we tried to enact the prophetic dream now, and gave up our obsession with violence? What if we didn’t wait for someone else to beat the pistols into plowshares but set the example ourselves? What’s the worst that could happen?

Ask Jesus.


Related Articles:
Gun Violence: Are We Part of the Problem?
Church Worldwide: Churches Under Fire for Using Gun Classes as Outreach
Ground in Faith: Resources on Mental Health and Gun Violence (The Network)
A Perspective on Gun Violence Prevention (The Network)

About the Author

Richard W. Warner is an elder in the Christian Reformed Church in St. Joseph, Mich.

Bryan Berghoef is an ordained CRC pastor and church planter. He lives in Holland, Mich., and works remotely supporting online contemplative learning and curating social media content for the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, D.C.

See comments (15)

Comments

Like Bryan Berghoef, I have never carried a gun and don't have one in my home.  Having a legal right to carry/possess doesn't amount to having the political obligation to carry/possess --  and I choose not to.

At the time time, Bryan's arguments confuse me somewhat.  He argues against bringing another gun into a gunpoint mugging situation and he doesn't want to meet armed evil force with armed force, but yet I doubt he would oppose calling the police, who, if their response was prompt, would bringing guns into the situtation and meet the armed evil force with armed force.  And in doing so, the police would create all the same potential effects that Bryan sugggests he would want to avoid.  Would Bryan also suggest that police be disarmed?  Should they also, as Bryan suggests, "beat the[ir] pistols into plowshows..."?

Certainly, I would support the admonition that if one chooses to own/carry/possess a gun, one should be adequately trained on how to use (and not use) the gun, and that I believe is the key point that should be emphasized and discussed, rather than the question of whether people whould or should not possess a gun.

I support Brian's decision not to arm himself, but I would also support Richard's decision to arm himself.  Beyond that, I am grateful to both police who carry guns, but also to non-police who decide both to possess and/or carry guns and take on the responsibility of training themselves on how to use (and not use) their guns.

Having practiced law for 34 years, I am abundantly aware that police, including police with guns, usually cannot be where they need to be -- with their guns -- when needed.  Many years ago, one of my friends, a retired police office with a carry permit and a Glock in his glove compartment, saved his own life -- and the life of his wife's husband and the life of his children's father -- because he carried that Glock in his glove compartment.  Someone who wanted to kill someone one night, who was under the heavy influence of both alcohol and cocaine, had rather randomly chosen him for the person to die.  Thankfully (for himself but also for his wife and children), my friend resisted the attacker's desire to kill someone that night.  He was able to resist only because he had a gun.

I will probably continue to not carry or possess a gun.  I'm not confident in my own abilities to use and not use one.  But still I will probably be grateful that there are some among us, police and non-police, who possess and even carry guns, and are able to use and not use them.  Their having guns does not result merely from (as Bryan suggests at the end of his article) an "obsession with violence."

I don't understand why this is a scriptural issue. It would seem this is more a cultural issue peculiar to the United States. If one lives in Canada, or Great Britain, etc. this is not an issue. The police carry the guns.

I'm not sure that "Should Christians carry?" is the best way to introduce the topic, since should implies an obligation either to carry or not to carry. This is an area where we ought not try to bind the conscience of our brother or sister.  Convince and exhort?  Yes.  Compel? No.

Like Doug and Bryan, I do not carry a firearm, and have no intention to do so.  Unlike Doug and Bryan, I do have firearms in my home.  Like Doug, I am not convinced that Bryan would be willing to be consistent with his "peace at any cost" hermeneutic.  The situation that Bryan paints allows him to confidently say that he would not act in violence, but act in love, even if it cost him his life.  I have no reason to disbelieve this.  As Doug pointed out, Bryan would also have to be willing to forgo calling the police to protect his innocent life, since the police would no doubt use force and violence to protect him.  That is simply violence-by-proxy.  

Even more revealing, perhaps, is how Bryan might be expected to respond to a different situation that what he painted.  Many people keep firearms in their home in part so that they could protect the innocent lives of their wife and children if necessary.  Suppose a man armed with a knife breaks into Bryan's home and informs Bryan that he intends to rape his wife and then kill her while Bryan will be forced to observe.  Now, this is admittedly a schocking scenario, but it forces the question at the heart of this matter: is the use of force or violence to protect Bryan's innocent wife actually evil?  Remember, Bryan quoted scripture's admonotion that we are "not to repay evil for evil".  Is Bryan ready to argue that this scriptural admonition is intended to apply to protecting the lives of the innocent by use of force?  If a police officer arrives at the Newtown School and shoots Adam Lanza before he shoots any more children or shoots himself, is that evil?  Certainly not!  Rather, the use of force to protect the welfare and life of an innocent is just. 

Back to the prospective rapist and murderer in Bryan's bedroom.  Does Bryan really think that "imagination" and "hope" will save his wife?  Will a kind and loving word dissuade the man intent on doing evil?  If Bryan fails to act with force and violence while his wife is violated and killed, is he lacking imagination and hope, or is he lacking courage, integrity, and a true sense of justice?

To the extent that Bryan applies his hermeneutic only to himself, that is something that he will have to sort out in his mind.  It does, however, seem that Bryan would seek to apply this ideal to others, since his language shifts noticably between "I" and "we".  To the extent that Byran thinks that people intent on protecting innocent lives by use of force and violence if necessary have an "obsession with violence", he displays a lack of charity in seeking to understand his fellow man.  

Bryan asks "what's the worst that could happen?" if we all follow his advice.  Well, as long as we live in this sin-stained world where the Kingdom of God is not yet fully realized, innocent lives can and will be lost, and even more  so if we eschew the option of the just use of force and violence to protect innocent lives.

I'm a bit puzzled by the scenarios Richard Warner presents to defend his decision to "carry a Glock 19 pistol" whenever he leaves his house. Both scenarios involve theft of property and home invasion. I can see some logic of having a loaded firearm at home to deter an intruder but, unless Mr Warner is a very good shot, I wonder how effective using a pistol would be in dealing with an altercation outside the home. Deciding to use a firearm typically involves a decision that must be made in a split second, with little or no margin for error. Mr Warner's argument would be strengthened if he had presented a more appropriate scenario, and one that would allow him sufficient time to get his pistol out of its "concealed tactical holster", aim, and shoot. In any case, I think I'll give St Joseph a wide berth "just in case". [written by somebody who has only shot a rifle once is his life, and that at an inanimate target]

I think Eric Van Dyken is right in that "should Christians carry" is the wrong question.  Rather it is "may Christians carry?"  I think the answer to that is, within certain parameters, yes.

I have a concealed carry permit.  I do not, however, typically carry a weapon unless I am headed to one of the local shooting ranges.  Indeed, that's the main reason I got it - I didn't want to carry the pistol openly when I went to the range as that would cause more potential problems than carrying a concealed weapon.

Others in my family do carry routinely.  I've no problem with it.  I've been asked about carrying a weapon to church and I've told them that as long as council has not explicitly says not to, it's fine with me.  But it is well to remember - and I take this as the main point from the two pieces - a gun is a fairly negative tool.  That is, a gun can restrain and even stop evil acts, although at great cost (life).  It cannot really promote good.  This world is such that restraining or stopping evil acts is the best we can do some times.  With Bryan, though, I would rather do what can be done to promote good.

When I was younger I would have easily bought into the argument that Christians can carry a weapon for self defense against the evil of this world. I owned a 44 magnum and a 22 colt. Today I ask the question in all things (not just weapons), if we are to be like Jesus, how would Jesus respond. Can you really see Jesus walking around the country side with a pistol. I know Peter and another disciple had swords, but we really don't know why, and Jesus did not say on the brow of that cliff by Nazareth, "come on boys get me out of here by attaching these yokels". As to the question of if I want to rely on the authorities to show up in the nick of time, I don't need to because I have a force protecting me greater and mightier than any human police force and one who will protect me better than any attempts on my part with a weapon. I know sounds crazy doesn't it to trust God to care for you the way He wants to do it. 

Mr. Warner happens to be an excellent shot, I would trust him with my life.  As far as giving St. Joseph a wide berth, maybe you should consider giving all of Michigan a wide berth.  At last count, there were over 400,000 law abiding Michigan residents who have Concealed Pistol Licenses, we are everywhere.  If, on the other hand, you would like some instruction to become more familiar with the proper handling and shooting of a wide variety of firearms, you are more than welcome to join my wife and I at our neighborhood range, less than 100' from our front door.  This NRA certified instructor would be willing to give you some lessons, we will provide everything you need.

"THE ELIM MASSACRE REVISITED by Dr. Peter Hammond

On a recent visit to Zimbabwe, I took my family to visit the site of the old Elim mission station in the Vumba. As so much of my mission work is spent helping persecuted Christians, I wanted to show my children an example of how Christians suffer persecution. I also thought that it might help explain why I must travel away from home so often to serve those suffering for their Faith.

On 23rd June 1978, Marxist terrorists of Mugabe’s ZANLA murdered 9 British missionaries and 4 young children, including a 3 week old baby, at the Elim Mission station. I showed my children the school buildings and we walked onto the field where the missionaries and their children had been herded, then tortured and bayoneted to death. 

My point in explaining this atrocity was to illustrate the vicious hostility of communism for Christianity. However, the reaction of my children was quite different from what I had expected.

"Why didn’t the daddies protect the mommies and the children?" asked my oldest daughter, Andrea.

"Well these people were pacifists – they believed that they could never use any force to defend either themselves or their families," I answered.

"Then they couldn’t have been Christians!" declared my younger daughter, Daniela.

"No, Daniela, actually these people were very sincere Christians," I explained. "They were very brave people who died courageously – even praying for the terrorists that they would be converted. They died as martyrs for Christ."

Andrea was horrified "How could any Christian father stand by and refuse to defend his own children? The Bible commands fathers to protect their family!"

"You are right, Andrea. They were very wrong not to fight to protect their children. But they were sincere Christians all the same!

"Well I don’t think they acted like Christians!" Daniela was adamant.

A long discussion over parental duties, self defence, what constitutes a true Christian and all the related issues continued for days afterwards. Although Andrea was only 8 years old at the time and Daniela was 6, they were more concerned over the passivity of the parents than over the wickedness of the communists. Even our 4 year old son, Christopher, was deeply offended and genuinely horrified that there could exist any father who would fail to do everything necessary to defend his wife and children. "But if the bad people tried to hurt us you would shoot them wouldn’t you, Daddy?"

"Yes, Christopher", I assured him, I most certainly would.

We discussed some of the Scriptures that clearly teach a man’s responsibility to provide for the protection of his family:"If anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8"

(http://www.frontline.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1383:faith-and-firearms&catid=28:gun-control-self-defence-cat&Itemid=195)

Gun Free Zones Stopping Crime: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr9sEDFxV0Y

It is apparen these two writers are both American, but I suspect there would be a vert diffrent take on "guns" if they where Canadian. I, as an older Canadian, have never understood the USA's gun craze and the “right” to bear arms even after extensive explanations of the Constitutional “right” to do so (standing army). We too in Canada have our share of nuts and school shooter violence, but nothing like in the USA has. Many American citizens who come to Canada have told me they feel “saver” because not every Tom, Dick and Harry is running around with a gun or a toting gang member even though we like all Western nations have our share. It seem that there is a deep seated need to “protect” oneself with a gun, which as a north-of-the-border person, I just don’t get it. Guns don’t kill, people do!     

Warner uses two quotations from Calvin to justify using a weapon. 1) From Calvin's commentary on the 6th commandment: We should “endeavor to resist the wicked.”* 2) From his commentary on Matthew 5: “Though Christ does not permit his people to repel violence by violence, yet he does not forbid them to endeavor to avoid an unjust attack.”**

 

Note that neither of these quotations justifies using violence or its threat, and the latter quotation seems to oppose it. One can resist and avoid another without killing or threatening a person's life. There is, famously, such a thing as non-violent resistance. The further context (below) seems to support an avoidance or non-violent resistance.

__

*"There are, consequently, two parts in the Commandment, -- first, that we should not vex, or oppress, or be at enmity with any; and, secondly, that we should not only live at peace with men, without exciting quarrels, but also should aid, as far as we can, the miserable who are unjustly oppressed, and should endeavor to resist the wicked, lest they should injure men as they list."

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom05.txt

 

**"Do not resist evil. There are two ways of resisting: the one, by warding off injuries through inoffensive conduct; the other, by retaliation.412 Though Christ does not permit his people to repel violence by violence, yet he does not forbid them to endeavor to avoid an unjust attack."

 

**"I admit that Christ restrains our hands, as well as our minds, from revenge: but when any one has it in his power to protect himself and his property from injury, without exercising revenge, the words of Christ do not prevent him from turning aside gently and inoffensively to avoid the threatened attack."

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom31.ix.xlix.html

I should point out that Berghoef's arguments are not so much an argument against civilians carrying weapons as an argument for Christian pacifism across the board - that is, they are arguments that would mitigate against Christian police officers, soldiers, or any other profession that requires we be prepared to use violence.

Warner begins with the assumption that we are not pacifists, and then makes the case that Christian civilians may carry guns when legally authorized to do so.  Given the non-pacifist assumption, that's a rather easy case to make.  But it also means he and Berghoef are talking past each other.

It would be interesting to see an argument from Christian principles that rejects pacifism (as Warner does), but also asserts Christian civilians ought remain unarmed (contra Warner). 

Note, I say "Christian principles."  The question of whether it is prudent to do so is not amenable to general argument for it will be far different for each individual circumstance (threat level, local laws, training, availablility of professionals, and innumerable other factors will come into play).  I think that will be a very difficult case to make, but I'd like to see somebody who believes this attempt to make it.

I enjoyed both articles.  There is one statement I have to respond to.  Mr. Berghoef makes the comment, "the Constitution may grant me such a right."  The Constitution does not grant rights, but merely codifies rights that already exists.  All natural rights are God-given.  They do not come from a legal document or government.  That is important because it is the source that determines the use.  Since government is not the source of our rights, it cannot take them away.  They are inalienable.

Have to disagree with you on that one, Sherwin.

In the first place, even if there are such things as inalienable rights (see below), the right to possess and carry a weapon is not one of them.  It is thus a right granted by the Constitution and an amendment to the Constitution could remove it just as an amendment granted it.

Secondly, there are no inalienable rights.  The right to liberty, for instance, is never absolute.  It may be alienated in whole or in part from a person by many things - marriage vows, crimes, property rights, lack of funds, and other things.  I cannot stand on the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that liberty is an inalienable right as a reason to stay out of prison after robbing a bank.  Nor may I claim an inalienable right to liberty grants me liberty to take what is not mine.  Liberty is limited and may be limited still further.

Thirdly, the natural right (or natural rights) belong to God and to God alone.  If, perchance, I may at one time have had natural rights, when I sinned I surrendered them by perverting that original nature.  I have a natural (inherent) right now only to the wages of sin.  That God is merciful and does not treat me as I deserve does not convey a right.  I am not entitled to mercy.  That God is merciful and commands us to love our neighbors does not convey to those neighbors a right, either.  To put it quite bluntly, I do not have a right to life.  God who created me has a right to my life.  Taking it unjustly (that is, not in accordance with God's righteous covenant) deprives God of his right, but not me of mine.  The right is and remains God's, not mine or my neighbors'.  To not love - to not treat my neighbors as God commands - is then to trample on God's rights.

Yes, the implications of that assertion are quite radical, and not entirely in concert with the Lockian or Jeffersonian political theory embodied in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

Dear Editor,

My first reaction was shame, that our wonderful church magazine would publish such a perspective, when our editor had been previously chastised for publishing articles that were clearly worthy.  Any perspective that supports a " self-defense and gun culture" holds no support whatsoever in biblical teaching.  Furthermore "packing heat" indicates an extremely twisted and sad perspective by any gun holder on his or her position and thought of their fellow man.  Consciously strapping on a gun whenever you leave the house is an extremely sad position on life, severely handicapping any individual on having a positive Christian perspective during encounters with any population. Furthermore to argue and conclude that "packing heat is a legal right" comes from the same sad American historical time and perspective that allowed slavery.

 

One could argue that freedom of the press, and of association, and free exercise of religion, and freedom from unwarranted search and seizure also come from the "same sad American historical time and perspective that allowed slavery."

Should we dispense with those, too, Mr. Kamphof?