January 6, 2016

One Can Be Pro-Life and ‘Pro-Gun’

Last week Reverend Rob Schenck, an evangelical Christian, published a morally confusing, anti-firearm piece in the Washington Post, in which he claimed that one can’t be both pro-life and pro-gun at the same time. Specifically, the tenor of the piece took the position that Christians can’t be pro-life if they’re pro-gun.

For starters, Schenck’s position — that one can’t be both pro-life and pro-gun — is a false dichotomy. Many have argued, some quite persuasively, that there’s very little tension between being pro-life and defending the Second Amendment. Even further, many have convincingly argued that owning a gun — for proactive protection or as the result of being victimized by criminal activity — can be used to defend innocent people from (further) violence and evil. This is a very practical example of being pro-life.

Schenck says he previously believed that “we had a God-given right to defend ourselves,” and that he believed, “the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and that anyone should be able to obtain a gun.” Now after viewing “the after-effects of gun violence firsthand,” he believes differently saying, “These experiences, followed by careful theological and moral reflection, left me convinced that my family of faith is wrong on guns.”

Here’s part of the moral confusion regarding Schenck’s conversion on gun-ownership. Is he saying that Christians don’t have the God-given right to defend themselves – period — or that Christians don’t have a God-given right to defend themselves with guns? And if it’s not a God-given right (again, why not?), can Christians engage in self-defense if it’s a government-granted right? More important, if the right to defend oneself, which includes acts of protecting oneself in addition to other innocent people- isn’t granted by God and only by government, government can also take that right away, leaving millions of people, including Christians, defenseless against a tyrannical government, and civil criminal enterprise. Is Schenck morally, politically and theologically okay with that potential outcome? Why or why not?

The effects of gun violence that Schenck says were instrumental in his transformation are the mass shootings in Pennsylvania, that left five Amish schoolgirls dead, and the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard where twelve people were killed and three others injured. It’s puzzling that he refers to these examples as evidence that Christians can’t be pro-life and pro-guns, considering the details of both incidents. In the first example, the mass murder of defenseless Amish schoolgirls wasn’t an act of self-defense whatsoever. The man responsible for that evil reportedly had unresolved grief over the death of his minutes-old daughter almost a decade earlier. His suicide note mentioned that he was still angry with God because of it.

The second example of the Navy yard shooting, the murderer clearly suffered from mental issues, saying that he heard voices in his head. He also claimed to be the victim of low frequency electromagnetic waves, which influenced him to commit this evil. Again, this is nowhere near what one would describe as self-defense. To use these two examples of mass murder as the foundation for the claim that Christians can’t be pro-life and pro-gun, or to undermine the defensive nature of gun ownership in general, is very shortsighted, deeply misguided and frankly, inexplicable.

Schenck then offers this,

“But I disagree with my community’s wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun. For one thing, our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life. And our belief in the basic sinfulness of humankind should make us skeptical of the NRA’s slogan, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” The Bible indicates that we are all bad guys sometimes.”

Wholesale embrace?” Schenck doesn’t quantify this nor does he provide any examples to support this sweeping generalization; it’s simply true because he says it is. Where have any well-known evangelical ministers, groups, denominations or lay Christians claimed a “wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun,” with no restrictions? If this sentiment is as common as Schenck would have us believe, he should have no trouble specifying considerable support for such a tenuous proclamation. Moreover, many people are very clear that criminals and those suffering from mental illness that should necessarily be exempt from owning guns, and rightly so. This position clearly and directly contradicts Schenck’s charges against an evangelical, “wholesale embrace” that anyone should be able to buy a gun.

Schenck continues his with his morally confused change of heart saying, “our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life,” but discounts using a gun to do just that. In the absence of a gun, how would Schenck like to see Christians reduce threats to human life in a situation where the very threat(s) to human life have guns? The Second Amendment allows citizens to legally own a gun to use as protection in situations where it mitigates the discrepancy between a criminal the size of a linebacker and a much smaller, weaker victim — man or woman.

Having a gun to defend oneself and others actively demonstrates the sacredness of life. Willingly sacrificing oneself and not doing what one can to protect human life, when one has the chance, actively undermines his call to reduce threats that endanger life.

And aside from the obligatory demonizing of the NRA, Schenck ignores the fact that many people have responsibly used guns to protect against, thwart and end criminal activity by others who’re not so keen on valuing human life. People, especially Christians, have rescued the weak and needy, and have delivered them from evil (Psalm 82:4) using the very thing Schenck condemns.

Schenck then engages in an outright appeal to moral equivalence, that when taken to it’s logical conclusion, nullifies the obligation to do good and fight evil. He says, “The Bible indicates that we are all bad guys sometimes.” And? So we’re “all bad guys sometimes,” means what, exactly? Christians can’t be good, or do good? Apart from moral equivalence, some people are more than just “bad” sometimes; they’re evil. Within the moral spectrum, there are gradations of good and evil. To ignore that, and our part to try and overcome it, is dangerous.

But if Christians are “bad guys sometimes,” why engage in any acts of charity, mercy, and goodness- which can include defending innocent lives with guns? As a Christian, Schenck knows that Christians are called to fight against bad and evil — both within themselves but also in the world. In other words, Christians are to combat evil. What were to happen if Christians used Schenck’s mindset and applied it to protecting preborn lives from abortion? Should Christians stop trying to save these lives because sometimes Christians can be “bad guys?” This position simply makes no sense.

Schenck then says,

“…anyone using a gun for defense must be ready to kill. Such a posture is antithetical to the term “evangelical,” which refers to the “evangel,” or gospel. The gospel begins with God’s love for every human, and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although he once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with “a sword,” that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess. Numerous Bible passages, such as Exodus 22:2-3, strictly limit the use of deadly force.

Schenck conflates the moral implications of killing and murdering. Killing while defending innocent human life is acceptable; murdering innocent life isn’t. It’s precisely why the proper translation of the Sixth Commandment is “thou shalt not murder” rather than” thou shalt not kill”: God makes a clear moral distinction between killing and murder. It’s why the Bible gives clear instructions for the punishment of murder — death, which differs from the punishment for killing — time served in sanctuary cities.

How making a moral distinction between killing and murder — being prepared to use a gun to do the former and not the latter, in an attempt to save lives — is antithetical to the gospel is anyone’s guess. This actually gives credibility to the gospel rather than detracting from it.

To appeal to Jesus’ lack of doing or saying something, as a model to follow, can be theologically tricky. It’s applicable in some areas, not in others, like gun ownership. Just because Jesus didn’t mention a specific topic or didn’t engage in a specific activity, doesn’t mean we should automatically apply that omission to our current situation. Jesus didn’t specifically mention abortion; should Christians ignore that issue, allowing even more lives to perish because of our passivity — and thereby becoming less pro-life? He also didn’t mention homosexuality; should Christians simply ignore the seriousness of this issue and its far-reaching moral, cultural, and physical consequences?

Yet Jesus did encourage his disciples to carry swords (Luke 22:36, 38), plural, for protection and sell-defense. But Schenck diminishes this example, which can and should be applied to gun ownership, by changing the subject from self-defense to the actual number of weapons one should (or shouldn’t) have for self-defense. So is Schenck against using guns for self-defense in total, or is he simply against the number of guns one might have for self-defense?

Additionally, Schenck cites Exodus 22:2-3a to defend the idea of limiting deadly force, but these verses also permit one to protect one’s family and property. Verse two allows for the striking and killing a person if he breaks in during the night- the time where a family is most vulnerable to theft or worse. Appealing to this passage undermines- and further confuses- Schenck’s position rather than bolsters it.

I very much disagree with Schenck’s position — I think people can and should own guns and they have a moral obligation to learn how to use them safely and legally to protect themselves and other innocent people from criminal intent and other forms of evil. He’s wrong to advocate and defend a false dichotomy between supporting the right to own guns and being pro-life. These two issues aren’t mutually exclusive, as he and those who share his view would have Christians believe. There are many Christians who would love to exercise their legal rights to own a gun for protection but are prevented from doing so by prohibitive laws and a lack of financial resources. Would Schenck tell the number of gun-less Christians, who live in the inner cities of Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Oakland and elsewhere who are terrorized and killed by criminals with guns that all is well- that their position is ‘pro-life’ even as they lose theirs?

Schenck’s position on gun ownership needs considerable clarification. He confidently proclaims that he’s against fellow Christians maintaining a defensive, anti-life position because they own guns. Is he then saying that he’s against using that gun to deter crime and other evil? After all, that’s what the defensive position he laments, defends against.

If Schenck can’t be pro-life and pro-gun, that’s fine — for him; it’s his personal decision. He’d still be misguided, but his morally and theologically confused position would only apply to him. It should exclude the slandering and mischaracterization of responsible, sober-minded gun owners — the overwhelming majority of whom are law-abiding citizens.

This isn’t a condemnation of Schenck. He seems to be a good and decent man. Yet on this issue, he seems emotionally confused and unwilling to acknowledge the nuances, realities and the moral requirement to protect life. It appears as if he is using his faith to justify his anti-gun ownership transformation.


22 Responses to One Can Be Pro-Life and ‘Pro-Gun’

  1. Dan says:

    Another pacifist speaking from a position of comfort and security. I’d be much more impressed if he took himself, his family, and his followers to act as human shields to protect Christians in the Middle East. None of these folks ever address the issue of how many Christians do we sacrifice before the Molochs and Baals of this world without lifting a finger in our defense. He does not address the issue of the New Testament’s endorsement of government as a means of keeping order in this world. And, when you have a regime like Obama’s that is willing to let citizens die to prop up its political ambitions without offering effective protection (think illegal aliens murdering defenseless U.S. citizens as but one example) then Christians have a right and a duty to take up arms to defend themselves and the defenseless.

    • MarcoPolo says:

      So, exactly how many defenseless American citizens have been murdered by illegal aliens?
      And how has that helped to prop up Obama’s political ambitions…”? He has nothing to gain by that, politically.

      I don’t see where it would make any difference whether a gun owner is Christian, or Not. Defense is defense regardless of what one’s religious affiliation is!

      • sls49@comcast.net says:

        Actually a lot of American citizens have been killed by illegal aliens out west, California, Texas, New Mexico etc etc. You might want to go look at their crime statistics. The media does a good job of covering it up though, unless its a high profile one. Plus look at all the Christians being murdered around the world by Muslims ( the peaceful religion lol). He has protected the Muslims over and over, downplayed what is going on, told the FBI to take Muslims of certain list, led the charge on going out of the way not to offend Muslims, when so many of the attacks have been from Muslims here. all the while using every attack as a reason for gun control. And as usual the useful idiots go along with it and stand by it, because they are useful idiots and he knows it. And the whole theme of this is whether it ok or not in Gods eyes to defend yourself. Evidently that went over your head. Just like the latest shooting in Orlando as soon as it happened the media spouted off that he used an assault weapon, which we now know was untrue. They do it every time, plus they always like to start with it was probably some right wing extremist which has been as far from the truth as it could be. They have either been Muslims, or Obama supporters or Liberals to some degree or another. After they find that out they stop talking about what the shooter believed or supported, pretty funny actually, eye opening but funny. My point on this is relying on the Media to tell the truth about anything is pretty funny in itself, they have an agenda and they stick to it. Nevertheless the comment this guy made was about whether or not Christians should be able to defined themselves without going against Gods word. And if you one isn’t a Christian its irrelevant to one.

        • MarcoPolo says:

          I believe everyone has a right to defend themselves. But I don’t agree with Trump about arming more civilians in an attempt to make people feel safer. That’s insane!

          As I understand it, the semi-automatic rifle that the Orlando shooter used was very similar to an AR-15… so that’s just a technicality…it’s still a weapon that shouldn’t be available to the general public.

          If you feel that President Obama has gone too far in his measured approach, that’s your opinion. I find his temperament to be refreshingly dignified. And THAT is lacking in today politics.

          I’m not a Nationalist who waves the flag, shouting U S A ! every time a “foreigner” acts out against us. And the surprise in this case, is that it was a “Home-Grown” terrorist!

          Whether the victims are Christian or Jew, or Gay or Straight, it matters not. What matters is that violence is violence, and it won’t be tolerated.

  2. Stogiebear says:

    Liberals obsess much more over guns than people who own them. They assume since they think of guns constantly, gun owners must be just as bad as them. I’m amazed to see so many people on evangelical blogs follow the liberal line and even claim that anyone who owns a gun fully intends to kill someone. The media are largely to blame for the fear-mongering, as any shooting will get replayed for weeks.

    • MarcoPolo says:

      The Media truly are a shameless breed, but then, it is their job to bring the news to the rest of us.
      And the balance of not giving too much attention to the Shooter, versus addressing the facts of the incident is paramount.

  3. James says:

    It seems to me that it’s rather difficult to love one’s neighbor as oneself as one is shooting one’s neighbor. I guess the Sermon on the Mount is just, what, metaphor? A suggestion? A vision statement?

    • Dan says:

      So how do you propose to “love” your neighbor if he is committing physical violence on you or one of your loved ones; e.g., sexually assaulting your wife or daughter? Call the police? Great, they can take statements after the fact and draw chalk outlines around the bodies if murder has occurred. I’m interested to know how you plan to address such a situation.

      • James says:

        The vast majority of people who are killed by guns aren’t armed themselves. And in any case – you completely ignored my question.

        • Dan says:

          O.K. to answer directly, when someone commits or threatens to imminently commit violence against your person or someone immediately in your presence, that person is no longer your neighbor. By not protecting innocents against violence you are not loving them and such innocents are arguably more your neighbor than the perpetrator(s) of violence. And in such a case you are not repaying evil with evil or seeking vengeance, you are merely protecting yourself.

          How about telling me how Jesus loved his “neighbors” when he whipped the money changers in the Temple? They were not committing physical acts of violence against anyone. They were only taking their money.

        • Out of the Blue says:

          You seem to assume that a defensive gun use involves killing the perpetrator, when about 99%, I think, of defensive gun use doesn’t involve the weapon being fired. You’re also assuming that gun control measures will stop people from committing acts of violence, or from getting their hands on illegal weaponry. And the goal is not to kill the person per se, but to remove their ability to present a threat. If that means they surrender, that’s great. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’d frankly consider my own survival secondary to the survival of a greater number of people, especially if I was the one endangering their lives to begin with. I wouldn’t exactly call it loving to let someone commit murder.

        • darh477 says:

          If you feel so strongly about guns, make sure that if you ever have to call 911 that you inform the police that they must not bring guns with them, because they make you swoon.

          You’re just like every other American: You rely on ARMED men to protect you, so drop the melodrama. You hate guns – fine. Don’t own one. You still rely on men with guns, so your fantasy about a gun-free world is a joke.

        • sls49@comcast.net says:

          WEll i prefer truth as opposed to BS , the vast majority of people killed by guns arent armed themselves, ok. It might possibly a majority but not a vast one, if one at all. Im pretty sure ive seen statistics that prove that to be BS. Also If one is attacking you and trying kill or maim you or a loved one, he is no longer your neighbor he is now your enemy. Love your neighbor as yourself means to treat people right or as you would have them treat you. Not to bear false witness against them, to help them whenever you can, to be fair with them, etc etc in our daily lives. Not to cheat them, not to steal from them and so on and so on. now my question to you is do you protest the killing of babies everyday, theres probably more babies killed every year than people with firearms, a lot more. Are you out there crying for cars to be banned, since in one day more people are killed on the highway than multiple years by gun violence. How about banning cell phones since cell phone cause a substantial amount of deaths on the road everyday. i myself was severely injured by a young women texting while driving, i didn trun out and demand phones or young women be banned. You people are hilarious, unfortunately you are also dangerous to the preservation of our freedoms and this country.

          • James says:

            This Wild West crap doesn’t happen in other countries, if you don’t count Somalia. This idiotic gun fetish has killed far more people than 9-11. As for the rest of your rant, I didn’t bother to read it.

    • The_Physetor says:

      Lots of cliches packed into one’s post.

  4. bdog says:

    The greatest mass murderers of the 20th century would have had far fewer victims if the populace had been armed to the teeth. A disarmed country is a helpless country.

  5. Michael W. Austin says:

    I think you raise some good points, but Luke 22 is not about self-defense. See here: http://www.thegoodbookblog.com/2014/feb/25/let-the-one-who-has-no-sword-buy-one-the-biblical-/

  6. FriendsGather says:

    Wow, way to spin those scriptures!

  7. CDGingrich says:

    Schenck has given up rational thought for trying to be liked by liberals.

  8. Byrom says:

    Well said, Derryck. I’m very much pro-life and pro-gun. That includes the lives of innocent people who are threatened by evil persons, gun-toting or not. And how are evil criminals to be disarmed?
    Rev. Schenck does not stop to think about what it took to permit him to make his statements. It took armed men to ensure the creation of the United States of America. My late wife and I both have ancestors who fought, and in some cases died, to ensure that. There is a reason for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, and a reason why it assumes a pre-existing right. It is to permit the citizens to defend themselves against the kind of British tyranny which led to the American Revolutionary War. In my book, liberals do not want any kind of opposition to forcing their will upon a people who don’t agree with them. That is their motivation for being against law-abiding citizens owning firearms. Look at Nazi Germany. The people had to be disarmed first.
    That being said, the entire Scriptures need to be taken in context. Even Jesus said there would come a time when men would need to be armed. If Luke 22:36-38 isn’t about self-defense or defense of others, what is it about?

  9. The_Physetor says:

    The lefties are so blind that they don’t see that the vast majority of gun owners see the gun as a means to PRESERVE life, not take a life.

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