Guns as Idolatry

gunsI have to admit, I grew up loving all types of guns. I was the typical full-blooded American boy. I could turn anything into a gun. Give me a stick, it’s a gun. Give me a pile of Lego’s and guess what I would always create . . . a gun! And then Star Wars came out and I wanted to be Han Solo with a laser gun strapped to my waist. Every young boy is fascinated with guns. But this is the realm of fantasy, whether it is imitating a cowboy, a sci-fi space pirate, a gangster or a cop. My teen years were even more influenced by the way of the gun to solve problems through the cinematic influences of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis. There are no aliens, terminators, Nazi’s, Russian’s, or bad guys that a good gun with an all-American superhero could not stop.

Unfortunately our country is in a moral quandary with the fact that we are seeing more and more actual gun violence playing out in real-life America. It is getting to the point where it seems like every week we are introduced to another news story of someone taking out their grievances by using guns on innocent victims. Whenever this happens it seems like a majority of Americans are broken by the cycle of violence that we seem to find ourselves in. And yet there seems to be a small but powerful segment of America that digs their heals in and praises the 2nd Amendment  despite all the gun violence we are experiencing as a nation. Now I have no problem if someone chooses to own a gun for the purposes of hunting or home protection. But what I am witnessing is that the gun has become a form of idolatry within our country. When the “right” to own certain types of weaponry trumps the lives of innocent victims, I have a problem with that, especially with those who claim to be apart of the community of Christians.

I will be straight up, I have never owned a weapon. I can’t justify it theologically, nor do I feel that I would want to bear the responsibility to own one. With kids in my home and working as a pastor, I see that owning a weapon would be hypocritical to what I believe. First of all, I am not a hunter. I have no problem with those who choose to do so, but this born-and-raised suburbanite could not find the will to kill any of God’s creation. I couldn’t do it. I will leave that task up to people who have a stomach for that type of thing.

Have I ever shot weapons for sport? Absolutely! I have been to gun ranges. I have shot clay pigeons. And I actually enjoy the sport of paintball in that you can actually play games against each other without death and carnage occurring. I grew up on video games with digital guns (especially Goldeneye!), and I loved movies with lots of guns, superheroes and villains.

But there is a difference between fantasy and reality. Our country has a huge obsession with weapons and we fail to see the benefit to having a conversation about how we can best protect the greater good of people and still respect responsible gun owners. We desperately need to have this conversation. Instead, we see the NRA, backed by some of its supporters, constantly raising the warning that the government is coming to take you guns away and destroy the 2nd amendment. This simply is fear-mongering at its worst. And what is the purpose of such fear mongering? To sell more weapons. The NRA played this card all throughout the Obama administration. Any suggestion to talk about gun violence and gun safety was always met with cries that they are coming for your guns! Now that our own kids who are victims of gun violence are speaking up they are being called out as terrorists and liberals.

I have heard tired and lazy arguments to blame everything else other than the easy access we have created within our culture to be able to get any type of weapon you want. It’s video games! It’s the entertainment industry! It’s medications! It’s mental health! It’s the breakdown of the family! It’s because we took God out of the schools (which actually is HORRIBLE theology of God’s omnipresence)! We want to blame everything else other than the fact that we have ridiculously easy access to weaponry that is designed to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time.

So, being that I have never gone through the process of actually owning any type of weapon, I propose the following if it is not already law:

  1. Buying a gun should have a process that is similar to getting a driver’s license. One should have to get a license to own a weapon. I understand that this is the case but there are still loopholes in which people can buy weapons without going through this process. Recently a news story showed an underage boy trying to buy cigarettes, alcohol and pornography at a local convenient store and got denied in all three instances. But then they took him down to a gun show where within minutes he walked away with a high-powered weapon. He was a 13 year old.
  2. Which brings me to my second point, the age of owning a gun needs to go up to 21. Now that we better understand the brain development of teens, and their ability to be impulsive without thinking thorough the consequences of their actions, we should not be providing them with weapons that kill. Give them time to develop and grow. They need to earn the responsibility to own a weapon.
  3. When a teenager causes a death that was influenced by being under the influence of alcohol the parents are held responsible if the alcohol came from their home. I am tired of mindless parents of school shooters having no clue that their kid was into said violence. This is not responsible gun ownership or parenting. They need to start bearing the responsibility for the actions of their child/teen. Having high-powered weaponry easily available to their kids is the height of irresponsibility. We hear a lot about “law-abiding” gun owners but let’s talk about RESPONSIBLE gun owners instead. If your kids uses your guns to shoot up a bunch of innocents then you lost your responsibility to own guns and you should be held accountable for the consequences.
  4. There needs to be a national gun registry. We need to be able to track where weapons have come from and hold those people responsible. The government already knows what vehicles I own and apparently anyone can pull up a CarFax to know the history of my cars. Why can’t this be done within the context of weapons?
  5. The CDC needs to be able to study gun violence. Why would we not want this? And the bigger question is why would the NRA prevent this from happening? The more we know, the better equipped we will be to tackle this plague of gun violence within our country.
  6. One should have to have a certain amount of recorded training in order to own a weapon. My teens have to go through 50 hours of driving experience with a licensed adult in order to qualify to take their driving test! Why can’t we require this type of training before one can own a gun?
  7. I am tired of our politicians being owned by special-interest lobbies, in this case, the NRA. The NRA bears some of the responsibility for where we have found ourselves because they stoke the flames of fear that people are trying to eradicate the 2nd Amendment and do all they can to prevent legitimate research that would help us know more about when, where and why gun violence is happening. We need to vote out politicians who accept money from the NRA and ignore the voices of those who voted them in. I have not found one quote in which someone wants to eradicate the 2nd amendment. I want gun owners to be responsible and not cave in to the constant fear-mongering of the NRA. Is it just me, or is it not so obvious that this constant fear-mongering helps to sell more guns which benefits the gun manufacturers? Someone is becoming ridiculously rich off all this fear mongering. Why do people cave into this so easily? Is it just plain ignorance, gullibility, or naivety? There is no doubt in my mind that we have experienced a “dumbing-down” in America. Have we just become that stupid that we do not see when we are being played?

And finally, the most disappointing thing I believe in all of this is that the church is not the leading voice in wanting to stop this carnage. We as Christians need to speak up louder against gun violence. This is a BIG pro-life issue! It is the height of hypocrisy to act so sanctimonious about life in the womb but ignore lives affected by gun violence. If you believe that there is a real devil who is out to destroy God’s creation then you have to see that he is celebrating our idolatry to weapons and reveling about each loss of life. The Bible teaches that he has come to kill, steal and destroy. If you are defending the current state that we find ourselves in you can not claim to be following the way of Jesus. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who told his followers to turn the other cheek, pray for your enemies, and to bless those who curse you. He was the very one who took on all the violence directed at him on the cross and defeated all his enemies through love, self-sacrifice, non-violence and resurrection. We are encouraged to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven”. We are supposed to be ushering in a new way of life as a community that is radically different from the status-quo, yet the modern-day American church has unfortunately become a mere reflection of our culture. We have allowed empire worship to trump Christ worship and we don’t see the difference between the two.

I have been a youth pastor all my life. I am grieved beyond words for the kind of country we have created for our kids. We have been in a perpetual war ever since 9/11, we are spending ridiculous amounts on our military while Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water and Puerto Rico doesn’t have full power. I honestly believe that we have become more of a reflection of the Biblical state of Babylon than the mythical “Christian nation” that some still believe. It is time we stop hunkering down to protect our “rights” and begin to break out of our selfishness and lust for power, and start thinking about what is best for the next generation of kids growing up. It is time to take our eyes off of the idols we have created and focus back on our kids who are dying. It is easy to read the Bible and be horrified that the Israelites got to the point where they were literally sacrificing their children to the god Molech. But I fail to see the difference between that and where we are at right now. We have more innocent Americans who have been murdered by gun violence within our country than service people in the line of duty! That’s just crazy and should be a big wake-up call for our entire country but especially the Church!

So if you are a Christian and a gun owner, I would encourage you to advocate for sensible gun laws and consider what is best for the greater good of humanity. Think about your own children, think about your local schools, think about your communities. Every mass shooting has the same response: “I never thought it would happen here!” Why do we have to defend our rights until the violence comes to our own communities? Let’s come together as the body of Christ and be the kingdom that we are called to be and shake off the dirt of the Empire that we are entangled in.

Lord have mercy on this nation.

Scott Russ

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