God and Guns

“…So you say your prayers and thank the Lord for that peacemaker in your dresser drawer. God and guns keep us strong, that’s what this country was founded on…” The southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit song entitled “God and Guns” was released with the album by the same name on September 29, 2009.

The song tells of politicians trying to take away the guns of law-abiding folk, and was written in direct response to President Obama’s comment regarding some people’s need to cling to religion and guns. Although Obama did clarify the comment as referring to an apathy that politicians have created among the middle class resulting in their turning to what could be trusted, God and guns, to this day a large segment of the United States continues to suggest that the goal of the Obama administration is to abolish the 2nd Amendment.

When did God or religion become a part of the gun argument? How is faith related in any way to the right to bear arms? It seems that the alliance goes hand in hand with the symbolic division of liberal and conservative. The conservative movement as we know it today really blossomed in the 1950’s, and, according to Historian Gregory Schneider conservative constants include “respect for tradition, support of republicanism, the rule of law and the Christian religion, and a defense of Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian governments.”

As conservatives in rural areas continued to unite in strengthening their position on less government while at the same time beginning to feel the encroachment of progressive ideas, fear set in. The fear of losing their way of life, their religious freedom and their traditions. Part of the tradition included owning guns for hunting, defending their families and taking the 2nd Amendment very seriously.

This emergence of a conservative agenda emphasized the rights that were most dear to them. The proficient use of fear mongering during the 1950’s regarding communism cemented religion, taxes, property and gun ownership together as those things that would be lost in a communist society.

Today, as we face some tough challenges with regard to gun ownership, fear has again blinded us from fact. The tightening of gun laws to ensure responsible ownership and determining the type of arms an average citizen has the right to own is a logical discussion about rights versus public safety. No one is going to scrap the 2nd Amendment or take all guns away. That is fact. But a responsible discussion is due, and it must be one that takes into consideration the most defenseless of our people.

Some religious leaders claim that the reason for the increase in violence is due to a movement away from God, adding that even Jesus advocated for defense of one’s self and family. The question here is if we are interested in bringing Americans closer to God, what sense will it make to a child in a school surrounded by armed guards when they are told to “Love their neighbor as thyself?”

Head of the Progressive Christian group Sojourners, Rev. Jim Willis said, ““The world is not full of good and bad people. That is not what our scriptures teach us,” but that each individual is both good and bad, Wallis said. “And when we are bad or isolated or angry or furious or vengeful or politically agitated or confused or lost or deranged or unhinged, and we have the ability to get and use weapons only designed to kill large numbers of people,” Wallis continued, “our society is in great danger.”

This is such a contrast with what Mike Huckabee said when asked why God lets tragedy like Newtown happen,

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability?”

This would lead one to believe that the reason children were killed in the school or that it was the chosen target was because we’ve “removed” God from the school. Yet the very teaching of Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of God is within us, and therefore God is always with us.

The effort by some in the Christian community to justify their opposition to any gun control is tied greatly to their true belief that it is part of their God given right to have one, and that the United States government cannot overrule God. Yet when we look closely at the meaning behind the world’s major religions we find that love, peace and compassion are the truths to be protected. Anything else is man-made dogma that leads to greed, unhealthy competition, fear and violence.