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“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”  1 John 5:21

In the Bible it was very often the case that various idols did not replace worship of the one true God but rather nestled in alongside it.  Seldom was it an either/or proposition so much as a both/and.  Sure the Israelites visited the Baal altars to pray for crops during the week but if they showed up in the Temple on the Sabbath and (as Jeremiah depicted it) danced around and sang “This is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, hey-hey, cha-cha!” often enough, God would not notice their larger religious syncretism and other failures to lead just lives.   So also in the short verse from 1 John cited above: John was not writing to people who had left faith in Jesus.   It is pretty obvious he is writing to devoted believers who had a little something else spiritually on the side.   Double-mindedness aside, the fact is that whenever this happened–to Israel of old or to Christians along the ages since the founding of the Church–the idolatry on the side corrupts the faith at the center.

There are no historical exceptions.

It has been clear to me for a long time that there is a form of idolatry in the United States and its god is the Second Amendment.  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Short and sweet.   And now very deadly.  Never mind the obvious connection to the young nation’s need of a volunteer Militia being connected to bearing arms.  Never mind that when this was written the “arms” in question were mostly muskets which took even skilled persons the better part of 20-30 seconds to load just once.   The most highly skilled eighteenth century soldier might manage to fire three balls in one minute, not accounting for the frequent jams typical of muskets and the need to clean out the powder residue with some regularity.  AR-15s or deer rifles with bump stocks they were not.   Muskets were not meant for grand-scale assaults but defense (and ideally you’d better have a bunch of armed comrades at your side so you can take turns firing at the enemy).   And yes, you could take down a deer or buffalo with a musket too.

But again, never mind all that.  Times change but principles abide.   A gun is a gun and no one can tell anybody else they cannot have one.  Or a hundred.  And no one can suggest certain kinds of guns do not belong in the hands of anyone beyond soldiers.  This is our sacred RIGHT, the NRA proclaims from its secular pulpits.  It is more important than most any other right.  It is more important than anything in, say, the Christian religion that might sensibly lead one down a path where guns should become not only relatively unimportant but in fact as the thing we are most eager to see disappear from God’s earth (not to mention that the Bible does not celebrate individual liberty so much as the corporate Body and what is good not for the one but for all.  My #1 “right” in the New Testament is to serve the other, not myself.)

But in the USA no matter what happens, no matter how many children are slaughtered in Sandy Hook or Parkland, no matter how many people are gunned down in Las Vegas or in any of the now nearly weekly mass shootings in the US, the response of many is to cast their eyes to the Second Amendment to cry “Hosanna!   Save us!   More guns!   Save us!   Looser laws!  Save us!  Arm the teachers!  Save us!  Hosanna to the Second Amendment–something in you, dear god, contains the answer for you are our very salvation and ever present hope.”

I am no fool.  I do not live in a bubble.  Ours is a fallen world.  We need police.  We need the FBI.  We need soldiers.   We long for the day when we don’t need those things, but longing for it does not yet make it so.   Still, I am writing about what the apparent idolatry of the gun culture, of the Second Amendment, of the NRA is doing to our souls, especially since its adherents number so many professing Christians.

The way I figure it, you can spy idolatry fairly easily.  It has a few characteristics:

1) You want more of what you worship.  The NRA and its adherents cotton to no idea that might reduce the number of available guns, gun types, high-capacity magazines.  Gun shows and catalogues are a veritable iron and steel pornography and the eye is never tired of seeing.

2) Otherwise sensible lines of reasoning go out the window.  “Sure we could ban assault weapons” a member of Congress said over the weekend “but that won’t affect the criminal but only the law-abiding folks.”  Never mind the question “Is it the right thing to do?”  No, the skewed line of reasoning is that it is unreasonable to have laws that are only kept by already good people.  Look, I live on a side street between two relatively busy roads in Grand Rapids.  The Speed Limit on my street is 25 MPH and that is sensible–we have many little children in my neighborhood and, alas, they do not always look both ways before crossing the street as carefully as we parents might wish.   But every evening–trying to shave 15 seconds off that homeward commute–people tear down my street going at least 45 MPH.  True enough, that 25 MPH law is followed mostly by me and my neighbors and by other thoughtful drivers.   We have to drive slower while the careless idiots still push 50 MPH.  But is that any reason to dump the 25 MPH law?   Laws are ALWAYS ignored by criminals–that’s what makes them “criminals” (look it up in the dictionary).   But this law serves a greater good–protecting children, reducing accidents.   But with guns such things are not the greater good.  No, the greater good–indeed the greatest good–is the god of the Second Amendment that says any law that keeps an assault weapon out of MY good hands is offensive to my larger religious commitment to guns.

3) When you are religiously devoted to an idol, you fear losing it.   Anxiety and fear become the bass note of your life lest your god die or be taken away from you.   The use of fearful manipulation was on huge display in the sermon preached by the NRA’s Wayne Lapierre last week: “They hide behind labels like Democrat, left wing and progressive to make their socialist agenda more palatable. And that is terrifying.  That should terrify every citizen who values the American ideal in this country of individual liberty.”

4) Finally there is that whole syncretism specter when elements of the idol’s values supersede or subtly distort more obvious teachings of what you claim to be your primary faith.   The Christian vision is to beat swords into plowshares, Howitzer tanks into John Deere garden tractors (Neal Plantinga), AR-15s into fence posts in the planting of a vineyard.  “Put up your sword” Jesus told Peter.  He does not now say “Lock and load.”   The Fruit of the Spirit include kindness, gentleness, goodness, patience and other things that are seldom displayed on the faces of people with assault rifles slung over their shoulders or pistols attached to their hips.   You view the world and your role in it differently when you carry a gun and when you advocate that more, not fewer, do the same.   And none of the traits guns draw out of people are terribly Christ-like.

All of this was rattling around in my head this past weekend when my friend Shane Claiborne Tweeted a quote from one-time NRA executive J. Warren Cassidy when he said of the NRA: “You would get a far better understanding of the NRA if you were approaching us as one of the great religions of the world.”

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.




Scott Hoezee

Scott Hoezee is Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Daniel Meeter says:


  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Good and true words. I am so tired of seeing posts from my friends in faith who continue to claim that the government will come for us after they take away our guns. False god, false message.

  • Sharon A Etheridge says:

    Well said . Thanks

  • Jerry Hoek says:

    Amen, my friend. Amen! Well said!

  • Dan Walcott says:

    Scott, I taught Bible in a Christian high school for forty years. Sometimes I pushed students hard to get them to think critically. When I challenged their thinking about guns was when I received the most complaints from parents and students. Put guns and football together and you have rhe “gods of this age.” Thanks for writtibg this.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    Your post is striking. I wish you would have dug deeper into our American heart. There is a sermon given at Riverside Church in NYC by Dr. King that I try to read at least once a year, “Beyond Vietman: A Time to Break the Silence.” King isn’t addressing guns, but I think he speaks of the idolatry that twists the 2nd Amendment and its interpretation when he speaks of the “Giant Triplets” of racism, militarism, and materialism, an unholy Trinity of American idolatry. He was speaking of the Vietnam War and its connections to Civil Rights. He was speaking of a peace movement and calling for our leaders to draw us out of that war, but of course, his words were more prophetic than we could have ever known. The 2nd Amendment, and its current interpretation (not its only interpretation) is an outgrowth of that militaristic spirit, and King’s offerings of way to save the soul of America may offer us a way forward. It remains a time to “Break the Silence” … our silence on guns–militaristic culture, and our true idolatry.

  • Kathy Sneller Davelaar says:

    Amen and Amen agIn.

  • Henry Baron says:

    And a heartfelt Amen from me too, Scott.

  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    Hi Scott. This submission falls more into the category of cathartic screed than thoughtful conversation starter, but I’ll do my best to be the fly in your ointment and try to provoke a conversation anyway. And to be clear, the category of cathartic screed can be very helpful; I’ve indulged myself before, and you certainly have every right to as well.
    It would be entirely too easy for me to respond to you in like fashion. I would start by accusing you of idolizing government and I would imagine a nice little ditty where you sang Hosannas (LOUD Hosannas!) to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. I would speak broadly of a monolithic regulatory culture. I would make silly arguments about the outdated nature of the first amendment that could never have anticipated smart phones (parchment and quill only, please). I would create straw men to burn, assigning to you things that you never advocated for, such as taking away all weapons everywhere. I would bring up tried and failed solutions and pose them again as if they were new. I would speak as if I alone occupied the moral high ground because I was so unlike you and was not blinded by my idolatry. But that wouldn’t be very productive, would it? It seems to me that that type of discourse is only likely to further polarize people. I would suggest to you that your offering here will mostly have that affect, as you seem to evidence little desire seek common ground, understand those who see things differently, or propose something other than generalities aimed at demonizing others. A few points to consider:
    1) “A gun is a gun and no one can tell anybody else they cannot have one.” This is a fairly ridiculous straw man, but fun to prop up and pummel. First, there are many, many categories of people who currently under a host of state and federal laws are not allowed to own weapons. Do you see Christians arguing for repeal of those laws? Additionally, one of the first responses of conservatives and many Christians is to seek targeted laws rather than generalized prohibitions. Consider this proposal by conservative Christian David French: Who then do targeted laws seek to restrict? People who have shown themselves not safe to own a firearm. A far cry from “no one can tell anybody else that they cannot have” a gun. Fairly characterizing the ideas and positions of those with whom you disagree goes a long way toward fostering constructive conversations.
    2) “And no one can suggest certain kinds of guns do not belong in the hands of anyone beyond soldiers.” This too is ridiculous. There are all kinds of weapons, guns included, that are used by the military that are unlawful for citizens to possess or the possession of which is severely restricted. You are again failing to accurately characterize the position of those with whom you disagree.
    3) You use the example of speed limits as an example of laws that are useful but not uniformly obeyed. I agree. I think it is a poor argument to simply state that a proposed law is no good because will be violated. One must also consider whether the law will have any appreciable effect. Simply proposing laws for the sake of “doing something” will not suffice either. But let’s take your vehicle example a little further and make a parallel of sorts. Guns are already very regulated as to their use: how and where they might be used. This is similar to vehicles in the consideration of speed limits. We limit the absolute free exercise of our right to own and operate either a gun or a vehicle because how and where we use these tools can and will affect others. So, I cannot trap shoot or target practice in the mall. Seems obvious enough. I cannot point my weapon at others. I cannot discharge my gun recklessly. I cannot hunt in close proximity to residences, etc. I could go on. Similarly, I cannot operate my vehicle at any speed that I want. I cannot operate my vehicle recklessly. Now, suppose for a minute that the government proposed to define and limit all your extraneous travel in order to reduce traffic fatalities. No more vacations with your family. No more scenic drives to clear your mind or simply take in the beauty of creation. No more conferences that aren’t required by your job. You get the idea. You see, just by being on the road you are a danger to those who need to get somewhere. And the government will make these decisions for you. We know that traffic fatalities far outnumber violence by firearm, so certainly you are not insensitive to this tragedy. So, Scott, are you willing to give up this freedom, even without government compulsion? Will you stop all extraneous travel immediately, or are you willing to risk the lives of others? Have you made an idol of your rights and freedoms? Let’s see if you are ready to eschew your freedoms in the same way you cavalierly ask others to do. Here’s the reality: life in society is about a balance of freedoms/rights with responsibilities and limitations on those freedoms. No balance is perfect. No balance contains no risk for others. Simply put, you exercise and (inherently) defend rights that you have every day, yet the right you have no use for you are ready to command others to discard.
    4) “And none of the traits guns draw out of people are terribly Christ-like.” This is an interesting quote, and it is worth considering along with your undefined reference to a seemingly monolithic “gun culture.” Can you define for me just what “gun culture” is? Is it the Saturday morning spent with father in son in a marsh observing and appreciating the beauty of creation while using guns to hunt and place lean organic meat on the table? Is that idolatry? Or is it the violent husband who abuses his wife and threatens her with his guns? Is it the inner-city drug dealer protecting his turf? Or is it the father who would risk his life by going toward an intruder with a weapon in order to save the lives of his innocent wife and children? Is the afternoon spent with friends target shooting? Or is it the disturbed violent child from a broken home (as is almost always the case) who seeks the type of attention through fame in killing that he never received from loving parents? So is the father who places his own life in danger to protect the life of his family not a servant to them? This is not Christlike? What about the woman who carries a self-defense weapon because the area of town where she works is marked by violence? Is she being unChristlike? Must she sacrifice her body for those who would do her harm? There are no Christlike qualities to be observed in the friendships and bonds formed between family and friends engaged in sporting outings with firearms?
    5) You seem to believe that a general “assault weapons” ban is reasonable and would be effective. You will recall, of course that this has been tried recently. The author of a study on this ban is quoted as saying: “In general we found, really, very, very little evidence, almost none, that gun violence was becoming any less lethal or any less injurious during this time frame. So on balance, we concluded that the ban had not had a discernible impact on gun crime during the years it was in effect. The grandfathering provisions in the law meant that the effects of the law would occur only very gradually over time. It seems that those effects were still unfolding when the ban was lifted, and indeed they may not have been fully realized for several more years into the future even if the ban had been extended in 2004. The evidence is too limited for any firm projections, but it does suggest that long term restrictions on these guns and magazines could potentially produce at least a small reduction in shootings.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, though it does offer hope that further effort may have some effect. Reasonable people should be able to debate whether or not such a ban is desirable without being accused of idolatry. In the end, the assault weapons ban was ineffective in part because it focused on scary looking features that had little to nothing to do with lethality. Many have asked “Is it the right thing to do?” and concluded that it is not.

    I’m all for reasoned discussions among Christians about effective and comprehensive ways in which we can seek the betterment of society through public policy. However, any “discussion” that begins with the equivalence of the Pharisee thanking God that he is not like those knuckle-dragging idolatrous gun culture nuts is not likely to be very productive.

    • Scott Hoezee says:

      Considering that your comments are bracketed by a wholesale dismissal of this blog as an uninformed Pharisaical screed with no facts on its side, it is striking to me that you left a reply that is a couple hundred words longer than the actual blog. And I tried to avoid extremes in my blog–I never suggested banning all guns, I never suggested there are not already some weapons that are restricted, I never suggested that any law–even a 25 MPH speed limit–will head off every possible accident or crime or whatever, I never said we could regulate our way to a perfect society where nothing bad will ever happen. Yet you several times introduced the “reductio ad absurdum” line of argumentation as a way to impugn any point I tried to make. The fact is that after Sandy Hook the only gun legislation that passed state to state or anywhere was a LOOSENING of gun laws. You refer to a study on assault weapons bans: not sure who did that but it was not the federal government as the NRA has manipulated members of Congress for years into making it ILLEGAL for the CDC even to study gun violence. And say what you will but I cannot remember the last time the NRA or any big-time proponents of the 2nd amendment ever being in favor of banning anything: bump stocks, high capacity magazines, assault weapons of most (if not all) kinds. There is a flat-footed madness to all that. And no matter how minor a regulation may be that gets suggested, the NRA is right at everyone’s elbow to say “See, they will take ALL the guns; they will strip you of EVERY liberty.” Your comment here evinces exactly that paranoia and, in the end, that bald-faced lie. And I am not making that up: this is precisely what Wayne Lapierre said and implied over and over last week. If that all makes sense to you and seems to be on a trajectory of Christian concerns and biblical-theological vision, OK. But I do see it as a kind of blind idolatry fueled by fear and motivated by an array of things that put public safety very far down the list of priorities for some people. You can radicalize that and cast me into the extremes you mention in your reply as a way to dismiss all of that. But something is behind these non-sensical reactions to horrible violence (esp. against children). And I do not for one moment believe it is some innocent and pure defense of liberty. This has spiritual dimensions to it. And from the skewed, Pharisaical, screed-laden position where I sit, none of those implications is terribly encouraging.

      • Eric Van Dyken says:

        Hi Scott,
        I think you are exactly right in your reaction to how I approached my response to you. At the time I felt justified in how I described your article, but clearly it was not wise of me, and it detracted from the sober points I was attempting to communicate.

  • Lisa H Tice says:

    Amen, brother!

  • Willa Brown says:

    Thanks, Scott, for putting into words what many of us are thinking.

  • steve van't hof says:

    And thank you Eric Van Dyken for putting into words what I and others are thinking.

    Scott, am I guilty of idolatry, worshipping at the “god of the 2nd Amendment” because my interpretation does not mirror yours? Of course, as with any form of electronic communication there is the danger of misinterpreting the author’s true intent, so maybe there’s some wiggle room in your description of me. I hope so, because otherwise it seems I am a sure victim of your sweeping generalizations.

    Nope, I’m not an NRA member but I understand what many fear. For example, of all annual gun-related deaths only a small percentage involve a rifle (this includes “assault rifles”). Every year knives kill far more. The fear is that If semi-automatic rifles are banned, semi-automatic pistols will be next (the weapon of choice used to kill 32 at VA Tech in 2007). And so on… Fifty years ago there were more guns per capita than today. High capacity semi-automatic rifles have been around since at least the 1950’s. For you “gun culture” folks, think Remington models 742/7400 and the 10-20 round magazines that were available… in far more powerful calibers. But again, why are these shootings so prevalent today compared to even thirty years ago? The guns were there, today’s culture was not.

    I’m certainly not opposed to raising the requirements for gun ownership and implementing much stricter background checks. But where is the like-minded hue and cry concerning 64,000 opioid overdose deaths per year (latest edition of Time magazine) and 41,000 traffic fatalities in 2017?

    This seems to be another classic case of treating the symptom rather than attacking the cause.

    • Scott Hoezee says:

      Steve: I am certainly not trying to pigeon-hole anybody but was raising issues of a spiritual nature on an issue where–or so it seems to me–spirituality seldom comes up. Where any given person–including you–fits within all that is a matter of personal introspection. I am not against all guns, not against hunters, not against people who enjoy skeet shooting (my own Seminary had a fundraiser last August involving a skeet shooting competition), or those who appreciate other aspects of guns or gun ownership. But when the answer to every issue involving guns becomes some unfettered, unblinkered evocation of the 2nd amendment, I want to raise questions. I did not offer my own “interpretation” of that amendment but wanted to suggest that a no-holds-barred view of it cannot be the final answer every time, either.

      That said, you mention the opioid crisis and traffic fatalities. I am tragically concerned about the opioid crisis ( and used it as a sermon illustration in a new sermon I wrote just recently). I am all in favor of reducing traffic deaths if we can. I want every resource we can commit to battle this horrid opioid situation. And . . . most all would agree. One of the earliest moves President Trump made was to convene a major seminar at the White House to address the opioid crisis–it is one of the best things Trump has done (and you know I am no Trump fan). Makes sense given what is happening. Sensible measures are being taken, legislation and stricter regulation of prescription drugs are all being tried to blunt this. It is possible more radical steps may be needed, and probably few would oppose that. Same with traffic deaths. The CDC can and has conducted research on use of seatbelts, on the effectiveness of airbags, of what are prudent speed limits in certain areas. Hard research in this area has reduced traffic deaths nationwide. Mandatory seatbelt laws stemming from such research has saved lives.

      But guns are different and I cannot help but wonder why. The CDC is BANNED from studying gun violence. The NRA (of which you are not a member, I understand) has Congress locked down on that. Why not study it at the highest levels? We do so with everything else. When would President Trump convene a national effort at the White House to look at gun violence the way he did with the opioid crisis?

      One guy tries to put a bomb in his tennis shoe on an airplane and millions of us now have to take our shoes off for TSA screening. Inconvenient? Yes, but we do it because it seems sensible and may save some lives, starting with our own. One guy tries an underwear bomb and now we have to all go through scanners that render us virtually naked to whomever is monitoring the screen. Embarrassing, maybe, but no one refuses because we have a dog in this hunt and don’t want someone’s pair of Fruit of the Loom to blow up the plane I am on. One guy from Somalia tries to blow up a hot dog stand in Times Square and before the “Breaking News” is off the crawl on CNN Trump is on TV advocating for his strict travel bans.

      But let a guy in Vegas shoot 600 people and kill about 10% of them and all we hear is “Not time to talk about guns.” And it’s never time to do the equivalent with guns what we do with shoes and underwear at the airport, with seatbelts or prescription drugs.

      Why is that?

      I am not implicating you or necessarily anyone in all this but I ask the question: Why is our response to anything involving a gun ALWAYS so different from traffic accidents, drug problems, or ways people to try get explosives onto planes, trains, and automobiles?

      • steve van't hof says:

        Thanks, Scott. I appreciate your willingness to address the tough topics, particularly from a spiritual standpoint. The more you write, the more I realize we are of a like mind.

  • Scott, the command against idolatry is closely followed by the command to not bear false witness against your neighbors…many of your statements do exactly that.

    “Peter, put away your sword!” But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, why was Peter carrying a sword in the first place? Did any of the other disciples have swords? Had they been armed the entire 3 years of Jesus’ ministry? Why had Jesus allowed them to carry at all?

    Esther 8:11. Something to consider. Rather than repealing the law allowing people to attack the Jews (declaring a sword free zone?), the king simply gave the Jews the right to defend themselves. Lo and behold, everybody left the Jews alone!

    I love the “Never mind all that’s.” I deeply thank Eric for his responses. Here’s one I’d like you to address: you talk a lot about muskets. Are you aware that when the 2nd Amendment was written by our Founders, it was quite common for private citizens to own artillery capable of firing grapeshot and canon balls that could kill or injure dozens of people at a time. Not a pleasant thought, I know. But your focus on muskets is not historically accurate.

    Finally, if reasoned discussion and actual improvements in safety are your goals, rants such as this will only move us further away from them. Please reconsider whether your top priority is your desire to vent…or your desire to improve things.

    • Phil Goetz says:

      None of the gospels say it was Peter who had the sword. But Luke 22:36-37) says why they had swords: because Jesus had ordered them, ” if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”

  • Scott Hoezee says:

    Dan, bearing false witness against a neighbor (something I take very seriously) depends on what is being said and who the neighbor in question is. If you do not fit into the mindsets and do not support the decisions and rhetoric I mentioned, then I was not talking about you or others who would agree with you. But are you saying there is NO ONE out there who fits the bill I described? Following Sandy Hook the only gun legislation that was passed in the subsequent year was all a LOOSENING of gun laws led by people who say exactly what I alleged: we need more guns and easier access. More and easier is always the answer for some. President Trump went on the record favoring looking at arming teachers after Parkland. I did not make that up about him. Wayne Lapierre bore false witness against me and millions of others x3 in one sentence last week when he said people like me are socialists who want every gun and ultimately who want to revoke every personal liberty in America. False witness x3. So how am I bearing false witness against him (the only specific person I mentioned in my blog) when that is exactly what he said? The NRA opposes every stricture on any type of weapon or ammunition. They have made Congress lock down the CDC so that it is illegal even to study gun violence as a public health threat. In this culture and environment, there are plenty of people–including some Christians because I have spoken with them on these matters–who are what I described. Not everybody. Maybe not you.
    And yes, I guess my blog was also something of a rant where I pushed some rhetorical boundaries. But it reminds me of what Flannery O’Connor said when asked why she often used such grotesque, radical imagery in her stories: “In a land where most everyone is nearly blind, you have to draw really big caricatures to get anyone’s attention.”

    • I’m not in the habit of using such mental gymnastics to justify bearing false witness against my neighbor.

      What of canons, Esther, and the disciples packing heat?

      • Scott Hoezee says:

        Not sure how pointing out that I was quoting the “neighbors” in question accurately is tantamount to mental gymnastics but there it is.

        You are right: I am not an expert on colonial munitions. Muskets were as slow to reload as I indicated. Maybe some had the early artillery of which you speak. Still hard to see their toting it up to a 32nd floor hotel room and mowing down 600 people with it but I will concede that weapons have always been lethal. But I would hope you would be willing to concede the obvious point that many guns have become far more lethal of late. Most assault rifles go far beyond anything needed for hunting, skeet shooting, or even self-defense. Those weapons have but one real purpose: the rapid taking of a high volume of human lives. Alas, in war that may be necessary (esp. when the other side has such arms). But for civilians . . .???

        Neither of us has time to engage in hermeneutical discussions of Ancient Israel vis-a-vis the New Israel that is the Church. But suffice to say that Old Testament examples of the Jews/Israel defending itself as a nation are applicable neither to the New Israel of the Church nor to a given nation today (in that no nation today = Israel).

        And I have little to say about disciples with swords. To try to make that equivalent to “conceal and carry” today seems a stretch of eisegesis at best. But asserting that Peter’s having a sword is more important than the non-violent example of Jesus or his words about forgiving enemies and praying for persecutors, or his ultimately being the Prince of Peace by sacrificing himself for us, or the witness of the New Testament generally . . . well, Peter’s sword–whatever it means if it means anything at all–cannot overcome the overwhelming witness of Christ that our first, best posture ought not be celebrating, propagating, or defending a never-ending flow of guns today. (Saw a bumper sticker recently: “If Jesus had had a gun, he would not have been crucified.” Yeah.

        If the best anyone can do in defending Christians (and I am not saying you are one such Christian) who are 2nd amendment gun hawks is to say “Well, Peter had a sword,” then that is a mighty weak argument. Particularly since when Peter actually used the sword, it earned him a rebuke from the Messiah. (And I never saw the Apostles in Acts fending off the Roman authorities trying to arrest them by wielding weapons.)


        • it’s mental gymnastics because the exercise could be turned around to refute your side. “Are you saying there is NO ONE out there who fits Wayne Lapierre’s description of a socialist who wants to take away every single gun?”

          I’m glad you concede the point on muskets. Had machine guns, tanks, and predator drones been around in 1791, I assert the American Founders would have enshrined the right for common, everyday citizens to own them, such was their distrust of wicked men ruling over other wicked men. You don’t see things that way. That’s fine. That’s your perspective. But such a perspective denies the reality of 6000 years of human history, where eventually the “enlightened” rulers of the Egyptian/Babylonian/Greek/Roman/English empire revert into tyrants. I agree with our founders that the issue is not the particular tool at our disposal, but rather the condition of the heart of the person wielding the tool. I assure you that I could responsibly own tanks, grenade launchers, and blackhawk helicopters (that would be pretty cool!) and you would be perfectly safe. Because my soul belongs to Jesus Christ. So instead of focusing on the changes in weapons technology, maybe we should focus on the changes taking place in the souls of our neighbors?

          Esther is about hermeneutics. It’s about principles. Would you agree with me that the Old Testament is full of principles given to us by God, to draw from? Can we learn from them?

          And the reason we’re discussing Peter is because you brought it up as a slam dunk example of Jesus being anti-weapon. I blocked the slam dunk. Your response is “That’s the best you’ve got!” You went for the dunk, not me.

          • Karen Sue says:

            Actually GOD has the SLAM dunk! See Ephesians 6:10-20. You will never block that one.

            See also what that “heat packing” disciple says in 1 Peter 2:9. Possibly another dunk?

            Also, I believe that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we need some good old-fashioned self-examination, focusing on the changes in our own souls. Isn’t that what Scott’s blog suggests? See the opening verse from I John 5:21. That’s not a call to debate the 2nd amendment and throw blame and accusations around, but a call for us as God’s children to search ourselves and see if there’s something in our lives that has a higher priority for us than God’s WORD, that “SWORD” you read about in Ephesians 6.

            The point of I John 5:21 will always be VALID! You may disagree with Scott’s example of the 2nd amendment as a possible idol, but that does not negate the VALIDITY of John’s point: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols”.

          • Karen Sue, are you saying that Ephesians 6 is telling us to put on LITERAL armor? Or is Paul writing metaphorically here to drive home a point about spiritual warfare? And if it is indeed METAPHORICAL, how can you assert that it has anything to say one way or the other about PHYSICAL weapons?

            So I quickly turned to 1 Peter 2:9, since you referenced it as another ?possible? slam dunk in favor of gun control. I thought maybe it would be Peter saying, “I should have never carried a sword for self defense…that was wrong of me.” Instead it says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” It is truly a great verse! I give a hearty “Amen!”. But I don’t see how it is a slam dunk against guns. So I’d say the answer to your question “Another dunk?” is…no.

            As to your final paragraph, I agree. The message to stay away from idols is a good one. We ought to examine ourselves, as you and Scott suggest. Having done so, it is clear that Scott’s assertion that large swaths of America idolize the 2nd Amendment (with the not-so-subtle implication that anyone who supports the private ownership of anything more powerful than an 18th century musket is operating in full-blown idolatry mode) is completely, totally, wrong.

            Now onto the self-examination of bearing false witness against our neighbors…

          • Karen Sue says:

            Dan, I’m sometimes technically challenged and I can’t find the button to reply to your recent post, so I’m responding to this post rather than your most recent one.

            My fellow Christian, you ask many good questions; unfortunately you’re asking the wrong person. I can only share with you what God has shared with my heart when I’ve read His word and asked Him: “What are you saying to me here, God?” Seek Him, and He will hear and answer you. I’m praying the words of Ephesians 1:14-18 as you travel in your relationship with your Lord and Savior.

          • Karen Sue says:

            Dan, it’s Karen Sue one more time. Ignore the first paragraph of my last post. The technical part worked itself out.

            Ephesians is a great book, but my prayer is actually verses 18-20 of the 1st chapter. Thanks for your time and effort in checking that out.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    This post did not remind me of Flannery O’Connor. More like Rush Limbaugh, with all due respect.

  • Phil Goetz says:

    Scott, you shouldn’t write vituperative attacks on people when you obviously haven’t made any attempt to learn their position.

    There are 2 justifications for the 2nd Amendment:
    1. To help protect the country from foreign invaders.
    2. To enable the people to protect themselves from their own government.

    You never addressed these; hence, you never addressed the issue.

    The correct approach is to do an expected value calculation. That means estimate the number of excess death and suffering caused by letting citizens have guns, and the excess caused by not letting them have guns.

    The result hinges on what you think the odds are per year that the US will have political instability, and on the relative values you place on life versus liberty. Although I would argue the relative values are not really relevant, as the number of expected deaths caused by government executions in countries that have gun control is much higher than the number of expected deaths from, e g., school shootings. The idea that the US could never have civil unrest, a civil war, or a dictatorship, is not merely naive, but stupid–a belief held in contradiction to history, human nature, and the current political climate

    I will also not that recent court rulings have established that the police do not have an obligation to protect you. Their job is, allegedly, to keep the peace, not to provide physical protection for individual citizens. This is why of late the police don’t rush in to stop shootings in progress, but wait until the shooter comes out, even if the shooter is actively killing people.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    I just have to ask: are you related to Bernie?

  • Henk says:

    Thank you, Scott, for a well-thought out argument/position. Not surprisingly, your gentle cudgel propelled angry hornets from their nest. The responses your blog elicited reveal nothing new in the old arguments regarding the NRA interpretation of the 2nd amendment. Reading them again and again makes me both tired and discouraged. Hope is still hanging around and I shall cling to it.

  • Richard Tiggelaar says:

    Before these terms were popular, my Dad was a “hero” (WWII) and a “first-responder” (Chicago Firefighter in Roseland/Chicago). Just as he never wanted to talk about the war, he never spoke about about guns and a gun was never in our house. No one would confuse him with a pacifist. He never raised his voice either for or against gun control. I don’t remember him saying anything about guns in the 45 years he was my father. I’m guessing that some close family members tried to impact my attitude about guns with various gifts (a Daisy air rifle, for instance) and other comments. So, for the first almost 22 years in my parent’s home and during the past 43 years in my house(s), I have never had a gun in my house. I have never needed a gun. I have never wanted a gun. I have lived a very fine life without one. While I would likely add an “Amen” to what Scott has written, these aren’t the reasons why I don’t have a gun. This is something I inherited from my father. As a result, I have a difficult time wondering why anyone would want or need to say “Hosanna” to the 2nd Amendment.

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