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My brother loves the grocery store. 

He’s a great cook, he’s got great taste in food, and most days he gets a hankering for something awesome — a killer brisket, a coconut curry — and he runs to the store to get what he needs. I love to tease my brother because he goes to the grocery store pretty much every day.

My brother lives in Boulder and he shops at King Soopers.

So this week was my first. The first time I felt my stomach drop at the breaking-news alert. The first time I frantically searched for my phone. The first time a mass shooting made my hands shake. 

My brother is OK. But it was someone’s brother lying in that parking lot. 

Christ, have mercy.

A friend shared with me this sobering statistic: there are enough guns in this country to give one to every man, woman, and child, and still have 67 million to spare

It is easier to buy a gun than it is to buy Sudafed. 

The shooter in Boulder was born three days before the Columbine massacre happened. For his entire lifetime, mass shootings have been common. Normal. Easy. He lives in a world where AR-15s are how men have a “bad day.”

Christ, have mercy. 

Church: have we had enough? Are we ready to admit the incompatibility of gun ownership and discipleship in Christ? Because this will end the moment American Christians decide to end it. But we don’t want it to end. It’s the Christian senators who will prevent the passing of an assault rifle ban. It’s the Christian congressmen who will keep taking donations from the NRA. It’s the Christian voters who will keep electing the “pro-life” candidate, year after year, all the while burying first graders and grocery clerks and police officers and brothers. 

It’s as if we don’t worship the crucified Christ at all — the victim, the powerless, the one who laid down his life. It’s as if what we really worship is power. Our liturgy is violence. And our ritual, week after week, is human sacrifice. It is idolatry. It is killing us. And it will end when we lay down our own damn guns, and admit that we have gotten this very, very wrong.

We will say out loud what has been obvious the whole time: you cannot carry a gun and also a cross.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Christ, have mercy.

Photo by Phil Aicken on Unsplash

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

51 Comments

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    I’m with you. It’s like our Baal. Can’t we have both Yahweh and Baal at the same time, thought Israel. But I fear this country, because of its deep religious vows and commitments, is bent on its own destruction.

  • Laura de Jong says:

    “You cannot carry a gun and also a cross.” Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  • Rowland Van Es, Jr. says:

    The last paragraph of the opinion column by Charles Blow in the NYT puts it this way:
    “The mass shootings in our society are not normal, nor are they inevitable. They are the outgrowth of inaction, cowardice and greed. They are the result of the callous policy of the gun lobby and the politicians kissing up to them. They are the result of a depraved political stagnation.” I agree.

  • I enjoyed reading your blog and respect your opinion even as I disagree. Some of Jesus’ disciples did carry swords. There are some who make an idol out of carrying guns. Others who make an idol out of banning guns. I grieve for those who died but know that there will still be violence and grief even if we did ban all guns. Yes, you can be a Christian and a gun owner.

    • Jim Hibma says:

      But what is your solution to the mass shootings— I don’t think it is an honest response to just say what you said and think that is enough…..solve the problem…..say something about a way to stop these events.

      • Herb Schreur says:

        Fix the people, take care of the people. I don’t see you advocating banning cars to stop drunk drivers, sinful people who want to kill will kill. Look at the issues London is having with knife violence. The young man in Boulder had been putting up red flags for years, but nobody had time to deal with him or help him . Some day when people like you get interested in something besides armchair sloganeering, may be there will be some progress. As long as it’s everybody’s right to just do it, some of what gets done is gonna look like Boulder.

      • Getting rid of assault rifles in hands of citizens would be a great beginning! How many wear them in open carry states as a sign of toxic mssculinity? What is the preferred weapon of militia groups and white surpremists? And in the hands of crazies and disgruntled employees they are what? The means of making an eternal statement! Tell me how any of these can be constued to be Christian!

    • Keith De Witt says:

      I agree! Don’t blame the Christians again.

  • Ann McGlothlin Weller says:

    To Mark Ennis’ comment: If you believe you can be a Christian and a gun owner, would you agree to a ban on AR-15 and other assault weapons? Would you support background checks and a waiting period before someone can purchase a weapon? The NRA and many in Congress oppose any kind of regulation of gun ownership–is that true for you, also?

    • Norm Heersink says:

      Research Mexican gun laws. How is that working for it’s citizens .

      Murder is against the Law in every single State in the USA How is that working?

      • Rodney Haveman says:

        Research Australian gun laws. How is that working for its citizens (we can do this for quite some time).
        Murder is against the Law in every State (and in Scripture). It doesn’t work all that well to stop murder completely, but surely you are not suggesting we stop trying?
        That would be cynicism at its most deadly.

  • RLG says:

    Thanks, Kate, Rowland, and Mark for the article and your comments. It just makes common sense to not go about shooting and killing people. All religions and above all else, common sense, dictate the wrongness of what we’ve seen in the news. Very few would cheer such wanton murder of people. I think your reference, Kate, to Christ only confuses most people. Isn’t Christ the almighty God in Christian thinking, the God who burst forth from the grave that no one could him hold back? Isn’t that what Easter is about? And yes, you can be a Christian and carry a gun, or carry a cross. Thousands upon thousands of Christians do and have.

  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    Other than for hunting (my rural Michigan heritage), I’m really hard-pressed for a reason why I would own a gun, wherever on the spectrum from handgun to AR-15, particularly as a Christian. Especially when the reasoning for ownership ventures into tones of paranoia v. “the govt” and being a warrior for dominionism–again I’m hard-pressed to equate those reasons with Christian faith & practice.

  • Karen Schuitema says:

    YES and Amen Kate!!
    Oh how my soul aches at this, another utterly brutal display of violence!

  • Grace says:

    Thanks, Kate. I wondered about David given the location. Thank God for his safety.
    I hope we can ban assault rifles and make the background checking more rigorous.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Even though another mass killing grabs our attention, don’t ever forget that the presence of guns in our society leads to shootings every single day that are at record numbers in the big cities across this land, killing fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors. It is an insanity and deep stain of blood on our land.

  • Tom says:

    Appreciate your passion, but you’re uninformed. I’m not a gun guy, don’t own one and don’t desire too. But:
    + the AR-15 is not an assault rifle.
    + actual assault rifles were banned for ten years, from 1994 until 2004. Violent crime was declining before the ban, continued to decline during the ban, and continued to decline after the ban was rescinded. So, no affect whatsoever.
    + any ban of the AR-15 would be thrown out as unconstitutional. Why? Because it would be unconstitutional; so, a complete waste of time.
    + it ain’t really the guns. For some reason, American’s are, simply put, pretty violent folk. Yes, we shoot each other more than other countries do, but we also kill each other by stabbing, strangling, beating with a blunt object, etc. at higher rates than most civilized countries. So maybe it’s not the guns.
    + 4% of gun murders involve a rifle of any sort, so a pretty small slice of the violence. The vast majority of gun crime is committed with handguns, most often a handgun that is illegally owned (maybe new laws don’t solve the problem?) – meaning either stolen, purchased illegally on the street, or purchased by a straw buyer (a cousin or girlfriend with a clean record that can pass the background check and bought the gun on behalf of the criminal). Yet, in most big cities (politically dominated by the left, interestingly) fire-arms possession cases mostly go unprosecuted. In fact, the US Attorney for Chicago has a publicly stated policy of NOT prosecuting straw-buyer cases unless they are part of a larger investigation. What’s one result of that? Hundreds of minority victims are gunned down every year in our cities, with little outcry; no complaint that law enforcement is not enforcing the law. But, when some white folks are gunned down in the grocery store or a school or a mall, then we’re all (rightly) up in arms and there’s a national ‘call for action’. Systemic racism anyone?

    (Oh, and one last shot re: one of the comments above: Charles Blow is the most aptly named writer I have ever come across.)

    • Keith DeWitt says:

      Amen and Amen! Very well written. Can’t carry a gun and be a Christian! Wow what a silly statement.

  • Thank you for a courageous and conscientious statement about what it means to follow Jesus. Henri Nouwen opened my eyes to the glorification and normalization of violence in our culture. It is sobering that so many who are offended by a movie sex scene don’t think twice about watching gun violence on TV all the time. Am I a hypocrite too? Yes, we all are. But this has become a growing concern for me. I’m glad you said it today.

  • Nate Johnson says:

    Thanks so much Kate.
    Calls to mind this article on guns as our Molech: https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2012/12/15/our-moloch/

  • Doug Vande Griend says:

    So if I’m translating the metaphor correctly (“you cannot carry a gun and also a cross”), the stance here taken is that those who own or use guns are, by definition, not Christian. Either that or the metaphor is being used in a Trumpian sort of way, a hyperbole to condemn the “other side” and create a great deal of division. Either way, it is neither becoming nor constructive for the church, even if quite appreciated by a particular segment of the political spectrum in the US. It reminds me of the zealots during Jesus time on earth — so politically correct but ….

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    I’m fascinated by the response to this article. Yesterday we were challenged concerning Palm Sunday that we accept Jesus on our own terms but if he can’t abide by that, well then, “Crucify him!” I wonder how that might apply to this particular issue. As for some of the comments, I can’t accept that Americans are somehow more depraved than any other human beings on the planet. That just doesn’t align with my Reformed faith, and it feels intellectually lazy. I also think that inaction stems from the principal of letting “perfect be the enemy of the good.” It may be that we will never rid the world of violence (see all the examples listed above), but does that mean we should stop in our efforts to end it.That feels rather cynical, and cynicism is the despairing enemy of faith and Mitzvah. I do not have all the answers, except that doing nothing will result in nothing changing. Might we start with something, and then make changes based on what we learned. If laws or restrictions in our cities don’t curb the violence at all, could we try something different rather than cynically throw up our hands and say, “See, nothing works, give up?” Could we hold people accountable when they don’t enforce the laws on the books? Instead of fighting over definitions of particular weapons, could we just try? As my wonderful teacher Dumbledore (see Harry Potter) said, “It is important to fight and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay though never quite eradicated.” Fighting against mass shootings and mass death, feels like it’s worth the fight, even as we stumble along without perfect answers.

    • Tom SINKE says:

      Rodney, you are exactly correct. I’ll grant that there was a fair amount of cynicism in my comment above. (FYI, I don’t think American’s are more depraved than others, but there is something cultural that leads to more violence here – any simple explanation of that is bound to be incorrect). My cynicism comes from seeing so many posers in politics and elsewhere who want to get in front of the cameras and stake out the moral high ground and get credit for proposing solutions to the problem. Meanwhile, there are scads of existing laws already on the books which are, at best, only loosely and occasionally enforced and which, if actually enforced, would likely have a large positive impact.
      Getting up on a soapbox is easy. Actually enforcing the law is difficult, mundane work, and generally is not done.

  • George Vink says:

    I read Kate’s article with a great deal of appreciation, but after reading the comments following, I was once again discouraged. I certainly don’t have THE answer(s), and need to think about it a great deal more….. But, I do say, “God have mercy on us. We sure know know to mess things up.”

  • Gloria says:

    Lord have mercy.

  • Hank Lanting says:

    It’s very interesting to read Christians comments on guns and control but when the topic of killing babies through abortion crickets is the only noise we hear.

  • EMILY JANE STYLE says:

    Lord, have mercy. Indeed! My goodness, what a thicket of comments – your clarity brought forth. Lord, have mercy.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    Rev. Kooyman,

    Interesting that you haven’t shared your expertise on the border crisis right now. You had some strong opinions about kids in cages a little while ago.

    As for the above article, much of what you write borders on slander. Gun owners can’t be disciples of Christ? Your reasoning is hyperbolic and uncharitable.

  • Rhonda Mejeur says:

    Thank you for this post, Kate. I agree. May our hearts soften and our minds clear to be willing and able to see the idols of our time. May we Christians side with love and self-sacrifice.

  • Ken Boonstra says:

    In the last days
    the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
    it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.
    3 Many peoples will come and say,
    “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
    He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
    The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
    4 He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
    They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
    Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore. – Isaiah 2:2-4

    If in THAT day, swords will be beat into plowshares, why not start on THIS day to beat guns into John Deere tractors?
    If in THAT day, spears will be beat into pruning hooks, why not start on THIS day to beat assault rifles into hedge clippers?
    Does anyone really believe that there will be guns in the new heaven and new earth? To what end? If not THEN, why not NOW?
    If lions and lambs will live together THEN, what makes us think we’ll take up weapons of any kind against any beast?
    I simply don’t understand why, if THAT day is what we’re all hoping for, we don’t start living that day now wherever we can. Getting rid of guns will be inevitable. I’m convinced God will make it happen. God’s got no use for weapons of any kind in the new creation. So why would Christians (Kate’s point) do everything in their power to uphold the 2nd amendment like it’s from God? We are citizens of another kingdom, and the USA is nowhere close to being that other kingdom. I was always under the impression that Christians strive to live the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. The question isn’t whether gun owners can be disciples of Christ. The question is, if you’re truly a disciple of Christ, why wouldn’t you get rid of your gun? Seems to me that’s being taught God’s ways and walking in God’s paths.

    • Eric Van Dyken says:

      Hi Ken. As a disciple of Christ, I don’t get rid of my guns because I don’t use them for wickedness. Contrary to some popular notions, there are many legitimate uses for firearms. Getting rid of my guns does nothing to advance righteousness. Nor has God forbidden me from owning an using firearms. I will not use my freedom before God to own and use firearms in such a way that they cause another to stumble (a la Paul), but neither will I allow my conscience to be ruled by another (again, a la Paul) on a matter on which God has granted me freedom.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    I wonder if we can be …
    Christians and pro-choice
    Christians and pro-life
    Christians and support Palestine
    Christians and support Israel
    Christians and Democrats
    Christians and Republicans
    Christians and Trump supporters
    Christians and Clinton voters
    Christians and accept only two genders
    Christians and welcoming and affirming to LGBTQA+
    Christians and …

    Such duality … we spend so much time arguing amongst ourselves, it’s no wonder our witness to that which brings grace, shalom, justice, and peace atrophies.
    I say all that as someone who has chosen a side and usually can’t let go of the duality, but tries to stay open to Jesus’ challenging words from Mark 9:38-40
    Grace and Peace …

  • Steve Van't Hof says:

    Kate, as someone who has known close personal friends who ended up as victims of gun violence I could empathize with your anguish. And then you made the broad sweep with your brush and painted me as a gun owner who by your implied definition is incompatible with being a disciple of Christ. Even so, I appreciate that your position is heartfelt. But then came your final sentence: “We will say out loud what has been obvious the whole time: you cannot carry a gun and also a cross.”

    I hope to continue to prove you wrong. I own twelve.

  • Anthony Diekema says:

    Thank you so much for this, Kate! Your thought-provoking piece is profound, and your position is priceless! Bless you!

  • Agnes says:

    Problem: do not judge , a person owning a gun is not non Christian. Can carry the cross..

    Also, the sad fact is that if gun control banishes guns, only the law abiding citizens will relinquish their weapons. Criminals will always find ways to get them. The problem is not guns but hearts.

  • Kelly says:

    The depravity of a mans heart kills another, the weapon is just a tool. If Jesus revival were happening in our churches, people’s hearts would change. Maybe that should be the focus instead of trying to take away our rights as law abiding citizens. Btw, criminals don’t follow laws, including gun laws.

  • Gloria says:

    One way to show love for our neighbors and enemies is by limiting the number of guns, since so many have committed suicide with guns. What are we willing to sacrifice to give our brothers and sisters another chance, another day….
    Lord, have mercy.

  • Drew says:

    I know a lot of fine Christian people who own guns and who use them responsibly, many of them in the congregation I serve. I respectfully reject your claim that you cannot own a gun and be a Christian and that you cannot carry a cross and a gun. Statements to the effect of “you can’t be a Christian if…” are not helpful. I’m not sure how the Matthew 16 text supports your claim.

  • Marc Peterson says:

    This post seems to follow the theme of many here lately but pulling from the daily news is not the same as being relevant. It is an appeal to emotion without engaging our God-given intelligence. Murder is a hateful act committed by a broken nature, it is not another partisan talking point to divide us.
    Thee facts are that almost 10x as many murders are committed using prehistoric weapons (blunt instruments, cutting weapons and fists and feet) than every single kind of rifle. Also, you may say it’s hyperbole but in case people reading this believed you, I’ve bought both Sudafed and a rifle and your statement is obviously inaccurate.

  • If we take post this to its logical conclusion the CRC should immediately withdraw any denominational support for military chaplaincy, or those who serve in the military or law enforcement. Wouldn’t that be practical step #1 for the CRC if guns and Christianity are incompatible? The incompatibility of guns and Christianity would require church discipline for any gun owner, especially those who use guns as a part of their job.

    Of course, I don’t believe we should actually do that. My point is that this impassioned post, although well-meaning crosses the line into carelessness and extra-biblical teaching.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    Rev. Kooyman,

    You really should write about the situation at the border.

    It’s your area of expertise and I would hope you could offer insights from a dispassionate point of view.

    I’m forever optimistic….

    • Sarah W. says:

      She won’t write about that now because its not Trump in office. Also, Ive heard nothing about abortion, which far exceeds the numbers of mass shootings. I dare say abortion tools should be banned if you care at all about saving lives and especially if you care for the black community. More blacks are killed by abortion than anything else. Guns do not kill people any more than cars do. Its the people operating them. Lets talk instead about compassionate mental health solutions.

  • K.C. says:

    Rev. Kooyman

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this use of a gun..
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-us-canada-50952443

  • Randy Zylstra says:

    RZ
    I have a sincere question: Can someone explain to me how the 2nd Amendment, drafted in the late 1700’s, when single-shot muskets took a full minute to re-load, has any relevance in 2021, when we have an organized militia and no foreign occupying militia to defend against. Do we need a militia to fight against OUR own militia? Should citizens have (multiple) weapons that outperform those of our police?

    • K.C. says:

      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.

      Do you see anything in the 2nd amendment that pertains to the type of arms? Nope, its not about musket versus AR-15.

    • Steve Van't Hof says:

      Actually, there is a very good article that addresses this very topic: “The American Revolution against British Gun Control” written a little less than a decade ago by Dave Kopel. Google it. Be forewarned however, it won’t fit your narrative.

  • I and my family and many friends own several guns each. I bought Sudafed last year and did not have to do anything that. I did not have an FBI background check like I did when I bought each gun. I did not have to register my Sudafed with a federal agnecy. When I got my Conceal Carry License, I was required to take an all day class, fingerprinted and another FBI background check, had to so several sessions shooting and practicing safety at the range with a certified instructor and have to renew my license every three years. The AR15 is not an assault weapon. It is a semi automatic gun that holds 2 more bullets than a semiautomatic clip. I understand this authors sentiments and she has every right to do so. I respect her opinion but wondering if she is a registered gun owner and knows what she is talking about.

  • Michael Bentley says:

    Thanks, Kate. I’d like to agree with you on this point: We can argue (and maybe should start insisting) from the Bible that the gospel of Christ will have more power among our family and neighbors if Christians will sacrifice our dreams, our rights, and our bodies before defending our right to sacrifice others to keep those things.

    What we may need to recover and promote is a way of processing this future in the hope and certainty of Christ’s death, resurrection, and the new heavens and Earth. As we’ve relied on the logic of the 2nd Amendment, we’ve lost sight of how to rely on Christ through tyranny. See, I agree with the logic of the 2nd Amendment: it’s not for hunting. It is for the preservation of people’s rights against a tyrannical government. When Christians lay their guns down, it does not mean that criminals or the State will not use those guns against us and our families. The 20th Century proved the Framers of the Constitution right on a lot of levels.

    Back to the main point: is the Kingdom and people won to Christ through the gospel our primary value, or are our rights our primary value? Christ has promised to keep us and promote the gospel through tyrannies, abuse, and even martyrdom (maybe better through such abuse than without it?), but I’m not sure Christians in America are prepared for that. We need to be.

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