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The initial response is to mourn. You grieve for the victims of the crime. You grieve for the families and friends of those who lost loved ones. You weep for a twisted individual who exchanged the truth of God for a lie. You struggle because the noisemakers do not talk about God’s solution. He is the only one who can reverse the curse of the evil one who scored another victory with another shooting. When a murder happens, every channel’s news is a steady stream from every possible storyline, which is the perfect opportunity for the cultural evangelists to move the discussion into their corner. Why not?
It’s a senseless tragedy that provides the pundits the platform to preach their gospel. Like any good cultural evangelist, they want to seize the moment. They are looking for converts. I do the same thing. When I write, I hope to grip you to take you where I want you to go. I aim to show you Christ—the purpose of all my writings. The cultural evangelists’ plan is similar, though with different objectives and outcomes. The Bible is not their presupposition or their hermeneutic. They begin with a heart-wrenching story and then launch into their politicized agenda. Gun control is one of those agendas, and every mass shooting presents the platform for them to pontificate. What strikes me about the gun control argument is how the storyline always moves from human responsibility to the fault of guns.
If I didn’t know what guns were, it would be easy to think they were free moral agents who exercised their will over humans. There are three reasons for this:
The first shift in the argument is when the evangelist uses the term gun violence. This labeling is a subtle but astute change if you want to move the discussion from human responsibility to inanimate objects. Make them animated; it’s a worldview difference between gun violence and human violence. This euphemistic maneuver happens when they make the weapon violent rather than the human. You can do the same thing with sticks and stones; it’s rock violence if I hit you with a rock. If I hit you over the head with a stick, it would be stick violence. This misdirection moves the potential cultural convert from thinking less about people and more about sticks, stones, and guns, which is more than semantics. It is an agenda.
It’s a cultural worldview designed to shape policy. Once we put the accent mark on the gun rather than the sinner wielding the weapon, we’ve set ourselves up as secondary actors, not culprits. The evangelist’s argument is about guns as though the person who slaughtered the people was not culpable for “his” actions. If you follow the logic, the solution is to incarcerate the gun (gun control) rather than the gunman. (The progressive left does want to release more convicts.) The assumption is if you managed all inanimate objects capable of being used to hurt someone, you would solve the problem.
I do not fault unbelievers for pushing this agenda or expect an unbelieving media culture to put forth Christian values. Their argument is their worldview, and they cannot consider the doctrine of sin. They can’t understand how violence comes from a sinful heart, not a gun. The gun is an instrument that a violent person uses to carry out his violent actions. An inanimate object has no ability or power to harm anyone if a depraved soul chooses not to hurt someone. A mass shooting is no different from the first recorded murder from this perspective. If the cultural evangelist argued the case back in Cain and Abel’s day, he would push for rock control or stick control or whatever object Cain chose to kill his brother.
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him (Genesis 4:8).
Thus, the possession of guns is the problem. Though I agree with them partly, I reject how they position the argument and the word choices to disguise the real issue. The cultural evangelists give an inanimate object morality. For example, “If the assailant did not own guns, the victims would be alive today.” That might be true. I would never dismiss that kind of reasoning as though it is ludicrous or carries no validity. The problem I have is where the “gun controllers” place the weight of the argument. They move the issue to the gun with hardly any mention of the real culprit. If the assailant survives, he will stand trial for this hate crime. His weapons would not.
There is only one culprit in this morality play: the assailant. He is the free moral agent who chooses to pick up an inanimate object and kill human beings. If they want to make a hypothetical argument by saying the assailant would not have killed if he had no gun, I could make an opposite argument, saying he would have killed them with something else. Both opinions (mine and theirs) are speculative and miss the point: this is more of a moral problem than a gun issue. When our children use an object to hurt one of their siblings, the thrust of my response to them is not about the thing used. I’m addressing the heart of the person who made a moral decision to hurt someone.
If God changes the child’s heart, the objects around our home will not be a problem. Banning every possible thing that someone can use to hurt someone does not make sense when evil has gripped the hearts of fallen people. Because this is a moral argument, we do have a solution. But if the cultural evangelist gets his way by making it a gun argument, there is no solution, not until the government can control all possible objects that people can use to kill. Even if that were possible, there is still the matter of human depravity. If sinful people are not held accountable for their immoral actions, there is no possible way to control guns or any other weapon of choice.
Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. – Cultural Evangelist
Initially, the evangelists talk about the violence of the gun, not the man wielding it. Then they placed morality on the gun rather than the man. Lastly, they give the weapon the ability to tempt a human being. Guns can cause us to sin by exacerbating, tempting, and baiting us to pick them up and shoot someone. James debunked this argument a long time ago when he addressed the source of our anger. These two verses read as though they came out of today’s newspaper. According to James, the gun did not exacerbate, tempt, or bait the killer to kill. He murdered because there was something he wanted but could not get, so he chose to murder.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2).
Saying guns tempt us is a common mistake. We all have done this. How often have you gotten angry and then justified your anger by blaming something outside of yourself for the offense? Anytime we look beyond ourselves to explain the cause of our anger, we are no longer walking in the truth (James 1:14-16). Though I appreciate anyone’s desire to curb violence and make our culture a safer place to live, if we try to bring in social change while dismissing God’s Word, we are deceiving ourselves, and the excellent desire we may want for society will never happen.
Moving the storyline from appropriate mourning over the senseless deaths of people made in the image of God to the primary cause of those murders being something other than human responsibility is misguided and nonproductive. Guns have no life, morality, or power, but people do. The issue is that the human vs. gun argument should not be an either/or debate. There is truth on both sides. The cultural evangelist is making it a one-sided view—the problem is with the gun. I gave a counter-argument—the problem is not with the gun. If the culture ever turns the argument back to the people behind the weapons, they would be in a better place for resolution.
But I would not want to leave you thinking there is no problem with guns. There is. If our child abused a sibling with an inanimate object, I would deal with their heart first. Then I would make sure there were rules to mitigate the possibility of it happening again. For example, it would be unwise for me to put boxes of BBs on the kitchen counter for a child to act out their evil heart perchance they wanted to hurt someone. That type of misguidedness would be foolish parenting because I would not be thinking through the doctrine of sin present in our child’s heart. The answer is not legalism (absolutely no guns) or licentiousness (total gun freedom).
I believe the murder rate could go down if there were stricter practices and policies regarding firearms, especially for those with criminal records. My point is not to say enacting policies won’t work. God gave us “policies” because of our hard hearts (Matthew 19:8). Policies can work to a degree, but the real issue will always be human responsibility. We should have a more productive dialogue regarding the main problem rather than shifting the discussion to lesser or specious arguments.
It would be more effective if our cultural evangelists wrote about moral issues like parenting, fatherless homes, firearm responsibility, and statistical demographics that are more likely to kill someone. I do hear you, cultural evangelists. I’m not going to leave a gun readily available for our immature child to pick up and use willy-nilly. I’m willing to embrace your worldview to a point. Let’s talk about being responsible with guns. But do you hear me? Will you embrace my worldview that this is primarily a moral problem?
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).