Seventy-six per cent of Americans define themselves as ‘Christian’. Only 43.1 per cent of them regularly attend church, but that’s still enough people to win an election. That’s still enough people that, should they all face the same direction, they could force a change in policy on almost any issue.
But of course, they rarely agree on very much at all.
For pertinent instance, they don’t agree on the issue of gun ownership. While many oppose it, www.christiangunowner.com (which, extraordinarily, isn’t a spoof) claims ‘millions of Christians’ believe passionately in that oft-quoted right to bear arms.
My own reading of scripture makes domestic gun ownership pretty untenable.
To quote a few good proof-texts, Jesus famously called peacemakers “blessed” (Matthew 5:9), advocated peace instead of fear (John 14:27), and suggested that one of the distinctives that gives his followers their “salty” flavour is that they remain “at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50).
Most compellingly, in Matthew 5:44, he tells us “love your enemies” – not, ‘arm yourselves in self-defence’. Based on all this, What Would Jesus Do?
He wouldn’t own a gun, even if everyone around him was packing heat.
But what does my opinion matter, really? I’m just another 30-something father of three, glued to rolling news coverage of the unfolding tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and provoked to tears by President Obama’s emotional response speech.
Most significantly, I’m 3,000 miles away, and not an American. I have no influence. Even as a moderately influential British Christian magazine editor, I’ve no right to expect my American brothers and sisters to listen to me.
Crucially though, those Christians – especially the churchgoers – do listen to someone. There are usually one or two voices that they take very seriously indeed: their church leaders’.
The US Church is varied and broad. Each tribe has its leading voices, whether they’re bishops or mega-church super-pastors. Between them, men and women like Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell hold serious – and often definitive – influence over tens of millions of Americans.
So imagine what might happen if all of those leaders, and a few others like them, began to speak out on the issue of Gun Control? If every one of them made a concerted and persistent effort not just to lobby politicians, but to persuade their legions of followers to change their mind on the second amendment?
If every Christian in America took the same position on guns, then America could rid itself of most of its guns. And might that have more chance of preventing yet another Newtown, or Aurora, or Columbine, than arming teachers?
I’m not naïve – a Christian anti-gun movement wouldn’t change things overnight, but it could set America on a path toward long-term cultural change.
I have no right to influence the American Church from this distance. But I can dare to make a suggestion. If America’s Christian leaders could only see the sense in national disarmament, they could actually make it happen.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” said the man they all claim to follow with abundant passion.
Time they took him at his word, and became truly blessed.
Image: Wikimedia Commons