You can’t be pro-life and support guns at the same time, according to philosophy professor Michael W. Austin, who is writing a book titled God and Guns in America.
The Eastern Kentucky University Department of Philosophy and Religion chair wrote an op-ed for the Christian Post calling the mixing of God and guns a unique “American recipe.” As bodies fall all over the United States, including 17 teens in Parkland, Florida, Austin argued there are “moral, legal and social facts” that are a piece of the debate. The religious debate, however, is something entirely different.
“So many people attempt to combine guns and God, Christianity and a Colt .45,” he wrote. “I think a strong religious argument in favor of more restrictive gun laws can be made, grounded in Christian ethics.”
Citing the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Austin noted that texts describe God as being particularly concerned with the poor, weak, outcasts and vulnerable. “Gun violence is especially prominent in economically depressed areas,” he wrote. It’s even more heightened in cases of domestic violence.
Austin cited New Testament scholar Richard Hayes, who wrote “From Matthew to Revelation we find a consistent witness against violence and a calling to the community to follow the example of Jesus in accepting suffering rather than inflicting it.”
The New Testament preaches non-violence and loving one’s enemies (Mat. 5:38-48), while demanding that the government be the one to “bear the sword,” not citizens (Romans 13).
“I would add that it is hard to imagine Jesus, if he were present in our culture, carrying a gun,” Austin wrote. “And as the exemplar for Christians, this is significant. Some deny this claim, based on a passage from chapter 22 of Luke’s gospel. Prior to his betrayal and arrest, Jesus tells the disciples ‘If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’ Gun advocates interpret this as a justification for the status quo. But when they do this, they ignore the context of the passage. Later in the chapter, a follower of Jesus uses a sword against a servant of one of the religious leaders involved in the arrest.” Jesus says “no more.”
Austin clarified that he doesn’t consider himself to be a pacifist nor does he advocate ridding the world of guns. Rather, he explained that he thinks there are good arguments for restrictive gun laws. His post details arguments used to defend guns, but Austin smashed each justification with facts and data but returns to the moral quandary.
“Consider a fact about the nature of rights: most are not absolute,” Austin wrote. “That is, there are limits to their scope, and one of the most significant reasons to limit the exercise of a right is that doing so will prevent serious harm to others. This is why the right to freedom of speech does not include the right to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Most rights are conditional. The right to drive a car in is conditional upon successfully taking written and road skills tests. We should do something similar with gun rights.”
Austin mapped out his own demands for background checks, mental health checks, assault weapons bans and others. But for Christians who still have a “constant pro-life” ethical dilemma, he urged them to look “across all of the issues related to life and death.”
“The status quo is unacceptable,” he closed. “There is much more to do than simply craft better gun laws, and there is likely no way to guarantee that such things will never happen again. However, we can certainly reduce the number of these tragic events. As followers of Jesus, we have the responsibility to try.”
Read the full op-ed at the Christian Post.