It’s a horrible thought, but sadly becoming true: mass shootings are a frequent occurrence in our country. And reasonable people stand on both sides of this debate.
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A mass shooting story rips your heart out. It is nearly impossible to comprehend. It does not matter how many times you hear of tragedy or how much violence you watch on television when you read or listen to a story about people killing people, sadness overwhelms you.
The only response is to mourn. You grieve for the victims of the hate. You grieve for the families and friends of those who lost loved ones. You weep for a radicalized individual who exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
You also mourn because the noisemakers do not talk about God’s solution. The Lord is the only One who can reverse the curse of the evil one, who scored another victory with another mass shooting.
Shifting the Argument
When it happens, the news on every channel is a steady stream from nearly every possible storyline, which is the perfect opportunity for the cultural evangelists to move the discussion. And why not. It’s a senseless tragedy that provides the pundits the platform they need to preach their gospel.
Like any good cultural evangelist, they want to seize the moment. They are looking for converts. I would have done the same thing. When I write, I hope to grip you so I can take you where I want you to go.
I aim to show you Jesus, the purpose of all my writings. The cultural evangelists’ agenda is different. The Bible is not their presupposition or their hermeneutic. They begin with a heart-rending story and then launch into their politicized agenda. This one is about gun control.
What strikes me about the gun control argument is how the storyline 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 cultural evangelists give an inanimate object life.
- The cultural evangelists give an inanimate object morality.
- The cultural evangelists give an inanimate object power.
The cultural evangelists give an inanimate object life.
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.
The way you do this is by giving life to guns. Make them animated, which is a worldview difference between gun violence and human violence. This maneuver happens when the weapon is violent rather than the human. You can do the same thing with sticks and stones.
- If I hit you over the head with a rock, it would be rock violence.
- If I hit you over the head with a stick, it would be stick violence.
This shift moves the potential convert from thinking less about people and more about rocks, sticks, 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 assumption is if you managed all inanimate objects capable of being used to hurt someone, the problem would be solved. Get rid of the cause of the violence. In this case, the “cause” is guns because we’re talking about gun violence rather than human violence.
This argument does not take into consideration the doctrine of sin. I do not fault unbelievers for pushing this kind of agenda. I do not expect an unbelieving media culture to put forth Christian values.
The real violence comes from a sinful heart, not a gun. The gun is merely the instrument so a violent person can carry out his violent actions. An inanimate object has no ability or power to harm anyone if a sinner chooses not to hurt someone.
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
From this perspective, a mass shooting is no different from the first recorded murder in history. I suppose if the cultural evangelist were arguing the case back in Cain and Abel’s day he would push for rock control or stick control or whatever the object Cain chose to kill his brother.
The cultural evangelists give an inanimate object morality.
Many of the evangelists talk about how the possession of the guns is the problem. Though I agree with them in part, I reject how they position the argument and the word choices to disguise the real issue. For example, they talk about if the assailant did not own guns, the victims would be alive today.
That is probably 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. It’s the shift they make.
They move the problem to the gun with hardly any mention of the real culprit. If the assailant survives, he would stand trial for this hate crime. His guns would not stand trial.
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.
I could just as quickly say if he did not have a gun, he could have picked up any deadly weapon to kill those people. 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 theoretical argument by saying he would have killed them with something else.
Both arguments (mine and theirs) are speculative and miss the point: This is a moral issue more than a gun issue. When my children use an object to hurt one of their siblings, the thrust of my response to them is not about the object used.
I’m addressing the heart of the person who made a moral decision to hurt someone. I know if God changes the heart of my child, the objects around our home will not be a problem. Banning every possible object that can be used to hurt someone does not make sense when evil has gripped the hearts of fallen people.
Because this is a morality 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 can be used to kill people.
And even if that were possible, there is still the matter of the doctrine of sin. 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.
The cultural evangelists give an inanimate object power.
Initially, the evangelists talk about the violence of the gun, not the man wielding the gun. Then they placed morality on the gun, rather than the man. Lastly, they give the gun the ability to tempt a human being. The argument goes like this:
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. – Jason Whitlock
Notice the word choices. There are three of them: exacerbate, tempt, and bait. Do you see what is happening here? Guns can cause us to sin by intensifying, tempting, and goading us to pick them up and shoot someone.
James debunked this argument a long time ago when he addressed the source of our anger. Note how the biblical record tackles Whitlock’s argument.
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
These two verses read as they came out of today’s newspaper. Whitlock would have had a stronger and more compelling argument if he had copied and pasted James rather than trying to shift the argument from the murderer to the gun.
According to James, the gun did not exacerbate, tempt, or bait the killer to kill. He killed because there was something he wanted, but could not get, so he chose to murder.
You desire and do not have, so you murder. – James 4:2
The gun has no power unless a moral person chooses to give it power. Whitlock loses his argument at this point. His mistake is common. We all have done this.
How many times have you gotten angry and then justified your anger by blaming something outside of yourself for the anger? Anytime we look beyond ourselves to explain the cause of our anger we are no longer walking in truth.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. – James 1:14-16
I appreciate a person’s desire to curb violence and make our culture a safer place to live but if we try to bring in social change while being dismissive of God’s Word, we are deceiving ourselves, and the good 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 non-productive.
Guns have no life, morality, or power but people do. If the culture ever turns the argument back to the people behind the weapons, they would be in a better place for resolution.
I Hear You, Cultural Evangelist
I don’t think the human vs. gun argument should be an either/or argument. There is truth on both sides. The cultural evangelist is making it a one-sided argument: The problem is with the gun.
I gave a counter-argument: The problem is not with the gun. But I would not want to leave you thinking there is not a problem with guns. There is. If my child abused his sibling with an inanimate object, I would deal with his heart first.
Then I would make sure there were rules in place to mitigate the possibility of it happening again. For example, it would be unwise for me to put boxes of BB’s on the kitchen counter for my son to be tempted by his evil heart perchance he wanted to hurt someone.
That would be foolish parenting on my part because I would not be thoroughly thinking through the doctrine of sin that is present in my son’s heart. The answer is not legalism (absolutely no guns) or licentiousness (total gun freedom).
I do believe the murder rate could go down if there were stricter practices and policies regarding firearms. The point of this article is not to say enacting policies won’t work. God gave us “policies” because of our hard hearts (Matthew 19:8). They 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 argument to lesser or specious arguments. It would be more productive if our cultural evangelists wrote about moral issues like parenting, team counseling, financial stewardship, and firearm responsibility.
I hear you, cultural evangelists. I’m not going to leave a gun readily available for my immature children 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 mostly a moral problem?
Also published on Medium.