I scrolled through the NBC news article, upset but not really surprised. (As an aside...I know, one sentence in, right? And I'm already resorting to parentheticals. Anyways...I really do worry about us no longer being surprised by either news of another tragic mass shooting, or by news about a particularly heartless response to it.)
Ever since Richard Martinez, the father of one of Elliot Rodger's victims in the Santa Barbara mass shooting, went in front of the television cameras and said, "Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA ... They talk about gun rights but what about Chris' right to live? When will this insanity stop?" I knew that it was only a matter of time before a response like this was made, that a person's right to own a gun trumps a person's right to live.
Enter Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber. You remember him from, what, six years ago, right? Anyways, he had this to say, verbatim: "As harsh as this sounds, your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights."
So reading those words upset me. The words struck me as especially callous and selfish. If I were providing a Christian presence and pastoral counseling to Richard Martinez, I couldn't ever imagine myself saying those words. But I certainly wasn't about to channel my indignation on Martinez's behalf into a blog post until I read this line at the very end of the NBC article (linked to above):
BarbWire.com, where Wurzelbacher wrote his piece, describes itself as "Politics and Culture / News and Opinion From a Decidedly Biblical Worldview."
Okay, as an ordained pastor and as a lifelong Christian, I feel the profound need to clarify something.
Joe the Plumber's, or mine, or your right to bear arms has as much to do with the Bible as...I don't know, a lamp has to do with an eggplant. They're not even remotely related. Why?
I tweeted this out the other day:
You know you're an #Americhristian when you confuse God with the other old white dudes who wrote the Constitution.While a bit facetious (because God always seems to get artistically depicted as an old white dude), I absolutely believe the sentiment, and it wound up being one of the two tweets (the other will be the subject of tomorrow's blog post) that have gotten the most powerful and favorable reception lately.
— Rev. Eric Atcheson (@RevEricAtcheson) May 26, 2014
God didn't write the Second Amendment.
In fact, the literature that God DID write is full of sayings such as...
"All those who live by the sword will die by the sword."
"I (God) will do away with the bow, the sword, and war from the land; I will make you lie down in safety."
"I (Jesus) came that they may have life, and have life abundantly."
"The water I (Jesus) give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life."
And, perhaps particularly relevant to this discussion, is Paul in 2 Corinthians 10: "Although we live in the world, we do not fight our battles as the world does. Our weapons that we fight with are not of the world...(our weapons) destroy arguments, and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God."
This is a small sample size to be sure, but there are many more verses very similar to these that directly point to God as a God of peace and especially of life. It is why so many of us Christians call ourselves, in fact, pro life: in God's eyes, life uber alles. Life comes first.
But life shouldn't just come first in the matter of abortion (where I fear some more cynical motives tend to be not simply about life but about control and influence as well, but that's another topic entirely). In a Christian, Biblically oriented worldview, life must come first across the board. Which to me means that Christopher Martinez's right to live, according to Biblical and Christian priorities, must trump Joe the Plumber's right to buy guns unfettered.
What does the Bible, in contrast, say about Constitutional rights? Not a lot. To be clear: the Bible does talk about rights...human rights. And Levitical law, like our Constitution, guarantees certain rights to its adherents.
But none of that means that the Bible was a bigger influence on the writers of the Second Amendment than, say, Paine and Locke.
So let's dispense with the illusion that defense of the Second Amendment has anything to do with Christianity or the Bible. If you want to make the argument for the Second Amendment on the basis of other, nonreligious arguments, go right ahead. I'm not about to stop you.
But let's not kid ourselves and pretend that this right enshrined in our Constitution is likewise ordained or endorsed by God, okay?
Yours in Christ,