Jim Wallis, the spiritual advisor of Barack Obama and founder of Sojourners magazine, recently published an extraordinarily misinformed polemic against the NRA and gun rights advocates everywhere.
What really annoys Wallis is NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s view that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” In response, Wallis writes that such a belief is “morally mistaken, theologically dangerous and religiously repugnant.”
The world is not full of good and bad people; that is not what our scriptures teach us. We are, as human beings, both good and bad. This is not only true of humanity as a whole, but we as individuals have both good and bad in us. When we are bad or isolated or angry or furious or vengeful or politically agitated or confused or lost or deranged or unhinged – and we have the ability to get and use weapons only designed to kill large numbers of people — our society is in great danger.
As we have just seen again, when such destructive weapons are allowed to be used out of powerful emotion without restraint or rules, that is bad. In dangerous situations, we as parents cannot tell our children they are safe. We cannot, because they are not. After Sandy Hook many child psychologists were counseling parents like us (I have a 9-year-old and 14-year-old) to hold and love our children, tell them they were safe. We can and did hold and love them, but we cannot tell them they are safe. Not as long as such weapons are available to human beings when they are acting badly.
When we are good, we want to protect our children — not by having more guns than the bad people, but by making sure guns aren’t the first available thing to people when they’re being bad. Being good is protecting people and our children from guns that are outside of the control of rules, regulations, and protections for the rest of us.
There are so many ridiculous points made here that I can only feasibly address a few.
First of all, Wallis doesn’t know a thing about guns or what to do with them. To be honest, I’m not sure if he’s simply ignorant or being purposefully nefarious in his use of vague language that could be used to usher in unprecedented government overreach. I’ll do my best to assume that he’s not that diabolical.
Wallis takes offense at Wayne LaPierre’s colloquial use of the terms “good guy” and “bad guy.” To be fair, LaPierre wasn’t speaking absolutely in spiritual terms, but, regardless, Wallis wants it to be clear that all of us are partly good and partly bad. Given this clarification, Wallis then proceeds to say something patently absurd. When certain gun owners are “bad, isolated, confused, or angry,” Wallis believes that they are putting society in danger. In other words, when sinful people, which describes all of us, are allowed to own guns that can kill large numbers of people, which is wonderfully vague, then they are a menace to society.
When Wallis refers to guns “designed to kill large numbers of people,” I’m fairly certain he is referring to any AR-15-style rifle, which he probably believes to be an “assault rifle.” However, the civilian AR-15 is semi-automatic and therefore cannot be classified as an assault rifle, by definition. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an assault rifle as a “rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use.” The Oxford English Dictionary also defines semiautomatic as “having a mechanism for self-loading but not for continuous firing.” The fact that an AR-15 looks similar to an M16 does not mean it acts like one. The civilian AR-15, like most handguns these days, is semiautomatic; it isn’t a machine gun “designed to kill lots of people.” The M16, on the other hand, is capable of continuous fire. It’s an implement of war, so it is designed to kill lots of people, effectively and efficiently. If I’m reading Wallis’s mind correctly, how, then, can Wallis honestly believe the semiautomatic, civilian-model AR-15 was “designed” to kill lots of people? Maybe he’d retort with, “Well, maybe it is semiautomatic and just a civilian cousin of a legitimate assault rifle, but Adam Lanza still used it to wreak incredible havoc on those poor, little children, did he not?” In which case, I’d remind him that even greater havoc was rendered by Seung-Hui Cho and his Glock 19 and Walther P22, both of which are semiautomatic pistols. Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 at Virginia Tech back in 2007. The crux of this hypothetical situation is whether Wallis would recognize his ignorance and go back to the drawing board or whether he would then go further and include semiautomatic pistols into his weapons that he believed the “confused and angry” should not be allowed to possess.
Willis childishly asserts that, “When we are good, we want to protect our children — not by having more guns than the bad people, but by making sure guns aren’t the first available thing to people when they’re being bad.” And how on earth would this be ensured, Jim? The only possible way to ensure that bad people don’t make the mistake of settling an argument with gunfire is for the State to confiscate all guns or to forcibly subject the population to a hearty regimen of mood stabilizers. Both are tyrannical outcomes. Gary North had this to say about this particularly silly, illogical point: “Wallis admits that all men are good and bad. Then how, I wonder, can we keep weapons away from good people whenever they choose to become bad people? What law can provide this? What law-enforcement system can provide this? I call this Edward Hyde legislation. It requires every Dr. Jekyll to turn over his guns temporarily whenever he feels Edward Hyde coming on.”
Secondly, Wallis feels obliged to be honest with his children and tell them that, though he loves them, he can’t protect them anymore, not with all those ubiquitous semiautomatic weapons and sinners out there. As long as good men can sometimes go bad and have guns at their disposal, the world is no longer safe to Jim Wallis. Had Jim spent more time reading his the Bible, he would have learned long ago that this world is a dark and depraved place. But, just because the world is fallen, doesn’t mean that we are left to toil in apathy and dread and fear, as Wallis seems wont to do. Nor does it mean that we don’t have a responsibility to make moral choices. If Wallis acknowledges the danger of sending his children to public schools, but listlessly refuses to take them out of that danger, then that makes make him a negligent parent, does it not? He’s not looking to Jesus and His Holy Spirit to constrain the hearts of fallen men; instead, he’s predominantly looking to the State to legislate this nation toward some invidious end of authoritarian salvation. He can’t wait on the Lord any longer. It’s time our government acts, even if it’s contrary to biblical precedent. However, if being good is “protecting people and our children from guns that are outside the rules,” then sending your children to public schools that deranged mass-shooters and violent drug dealers happen to frequent is probably not a very wise choice. In fact, it is a bad choice. In which case, I hope you don’t own a gun, Jim.
But most important of all is the fact that, despite Wallis’s sanctimonious posturing, the Bible absolutely allows sinful man to defend his sinful family from harm. Exodus 22:2-3 reads, “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay.” Struck with what, the Bible does not say, but the Hebrew word, nakah, can be translated as strike, beat, thrust, or smite, which could permit anything from bare hands, to clubs, to swords, to arrows, to, possibly, even guns. Whether the thief is slain with or without a weapon makes no difference as long as the threat was real and it was after dark. Even more important is Jesus’s affirming the right of a person to defend himself with a lethal weapon. Is it “morally mistaken, and religiously repugnant” that, in Luke 22:36, Jesus tells his apostles shortly before his capture, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one”? Wallis should know this verse given that he is part of the Red Letter Christian movement, which loves to beat the “social progress” drum while blasphemously draping their liberal rhetoric in the vestments of Christ. That’s one inconvenient strand of red letters. I’m sure Wallis and his fellow liberal lightweights think, “How un-Jesus of Jesus! Why did those apostles need to have such a big weapon as a sword? Wouldn’t a dainty knife or dagger suffice?!” Apparently, Jesus thinks differently from Jim.
So, what have we learned? Several things. First, Jim Wallis doesn’t know much about guns. Secondly, the theology he brashly flaunts to support his errant position is a misrepresentation of God’s truth. Scripture does indeed support a person’s right to own and use a lethal weapon in self-defense, much to Wallis’s chagrin. Finally, we’ve learned a lot about Wallis’ misshapen worldview. He suggests that our faith needs to overcome our politics when it comes to gun control, but what he really means is that conservative, orthodox Christians, many of whom support limited government and rightfully cling to their guns, need to abandon their brand of politics for his brand, which he foolishly believes to be the politics of the Bible. Wallis is finally convinced as to the dangers of this world, and especially the dangers lurking within public schools, and yet what is he doing to protect his children? He could do the moral thing and ameliorate the perceived danger by removing his children tomorrow, but he’d rather stand around and wait on a bumbling government to somehow make guns unavailable to people “when they’re being bad.”
Therefore, I think I know who is morally mistaken, theologically dangerous, and religiously repugnant. Here’s a hint: it isn’t Wayne LaPierre.