A couple of blogs have pointed out recently there is a relatively new astroturf anti-gun blog out there which is part of the Brady Campaign’s “God not Guns” faith based campaign. Aside from the fact that once again Brady has to pay someone to be their grassroots, I am rather deeply concerned and perturbed by the subject matter of this blog.
Occassionaly in the past I have brought up the subject matter of my faith, which I don’t do very often because I believe that my faith is a personal matter. It’s between my God and me; most of my readers don’t have any desire to hear about nor do I have any desire to expound on the subject matter.
However, when I see a blog like the “God not Guns” blog taking Scripture out of context to use as a platform for gun control, it really cheeses me off. I am not a big fan of using God, Christianity, or faith as a platform for any kind of political agenda, and I really don’t like it when Christians on either side of the aisle use their religion (different from faith) as a justification for telling people how to live their lives outside of the faith.
My big issue currently with Rachel Smith’s blog stems from her post comparing Paul’s warnings about eating meat consecrated to idols to carrying firearms.
It reminds me of a similar (though much more benign) situation faced by the Apostle Paul when dealing with the church in
Corinth. Some members of the congregation felt it was permissible to eat meat that had been offered to pagan gods while others believed this meat was defiled. The meat-eaters felt superior to those who refused it because they thought their higher knowledge freed them from such restrictions. This conflict was causing great confusion in the church and they asked Paul for advice.
Paul’s response was this: “Food will not commend us to God…Take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak…If food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.”
I think we can apply Paul’s advice to our contemporary conflict between the right of gun ownership vs. the right to live free from the threat of gun violence. I think Paul might say to us, “Guns will not commend us to God…Take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to another…If guns are the cause of my brother’s falling, I will not carry a gun lest I cause my brother to fall.”
What a different culture it would be if we followed Paul’s advice.
The relevant passage of Scripture that’s she’s referring to is found in 1st Corinthians Chapter 8; she’s using the New American Standard Bible, I’m going to switch to the New International Version because I think it’s a little easier to read for most folk. One of the things that Rachel does in her little Scripture dance is leave out a great big chunk of the passage where Paul is writing. To get the correct context, you need to go all the way back to verse 4:
4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
Paul is saying in verses 4-7 that it’s not wrong to eat meat that was consecrated to idols, provided that the person doing the eating understands that there is one true God, and as such the idols or the consecration to said idols holds no power over the Christian. In verse 9, he admonishes the Corinthians to be responsible about exercising their liberty in this regard, as there are among them those whose knowledge and faith has not sufficiently progressed to make that sort of mental leap, and so for them eating meat consecrated to idols is a bad thing. Paul wraps up by saying that he would rather forgo the consecrated meat than cause his fellow Christian to stumble; his choice is rather to educate and teach Christians who are not as advanced in the faith as he is by not eating meat.
So where does this leave Rachel’s “guns will not commend us to God” comparison? In the context of the Scripture that she chose, it pretty much leaves her up the creek without a paddle. Remember, the context of the Scripture is what really matters; not changing it to mean what you want. To apply her comparison directly to the rest of the passage, verse 4-7 would mean that it’s okay to own and carry guns, verse 9 would be warning you that some people don’t like guns, and Paul’s conclusion is that he won’t carry a gun because it might upset some people. Nowhere does Paul say that the Corinthians shouldn’t eat the meat consecrated to idols.
It’s a pretty long theological stretch to twist meat consecrated to idols into carrying firearms, especially when what Paul was driving at wasn’t to get the Corinthians to stop eating the meat, but rather to think about the consequences and affect their actions have on others. The point of the verse wasn’t that the Corinthians should abstain from eating meat, but rather that they should understand that eating the meat consecrated to idols wasn’t something that everyone was capable of doing.
If the whole chapter is taken in context and used an analogy for firearms ownership (which is ridiculous, but hey, I didn’t start this) Paul would actually be advocating for education on firearms ownership, and not the abolishing of firearms. Actually, if anything Paul would say “why are we talking about guns when in fact we should be preaching the Gospel”, as a thorough study of his writings shows that he had little patience for topics tangential to preaching the Good News.
To compare eating meat consecrated to idols is a foolish comparison, and to make the ridiculous analogy work you have to ignore a large chunk of the passage of Scripture that Rachel uses as her reference. Paul didn’t want people to stop eating meat, he was focused and making them aware of their choices and consequences, he wanted them to be more educated and aware – to conclude the ridiculous gun ownership analogy that the author of the blog post started, Paul would have been calling for education and understanding of firearms ownership so as to not impede the preaching of the Gospel with foolish things that are not important.
I obviously take great exception to Christianity being used as a platform to advocate gun control – I don’t like being preached at when the subject matter at hand has nothing to do with sin, salvation, or any of those other topics that form the core of my religion. Somehow, I get the feeling that Paul would have rather we as Christians focused on spreading the Gospel rather than worrying about who is carrying guns or not.