If Only Adam and Eve Had Guns…

adam-and-eve

The Onion tackles this question.  A taste:

HOUSTON—In what they described as scriptural evidence of the right to bear arms, leading figures among the religious right gathered Wednesday to issue a statement arguing that Adam and Eve would never have been banished from the Garden of Eden if they had owned guns.

Read the entire piece here.

Christian Nationalists Love Guns

Guns and Bibles

A team of sociologists have published a study arguing that those who believe America is a Christian nation are less likely to support gun control.  Anyone who studies evangelicalism knows this instinctively, but thanks to Andrew Whitehead, Landon Schnabel and Samuel Perry we now have evidence that our hunches are true.

Here is a taste of their piece in The Washington Post:

In our newly published and freely available study, the connection between Christian nationalism and gun control attitudes proves stronger than we expected. It turns out that how intensely someone adheres to Christian nationalism is one of the strongest predictors of whether someone supports gun control. One’s political party, religiosity, gender, education or age doesn’t matter.

You could be a mainline Protestant Democratic woman or a highly educated politically liberal man — the more you line up with Christian nationalism, the less likely you are to support gun control.

Read the entire piece here.

What Did the Founders Mean By “Bear Arms?”

Reenactment

Here is J.L. Bell at Boston 1775:

Last month Dennis Baron, a professor of English and linguistics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, published an op-ed essay in the Washington Post on the language of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Two new databases of English writing from the founding era confirm that “bear arms” is a military term. Non-military uses of “bear arms” are not just rare—they’re almost nonexistent.

A search of Brigham Young University’s new online Corpus of Founding Era American English, with more than 95,000 texts and 138 million words, yields 281 instances of the phrase “bear arms.” BYU’s Corpus of Early Modern English, with 40,000 texts and close to 1.3 billion words, shows 1,572 instances of the phrase. Subtracting about 350 duplicate matches, that leaves about 1,500 separate occurrences of “bear arms” in the 17th and 18th centuries, and only a handful don’t refer to war, soldiering or organized, armed action. These databases confirm that the natural meaning of “bear arms” in the framers’ day was military.

Lawyer Neal Goldfarb checked more variations of the phrase in the same databases and came to the same basic conclusion.

In the 2008 Heller case, as everyone involved in this discussion knows, the U.S. Supreme Court decided otherwise. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia treated “bear ams” not as an idiom with a military meaning but as a general phrase about carrying weapons.

The data shows otherwise—hardly anyone in the eighteenth century used it as Scalia did. As with the Reynolds case I wrote about here, the court’s finding is simply at odds with historical facts. The Heller ruling overturned legal understandings that prevailed for most of the twentieth century and changed the law going forward, but such rulings can’t change the actual past.

Read the rest here.

Saul Cornell on the “Mythic Second Amendment”

CornellFordham University’s Saul Cornell, the author of A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control, explains the myth that the Second Amendment relates to the history of the American frontier.  Here is a taste of his piece, “Bearing Arms vs. Hunting Bears: The Persistence of a Mythic Second Amendment in Contemporary Constitutional Culture“:

The myth of the frontier is one of the most enduring in American history; it has been commodified and used to market everything from cigarettes to cars, and has been central to firearms sales for more than a century. It is a little shocking that the same myths used to sell cigarettes played a pivotal role in two federal appeals court decisions: Moore v. Madigan and Peruta v. San Diego. Both cases evoked “the familiar image” of an armed “eighteenth-century frontiersman . . . ‘obtain[ing] supplies from the nearest trading post.” Contrary to this mythic view of the American past, the bulk of the nation’s population in the eighteenth century was clustered along the coast, not the frontier. Nor is there any evidence that members of the Founding era such as George Mason or James Madison were thinking about the plight of the tiny percentage of the American people who lived on the frontier when they discussed the right to keep and bear arms in the Virginia Ratification Convention. The debates in the First Congress certainly do not afford much evidence that this was a major concern. Given the realities of American society at this point in the nation’s history, such concerns would have been odd. In 1790, the mean population center of the United States, a standard measure of population distribution, was situated somewhere between Baltimore and Philadelphia, not western Kentucky, northern Maine, or the Ohio valley.

Frontier mythology has shaped another aspect of the current debate over firearms policy and the law. In response to the horrorific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre warned that the “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”Setting aside the policy debates and statistics about the utility of armed self-defense, particularly in active-shooter scenarios such as schools, the suggestion that giving a guy a gun turns him into an effective agent of law enforcment, it itself part of a set of myths about regenerative violence dating back to colonial America. The leading historian of this mythology, Richard Slotkin, has charted how this motif has been constantly re-invented in American popular culture over the long arc of American history. David Crockett has morphed into Jason Bourne, and most recently the iconic image of a gun-toting hero is more likely to fight off alien invaders or the hordes of the zombie apocolypse than the marginalized others of earlier mythic tales of violence and redemption.

Read the entire piece at The Panorama.

Paige Patterson’s World

southwestern-baptist-theological-seminary

Paige Patterson‘s world is collapsing all around him.  This audio tape is the latest example.  The authoritarian, gun loving, Christian nationalist leader of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has suggested that women undergoing physical abuse from their husbands should submit to it.  Michelle Boorstein has it covered at The Washington Post.  Here is a taste of her piece “Southern Baptist leader pushes back after comments leak urging abused women to pray and avoid divorce“:

The leader of a major Southern Baptist seminary issued a statement Sunday pushing back after a 2000 tape surfaced purporting to quote him saying that abused women should focus on praying and “be submissive in every way that you can” and not seek divorce.

Paige Patterson is president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Fort Worth school whose Web site says it is one of the largest seminaries in the world. About 15 million people are part of Southern Baptist churches, the largest Protestant group in the United States. Patterson is slated to deliver the primary sermon — a high-profile honor — in June at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas.

Patterson, who declined to comment Sunday, is heard on an audiotape being interviewed in 2000 about what he recommends for women “who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands, and the husband says they should submit.”

“It depends on the level of abuse, to some degree,” Patterson says. “I have never in my ministry counseled anyone to seek a divorce and that’s always wrong counsel.” Only on an occasion or two in his career, he says, when the level of abuse “was serious enough, dangerous enough, immoral enough,” has he recommended a temporary separation and the seeking of help.

He goes on to tell the story of a woman who came to him about abuse, and how he counseled her to pray at night beside her bed, quietly, for God to intervene. The woman, he said, came to him later with two black eyes. “She said: ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said ‘Yes … I’m very happy,’ ” because it turned out her husband had heard her quiet prayers and come for the first time to church the next day, he said.

Read the entire piece here.

Jonathan Merritt offers his opinion in another piece at The Post.  Apparently Patterson is delivering the keynote address at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June.   A taste:

The seminary president is nearly untouchable among Southern Baptists, who revere him for decades of denominational leadership. But much has changed during Patterson’s reign as a religious gatekeeper. America has experienced a cultural reckoning where powerful men have been held accountable for abusive behaviors and dangerous comments.

After a wave of scandals from Bill Cosby to Harvey Weinstein, most Americans have adopted a zero-tolerance policy for the abuse of women. We have collectively decided not to abide powerful men who have contributed to bodily violence. During the past year in particular, this cultural consensus has seemingly reached a fever pitch, touching every corner of America from Hollywood to Wall Street.

But are Southern Baptists ready for their #Metoo moment?

Patterson is scheduled to deliver the coveted keynote sermon when Southern Baptists gather for their annual meeting in June. It would be wise for denominational leaders to rethink this invitation lest they appear both culturally out of step and lacking in moral courage. Replacing Patterson will send a message to millions of Southern Baptist women that their bodies are not dispensable and that their valid concerns have been heard loudly and clearly.

Twitter is also weighing-in:

Patterson has responded here.

Of course this is not the first time in recent years that Paige Patterson and his crew at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have gotten into trouble.  Remember this:

tweet-swbts

And this:

Gun and Board Meeting

Read about it here.  According to this report, Patterson requires all vice presidents, deans, and “at least three people in every building” at his theological seminary to carry guns.

 

Original Sin Liberalism

Reinhold_niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr might be described as an “original sin liberal”

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes about it in relation to gun control at Commonweal:

Here is a taste:

An Original Sin Liberal might go on to challenge conservatives who claim to be very conscious of human fallibility and our capacity for selfishness. Why do they so often oppose laws reducing the likelihood that individuals and companies will despoil the environment or take advantage of their employees?

A noble but guarded attitude toward human nature is prominent in James Madison’s thinking, leading him to see the politics of a democratic republic as entailing an ongoing search for balance.

On the one hand, we need to pass laws because we know that men and women are not angels. But this also means that we should be wary of placing too much power in government, since it is run by flawed human beings who can be guilty of overreach. Many of our arguments involve not irreconcilable values but different assessments of where this balance should tilt at a given time on a given issue.

Read the entire piece here.  And yes, Dionne mentions Reinhold Niebuhr.

When a School Shooting Shifted the National Debate on Guns

Louisville_1846

Saul Cornell, the best historian on guns and the Second Amendment working today, tells us about an 1853 school shooting in Louisville, Kentucky.  Here is a taste of his piece at Politico:

Though little remembered now, the first high-profile school shooting in the U.S. was more than 150 years ago, in Louisville, Kentucky. The 1853 murder of William Butler by Matthews F. Ward was a news sensation, prompting national outrage over the slave South’s libertarian gun rights vision and its deadly consequences. At a time when there wasn’t yet a national media, this case prompted a legal conversation that might be worth resurrecting today.

And Cornell’s conclusion:

The Ward shooting, and the popular outcry it generated, reminds us that there’s another possible way to view the hierarchy of American rights—one in which the right not to get shot is on par with, and may even outweigh, the right to freely carry a gun and use it. The notion that the Second Amendment overrides these rights and prohibits sensible gun laws has never been the dominant position in American law. Most Americans in the 18th century and many in the 19th recognized this basic fact as fundamental to our Constitutional tradition. It is surely time to restore those other esteemed American rights to their rightful place in our contemporary constitutional debates over the role of guns in America.

Read the entire piece here.

Marilynne Robinson on Guns

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning author believes that carrying a gun is “an immoral act.”  Eric Allen Been interviews Robinson at Vox.  Here is a taste:

Eric Allen Been

It’s probably some magical thinking here, but I’m starting to get the feeling that we’re finally hitting a breaking point when it comes to guns in this country.

Marilynne Robinson

It’s uplifting to see how articulate these young people are. They are so incisive in their thinking and passion. All we’ve been hearing about is how schools are failing and the rest of it. But I don’t think we’ve ever had young people that were more beautiful specimens of ideals and insightfulness. It’s beautiful.

Eric Allen Been

What are your thoughts about the [National Rifle Association’s] proposal, which Trump endorsed, to have armed teachers in school?

Marilynne Robinson

Normalizing the idea that we should all go around capable of a lethal act at any moment is completely corrupt and crazy. I wouldn’t carry a gun. The reason I wouldn’t carry a gun is because it is an immoral act walking around imagining you’re going to kill someone. It’s a recipe for a completely deranged society. It’s grotesque.

I acknowledge the intimate difficulties that seem to be involved in this thing, but if guns were banned, it would not hurt my feelings. But that’s impossible to imagine. As a practical matter, they will be around forever, probably in enormous numbers. But if they weren’t, I’d be happy.

Read the entire interview here.

The National Rifle Association’s Turn From Its Own History

Image: US-POLITICS-CONCERVATIVES

Historian Neil J. Young reminds us that the NRA did not always behave like a gun “cult.”

Here is a taste of his Huffington Post piece “The NRA Wasn’t Always A Front For Gun Makers.”

…But the NRA’s delusion exposes not only its moral rot, but also its continual turn from its own history. Begun as an organization devoted to education and safety, it’s only in the last 50 years that the NRA has instead dedicated itself to preserving the very circumstances that most endanger Americans’ lives today, especially the nation’s schoolchildren.

In 1871, the NRA was founded by William Church, a lawyer, and George Wingate, a former newspaper reporter. Wingate explained his new organization’s purpose as working to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

To that end, the NRA operated mostly as a sporting club and hunting association for its first 100 years. It put a heavy emphasis on gun safety education and training, especially for young people. Church and Wingate had been inspired to create their organization in part from their experience as soldiers during the Civil War, where they had been appalled by the poor marksmanship skills of their fellow fighters. Guns were dangerous, especially in untrained hands, the two men understood. The NRA organized safety clinics and target-shooting competitions to teach young men (and later women) proper gun use and the obligations of responsible firearm ownership.

Read the rest here.

The Founding Fathers and Gun Laws

CornellI have been waiting for Fordham University historian Saul Cornell to weigh-in on guns and the Second Amendment in the wake of the Parkland shooting.  In this piece at “The Conversation” he suggests “five types of gun laws the Founding Fathers loved.”

They are:

  1. Registration
  2. Public Carry
  3. Stand-your-ground laws
  4. Safe storage laws
  5. Loyalty oaths

See how Cornell develops these thoughts here.

And then go read his A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.  Cornell is the National Rifle Association’s worst nightmare.

 

Evangelical Leaders: Gun Control=Pro-Life

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Evangelical gun control advocate Rob Schenck

Frankly, I can’t keep up with all the “petitions” and “statements” released by evangelicals in the age of Trump.  But this one caught my attention.  Sixteen evangelical leaders have signed the following statement:

As faithful churchgoers and leaders in the evangelical Christian community, we are heartbroken and deeply concerned about the gun violence that continues to plague our nation. 

Day after day, week after week, we are witnessing one deadly shooting after the other. None of us are safe, even in the safe havens of our churches and schools. 100,000 Americans will be shot this year; more than 30,000 will die, including many children. 

As we mourn for our brothers and sisters who have died, we pray fervently for their friends and family who grieve. We also accept and declare that it is time to couple our thoughts and prayers with action. Our actions might look different for each one of us, depending on how gun violence has uniquely affected us and those we love, be it mass shootings, suicide by gun, domestic abuse, gang violence, or other gun-related acts of violence. We ask all Christian leaders to join together as brothers and sisters in Christ to become part of the solution.

We acknowledge our Biblical responsibility to protect life by lovingly guiding those who are suffering from severe mental illnesses to the appropriate professional resources, by urging America’s lawmakers to pass common-sense gun laws, and by encouraging gun owners to take precautions against the risks associated with allowing firearms in their homes when children are present or when a family member is dealing with crisis.

With this petition, we call on our fellow Christian believers, church leaders, and pastors across the country to declare that we will decisively respond to this problem with both prayer and action

Signers include Rob Schenk, Max Lucado, Joel Hunter, Lynne Hybels, and former court evangelical A.R. Bernard,

“Is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?”

Soros

George Soros

Kevin Williamson is fed-up with his fellow conservatives. Here is a taste of his piece at The National Review:

First it was the Holocaust, now Parkland — is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?

David Clarke, the sheriff of Fox News, insisted that the Florida students’ reaction to the shooting “has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it,” idiotic capitalization in the original and, one assumes, in his soul. The idiots at Gateway Pundit suggested that one of the student survivors was a fraud because — get this — he’d been interviewed on television before about an unrelated incident. Dinesh D’Souza joined in to mock the students as patsies.

To be fair, D’Souza doesn’t think George Soros is behind Parkland — he thinks George Soros was behind the Holocaust.

About that, a few thoughts.

There are many reasons to dislike George Soros. The slander that he was a Nazi is not one of them.

Read the rest here.

“Incomprehensible and we can’t let it pass by”

This is what court evangelical Johnnie Moore said on Fox News yesterday.  And no, he wasn’t referring to the shooting in Parkland.  He was referring to Joy Behar’s remarks about Mike Pence.  While the nation’s attention is riveted on this shooting and we are trying to figure out what to do next to curb gun violence, court evangelical Moore, who describes himself as a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” is on Fox News talking about the words of a B-list comedian on a daytime talk show.  Is this how Moore and Fox News distract attention from the real moral issue facing the country this weekend?

Why doesn’t Moore come out and say that the Florida shooting was “incomprehensible and we can’t let it pass by”?

Why have the court evangelicals been so silent beyond “thoughts and prayers?”

Should We Repeal the Second Amendment?

Guns

Flickr photo via Creative Commons

I would support an effort to repeal.  Historian Michael Oberg makes a case at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.  Here is a taste:

No matter what arguments the advocates of gun control deploy — that the phrase “well regulated” implies some ability on the part of government to limit gun rights; that the verb construction to “bear arms” has been used almost always to describe a military use for weapons; that the Constitution is a “living” document that ought to be interpreted in the light of changing circumstances; and that the Founding Fathers could never have considered that the sort of violence acted out in Las Vegas or Orlando or Newtown a justifiable example of  bearing arms — the advocates of “gun rights” will always have their tendentious reading of the Second Amendment to defend their position.            So let’s repeal the Second Amendment. It is dated, lethal, and morally abhorrent. The Constitution is not a sacred text. It is a framework for government, the product of dozens of compromises. The men who framed the document envisioned that it would be changed. They made the process difficult and time-consuming, but it has happened.

The Second Amendment emerged out of a context unique to a new nation. When it was ratified, America’s leaders relied upon the militia for local defense, to punish Indians, and control slaves, and in a nation separated from its imperial rivals by the Atlantic, the militias were barely adequate to that task. But the conditions from which the Second Amendment emerged obviously no longer apply.

Repealing the Second Amendment would deprive no one of their guns, but it would empower the Congress and state legislatures to do something effectively to end the slaughter….

Read the rest here.

Pro-Life and Pro-Gun: Part Two

Shooting At High School In Parkland, Florida Injures Multiple People

The members of the House of Representatives who get the most money from the NRA are listed below.  Their current anti-abortion voting score from National Right to Life is in parentheses next to their names.  Find the list of Senators here.

French Hill of Arkansas (100%)

Ken Buck of Colorado (100%)

David Young of Iowa (100%)

Mike Simpson of Idaho (100%)

Greg Gianforte of Montana (100%)

Don Young of Arkansas (100%)

Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania (100%)

Bruce Poliquin of Maine (87%)

Pete Sessions of Texas (100%)

Barbara Comstock of Virginia (87%)

Charles Marsh: “The call to an armed laity is beset with problems”

Guns

The court evangelical Robert Jeffress says that 25-50% of the members of his First Baptist Church–Dallas carry guns to church and are prepared to use them.

Charles Marsh, a professor of theology at the University of Virginia, is rightly bothered by this. In “The NRA’s Assault on Christian Faith and Practice,” he asks conservative evangelicals to rethink their position on guns.

Here is a taste of his piece at Religion & Politics:

Evil cannot be completely eradicated; gun violence cannot be reduced to zero. The world is fallen; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Yet there are reasonable measures that would decrease the number of gun deaths and mass shootings: universal background checks, limits on the size of magazines, closing the private sale and gun show loopholes, and empowering federal agencies and the CDC to share critical information and compile data on gun violence in public health are all sensible measures that save lives.

On issues related to gun violence, safety, and regulation, evangelicals clearly need, and deserve, a more theologically robust discussion. A good start might be formulating questions for reflection and study, such as: Are there aspects of American gun culture that contradict or confuse the message of the Gospel? (If so, let’s name them.) Have evangelicals sought to understand gun violence in America under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with prayerful discernment of practical solutions? How can followers of Jesus preserve the distinctive speech and practices of Christian witness from the religion of the NRA, whose distinctive speech and practices cluster around the promise of overwhelming force? Under what conditions, if any, should the Christian lay down his or her arms? Does the support of the American gun lobby bring glory to God?

My father is a conservative Southern Baptist minister who for 40 years served parishes in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. In his theological and social convictions and most other respects, he would be called a Russell Moore evangelical. The one major exception is guns. On this issue, my father’s deep loyalty to the global ecumenical church and his experiences in missions through evangelical congregations in Europe and Africa have time and again brought him into conversations with people for whom the American gun loyalty remains a stumbling block to faith. Though he is very much a social conservative, my father believes that a Christian’s commitment to the Gospel must chasten the person’s cultural and political preferences—and for this reason, he admires the counter-cultural ecumenism of Baptists like Clarence Jordan and Carlyle Marney.

In a letter written in the spring of 2007 after the mass killing of 33 people at Virginia Tech, my father spoke of the tragic alliance of evangelicals and guns and its effects on Christian conviction. “Church people in the United States are getting their signals from political ideology and the NRA lobbyists,” he said. “There is no rational connection between the 2nd Amendment and stock piling of semiautomatic rifles and ammunition. What should the church’s role be? Teach the people to take seriously the teachings of Jesus. When He talked about refusing to be people of violence, that is what He meant. If I want what is best for my fellow beings, if I really desire to see a society of order, security, and freedom, then I should have no problem in seeing the connection between GUNS FOR ALL and the prevailing tragedies of war and mass killing that follow. The prophets had a vision of the kingdom where swords would be beaten into plows. I hope and I pray, that we in the church will capture that vision.”

Read the entire piece here.