Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Do ‘gun-rights’ apply in Church?

January 2nd, 2020, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Update: full mp4 on the church shooting event here:   Warning: graphic!              

https://files.catbox.moe/r84gof.mp4

 

Nearly 7 years ago, while studying the Gospel of Luke, I noticed for the first time how applicable were certain words of Christ in Chapter 22 against the modern day call for “gun control.” Those words seemed to me (and still do) to be fairly ignored in preaching and teaching.  I sought to ‘publish’ a brief commentary and hopefully precipitate discussion. What I found was the two most likely places to publish were actually the least likely. The NRA responded that it didn’t want to get into matters of religion (and risk alienating its own members) and Christian media feared precipitating a similar response from the soul in the pew!  I put the matter aside for the time being. But now, given the church shootings and Father Z’s weighing in (called to our attention by Mary-Kathleen), I think the time may be right to publish on CF. Note in the following that I’ve now also added  the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in the blue text. For those who are not Catholic, or who may want only to concentrate on the bible arguments, the blue text is easily skipped in reading.

New Testament Basis for Gun Rights

Although much political muscle and media opinion favors “gun control,” that does not mean the loudest voices are on the side of morality or responsibility.  Rather, the dialogue should be broader, at least as much in moral terms as in consideration of constitutional rights.   On May 6, 2013, the VP of the United States (Joe Biden) asked clerics to preach gun control from the pulpit, taking for granted that religious leaders would be aligned with the Obama administration’s concept of gun control, and without seeming to understand that there is, indeed, a biblical basis for gun rights.  Even a cursory exegesis of New Testament Scripture leads to a deeper understanding of these issues. Luke, the only non-Jewish (Gentile) New Testament author, was a Greek physician, a man with close attention to detail and access to eyewitnesses.  His Gospel also helps to form conscience on the Second Amendment Rights.

Christ’s true teaching has often been watered down, even from the pulpit, to a “nice” modern, non-controversial, secularly popular interpretation. Issues of self-defense are barely mentioned.  Yet, Christ did not avoid controversy.  He drove buyers and sellers from the Temple with a whip of cords (#1).  He spoke clearly, and often at personal risk, accusing Scribes and Pharisees of being “whitewashed tombs … full of dead men’s bones… (#2), calling Herod the Tetrarch a “fox (#3), and laying out Truth for the Roman governor of Judea, Pilate, who didn’t know or care what Truth meant (#4).  There is no reason to believe, facing imminent death, that Christ would have spoken with diminished candor.

Elsewhere in Scripture, when Christ was misunderstood, He persisted and did not allow His apostles to abide in error.  For example, after He deliberately delayed responding to Lazarus’ impending death, He used the softer word that Lazarus had fallen “asleep.  The disciples misunderstood, but He set them straight:  “Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead….’” (#5)  Similarly, when a large group of disciples walked away from Jesus in John, Chapter 6, because they could not accept His Words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He let them go.  They did not misunderstand; so He didn’t soften the Truth for them, but reiterated it even more strongly.  So, it makes sense, just hours before His arrest and death, that Jesus would not say something He did not mean.  He did call for swords to be carried to Gethsemane.  But why?

Arming the Apostles:  All four Gospels mention Christ’s apostles carrying swords to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was arrested.  Only Luke explains that Christ was the One Who directed His followers to carry those weapons!  Luke writes:  “[Christ] said to them … let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.  For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was reckoned with transgressors;’ for what is written about Me has its fulfillment.”  “And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.’  And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’” (#6)

Enough!  One comment should be made on Christ’s words: “It is enough,” lest misunderstanding be carried into the following discussion. The Greek word for “enough” is hikanos and has been inappropriately characterized in the Sacra Pagina regarding the Gospel of Luke to mean “exasperated termination of this discussion,” but that is not what the Greek implies.  “It is enough” seems best translated as “sufficient.”  Luke uses the word hikanos nine times in his Gospel, translated also into English as “worthy,” “many,” and “long,” and never with an almost snide modern meaning of “Enough already!”  The word has been used regarding John the Baptist’s not being worthy to untie Christ’s sandals, and about the centurion not being worthy that Christ should come under his roof. It is used for “many people,” “many swine,” and for a “long time.” Such eisegesis, reinterpreting hikanos 2000 years later with a gun control bias, does a great disservice to the Bible and to those who hold it sacred.

Protection: Christ’s words focus on protection, asserting that henceforth a sword would be needed even more than the mantle’s protection from cold and chill.  The mantle (or cloak) was so important that the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (24:13) required, when it was given as a pledge, that it be returned by day’s end so that the wearer would not suffer in the nighttime chill.  One might also hear in Christ words His Own sense of obligation to protect those whose care had been entrusted to Him by the Father and even, since Peter had one of the swords, the continuation of such protection of the apostles through Peter.

CCC 2265: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.  The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.  For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.”

The Machaira:  The sword carried by Peter was likely a “machaira,” variously described as a large knife, a small sword, or a straight one-edged sword for thrusting.  Given the size of the machaira, it would be used in close quarters, against a near threat.  The word machaira occurs in fifteen Gospel verses.  Of these, eight are references to the apostles’ taking and using the weapon at Gethsemane, plus five refer to the crowds, to whom Christ said:  “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs….” (#7)

 

CCC 2264: “Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life.”

Why did Christ Call for WeaponsAs He faced His Crucifixion, Christ was concerned about the safety of His apostles.  He prayed for them, but He also called them to protect themselves.  Carrying weapons, they would have some protection, might make enemies hesitate to attack (i.e. deterrence), and perhaps even offer some self-confidence to control their fear.  Christ, about to die, would no longer be protecting them in an earthly sense.  His Priestly Prayer to the Father, just before His arrest, was: “While I was with them, I kept them in Thy Name, which Thou hast given Me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (#8)  He said that He, their Shepherd, would be struck, and “the sheep will be scattered (#9).  He even told the apostles the reason they would be in danger; i.e., because He would be “reckoned with transgressors….”  It is logical to think His closest companions might be subject to harassment or attack for having been so long in the company of someone about to be crucified between two thieves, convicted of a capital crime.  Even the accusers presented Christ to Pilate as a transgressor:  “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed Him over.” (#10)  The apostles’ risk further increased because they soon would preach Christ’s Own mission and work.

CCC 2269: “The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason….”

Why was Peter Told to Put Away the Sword?  The machaira which Peter carried was not intended to protect Christ from fulfilling His own mission, but for the apostles’ self-defense. His response to the crowd which came to arrest Him was: I told you that I am He; so, if you seek Me, let these men go.” (#11) Clearly, Peter did not understand his own role and reacted in a most human way, attacking:  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear.  The slave’s name was Malchus.  Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?’” (#12)  These words illustrate that their swords were not to protect Jesus, Who had already prayed to the Father: “… not My Will, but Thine, be done.” (#13)

CCC 2262: “He [Christ] did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.”  Matthew 26:52.

There is no evidence Christ wanted His apostles to do anything illegal either.  Apparently just carrying a sword for self-defense was not illegal, or Peter would not have been told to put it back into its sheath, but rather it would have been confiscated by the armed guard.  One should not suppose that arming the apostles meant that they were to initiate an attack.  Peter was told to put away the sword, not to throw away the sword; i.e. not to “disarm.”

In Matthew’s Gospel, Christ adds:  “… for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (#14), criticizing drawing a weapon against someone who is not attacking, or perhaps not even armed.  Although the crowd had swords, we are given no evidence that anyone had used a weapon against Christ or the apostles.  A few translations of Luke 22:51 (#15) have Christ say (when Peter draws his sword) “No!” or “Stop!” but the Greek does not support using either word.  The better translation of the Greek would seem to be in the King James Version: “Allow even this,” an expression of Christ’s willingness to go to the Cross.  Then Christ healed the servant’s ear, protecting Peter once again, this time from potential criminal charges of assault.

The Gospels say little about whether the apostles were again threatened that night or soon after by armed authorities, but there must have been fear, for one young man, who was about to be seized, ran away naked.  The only apostle to show up at the Cross was John.  Peter’s fear was manifested in his three denials around the charcoal fire in the High Priest’s Courtyard during Christ’s trial:  “One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’” (#16)  This accusation was immediately followed by Peter’s third denial of Christ.

The Choice to Defend Oneself:  Misunderstanding or misreading these texts causes them to be overlooked as approving righteously carrying a self-defense weapon.  The Bill of Rights enshrines our God-given rights, rights not originating from the state, which is charged to protect those rights.  The Gospels affirm the “right” of self-protection and, at times, the obligation to protect the vulnerable (as a father protecting his family) and, by extension, for the protection of self for the service of God, for the work of His Church, for the service of others, and for the good order of society.

CCC 2263: The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing.

Later, after being strengthened by the Resurrection and Pentecost, a disciple could freely choose not to protect himself further, when his own martyrdom, not a senseless death, became a higher calling. In other words, exercise of the right to bear arms was not mandated as an obligation for self-protection. Hence, even the willingness to give up one’s life in martyrdom, to drink of the cup one is given for the sake of soul over body, would not seem to violate the obligation to oneself:

CCC 2264 “Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.… Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow….”

But there is nothing about guns in the Bible.  Of course not, nor about the Internet, space travel, chemotherapy, fission, cloning or fracking, e.g.  Yet the Gospel never becomes outdated.  Christ clearly authorized the right to self-defense.  The weapon in the biblical pre-gun society was the machaira, requiring close proximity for use.  But today, in a society with firearms, where an attacker has a clear tactical advantage, swords have no role.  The Bible does not fix the actual means of self-defense, but rather the right to self-defense, to use a weapon for protection.  If we are to hear about weapons from the pulpit, may it be God’s word, not politicians’ manipulations.

So, do gun-rights apply in Church? Well, Christ Himself called for weapons for the protection of His Own Apostles in the Holy Garden of Gethsemane. Doesn’t the answer seem clear?

 

References:  All Bible citations are from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition unless otherwise noted:  (#1)  John 2:15, (#2)  Matthew 23:27, (#3)  Luke 13:32, (#4)  John 18: 37-38, (#5)  John 11:10-14, (#6)  Luke 22:36-38, (#7)  Matthew 26:55, Mark 14:48, Luke 22:52, (#8)  John 17:12, (#9)  Mark 14:27, (#10)  John  18:30,  (#11) John 18:8,  (#12) John 18:10-11, (#13) Luke 22:42, (#14)  Matthew 26:52, (#15)  Luke 22:51, (#16)  John 18:26

 

Diane C. Harris

June 2013

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3 Responses to “Do ‘gun-rights’ apply in Church?”

  1. avatar christian says:

    In some news articles on the church shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas on Sunday, December 29th, 2019, it mentions that the armed volunteer security force are deacons of that church. While it is true that there were armed parishioners, the church has a trained volunteer security team made up of deacons of that church.

    Jack Wilson, the head of that security team, who stopped the active shooter within 5 seconds of onset with a single shot, is not only a deacon, but a former reserve deputy sheriff. He is a firearms instructor and additionally conducts training for security teams. He also conducts training for civilians in how to protect themselves in an active shooter incident.

    While the criteria for the role of deacon may differ in different denominations, the one denominator in common is a man of good moral character committed to Christ, educated in Scripture and doctrine, and dedicated to providing for the physical needs of the church.

    Providing for the physical needs of the church in early times, also meant defending the church from harm and evil even if it meant giving up your life. That church in White Settlement Texas held onto that concept of deacons defending their church members by putting themselves in the path of danger, even if meant giving up their life. The one security member that was killed trying to stop the active shooter was a deacon. He was in close proximity to the active shooter and was shot dead as he was drawing his gun to shoot him.
    (Remember, the deacon who was head of security shot the active shooter in the head within 5 seconds of onset and the whole thing was over with within 6 seconds).

    In 2012, the founder and leader of a Sikh gurdwara (temple), was in the midst of preparing the meal for community that would take place after the service when a shooter entered to kill all the members present at the temple. Armed only with a knife he was using to cut vegetables, he took on the active shooter with that knife in trying to defend members of his temple. Authorities said he the leader saved lives by delaying the active shooter’s entry further into temple area by taking him on with a knife. That leader probably knew he didn’t have much chance against a semi-automatic pistol with a kitchen knife, but he fought until his last breath trying to protect the members of his community. (One of the responding officers, Lt. Brian Murphy, was shot 15 times at close range yet survived).

    I wonder how many adult men who serve on the altar in an official capacity would be willing to do so if there were other behind the scenes duties expected of them as well as defending the church and its members with their life.

  2. avatar militia says:

    Perhaps it is time to offer the Diocesan (Catholic) permanent deacons a ‘no-fault’ separation from their ‘deacon-ship’ if they are not willing to take firearms and other appropriate training to protect the Church and her members?

  3. avatar militia says:

    cont’d

    Now, let’s hear from female wanna-be deacons.

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