I don’t usually post about political issues, but the debate on gun control in the U.S. has so impacted me that I felt I could not keep silent. However when back in January this year, the NRA accusing the President of being an elite hypocrite because there are armed guards at his daughters’ school really made me angry. I don’t think the President’s children are more important than any others, but I do think they are more vulnerable and this type of comment will probably make them even more vulnerable.
It seems to me that the concerns about gun control revolve around our understanding of freedom. Does having assault weapons freely available make us “free”. I don’t think so but then I realize I did not grow up in this country and so have a very different understanding of freedom from the average American.
To Americans the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms. What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live. Freedom to do what we want and carry whatever type of gun we want, in my opinion, is not freedom at all. Yes I know the dogma: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” but if guns are not available there are far less gun deaths and we do need assault weapons to go hunting – that I think is massacre of another kind. And in a society with less guns all of us become free from fear.
To Australians freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences not just for us as individuals but for all of our society and our world. Consequently most Australians are willing to give up their guns for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about drive by shootings. In the Australian political system voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.
All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?” Obviously there is a element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ. However our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society. Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2) It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8). Paul sums this up very well “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
If we truly loved our neighbours, not just those across the street that we wave at every day, but the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, how would it change our attitude towards guns? Jesus us calls all of us to be citizens of a kingdom in which love not hatred reigns, in which peace not violence is proclaimed and in which freedom means we accept the restrictions on our individual behaviour to participate in the liberation of all humankind.
What do you think?