Guns and Religion: Catholics, Fire Arms, the Right to Defend Oneself, and the Second Amendment

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A Study on Male Sexuality [Part 1]

Over at USCatholic.org, there’s a piece boasting the church’s dedication to completely getting rid of guns from the hands of civilians.

The Catholic Church’s position on gun control is not easy to find.  . . . The answer is resoundingly clear: Firearms in the hands of civilians should be strictly limited and eventually completely eliminated.

But you won’t find that statement in a headline or a document subheading. It’s almost hidden in a footnote in a document on crime by the U.S. bishops’ conference and it’s mentioned in passing in dozens of official Vatican texts on the global arms trade.

Yeah, that’s open and shut, right?

Di Ruzza told Catholic News Service that the Vatican is one of just a handful of states that would like to see small arms and weapons included in the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which would better regulate the flow of conventional arms.

Now, one question which has to be asked is whether the Vatican is really opposed to law-abiding citizens owning a firearm, or whether these sought-after regulations are to curb the massive abuses done in the world due to the flow of arms to those aggressors who ought not to have them.

Does the Vatican really think we don’t have the right to defend ourselves?

The Church and Self Defense

The church is very clear that “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.”  (CCC 2258)

Hence the general prohibition against murder.  But precisely because life is sacred, we have a right, and even a duty to protect it.” Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.”  (CCC 2264)

Turning the Other Cheek

“But,” many respond, what about the admonishment of Christ to turn the other cheek?

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.  (Matthew 5:38-42)

Here, two things can be said.  First, Christ is showing the HIGHER path, as he often did, one which was not always available to everyone.  Compare this to what he said about celibacy for the sake of the kingdom:

“Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”  (Matthew 16:12)

You have the RIGHT to self defense, but you can wave that right and kill your enemy through loving submission.  As Paul wrote:

Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)

With good...and good humor!

With good…and good humor!

However, it’s one thing to willfully give up one’s own life, and wholly another to force another to do so against their will.  Back in the day, I used to go at it online with a few “hyper-pacifistic” Christians, and I’d always get them with this question: “If you were walking down the street and saw a man torturing a 3 year old to death, would you stop him by any means necessary.”

Many said they would ask him to stop, and reason with him, but would undertake no force to stop them from such an heinous action.  They said this was following the path of meekness set forth by Christ.  Remember, “those who live by the sword die by the sword,” they’d say.

Others, however, got it.  “Yes, I’d stop him, even if I had to hit him.”  Most of us get this innately, and those who said otherwise above I suspect secretly got it, but weren’t willing to eat crow.  The Catechism spells it out this way:

“Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.”  (CCC 2265)

The child in the scenario above simply has no way to exercise his right to defend himself, and in such cases, unless one in such a scenario willfully waves their right to defense, there is an obligation that they be protected.  Famously, St. Ignatius of Antioch was on his way to be fed to the lions and he begged his fellow believers to not rescue him.  He valued being fed to the lions, for he knew, as Tertullian knew, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Meekness and Money Changers

But what about meekness, that patient and submissive humility which Christ typified?

Here is that meek Christ—right after performing his inaugural miracle at Cana, turning water into wine at the behest of his mother—upon entering the temple and seeing the money changers and animal merchants about.

He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables,  and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”  (John 2: 15-16, cf. all of the passage, John 2:14-17)

Let me reiterate, Christ was MEEK when he drove out the money changers!  For he was submissive to his Father, and “Zeal for his fathers house” consumed him!

And it was a meek Christ who said:

“But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)

Persecution was coming, and legitimate defense was an option.  Heck, that’s why there’s a whole body of doctrine in the church dedicated to the practice of “Just War.”  (Cf. CCC 2309)

Federal Gun Grab

So where does the rubber meet the road here?  Should Uncle Sam decide that some or all guns are not permissible, is this an unjust law?

Well, that’s not so clear.  I think to take away ALL guns would be unjust, as a man has a right to defend himself, and to do so with reasonable means, where reasonable means would include the level of weaponry that could be reasonably brought down upon him.  If automatic weapons could be in the mix, semi-automatic (i.e., you don’t have to re-load after every shot) seems at least reasonable.  Nuclear weapons would be, naturally, excessive, if only by virtue of the damage radius.

I’ll say this: To attempt to grab all guns would be foolish, for it was precisely such an action that lead to the initial revolution.  Pastor, Historian, and sometimes-presidential-Candidate Chuck Baldwin put’s it thus:

What most people fail to realize (because they are not taught it) is that the match that ignited America’s War for Independence was not excessive taxes, or the lack of representation, or trade restrictions, or the lack of trial by jury (as important as these issues were). The match that ignited America’s War for Independence was ATTEMPTED GUN CONFISCATION.

On April 19, 1775, British troops, some 800 strong, were dispatched to Concord, Massachusetts, to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock and to seize a cache of weapons known to be stored at Concord. When Dr. Joseph Warren sent Paul Revere to warn Pastor Jonas Clark (in whose home Adams and Hancock were staying) that the Crown’s troops were on their way to arrest the two men and seize the guns at Concord, he alerted his male congregants. About 60-70 men from the Church of Lexington stood armed on Lexington Green awaiting the Red Coats.

Upon spotting the citizen militia, a British officer demanded the men throw down their arms. They refused; and the British troops immediately opened fire. Eight of the Minutemen were instantly killed. The colonists returned fire in self-defense, and the shot was fired that was heard ’round the world. By the time the troops arrived at the Concord Bridge, just a few miles away, hundreds of colonists were waiting for them with muskets in hand, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Make no mistake about it: attempted gun confiscation ignited America’s War for Independence. And I am convinced that Pat Buchanan is absolutely right. If the federal government attempts to confiscate the guns of the American people, “There would be a revolution in this country!”

Of course, sometimes the answer simply cannot be black and white.  Certain legal stipulations could be taken to reasonably decrease the likelihood of a future mass shooting, but precisely what are the best ones is certainly up for debate.  I think there is a reasonable approach and an unreasonable approach.

The founding fathers understood that tyranny could come from others, or from the government.  For those reasons, the 2nd Amendment proscribes the keeping of guns by the citizenry:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The citizens keeping and bearing arms is part of what keeps a potentially tyrannical government in check.  that, at least, is what the founding fathers believed, and enshrined as a right.

I’d love your thought on this below!

Also, follow our “Let’s Learn the Constitution” series to learn about your rights and how they are enshrined in the law.  Then, protect your rights.

Top Image courtesy alphadesigner
Batman and Robin courtesy CatholicMemes

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