Would Jesus Teach 'Stand Your Ground'?

September 22, 2016

The downtown streets in Jefferson City, Missouri, filled up for a couple days last week. The state legislators - gone since May - rushed back for the annual veto override session. I trekked down to the Capitol for a rally to oppose the most controversial bill being considered.

Senate Bill 656 eliminated the need for a permit, background check, or safety training for someone to carry a concealed weapon. It also created "stand your ground" provisions" that would allow someone to use violent force as a first resort. I joined a rally by Moms Demand Action to support Governor Jay Nixon's veto of this dangerous bill. I wasn't the only guy there, but I was proud to stand with the crowd of mostly moms as we urged a safer environment for our children (and as a stay-at-home dad I often find myself at events with mostly moms).

After the rally, which included the perspective of law enforcement officials who also opposed the bill, we met with our lawmakers. The delegation I participated in had frustrating meetings with our state representative and staffers for our state senator. Both ultimately joined the successful effort to override the veto. The New York Times blasted the vote for making us "the shoot-me state" (instead of "the show-me state").

In a write-up about the vote, the Columbia Missourian included one of my tweets criticizing lawmakers. Tweeting about gun control brought more negative responses than any other issue I've tweeted on (of course, I normally tweet about non-controversial stuff like religion and politics). It seems I dared to question our nation's idolatry. I'm not against the 2nd Amendment, but I am more concerned about the 2nd Commandments. In Exodus, the 2nd Commandment is to make no graven images. In the teaching of Jesus, his 2nd Commandment is love your neighbor as yourself. Our nation's love of guns often seems to violate both those commands.

The gun industry's lobbyists also showed up in the Capitol last week. They focused on the "stand your ground" part of the bill. The official NRA stickers declared, "Stand and Fight." A few guys sporting such stickers watched the Moms Demand Action rally. One had a t-shirt that declared, "come and take it." But given his "stand and fight" sticker, I don't think he actually wanted us to take his gun.

When someone proposes life-saving gun legislation, the topic often turns religious. Carrying a gun suddenly is cast as a "god-given right." One state legislator used such rhetoric to describe the bill that gave us "stand your ground" and permitless concealed carry.

"It is just as essential a liberty today as it was 200 years ago," gushed Republican Rep. Eric Burlison of Springfield. "Those rights weren't given to us by men, they were given to us by God."

But were they? Did Moses come down from Mt. Sinai with news of this right? Did Paul or John or Peter write letters advocating such liberty? Did Jesus dare the Roman soldiers to "come and take it"?

Jesus didn't teach "stand and fight," but turn the other cheek. Jesus didn't teach "stand your ground," but walk a second mile. So will we listen to the NRA or the New Testament? Will we fight for "constitutional rights" or live out Christ's revelations?