God, Guns, and the NRA

I saw this week that the National Rifle Association (NRA) released a new mobile app entitled "NRA: Practice Range." The app permits shooters to try their skills at shooting coffin-shaped targets with bulls-eyes on the head and heart levels, and the app is approved for persons aged "4 and up." Now, this comes from a politically-motivated group who, in the wake of the Newtown, CT killing of 20 children, publicly blamed violent video games for the carnage. The hypocrisy is a little rich to say the least.

I think that years ago I may have actually joined the NRA. Knowing more about the organization today, I can neither condone its existence nor recommend anyone support it, and that means financially or through parroting its messages that mocks the suffering of others.

I wrote an article for Christian Post last year, giving my opinion as to how a Christian should view the drone war of the Obama Administration in Afghanistan. I opined then, and still do, that we Christians have a right to defend ourselves and our countrymen, and that I don't find that principle contrary to biblical teachings.

When one of His disciples drew his sword and defended our Lord by striking the slave of the high priest, Jesus was not surprised by the presence of the sword, nor would He be given His being all-knowing of what would transpire. Matthew 26:51-52. He wasn't shocked that His disciple had and wielded an instrument capable of death. In fact, His earlier instruction was to "let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one," knowing there may be a time the disciples needed to defend themselves. Luke 22:36-38.

I own guns and believe there is nothing wrong with using them for sport or self-defense. I draw the line, however, with civilians owning high-capacity guns and magazines designed and manufactured for mass-killings of humans. I also cannot find any support in biblical teachings for a Christian to champion the cause of the NRA and other enthusiasts to permit private ownership of the same, and I believe it directly contrary to biblical principles.

Social responsibility is promoted in His Word, and in this instance calls on the Christian to weigh the pros and cons of both sides of the gun debate. In doing so, we must remember that there are laws that help us as a unified country, and that law has always been for the "lawless and rebellious," and works to benefit all of us. 1 Timothy 1:8-11. It is not in our nature to "be subject to rulers, to authorities…" (Titus 3:1), but if we respect our government as instructed, we should not fear laws enacted to permit our coexistence with one another.

And this is not a 2nd Amendment argument, as the 2nd Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with it. I will leave for another day so many reasons why the 2nd Amendment doesn't apply, but suffice it to point out the common sense of this country's right to regulate weapons of mass destruction of human life. You can't own grenades, machine guns, ground-to-air rocket launchers, etc., and to suggest it would violate an individual's right to prohibit the private ownership of a weapon that can kill 30 people in less than a minute, is simply ridiculous and really shows a lack of empathy for your fellow man.

Back to the NRA. When the NRA was started in 1871, it was created to improve the marksmanship of soldiers. But in 1975, it created a lobbying operation to fight gun regulation laws, and in 1977 began to shift its focus to a mantra of defending the 2nd Amendment, albeit a distorted version of the 2nd Amendment. Since that time, the organization has literally purchased the votes of its most conservative constituents, ensuring among other harmful accomplishments the expiration in 2004 of the 1994 assault weapons ban.

And some of the carnage directly attributable to the NRA and its conservative legislators, is the daily violence in Mexico and along the borders of our southern states. Due to the NRA-backed limits of controlling gun sales in the United States to gun-runners from Mexico, the ATF has estimated that at least 70% of the 99,000 guns seized between 2007 and 2011 by Mexican authorities fighting the cartels, came from the United States. These cartels have been known to leave victims hanging from street overpasses, beheaded in the gutters, and routinely kidnap schoolchildren to be ransomed. We can no longer deny our complicity in the daily loss of these lives, and the NRA political accomplishments are directly to blame.

But what really struck a nerve with me of late is the hypocrisy of the NRA in their fabricated pity for the victims of mass killings. The NRA has responded to this nation's gun assault tragedies as follows:

  • After the Virginia Tech shootings that left 32 dead and 17 wounded, the NRA said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families."
  • After the Tucson, AZ killing of 6 and wounding of 18 people, the NRA said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this senseless tragedy…"
  • After the Aurora, CO massacre of 12 and wounding of 58, the NRA said, not surprisingly, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the Aurora, Colorado, community."
  • After the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre of 20 children and 6 teachers, the NRA said, "We were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown."

Knowing that the NRA is primarily a political front for gun manufactures, I find insulting these empty expressions of sympathy. On the nominating committee of the NRA that chooses who will be on the Board and make policy for the group, is a representative of the very company that manufactures the assault rifle used to kill the innocent in these attacks. The NRA gives millions and millions of dollars to the campaigns of conservative legislators, and if it were instead to give their blessing to reasonable gun legislation, this country could go a long way toward getting these assault weapons and high-capacity magazines out of the hands of crazies and criminals. But, the NRA owes an allegiance to the gun manufactures, and it will not happen.

To hear the NRA express sorrow, while simultaneously campaigning to ensure this country is helpless to prevent these tragedies thanks to the NRA blood-money, reminds me of this Bible verse at James 2:15-16: "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" Although the verse addresses faith without works as useless, it also describes hypocrisy at its worse, and it applies here where the NRA could do so much for future victims, but all it offers are grossly hypocritical expressions of sympathy.

I do not intend this as an indictment of all NRA members, as most individual members probably agree with the need to make serious changes in the gun laws. Instead, this is a call – especially to Christians – to break with this organization that is nothing more than a shill for gun manufacturers. "How blessed is the man who does not walk in counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers." Psalm 1:1. "Bad company corrupts good morals." 1 Corinthians 15:33. Even President George H. W. Bush chose to publicly break with the NRA after this same NRA spokesperson insulted Oklahoma City bombing victims as "Nazis" and "jack-booted thugs." This group truly epitomizes the worst in our political theater.

The NRA is a mean-spirited corporate body, pure and simple. We are always wise to remember that corporations are not Christians, and for-profit corporations only exist if they make a profit. We can hope they are managed by Christians, and operate to support the same principles by which we Christians try to live our lives, but they are not Christians! In fact, corporations like the NRA owe their continued existence to the very antithesis of biblical teachings. Their foundation is the root of all evil, that being the love of money. 1 Timothy 6:10.

When you see the NRA bray against well-intentioned efforts to keep off the streets these weapons favored by mass-murderers, it is obvious that they speak not for the majority of their individual members, but instead for the major money contributors, e.g. the corporate gun manufacturers and distributors. When in response to the Sandy Hook killings the president of the NRA publicly offers the same old tired 'from our cold dead hands' bravado of yesteryear in defense of gun ownership, you are witnessing the truism offered by author Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." So it will also be difficult to get those conservative legislators to understand as well, given their campaign contributions from the NRA depend on them not understanding.

The words of sympathy offered by the NRA were empty and were lies. We are warned in Ephesians 5:6-7: "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them." Instead, we should "associate with the lowly." Romans 12:16.

The "lowly" in this instance are the past and future victims of violent crimes. God wants us to comfort them with sincere hearts, not hypocrisy. James 3:17; Romans 12:9. He does not want us to partake with those lovers of money who offer cookie-cutter expressions of sympathy while maintaining the umbilical chord that provides an endless source of guns to their very killers.

The push for background checks, addressing mental health, and prohibiting private ownership of military-style assault weapons with high-capacity magazines, are not only reasonable efforts at quelling violence, they are overwhelmingly favored by those who we charge with protecting us. As Christians, we should be the voices leading all to respect our government's need to keep the peace, control the lawless, and not fear it as they control the evil that is among us. Romans 13:1-8; 1 Peter 2:13-17. This is our biblical instruction.

Finally, we should always recognize the need to intercede for our most vulnerable, our children, His having placed angels to watch over them. Matthew 18:10. We should intercede for them with more than prayers, as we can pass the laws necessary to protect them while they are in our watch. There is no excusing our loving guns so much that as a nation we continue to make guns designed not for defense but assault, available to those who would assault and kill our children.

And is not an excuse that we live in fear. God has warned us against fearing the evil men of this age, for all they can do is kill the body; instead, we should fear and trust in His authority. Luke 12:4-5. Even if we feel the need to fear our fellow man, we don't need guns designed to kill many, many people with little effort. Nor do we need to covet them as some symbol of our right to liberty, as some sort of earthly treasure worthy of dying for, as God tells us to forgo such idol worship and to focus on heavenly treasures. By doing so, we will express the sincerity of our hearts at stopping this madness. Luke 12:33-34.

Nope, the NRA – the epitome of corporate enabling of gun-running and truly merchants of pain and suffering for so many – will never see another dollar of mine. I choose to intercede for the lowly, for the children, for my fellow man. I invite you to do the same.

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