If there’s a common theme in Jesus’ ministry and message, it’s about a different way of responding to evil, to injustice, to violence, than the traditional human response of fighting fire with fire. Jesus’ life and death were a testament to this divine Third Way—a way that refuses to identify sin with sinners, evil with evil-doers, that insists on the possibility of redemption and seeks to transform a violent situation not by a final lethal stroke of violence, but by a creative act of love—even, if necessary, love that suffers unto death.
As a response to evil, there’s an unbridgeable gulf between picking up a cross and picking up a gun.
To say that a good guy with a gun is the only solution to an armed villain—well, isn’t that a fundamental rejection of the very heart of the gospel? The gospel message is that the evils of the world were overcome, not by a military general using the weapons of war to kill and maim the bad guys, but by a man who refused the temptations of worldly power and, instead, followed the path to Calvary—a path whose purpose was to save us all from the bad that is in each of us.
The gospel message stands in stark opposition to LaPierre’s idea that violence is the only way to stop evil, and it does so in large measure by challenging the core assumption that underlies it, the assumption so explicitly presupposed in LaPierre’s claim—namely, that the world can be neatly parsed by hat color into the good and the bad.
If there is a reason why Christians must reject LaPierre’s slogan, it’s because Christians believe that none of us is so good that we can’t go wrong in targeting the so-called bad guy (as we all saw so starkly in George Zimmerman’s fatal altercation with Trayvon Martin); and none of us is so wicked that a creative act of love, a surprising moment of transformative grace, has no chance of reconnecting us with our Creator and so inspiring our finger to fall away from the trigger.
The other day, a Georgia town was blessed by just this sort of surprising moment of transformative grace, when a woman named Antoinette Tuff talked down a disturbed man planning to shoot his way through an elementary school. Armed only with her courage, her faith, and her compassion--and attributing the outcome to the power of God--she inspired a finger to fall from a trigger. We can only guess how many lives were saved.
If you haven't seen her interview, do yourself a favor and watch it now.
It is one thing to talk about the possibilities that grace opens up. It is something else again to witness it.
The reality of such grace does not answer all the difficult questions about gun rights and gun regulations, and Antoinette's testimony should not be treated as if it did. But it should be a reminder of the power of compassion, the transforming power that can result from a sincere openness to the fellow humanity of others--even those we might so easily dismiss as moral monsters.