The idolatry of the gun

REUTERS A customer tests a Glock 20 10mm handgun at the Guns-R-Us gun shop in Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2012. … Continued


A customer tests a Glock 20 10mm handgun at the Guns-R-Us gun shop in Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2012.

In their first extended statements since the mass shooting in Newton, Conn., National Rifle Association representatives, advocated armed guards in schools. In their mind, this was the most immediate step that the nation ought to take to protect our children. But they did not speak about restrictions on guns or on high-capacity magazines.

The group’s advocacy for better mental health care and their denunciation of violent video games, movies, and songs was an old familiar approach to the problem. The idea of armed guards in schools fails to take into account the other locations of recent mass shootings—a shopping mall, a temple, a movie theater, a parking lot. The NRA solution does nothing to address the gun violence that takes lives every blessed day in the United Sates and across the globe. Their response keeps the gun above reproach. The gun occupies a place of reverence.

In the African American Christian tradition we often pray: “God Keep us sake from all hurt, harm and danger.” We pray to a God who holds the power of life and death, who has the ability to give and to take back the breath of life. We place our faith in and worship a Creator God who is Divine Love. God is ultimate.

However, when anyone places h/er faith in a created thing, in a less than ultimate being or object, that person has created an idol. Our worship is idolatry. And, make no mistake about it, idolatry is insidious. We may think that an idol is something crafted with the intent of representing a god, but this too is a deception.

In the wake of one of the worse mass killings in the history of the United States that left 20 children and eight adults dead, the question before each of us is whether or not we have made the gun a god. We expect our God to provide safety, sustenance and joy. Far too many of us look to the gun for safety. The gun provides food, and the gun is fun when we get a kick out of shooting just for entertainment.

When our fascinations with guns turn them from tools into an idol that commands our esteem, regard, deference, respect and even reverence, we are led astray into a land of lies and distortions. This is the danger of an idol. It feeds on our fears. It is a dead thing that requires devotion bought and paid for in the currency of blood and tears. When the gun becomes an idol god, it lulls us into thinking that its presence has the power to makes us safe when the complete opposite is true.

The gun can bring death, but it cannot bring life. It can neither bring more abundant life nor eternal life. The Bible warns from beginning to end against idolatry. The prophetic voice in Isaiah says:

To whom then will you liken God,

or what likeness compare with him? An idol?

. . .

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless. (Isaiah 40)

When the gun becomes an idol god, the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution becomes holy writ interpreted with a mistaken exegetical emphasis on the portion that says: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” We overlook the portion of the amendment that says: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state. “ This was written before the United States developed the most powerful military in the history of humankind.

Still the notion that police, state national guard forces, the military or various weapons in our homes can keep us perfectly safe from the death-dealing chaos when madness and/or criminal intent pick up semi-automatic weapons with high capacity magazines and starts to shoot is a chimera, an illusion.

Some believers ask: where was God when this waking nightmare happened in Newtown? God is love. God was present in every loving act that happened on that day in that place. God is present now as God gives us the strength to live through our grief. God gives humankind free will. The question is where is our love? Where is the radical love of God loving through us?

Will the truth of our love and faith in a Creator God who is ultimate overcome the idolatry of the gun?

Valerie Elverton Dixon, founder of, is a former teacher of Christian ethics at Andover Newton (Mass.) Theological School and United Theological Seminary in Ohio. She is the author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”

  • Doctor_Evil

    That Glock 20 10mm was determined to be to powerful for FBI agents. Heavy duty weapon suitable for hunting polar bears.

  • cjpolitic

    Lunacy and Paranoia

    Stop the lunacy and the paranoia.

    We live in a civilized society and we must abide by its rules. When everybody is armed in a territory, nobody in fact is armed because everyone is constantly under the threat of fatal violence from somebody else.
    Gun ownership should be severely licensed and registered. Cars must be licensed and registered and they are much less dangerous than guns. Why should dangerous guns be exempted?
    There are about 13.5 percent of the population who has some form of mental illness. That’s a lot of people. Do we really want to enthrust them with AK-47s or other automatic assault weopons like the Glock 20 10mm gun whose only purpose is to kill people? If yes, be prepared to have massacre upon massacre of innocent people. The most recent example is the mass shooting of 20 children and of 6 adults in Newton, Conn. by a heavily armed murderer.
    The United States is the most violent country in the world and 12,000 of its citizens die every year from gun shots. That’s not an example to follow. To the contrary.
    A gun in a house, except for specific hunting purposes in rural areas, is a tragedy in waiting. Sooner or later, it turns itself against its owner, his family, especially his children or his community, one way or another. Ownership of military-stryle guns is a prelude to anarchy. Only fascists like guns.

  • WmarkW

    If you want to actually do something about this issue, take the lead in advocating honest discussion about — the gun control issue is largely about race. Although the well-publicized mass shootings this year were all perpetrated by whites, they represent a small fraction of our nation’s gun homicides, a majority of which are committed by the 12% of African ethnicity.

    The intentional homicide rate among American whites is only slightly higher than Canada’s. It’s the high-poverty, high-crime minorities that stoke our fear. Michael Moore said recently that gun ownership is motivated by fear of minorities. Steve Sailer says gun control is largely about suburban whites wanting to disarm the urban minorities that live in the periphery of their neighborhoods. So we have a “debate” in which neither side is permitted to articulate their honest position.

    Someone from the African-American community needs to take the lead in saying that people have to be able to discuss these issues openly, and that honest discussion of facts and views shouldn’t be dismissed as evil. No one dies from guns more often than blacks, almost always at the hands of their brethren. This is one issue in which the role of polite etiquette in discussion, is preventing development of solutions that might actually help.

  • Hunt458

    Jesus said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

    Luke 22:36

  • persiflage

    Yes, every household should have a sword…….more fiction from the perpetually warring mideast.

  • persiflage

    ‘the gun control issue is largely about race.’

    Are you talking about the white race Mark? Afterall, as you mentioned, mass murder and serial murder are essentially white male crimes……and of course, primarily white arms dealers in the USA supply weaponry to the entire planet.

    Meanwhile, no one is disputing the high crime rates found in poor non-white neighborhoods, and in gang-infested urban enclaves. The easy availability of guns for decades has flooded every market with both legal and illegal hand guns – not to mention fully automatic assault weapons.

    The glorified gun culture and it’s manifestations range from black hip-hop rappers to chicano gansters, to white militia fanatics and beyond – and it’s led by well-paid zealots like Wayne LaPierre and his elected political enablers in congress.

    The race we’re really talking about is the human race. Folks in the USA are every bit as crazy about guns and gun mythology as
    they are about the fictions of conventiional religion. Among rightwing politicians, the two often go hand in hand…………..

  • persiflage

    ‘We endure the tragedies of lives lost for the greater benefits of liberties maintained’

    Thank you, Wayne LaPierre Jr. I gather you two are neighbors….

  • persiflage

    Sam, I’ve lifted plenty of guns in and out of the military, and would have no compunction in using one for self-defense, or the defense of others.

    On the other hand, the droning of gun fanatics and the rank opportunism of pushing the gun agenda by way of Wayne LaPierre gets on my nerves. I had no idea you and ScottinVA were so close……..

  • persiflage

    too much gun for you Scottie………

  • persiflage

    ‘The gun culture stems from a much deeper liberty culture, which is the basis of the 2A.’

    The concept of standing militias in the 18th century is a far cry from arming every moron that wants a gun……….very far indeed.

  • persiflage

    ‘Only those without an argument resort to as hominem attack.’

    Scottie, a close examination of your inner self would yield neither a powerful sense of reason or a particularly well-developed intelligence.

    Your complete reliance on mythology in every venue demonstrates a lack of introspection and deep-seated mental and emotional laziness – all are optimum attributes for early and lasting conditioning.

    And not so ironically, ad hominem remarks are all you’ve ever offered here.

  • persiflage

    ‘Why do you think the Constitution is only three pages long, plus a few for amendments? It is because the people already had a personal constitution, called the Bible.’

    An leap of unreason – this one longer than most. The laws of the land are secular and non-religious in nature…….the very core of personal freedom from all kinds of tyranny, including the religious kind.

    On the other hand, continuing emotional dependence on the myths of religion into modern times is an atavistic holdover that a number of the more prescient Founders probably could have predicted.

  • persiflage

    ‘I am happy that you don’t consider yourself intelligent enough to own or use a gun.’

    A typically idiotic comment Scottie. What a momzer……..

  • persiflage

    ‘It’s funny that I have evidence for my beliefs.’

    Unfortunately the ‘evidence’ for your beliefs are trapped in your own imagination…….and no where else in the world that we happen to live in.