Much ink has been spilled and air time (radio and TV) dedicated to the recent mass shootings at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012. The gun control crowd has used the occasion to push their agenda of limited availability of guns in our country. They want certain guns (and perhaps all guns) banned for purchase by the average citizen. Debate over where to draw the line on what kind of guns are to be banned is strong and heated. All of this is in spite of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution which gives citizens the right to bear arms in self-defense. The Colorado tragedy is an event made for politicians to take advantage. Such hay-making by political types almost has a surreal quality to it. But it is to be expected. However, those of us who believe in the right to self-defense need to push back and make our feelings known as well. I personally believe that it is a spiritual action to defend one’s self or one’s family from harm. If a man broke into my house to try to kill my wife and kids, it would be a spiritual thing for me to kill him if necessary for their defense. Of course, no genuine believer should seek such an occurrence. It would be a tragic event even if done for right reasons. Christians would mourn the occasion. Nonetheless, it is possible to justify self-defense and family-defense from the Bible. I believe that this teaching is in the same category as the issue of just war theory. The ones who have authority to defend would be different of course, but in principle self-defense is a miniature version of just war – it would be a just killing action. I hope if such an occasion came into my life, God forbid, I would have the courage to do the right thing and protect my family.
I have given in print a summary of my views on just war theory in the Baptist Bible Seminary journal — “A Biblical Defense of Just War Theory,” The Journal of Ministry and Theology 6 (Spring 2002): 21-43. This was written in response to the terrorist attacks on 9-11. I have dealt with it as a sub-topic in a different article – “The Tendency to Softness in Postmodern Attitudes about God, War, and Man,” The Journal of Ministry and Theology 10 (2006): 92-114. I would recommend two other sources to you to help you think through these issues. One is the recent article “Lessons from Colorado” by Kevin Bauder. It can be found at his blog site “In the Nick of Time” – http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time.
The second source I would like you to consider is a book which eerily deals with a Christian response to a similar event to the movie theater carnage – Charl van Wyk, Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self Defense. This is the story of the so-called St. James Church Massacre which happened on July 25, 1993 in South Africa. Terrorists, using AK-47s and grenades, broke into the church killing 11 people and wounding 58. Van Wyk was present in the church when the butchery began. The bloodshed would have been much worse if it had not been for van Wyk. For that day, he carried a .38 revolver with him to church due to the unsettled times in the country. In self-defense and in defense of his church body, he killed one of the terrorists and caused the others to leave. Van Wyk, in his book, goes beyond a historical record of the event. He deals with some of the major questions biblically and theologically for Christians to wrestle with in such a circumstance. I share his conclusion and hope that I and my family never experience what he experienced. If there had been one person in the theater in Colorado who had a gun for self-defense, maybe the bloodshed would have been less. But those who strongly support gun control believe that guns are the problem, when, in fact, it is people who are the problem. What events like the Colorado shootings prove is that sin is real. Evil cannot be ignored. Gun control advocates start with the ideal and try to work their way back toward the real. But people die along the way. Those who believe in arming ourselves for self-defense start with realism and try to work toward an ideal that can permeate our society. Less people die in that scenario. Evil will be with us until Jesus comes to begin to make all things right.