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Nuns Against Guns: Do You Have to be a Coward to be a Christian?

Are Christians weak-willed people who would “turn the other cheek” and allow themselves and their families to be abused by criminals and vermin?

In this Jan. 14, 2014 photo, Mother Dominica speaks about the cloistered life from behind the grille in the visiting parlor at the Corpus Christi Monastery of the Poor Clares in Rockford, Ill. Mother Dominica joined the order in 1982 after 15 years as an active sister. The Appleton, Wis., native she knew in sixth grade that she wanted to be a cloistered nun, a calling she said comes from God. (AP Photo/Rockford Register Star, Max Gersh)

The news that a pawn shop intended to sell guns is not exactly an earth-shattering revelation. I believe you would be hard pressed to find an example of a pawn shop that does not buy, sell or trade firearms.

An issue that should have indeed been a non-story took on a strange twist when the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus, Ohio decided to weigh in on the topic of guns and gun ownership. The sisters decided to publicly protest the fact that a new local pawn shop had filed an application for a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) license to sell firearms.

"This effort to sell guns is going to ruin and destroy why we are here," said Sister Margaret.

Sister Gemma Doll stated "We have too many already, vulnerable people that really need our protection."

A local mother of three and day care owner Loharo Mujihad was interviewed by a local Columbus news reporter and stated that she "doesn’t want kids walking past a gun deal."

In this Jan. 14, 2014 photo, Mother Dominica speaks about the cloistered life from behind the grille in the visiting parlor at the Corpus Christi Monastery of the Poor Clares in Rockford, Ill. Mother Dominica joined the order in 1982 after 15 years as an active sister. The Appleton, Wis., native she knew in sixth grade that she wanted to be a cloistered nun, a calling she said comes from God. (AP Photo/Rockford Register Star, Max Gersh)  (AP Photo/Rockford Register Star, Max Gersh) 

The emotional over-reaction of irrational women aside, this story gave me the inspiration to complete an essay that has been fomenting in my brain for a couple of years. The central theme of the piece addresses the misconception that to be Christian means you must be a coward at worst or at best a pacifist.

As a Christian man (not perfect, just forgiven) I have wrestled with what has seemed to be biblical incongruity over the use of force and the taking of human life. The Fifth Commandment plainly states that “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” To the “zero-tolerance” mind that could easily be taken to the extreme to include mosquitoes, mice, chickens, pigs, and humans, even those who would take your life or that of another.

Many years ago my friend Massad Ayoob wrote a piece explaining that the original Hebrew verbiage stated “thou shall not commit murder” and that modern translations changed “commit murder” to “kill.” From a strictly legal standpoint, the unlawful taking of a human life is “murder” but there are indeed conditions where it is lawful to have taken a life.

Those of faith often struggle with the idea that though it may be technically legal to take the life of a human under certain circumstances, it is nonetheless a sin against God. This moral dilemma is not a new concept, but something that has been addressed for centuries.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article Five addresses the Fifth Commandment. Sections 2263 and 2264 specifically address Legitimate Defense:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.

Similarly, Martin Luther’s Small Catechism explains on page 35 that “Life may be taken without breaking the Fifth Commandment” in self-defense, in the public defense (nation or community), in executing a judicial sentence, and by unavoidable accident.

More recently, Saint Pope John Paul II addressed the issue of taking human life in the EVANGELIUM VITAE in 1995 when he stated:

Moreover, legitimate defence can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life, the common good of the family or of the State. Unfortunately it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose action brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason.

Many of my friends and acquaintances in the martial world eschew Christianity from the misconception that to be a Christian means that you must be submissive to the will of evil men. They view Christians as weak-willed people who would “turn the other cheek” and allow themselves and their families to be abused by criminals and vermin. Christians are equated with pacifists who, rather than risk their lives for the preservation and security of their country, instead choose the physical safety of non-commitment.

When the Dominican Sisters of Peace speak out, they are not doing so as individuals with individual opinions. Whether by default or design, these sisters of the Church are putting forth the idea that members of the Church should protest the sale of firearms. The implication would seem to be that somehow Christians should be against guns.

[sharequote align="center"]The implication would seem to be that somehow Christians should be against guns.[/sharequote]

To that assertion I would pose the following questions: When our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers ventured forth to fight Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan with their M1 Garands and Thompson sub-machine guns, were they sinful? Were their firearms instruments of evil?

Closer to home, if a man in a blue polyester uniform uses his handgun to shoot and kill an active-shooter at a mall, school, or church, is that pistol wicked and the man in blue sinful? Do agents of the state have the moral and legal right to use a gun to stop a killer, yet a mother or father does not have that same right?

(Photo: Shutterstock/Burlingham) (Photo: Shutterstock/Burlingham) 

Sin and evil occupy the heart and the soul. Objects, such as those made of steel, polymer or aluminum, do not possess the capacity to be evil or good. Rather than focus efforts to prohibit the ownership or sale of inanimate objects, I would offer that the mission of the Church is to minister to the soul of mankind and foster love and respect.

The history of incremental gun prohibition, when examined with a deep analytical mind versus shallow emotion, shows plainly that anti-gun movements succeed only in disarming the lawful while enabling the criminal. It is no coincidence that cities and states with the strictest gun prohibition have the most violent crime.

It is not the gun that murders, it is an evil heart. To assert otherwise misplaces the blame on the object while absolving the actions of man.

For the past three decades Paul Markel has had the privilege to study with some of the finest instructors the U.S. Military and Law Enforcement world have to offer. Visit Student of the Gun.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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