Thursday, April 28, 2011

Garrett East on American Gun Ownership, Foreign Missions, and the Possibility of Martyrdom

Go check out my brother Garrett's post on the disconcerting attitudinal difference between American Christians' willingness to own guns "here at home" versus overseas in a missionary context, the implicit reasoning behind it, and the consequences for the church's witness. Garrett is a member of a team of families planning to move to Tanzania in two years, and at the moment he lives in west Texas where -- I can assure you! -- gun ownership on the part of Christians is both high and, shall we say, uncontested. In other words, this is an immediately relevant issue for him, but also more generally for all Christians in America. Here's a first set of questions he asks:
[H]ow many Christians in America live in such a way that martyrdom is impossible? That is, if a Christian owns a gun and believes that they are allowed to use it in self-defense, under what condition would they ever submit themselves to martyrdom? Or, would they always be unwilling to go down without a fight? Has Christian teaching about violence set up a situation in which the last thing any Christian would let happen to him or herself is to become a martyr? What if an outbreak of persecution took place today like that under Nero, Diocletian, or Galerius? Would Christians take up their crosses or their guns? Without arguing that all Christians should become pacifists, I do want to argue that all Christians should live in such a way that martyrdom is a live possibility for a life lived in faithfulness to God.
If you are interested in reading more, I wrote something similar a couple years ago, except as a critique of just war, called "'To No Good End': Requesting a Coherent Account of Martyrdom."

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