Is It Okay to Criticize Pastors?

In the last couple weeks, there have been several stories in the news and in the Christian blogosphere about Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Matthews, NC. He’s certainly no stranger to criticism, for everything from his unorthodox ecclesiology to his association with prominent “Word-Faith” pastors to his 16,000 sq. ft. mega-mansion. For a run-down on the most recent brouhaha—involving the methods used by Elevation Church to engineer mass baptisms—check out this post by Jeff Wright, pastor of Midway Baptist Church here in Cookeville.

As I’ve seen Jeff’s post and many others like it appear on social media in recent days, there has been one response that seems to insert itself into every comment thread. It goes something like this:

Paul wrote in Philippians 1:18 that we should rejoice whenever the gospel is preached, no matter the motive, so what gives you the right to criticize any Christian pastor?

First of all, let me applaud those who have asked this question. I appreciate arguments made from Scriptural authority, even when I may disagree with someone’s conclusions from that Scripture. But the question for today is, does Philippians 1:18 mean that we are never to call out pastors who we believe to be in error?

Let’s turn to J. Gresham Machen, who addressed this very question in his book Christianity and Liberalism (my review) way back in 1923:

In short, the rival preachers made of the preaching of the gospel a means to the gratification of low personal ambition; it seems to have been about as mean a piece of business as could well be conceived. But Paul was not disturbed. “Whether in pretence, or in truth,” he said, “Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, ye, and will rejoice” (Phil. i. 18). The way in which the preaching was being carried on was wrong, but the message itself was true; and Paul was far more interested in the content of the message than in the manner of its presentation. It is impossible to conceive a finer piece of broad-minded tolerance.

But the tolerance of Paul was not indiscriminate. He displayed no tolerance, for example, in Galatia. There, too, there were rival preachers. But Paul had no tolerance for them. “But though we,” he said, “or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. i. 8). What is the reason for the difference in the apostle’s attitude in the two cases? What is the reason for the broad tolerance in Rome, and the fierce anathemas in Galatia? The answer is perfectly plain. In Rome, Paul was tolerant, because there the content of the message that was being proclaimed by the rival teachers was true; in Galatia he was intolerant, because there the content of the rival message was false. In neither case did personalities have anything to do with Paul’s attitude. (p. 22, emphasis mine)

So whether it’s Furtick or any other pastor, the real question is whether the Jesus he preaches is the real one. If so, then our task is to correct with gentleness whatever errors may be present in his teaching. If not, our task is to warn sheep about the wolf in the fold.

Andrew Peterson in Cookeville on September 6!

I can’t tell you how excited I am that one of my favorite singer/songwriter/authors is going to be back in Cookeville soon! Many readers will remember him from his performance of the Behold the Lamb of God concert at Stevens Street Baptist Church. Many others may be familiar with his work in writing the books of The Wingfeather Saga (see my reviews of the first three books in this series here, here, and here), which are apparently reckoned by some to be “children’s” books, but they are among my recent favorites.

On Friday, September 6, as part of the Humanitas Forum on Christianity and Culture, Peterson will be speaking at Tennessee Tech with a talk entitled, “The Story of Us All: Telling On Ourselves, Telling About Ourselves”. I’m fairly certain this man doesn’t know how to be uninteresting, so I hope you’ll join us! Here’s a portion of the press-release for the evening:

Storytelling and songwriting are autobiography. In fact, every created thing bears the image, in some way, of its creator. Many of us shy away from sharing our own stories because we believe they aren’t interesting or relevant when in fact our stories may be one of the most significant things we have to offer to our communities.

From Rich Mullins to Frederick Buechner to J.R.R. Tolkien, Andrew will explore the ways in which honest storytelling has shaped his understanding of the Gospel. In this talk, we’ll get a chance to hear Andrew unpack the commitment that guides his craft as a musician and a writer:  “To tell the truth, and to tell it as beautifully as possible.”

You can get the rest of the details of this talk from the Humanitas blog. And if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook I’ll make sure you don’t miss it, as I’ll be promoting this event quite a bit over the next couple weeks!

Friday, September 6, 2013 — 7:00 p.m.
School of Nursing and Health Science Building Auditorium
On the campus of Tennessee Tech
Cookeville, Tennessee
Doors open at 6:30

Reflections on the Trayvon Martin Shooting

Unlike seemingly everyone on the planet, I didn’t follow the details of the George Zimmerman trial at all while it was going on. Other than a vague awareness of the fact that the trial was taking place, I just wasn’t paying attention. Maybe I should have been, but the spin and the anger and the speculation turned me off to the whole ordeal. As with other high-profile trials  in the last few years, I decided to wait until the evidence had all been presented and a verdict reached before going back to review the case and form my own opinion.

I had not planned to write anything about the case, since there’s already been so much said, but considering I’ve already posted some other responses to the H&L Facebook page, I suppose I’ve “entered the fray” after all. So here are a few reflections on a trial that has captured the passions of the nation.

The Shooting Was a Tragedy

While it seems this ought to be the one thing everyone could agree on, that’s apparently not the case. I’ve seen several variations of “he had it coming” on social and national media, and that’s a real shame. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that a young man who was made in the image of God is dead.

“Stand Your Ground” Is a Good Law

While it is certainly debatable whether or not this law is applicable in the Zimmerman/Martin case (it was not part of the defense’s case), it’s the right law. People have a fundamental human right to defend themselves and others from a determined attacker. I am thankful to live in a state that recognizes that right. I certainly hope that I will never be in a situation that would require me to defend myself or my family, but you better believe that if we ever were in real danger, the choice between my kids and the bad guy would be an easy one.

Race Is Still An Issue

Another observation that ought to be filed under “obvious”, but it’s worth acknowledging. Maybe Zimmerman’s initial actions were racially motivated. Maybe they weren’t. Regardless, this trial has sparked a national discussion on racial profiling, something that really exists no matter how much some might like to deny it.

Twenty years before George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, Michael W. Smith wrote these words in a song on one of the favorite albums of my childhood:

Somebody’s just assuming
He’s up to nothing good
‘Cause he’s not like the others
There goes the neighborhood
What kind of world are we living in
We judge a man by the tone of his skin
It’s crazy

It’s one thing to say (particularly as a WASP) that Smith was right and that we should all be “Color Blind”. It’s another thing entirely to ignore the fact that, while we’ve certainly made much progress, racism is still alive and unwell in this country. And I’m not giving minorities a pass here. Racism goes both ways.

But I can’t know what it’s like to be a black person in America. When our President says that most African-Americans know what it’s like to be followed just because they are black, I’m inclined to believe him. And for those who are disinclined to believe anything our President says, here’s conservative Christian Trip Lee saying the same thing. I have no frame of reference for beginning to understand how that feels, but when I see things like this video, contrived as it might be, it just makes me angry:

We still have a lot of hard conversations ahead of us in this country to work toward racial reconciliation. We need to be able to have those conversations with hearts and minds open. We need to remember that the only solution to the root of racial tensions is the gospel.

There Are Many Definitions of the Word “Fact”

I am convinced that one of the main reasons people are so divided over this case has to do with where they get their news. It’s so hard to find any semblance of objectivity in today’s news outlets! We expect subjectivity in editorial content, but it all too often appears in reports of so-called “facts” as well.

For example, compare the following two articles:

Both of these articles claim to report the facts. One is from a left-leaning MSM outlet, the other is a right-wing blog. Both resort to a little editorializing, even in the selection of which facts get reported, which can paint a very different picture of a man.

CNN includes details about George Zimmerman’s wife being arrested and charged with perjury for falsifying financial reports during bail bond proceedings. American Thinker includes details about prior crime, and the reasons Zimmerman joined the neighborhood watch in the first place. CNN says that Zimmerman followed Martin “against the advice of the 911 dispatcher,” though it is unclear exactly what happened at that moment, without any eyewitnesses. American Thinker invites readers to “do the math” to determine what Martin must have been doing during times unaccounted for, again without eyewitnesses to confirm whatever suspicions the reader may adduce.

In all my reading this week, the best summary of the case I’ve encountered came from a surprising source, Slate.com’s William Saletan. His article “You Are Not Trayvon Martin” is definitely worth a read. Saletan originally intended to write an article accusing Zimmerman of racial profiling and vigilantism, but after carefully reviewing the details of the case, he realized he “had been wrong about many things.”

He concludes that Martin and Zimmerman both made mistakes that night that led to the tragic shooting, and I think he’s right. I also agree with him that…

George Zimmerman Was a Reckless Fool

Zimmerman had every reason to be suspicious of strangers in his neighborhood after a spat of crimes, but I believe his suspicions got the better of him. Neighborhood watch programs can be great tools for reducing crime, and it is admirable to be concerned for the safety of your neighbors, as Zimmerman was. But to follow and report on the movements of a suspicious person—particularly one who has not been observed in the commission of any crime—goes beyond the role of a neighborhood watch member, even a block captain.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but had Zimmerman merely phoned the police and continued on his way home—perhaps even calling some of his neighbors to warn them to also keep an eye open—the fatal encounter would never have happened. I don’t think he was out looking for a fight,but though he is not the one who initiated the physical confrontation, his actions did result in an unnecessary death. That said…

The Jury Reached the Right Verdict

Foolishness is not illegal. Once Trayvon Martin started beating him up, Zimmerman was within his legal rights to defend himself, with lethal force if necessary (which it very well may have been). But there was no evidence to find beyond a reasonable doubt that his intent was to harm Martin or to provoke him into a confrontation. In fact, I think there was strong evidence to support Zimmerman’s account of the events of that night. Once Martin began assaulting him, Zimmerman was left with few options. But he was only in that position as the result of poor choices made by both men. Again, as Saletan says, don’t “confuse acquittal with vindication.”

So Where Do We Go From Here?

Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that efforts to politicize this event one way or another are despicable, and oversimplifying the case to the point where one man is completely innocent and the other completely guilty is naïve. I can’t begin to tell non-Christians how to process this trial, but for those who are believers, two of my seminary professors have very wise counsel on the matter.

Russell Moore, whose Ethics course I took earlier this year at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently re-posted a great article (which I shared on this blog when it originally appeared two years ago) about the role of the gospel in fighting racial injustice. As the new president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Moore is one of the leading Southern Baptist voices on ethical issues, and I think he is right to focus on racial justice.

Al Mohler, the president of SBTS, has also published a wise and compassionate article that reminds us of the central tragedy of the case and the immensity of the challenge that lies ahead in our country, a challenge in which compassionate, conservative Christians must take the lead by boldly proclaiming the gospel, and living it out in every aspect of our lives.

I know this world would be a better place
The only race would be the human race
All of those barriers would be erased
Why can’t we be color blind?

Those Who Pervert the Constitution

Many words have been spilled about today’s SCOTUS ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Along with the plethora of opinions (of which everyone has one, though I’ll be keeping mine to myself for the time being) have come the predictable quote memes on the Facebook news feeds, thanks to our collective love of appealing to authority.

One meme in particular stuck out to me today, posted to the Facebook page of Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK):

I happen to applaud and agree with this quote. And it has the added virtue of being correctly attributed to our 16th president, unlike so many other Abraham Lincoln “quotes”.

These lines come from a speech Lincoln gave on September 16 & 17 in Kansas & Ohio, during his first presidential campaign. The country was in a state of increasing turmoil over the issue of slavery, with people deeply divided by strongly held convictions. In many ways, this parallels the current divide in our country over the ability for homosexuals to marry. It is somewhat ironic, then, that I have seen Lincoln quoted today by both proponents and critics of gay marriage.

So who has the better case for invoking Lincoln’s support? Let’s take a closer look at the context, shall we?

The Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling is far from its first controversial judgment. In 1857, the Court handed down the infamous Dred Scott Decision. Seven of the nine justices ruled that no slave or descendant of a slave could ever be considered a U.S. citizen. They also declared that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, meaning that Congress had no authority to tell states that slavery must be illegal (because this would be violating the 5th Amendment’s prohibition of citizens being deprived of their “property” without due process of the law).

Proponents of slavery saw this as a big win, and an opportunity to see a controversial practice legalized in more states. Abolitionists cried foul, stating that the institution of slavery was wicked, and that the nation had a moral obligation to prevent its spread. This became the most heated topic of debate between the two leading candidates in the upcoming presidential election: Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.

Douglas, citing the principle of popular sovereignty, argued that individuals should have the right to determine for themselves whether or not they would own slaves, and that no one else had the right to object. The government’s responsibility was to protect the sovereignty of the states to determine for themselves whether slavery should be allowed:

Now, I hold that Illinois had a right to abolish and prohibit slavery as she did, and I hold that Kentucky has the same right to continue and protect slavery that Illinois had to abolish it. I hold that New York had as much right to abolish slavery as Virginia has to continue it, and that each and every State of this Union is a sovereign power, with the right to do as it pleases upon this question of slavery, and upon all its domestic institutions. … And why can we not adhere to the great principle of self-government, upon which our institutions were originally based. I believe that this new doctrine preached by Mr. Lincoln and his party will dissolve the Union if it succeeds. They are trying to array all the Northern States in one body against the South, to excite a sectional war between the free States and the slave States, in order that the one or the other may be driven to the wall.

Lincoln countered that slavery was wrong, and that national policy should discourage it. He claimed that what would actually send the nation to war was trying to exist as “half Slave, half Free” (from his famous “A House Divided” speech). But, like Douglas, he affirmed the Constitutional authority granted to the states to determine their own laws. This brings us to our pertinent quote, in it’s proper context (for even more context, read the entire speech here):

We expect upon these principles to ultimately beat them. In order to do so, I think we want and must have a national policy in regard to the institution of slavery that acknowledges and deals with that institution as being wrong. Whoever desires the prevention of the spread of slavery and the nationalization of that institution yields all when he yields to any policy that either recognizes slavery as being right or as being an indifferent thing. Nothing will make you successful but setting up a policy which shall treat the thing as being wrong: When I say this, I do not mean to say that this General Government is charged with the duty of redressing or preventing all the wrongs in the world, but I do think that it is charged with preventing and redressing all wrongs which are wrongs to itself. This Government is expressly charged with the duty of providing for the general welfare. We believe that the spreading out and perpetuity of the institution of slavery impairs the general welfare. We believe–nay, we know–that that is the only thing that has ever threatened the perpetuity of the Union itself. The only thing which has ever menaced the destruction of the government under which we live is this very thing. To repress this thing, we think, is, Providing for the general welfare. Our friends in Kentucky differ from us. We need not make our argument for them, but we who think it is wrong in all its relations, or in some of them at least, must decide as to our own actions and our own course, upon our own judgment.

I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists, because the Constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so. We must not withhold an efficient Fugitive Slave law, because the Constitution requires us, as I understand it, not to withhold such a law. But we must prevent the outspreading of the institution, because neither the Constitution nor general welfare requires us to extend it. We must prevent the revival of the African slave trade, and the enacting by Congress of a Territorial slave code. We must prevent each of these things being done by either Congresses or courts. The people of these United States are the rightful masters of both Congresses and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.

With all of the obvious parallels, why might both sides of the gay marriage debate see Lincoln as being in their corner? Well, that depends on how you see slavery in relation to gay marriage.

Are homosexuals the equivalent of slaves, being deprived of their rights by a waning majority who see them as second-rate citizens, waiting for their liberation by a President who finally affirms their equal standing under the law? Or is gay marriage an immoral institution that threatens the general welfare of America, leaving the government with the duty to prevent its spread?

Chances are, no matter where you stand on the issue, you can probably make a pretty compelling case for Lincoln’s support. This is why I’m so hesitant to rely on quotes from historical figures as a primary means of building a case for contemporary ethical and Constitutional problems. I just don’t think Abraham Lincoln is all that helpful on the issue of gay marriage.

Incidentally, I find it interesting that the one area in which Lincoln and Douglas at least appeared to agree was on the affirmation of the Constitution’s delegation to the States or the people the authority to decide on matters not delegated to the federal government. Which is why perhaps the greatest irony of all is that, fewer than four years after the Lincoln-Douglas debates ended, President Lincoln issued an Executive Order which emancipated slaves in the “rebellious states”, a clear violation of both his campaign promises and the 10th Amendment.

Considering how slavery is now universally (and rightly) abhorred by Americans, and how Lincoln has been perpetually venerated as a hero for “doing the right thing”, it should probably come as no surprise that all parties in the gay marriage debate seem to be content with nothing less than a national solution. And why not? Lincoln’s our guy, right?

Lower Salaries for Tennessee Teachers?

Today the Tennessee State Board of Education will vote on a change to the State Minimum Salary Structure, which would result in lowering the minimum amount that public schools are required to pay their teachers. Predictably, many Tennessee teachers aren’t too happy about this. They claim that this will result in “decreased lifetime earnings” for all teachers, which has led to nearly 6,000 signatures on a petition to “protect fair and equitable pay” for teachers.

At the risk of making this my least popular blog post ever, I have a confession to make: I don’t get the outrage.

Don’t get me wrong. I love school teachers. My dad is a public school teacher, as are a great many of my friends, colleagues, and church family members. I have no desire to see any of them make a lower income. I just don’t see how the proposed changes would hurt any of them. In fact, this ought to be seen as a positive step toward improving Tennessee schools.

The purpose of the proposal is to give schools greater flexibility in their hiring. The changes are only to the minimum salary that a teacher can be offered; most school systems already pay more than the minimum, which will undoubtedly remain the case. Schools that are willing to pay higher salaries will still attract better teachers, which is why the Tennessee Education Association’s claim that teachers will have “no incentive” to seek advanced degrees is baloney.

Of course, one reality that many teachers do not want to have to face is that the laws of supply and demand are working against them. There are simply more people with education degrees than there are jobs for teachers. Ask an economics teacher what that would mean for salaries in any profession that wasn’t funded by tax dollars.

Here’s what a lower minimum salary will do for Tennessee schools and teachers:

  • Schools willing to pay competitive salaries will be more attractive to better teachers, which should in turn provide incentive for other school systems to pay more than the minimum.
  • Schools that cannot afford to pay above the minimum will be able to hire more teachers, resulting in fewer unemployed teachers.
  • Prospective college students concerned about the possibility of earning a lower salary will be less likely to major in education, reducing the surplus of qualified teachers, and increasing the relative value of those who are great teachers.
  • Under-performing* teachers will not receive automatic raises, becoming less of a burden on Tennessee tax payers.

The bottom line is this: These changes will make the market for good teachers more competitive, and competition is a good thing. The cream will still rise to the top, and the pressure on smaller, less-funded school districts will be eased. If you’re a great teacher, there will be schools willing to pay you for your talents. If you’re a newly certified teacher struggling to find a job, this will make you more employable. If you’re not a good teacher, it’s time to be willing to bring home a lower paycheck or consider another line of work. There are plenty of teachers willing to take your place.

I, for one, hope this proposal passes. Not because I don’t value teachers, but because I do.

* Note: By “under-performing” I am not referring to test scores. I agree with the TEA (and every teacher I’ve ever known) that test-based evaluation of teachers is a terrible idea. But let’s be honest. There are some teachers who are content to merely come to work and collect a pay check. There are also a great many excellent teachers who consistently go above-and-beyond. Save the pay raises for them!

Secret Church at the MIX

Secret Church 2013

This evening, our church will be participating in the Secret Church simulcast with David Platt. This is the 13th Secret Church event, and I’ve been blessed to participate in the last seven. It’s always fantastic, and I’m sure tonight will be no different!

At each SC event, Pastor David Platt of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, teaches on a topic for about six hours, with times of musical worship and prayer for the persecuted church around the world interspersed throughout the night. This year’s prayer focus is for the Hui people, an ethnic minority in China that is predominantly Muslim.

Tonight’s topic is “Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World.” While I don’t know exactly how Platt will approach teaching about the End Times, the promo video gives a very encouraging preview:

Based on this video, and on a familiarity with Platt’s teaching style, here are some things I expect to happen tonight:

Mix of Individual and General Eschatology

Whereas most teaching events on the topic of eschatology that I’ve attended have been focused on the timing & manner of Christ’s return, I expect Platt to spend much more time teaching about the eternal fate of individual believers and nonbelievers. With this focus, a study of the doctrine of the future is one of the greatest motivators of evangelism. David Platt never opens his mouth without calling Christians to take the gospel to the lost, always stressing the extreme urgency of this mission. This is as it should be!

Focus on Unity Rather Than Division

There’s a joke that’s been around for quite some time that “the millennium is 1000 years of peace that Christians like to fight about.” Eschatology, sadly, is one of the most divisive doctrines among Christians. People tend to either be very passionate about their beliefs regarding the end of time, or to be ambivalent (which has a tendency to upset the passionate folks!), choosing to focus on other things. If anybody can teach what is sure to be a diverse group of believers in a way that unites believers around the gospel rather than dividing on millennial fault lines, it will be David Platt. Besides, whether you’re “pre-mill”, “a-mill”, or “post-mill”, you have WAY more in common with those of different eschatological persuasions than you have in difference. I expect Platt to highlight these unifying themes.

The Millennium is Now

That said, I doubt he’s going to teach for six hours without “planting a flag” somewhere. While I am sure Platt will endeavor to present other views fairly and accurately, I expect tonight’s teaching to lean slightly toward an amillennial perspective, as this seems to be the bent of his teaching in his books and sermons. This happens to be my own personal view (which has changed somewhat over the last five years after much study and prayer), but for those who hold to different views, don’t worry! I expect him to highlight the best aspects of other perspectives rather than highlighting areas of disagreement. I doubt anyone will walk away anything but encouraged and edified!

Incidentally, most of our church staff and members are Dispensationalists, and we all get along just fine! I’m thankful to serve on a staff that is united around the centrality of the Gospel rather than divided over peripheral doctrines. For a great book that models cooperation between Dispensationalists and Amillennialists, check out Understanding Dispensationlists by Amillennialist Vern Poythress (my review).

Join Us!

The simulcast at Stevens Street is being hosted by The MIX, our college ministry. However, this is NOT just for college students! All church members are invited to attend and study with us. There is no cost to attend, though if you are able to contribute, donations will be appreciated to help offset the cost to the college ministry. Study guides will be available (as long as our supply lasts!) for $5. Let me know if you want one and I’ll put your name on it.

If you’d like to come, join us in the MIX room, Building H at SSBC (this is the building on Short St. across from the youth building). If you’d like to come early, there will be a spaghetti dinner in the Fellowship Hall starting at 5:00, with proceeds benefiting the family of Roger Vinson, one of our church members recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The cost of the dinner will be $5.

Related Resources

I’ll bring copies of all the books listed below tonight, in case anyone would like to browse or borrow any of them:

Books by David Platt:

Sermons by David Platt:

Recommended reading on personal and general eschatology:

Other:

  • An Evening of Eschatology [Video] — A roundtable discussion on the millennium moderated by John Piper
  • Endtimes Q&A — A helpful series of videos summarizing the four predominant views of eschatology
  • Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium — Examples of how one baptist pastor and seminary professor (Sam Storms) changed his beliefs from premillennialism to amillennialism, and how another (Tom Schreiner) changed his mind in the opposite direction.

Gun Violence and the Second Amendment

In my last post, I demonstrated through historical documents what I believe to be clear: that the 2nd Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights with the express purpose of giving American citizens the ability to defend themselves against all aggressors, particularly the American military. Today I want to say just a few things about specific gun-related issues that have come to the forefront of public discussion in the last month.

On Banning “Assault Weapons”

Most of the debate lately has been centered on various efforts to introduce legislation restricting the sale, transfer, and manufacture of so-called “assault weapons”, particularly the proposed Assault Weapons Bill from Senator Dianne Feinstein. Naturally, emotions tend to run very high on this issue. I can certainly understand the Senator’s especially passionate abhorrence of gun violence; being a witness to the aftermath of the grisly murders of two colleagues is bound to leave a mark. Still, emotions must not be allowed to cloud judgment on either side of the gun control debate.

So first off, let me say a word about the terminology used in the debate. It’s important to note that the term “assault weapon” didn’t exist before 1989, though the purveyors of Newspeak who created the term have done an excellent job convincing many that the weapons in this category — chosen arbitrarily based on their cosmetic appearance rather than on functionality — are particularly “dangerous”. The truth about “assault weapons” is that there is nothing inherent in them that makes them better suited for “assault” than for any other use (defense, sporting, hunting, etc).

Incidentally, the “AR” in the oft-villified AR-15 does NOT stand for “Assault Rifle”. It is the designation for the gun’s designer,  ArmaLite.inc, which uses the AR prefix on all of their handguns and rifles (not just the scary-looking ones).

Personally, I’d like to see the term “assault weapon” reserved for weapons that have actually been used in assaulting someone. For instance, the revolver used to kill George Moscone and Harvey Milk was an assault weapon. The revolver used by a mother to ward off an intruder in her Georgia home recently was a defensive weapon.

By my definition, I would say that we do need a ban on “assault weapons”. But, of course, we already have that. Using a weapon to perpetrate a crime is already illegal in all 50 states. I am all for stricter enforcement of laws prohibiting rape, murder, burglary (etc.) and harsher punishments for those who commit them. But banning more weapons and adding more gun control laws only takes the means of defense away from law-abiding citizens.

“Nobody Is Trying to Take Guns from Hunters”

One thing the gun control advocates keep throwing out there is the “reassurance” that they have no intention of taking guns away from hunters. They only want to take away the guns that are meant to kill people. You know, like AR-15′s.

So, of course, gun owners are quick to argue that some people do hunt with AR-15′s. True as that may be, why is it that they feel the need to offer that defense in the first place? It only validates the false premise that guns intended for protection from people are not covered by the second amendment.

Of course, no law-abiding citizen wants to use a weapon against a person. The vast majority of guns owned by Americans are never needed in defensive situations (as it should be!). But the fact remains that there are bad people in the world. If there weren’t, there would be no need for anyone to own a weapon — including the police and military.

So what happens when the police and the military are the bad guys?

Please note that I am NOT saying that this is a present reality; but I AM saying that this is precisely the potential reality against which the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect. Lest we think that this could never happen, consider the sobering reality that death by government was the #1 cause of death worldwide in the 20th century, and that the modus operandi of tyrannical governments always includes attempting to disarm the people… including His Majesty King George, whose soldiers marched on Lexington and Concord in 1775. (Think the men who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights didn’t know a gun could kill a man as well as a deer?)

With that being the case, what is wrong with saying that you know exactly what purposes a gun can serve, and that its ability to neutralize a threat — including the threat of hostile, well-trained and well-armed agents of one’s own government — is exactly the reason you want it?

How YOU Benefit from Concealed Carry Rights

While the “gun control” and “gun rights” camps engage in a duel of statistics to try to prove their respective cases, the most important statistic relative to gun violence is one that can’t be reported because it can’t be known: the number of crimes that are not committed due to the deterrent factor of CCW rights.

How many homes are not burgled because the residents might be armed? How many women are not raped because they might have guns? How many public gatherings are not the scenes of mass shootings because someone, anyone might have the means to stop it? There’s simply no way to know.

What we do know is that the vast majority of “successful” (in the worst sense of the word) mass shootings in the last several decades have taken place in locations in which guns were banned, meaning that all law-abiding citizens were unarmed. I don’t know… maybe it’s a coincidence.

And this is to say nothing of the countless (and largely unreported) instances each year in which responsible gun owners are able to defend themselves and others from would-be attackers — in most cases without firing a shot (as in this instance right here in TN just a few days ago). Whether they realize it or not, all American citizens benefit from the presence and discipline of millions of responsible gun owners. For the record, I would say that whether I was personally a gun owner or not.

Which, by the way, I won’t say; not online. It seems that most on the “gun rights” side of the issue tend to either proudly identify themselves as gun owners, or are quick to clarify that they feel strongly about the issue though they choose not to own weapons themselves. I am thankful that Americans have the right to decide for themselves whether they want to own or carry a gun, and I respect the decisions of others to follow their own convictions. But honestly, I’d rather just not say. When criminals know you’re unarmed, you become a target. The same is true when they know that you are armed (as seen recently where names and addresses of gun owners were published by a terribly irresponsible newspaper). The security is in the uncertainty.

The Last Word (for now…)

My greatest wish in all this is that both sides would tone down the vitriol, and start reasoning together from common ground. Everyone involved in this debate — from Mitch McConnell to Dianne Feinstein, from Sean Hannity to Piers Morgan, from the President of the NRA to the President of the USA — everyone agrees on one goal: reducing gun violence in America. Sure, they disagree vehemently on the strategies for doing so, and on their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, but the one thing that is sure to not work is maintaining the status quo. And until we can move past the rhetoric of vilification and have an honest, thoughtful, passionate debate with the goal of working together toward something we all want, we’re going nowhere.

Resources

Here are a few other resources you might enjoy:

A well-spoken advocate for responsible gun ownership: