As a leading American evangelical reverend to Washington, D.C., officials and president of the Faith and Action Christian outreach ministry, Rob Schenck took on the controversial topic of choices about guns and morality in a special opinion piece this week to The Washington Post. He said he now believes his "family of faith is wrong on guns."
Evangelicals are among the biggest gun rights' supporters, began Schenck, but "they are the major religious group least likely to support stricter laws."
He cited Evangelical Larry Pratt, director of Gun Owners of America, who said he said believes all Christians should be armed.
Schenck said he believed everyone had a God-given right to defend ourselves. "I also believed that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and that anyone should be able to obtain a gun."
Then he said his opinion began to change after seeing the after-effects of gun violence firsthand.
He said he visited the families of five Amish schoolgirls who were murdered in Pennsylvania, as well as the family of the shooter.
As someone who lived across from the Washington Navy Yard, he said he also watch a mass shooting unfold.
Schenck confessed the real-life experiences, followed by careful theological and moral reflection, left him convinced that his "family of faith is wrong on guns," even though he revealed it wasn't easy for him to admit as an evangelical pastor for the last 41 years.
Having attended an evangelical college and seminary, he was ordained an evangelical minister, and now chairs the Evangelical Church Alliance, one of America's oldest associations of evangelical clergy. "My Christian identity is solidly evangelical," he reassured readers.
Schenck said he now disagrees with the wholesale embrace of the concept that anyone should be able to buy a gun. "For one thing, our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threats to human life. And our belief in the basic sinfulness of humankind should make us skeptical of the NRA's slogan, 'The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.'"
The Bible indicates we are all bad guys sometimes, Schenck reminds.
"Additionally, anyone using a gun for defense must be ready to kill. Such a posture is antithetical to the term 'evangelical,' which refers to the 'evangel,' or gospel," he said.
"The gospel begins with God's love for every human and calls on Christians to be more Christ-like. At no time did Jesus use deadly force. Although He once allowed his disciples to defend themselves with "a sword," that permission came with a limitation on the number of weapons they could possess."
Numerous Bible passages, such as Exodus 22:2-3, strictly limit the use of deadly force. He said too many evangelicals ignore this.
"Instead, they jump on a secular bandwagon of fear mongering, contempt and bravado to gin up support for gun rights," stated Schenck. "To me, turning from Christian to secular sources on a paramount moral question indicates a failure in faith."
He referenced the situation was a "spiritual crisis," and said some people have accused him of "siding with the enemy," or even aiding those who are annihilating Christians in the Middle East.
Despite this criticism, he vowed he won't be silent on this gun-related issue. "The Christian gospel should quell our fears and remind us of our Christ-like obligation to love all people, even those who intend us harm. This generous view of the world calls us to demonstrate God's love toward others, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what religion they practice. Assuming a permanently defensive posture against others, especially when it includes a willingness to kill, is inimical to a life of faith."
The impulse to protect oneself is natural, especially after terrorist attacks, Schenck said. "But evangelicals must be careful that the noble language of self-defense is not used to cloak a more insidious lust for revenge.
"We must turn away from our fears, base human instincts and prejudices, and turn toward the example of Jesus in word and deed."