Christianity Under Attack: Charles Marsh Addresses NRA Impact in Religion and Politics

Charles Marsh, Charles Marsh to Deliver 25th Annual Harry Vaughan Smith LecturesOn a Gospel Approach to Gun Control in America

On January 3rd, Project Director Charles Marsh published his latest essay in Religion and Politics. The piece, entitled “The NRA’s Assault on Christian Faith and Practice,” traces the American response to the laws regulating and statistics surrounding gun ownership and examines their underlying ties with Christianity today. Regardless of political affiliation, Marsh argues careful reflection of the Christian response to the ongoing gun epidemic is required by all to remain true to the teachings of the Gospel. Indeed, with gun violence and resulting death tolls on the rise throughout the country, the church and its members can afford to do no less.

In the essay, Marsh writes:

“On issues related to gun violence, safety, and regulation, evangelicals clearly need, and deserve, a more theologically robust discussion. A good start might be formulating questions for reflection and study, such as: Are there aspects of American gun culture that contradict or confuse the message of the Gospel? (If so, let’s name them.) Have evangelicals sought to understand gun violence in America under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with prayerful discernment of practical solutions? How can followers of Jesus preserve the distinctive speech and practices of Christian witness from the religion of the NRA, whose distinctive speech and practices cluster around the promise of overwhelming force? Under what conditions, if any, should the Christian lay down his or her arms? Does the support of the American gun lobby bring glory to God?…

It is of course the right of every law-abiding citizen to own a gun and of institutions, including churches, to think diligently about public safety and effective policing practices. Such matters have been heavy on the minds of my colleagues and compatriots in Charlottesville, Virginia, as we’ve tried to understand why our university and town were overrun by gun-wielding white supremacists on August 11 and 12 of last summer, with precious few interventions by university, local, and state police. But it is the responsibility of every person baptized into “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (II Corinthians 13:14) to engage the world with new habits of thought, speech, and behavior. Our reckoning as Christians with the “costs of discipleship” may not lead to the judgment that an armed church or gun ownership is behavior displeasing to God. But it must disrupt the easy alliance that currently prevails between the NRA and American evangelicals.”

Read the paper in full here.

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and the director of the Project on Lived Theology. His research interests include modern Christian thought, religion and civil rights, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and lived theology.

For more of featured writings of our PLT Contributors, click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter,@LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyWrites. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.