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Leftists Fight "Gundamentalism" By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, July 07, 2008

The “God Not Guns” coalition is predictably upset about the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning the Washington, D.C., handgun ban.

“It will embolden adherents of GUNdamentalism in their belief in the inerrancy of the 2nd Amendment,” intoned the Rev. Rachel Smith, coalition founder and chief.  “Gundamentalism is a religious movement without spiritual grounding.  Rather, it is rooted in the sale and promotion of violence.”

A project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the “God Not Guns” coalition includes agencies of the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and the National Council of Churches, along with several Jewish groups.  The American Humanist Association is also a member, suggesting a very wide definition of “god” in the name of opposing gun ownership and “gundamentalism.”

“Gundamentalism encourages fear, teaching us to see each other as "The Other," a potential enemy, a threat endangering our family, our home, our person,” insists Rev. Smith, who is a clergywoman in the American Baptist denomination.  “Gundamentalism creates a culture of fear then offers a seductive promise: with a gun one can live with out fear.  It offers power, freedom, self-determination and protection all in the metal casing of a gun.  With the gun as its icon, the 2nd Amendment as its creed, gundamentalism proclaims that nothing is as sacred as the right to own a gun.”

Mockingly, the “God Not Guns” coalition labels as “gundamentalist” nearly anyone who is skeptical about gun control as a panacea for all gun crimes.   The Religious Left almost always slams its political adversaries as “fundamentalist,” while itself offering its own simplistic political solutions, which purportedly will build God’s Kingdom.   In the minds of “God Not Guns,” all the “violence” will end when guns are snatched away from private owners and are the exclusive preserve of a collective authority.

More traditional religious traditions, with their awareness of fallen humanity’s complexities, are more distrustful of human nature, both individually and collectively.  The so-called “gundamentalists” understand that no gun control, even if ruthlessly imposed by a police state, could plausibly keep all guns away from thieves and killers.  They know that “violence” is not an abstract social force but the consequence of deliberate human sin. Criminal violence cannot be completely eliminated.  But it can often be deterred.  And a widely defused gun ownership seems likelier to contain criminal violence and thievery than a disarmed population completely dependent on the state.

According to the “God Not Guns” coalition, “gundamentalism” blinds “us to our own connection to the Divine.  How can we reach toward God with arms open wide if in one hand we are clutching a gun?”  In typical Religious Left style, Rev. Smith asks:  “Where do we place our trust - In God or in guns?  Who do we serve -  God or the 2nd Amendment?  Where do we find a sense of security, self-worth, and purpose - from God or from guns? How do we bring about God's Kingdom - with an open heart or with a gun in hand?

A “gundamentalist” may ask Rev. Smith where she places her trust:  in God, or in gun control and in the coercive powers of centralized government?  And is reliance upon the state’s legitimate police powers not also dependent upon armed force?  Or is Rev. Smith a complete pacifist, insisting that even law enforcement forsake “violence” and rely exclusively on peaceful persuasion?  “Gun ownership may now be called a constitutional right, but it has nothing to do with the desire of the soul,” implores the clergywoman.  But unlike much of the Religious Left, the so-called gundamentalists do not reflexively insist that their political objectives will usher in the Kingdom of God.  The Religious Left, so often unable to see beyond its own temporal goals, assumes that its political adversaries are likewise prone to interchanging the political with the transcendent.  

“The gun-rights movement is built upon a system of belief that is both absolutist and aggressive,” frets Rev. Smith.  “It has its sacred text, its creed, its icon and its ideology.    According to its doctrine, only the right to own firearms offers protection against tyranny at the hands of criminals, foreign terrorists, even our own government. Its followers believe they are in a cosmic struggle to protect America’s most cherished value: freedom.”  Unaware of the irony, Rev. Smith seems to have erected her own alternative Manichaean cosmology, in which idolatrous gun owners stand between her and the Millennium.

Scriptures for Christians and Jews fault murder and theft on human hatred and covetousness, not on weapons, which are morally neutral, to be employed for good or evil.  But the “God Not Guns” coalition prefers to blame inanimate objects rather the corruptions of the human heart.  The Religious Left typically locates salvation in legislation, not God.  And its secularized salvation inevitably demands the expansion of state power at the expense of the individual.   Who, then, are the real “idolaters?”

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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