That's what America's gun control debate is proving to be.
Aurora and Newtown have ignited simmering tensions among students of the Second Amendment, and this week, President Obama's task force, chaired by the blatantly non-partisan Joe Biden, seems to only be exacerbating things.
If our White House had wanted to truly explore this issue rationally, would they have asked the National Rifle Association to moderate the commission? Of course not, but having Biden chair it is just as indicative of the president's scorched-earth diplomacy. It's as if Democrats want to pick a fight over this issue, in addition to the president's contentious nomination this week of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of State, if only to further exacerbate the fissures in our increasingly fragile republic.
It's the Violence, Stupid
For most opponents of more gun control, it's obvious that America's gun violence isn't as much a problem with guns as it is with violence, since so few Americans are killed in gun violence relative to the number of guns and gun owners we have in our country. Yet we have a big problem with violence.
Violence, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. We consider aggression to be a normal component of capitalism, otherwise we wouldn't tolerate the profits people earn on violent video games and movies. We have a problem with aggression among pupils in our schools. We have a problem with drunk driving, in which innocent people can meet a violent death because somebody else preferred to drink instead of value life. Abuse within personal relationships can be both physical and psychological, with spouses killing each other in a wild rage, teens turning on their parents, and parents killing their own children (even in the womb). Sometimes conflicts between employees and their employers result in somebody getting hurt or killed.
Take guns out of the picture, and we'd still have violence.
Gun control advocates, on the other hand, have a hard time understanding why anybody really needs things like semi-automatic assault rifles. Who goes hunting with those? Would the writers of the Second Amendment have said what they said about guns, had they known the type of weaponry their progeny would invent in the future? If banning guns saves even one life, wouldn't it have been worth it?
How You View Guns Depends on How You View Government
Buried beneath these arguments, of course, is a subtle yet crucial difference in the way America's gun control opponents and advocates view the role of government. You can see it in yesterday's contentious interplay between CNN's Piers Morgan and Brietbart.com's Ben Shapiro, when Shapiro tried to describe a scenario of government tyranny as a reason to keep civilians armed, and Morgan scorned him for sounding "absurd."
Shapiro and others take the view that little stands between a government's abuse of power and the people it would want to abuse. Our government prints the money we use, it controls the airwaves we use to communicate, and its military might could today flatten any city in the country within a matter of minutes. Realistically, we citizens are already - literally - outgunned, but should the situation ever become dire enough, not knowing for sure who has what types of weaponry in their homes can at least provide a modest deterrent for state tyranny.
To people like Morgan, however, such a scenario reeks of conspiracist quackery, foolish warmongering, and hysterical fear. Many Americans trust our government, if for no other reason than it seems so beneficent. Sure, it might be a bit rule-happy, and parts of it aren't well-organized of efficient, but look at all it's done for us. The Hoover Dam, spacewalks, Social Security - what's there to fear, besides a few traffic cops or IRS agents?
Maybe there's little to fear, at least right now. But as Shapiro tried to tell Morgan yesterday, history isn't on our side. Totalitarianism has a habit of consuming non-vigilant citizens, and even though worries about being able to buy guns for protection against the government may sound goofy today, will they sound as goofy a generation from now? All you have to do is look at our government's new healthcare legislation and how it's impacting companies like Hobby Lobby to see how we've already started on that slippery slope.
Conservatives see the lawsuits piling up against Obamacare, and wonder what else is next. Ordering religious leaders to stop teaching their religion's doctrine about heterosexuality? Not to mention homosexuality? This isn't just a threat to Christianity, but to Judaism, and Islam as well.
Is Freedom in Christ Also Freedom for Guns?
At the same time, however, might conservatives feeling threatened by too much government power also be assuming too much when it comes to their own political liberty? One of the reasons we have nanny-state rule-creep in the United States is because we individuals can do some pretty stupid things, and eventually, enough people feel it's better to have the government step in and protect themselves from such stupidity. The fact is, we don't always treat our political freedoms responsibly.
It's not like the freedom Christ secures for us through God's grace is the same type of political freedom we keep angling for, anyway. Freedom in Christ is not a freedom to carry semi-automatic weaponry, or drive a car, or surf the Internet during church. So to the extent that conservatives of faith are expending a lot of energy protesting gun control measures, how much of that is wasted energy? In terms of the Kingdom of God, what difference does gun control make?
Perhaps it could be argued that gun control is one of American society's slippery slopes, much like the Obamacare legislation being resisted by Hobby Lobby. Give the government an inch, and they'll take a mile. At least, eventually. What will that mean for religious freedom in our country?
Consider the fact that God never guarantees His people a government that allows religious freedom. But He does guarantee that He will never leave us. "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid," Paul reminds us in Hebrews 13:6. "What can man do to me?"
Well, you say; man can take away my guns and my ability to defend myself. Man can take over my country and deprive me of religious freedoms and other civil liberties. Man can try to force me to pay for medical procedures I believe to be sinful. Man can make me perform slave labor in concentration camps, like the government of North Korea is doing this very moment to our brothers and sisters in Christ in that country.
But man cannot separate us from God. Amen? Man cannot remove the Holy Spirit from us. Yes, thankfully, here in the United States, we citizens have the right - and indeed, the obligation - to defend our country's traditional principles of religious freedom and human rights, and we should not shirk from that task. But should we allow ourselves to be consumed by it?
Does God Need America's Guns, or Our Control of Them?
God doesn't need America's political freedoms for His Kingdom purposes to be accomplished. Political freedom is for our benefit, not God's. We're the ones who think our government can hamstring us and our plans. Meanwhile, the church in oppressive places like China is reportedly flourishing.
So, which is more important? Spending the resources God gives us to defend gun rights? Or spending the resources God gives us to participate in His expansion of His Kingdom here in the United States, and around the world?
How do we know which is more important? By what our heart is telling us to do in accordance with His eternal Word. And frankly, it's impossible to argue that hoarding weaponry is a fruit of the Spirit.
It's not that we need to pick our battles wisely. It's that the battles that count have already been won. We will all be held accountable for how we've spent the time, energy, relationships, finances, social media accounts, votes, words, and desires that God has given us here on His Earth.
Not that resisting further gun control legislation isn't worth the bother. But if we let gun control bother us more than those other things God expects us to be bothered about, that's when we have a serious problem, isn't it?