Guest Post: Gun Control, Mental Illness, and the Christian Response

My friend JoHannah (you can read more about her at the end of this post) has provided this post, with her perspective on some current issues. It’s an important reminder to step back and respond in a way that honors Christ.

When tragedy strikes, we Americans want to solve everything immediately. We often use the suffering of others to highlight what we consider an injustice or imbalance in our society, so we lobby for change–as we’ve seen with the recent emphasis on gun control and mental illness in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut. I’m not saying that’s bad, but I am pretty certain that no matter what legislations we pass, we have a bigger problem with both things than our country can pass laws to handle.

I understand that both guns and mental illness are ongoing problems in our society, but I am alarmed at the simplistic way many are dealing with it by lobbying for their rights. Many young men I know are passionately defending the right to bear arms, yet they live in a safe, rural environment with no threat to their lives. They know nothing of the gang wars that plague the inner city or how to deal with the hundreds of deaths there every day.

I also have friends who work with those who are mentally ill. Most understand that no matter how many laws and rules we set up, some will slip through the cracks and wreak havoc on the innocent. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to set up a better system, but we must be aware that all the laws in the world are not going to completely solve this problem.

So what should we do? We should become informed before we rant and rave. While others are laying blame and debate all the different political stances, Christians should be listening instead of reacting. They should be gathering as much information as they possibly can to make sure they have a good grasp of the issues and not assume that what they’ve always thought is the best answer for the society we live in today.

Jesus asked us to put ourselves in the place of others when he gave us the Golden Rule and told us to treat others as we’d like them to treat us. Stories such as the “Good Samaritan” expand our definition of who is our neighbor, demanding that we do something rather than rant or lay blame. It also means that we need to get to know our neighbors enough to actually understand what is best for them.

Many of us are proud of standing for our faith. We are glad to fight for our rights as Christians and proclaim loudly what we believe. But what is going to make others believe what we say is true? According to James 2:18 (“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”), it’s what we do that often makes the strongest case for our faith. What we do is going to be more powerful than what we say. The old parental adage “Do as I say and not as I do” has become something to ridicule rather than take to heart. Every parent knows their actions speak much louder than their words.

So what does that mean for the issues of gun control and mental illness? It means that if we are going to spend time crying out about our rights, we’d better first get involved enough to understand the issues. Do you believe gun control is wrong? Then go talk to someone who is in an inner-city church who has lost members to gun violence. Do they think gun control will help stop the violence or escalate it? Find out what they think about the matter before you jump on the bandwagon of what makes sense to you in the suburbs or smaller towns.

If you are irate that those with mental illness are not being properly cared for, talk to those who actually work with the mentally ill to get their perspective. Don’t assume that you know all the answers if you have never been involved with someone who is mentally ill.

And most of all, slow down. Before you spout your opinion, make sure you really know what you are talking about. And be humble enough to ask God to show you if you are wrong.

JoHannah Reardon blogs at johannahreardon.com and is the author of seven fictional books and two devotional guides.

© 2013 Amy Simpson.