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God and guns

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 13:43
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Political commentator, Dana Loesch, was recently featured in an NRA News Commentary, titled, “The Godless Left,”  wherein viewers are treated to a diatribe against what is claimed to be a monolithic left wing of the American political spectrum.  These evil people supposedly have contempt for history and rights, are lacking in values, but will use shaming and silencing to achieve their goals.  They even hate Christmas.

There is so much here that needs addressed.  I hear frequently that the United States is a Christian nation, but we can’t just leave the claim as is.  What, exactly, does it mean?  The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christian—three out of every four, more or less—but that number has been declining lately.  But in legal terms, this country is secular.  Contrary to Loesch’s implication, though, secular doesn’t mean “Godless.”  It simply means that our government has to be neutral with regard to religion, including the constitutional ban on establishment.  In fact, the only mentions of religion are to be found in the Sixth Article barring a religious test for holding public office and in the First Amendment, which as I said, requires government and religion to keep hands off the other.

This fact about the United States is reinforced by a couple of documents, one a letter and the other a treaty, written in our early days.  Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut that “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions.”  This was in response to the concerns of the Baptists over the then established denomination of Congregationalism.  Someone may say that this was only a letter, though it expresses the opinion of the sitting president.  A treaty, however holds legal standing.  The Treaty of Tripoli between the United States and Tripolitania in an effort to stop piracy in the Mediterranean, and in doing so, in Article XI it assures the North African nation that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”  The point here was to make plain the fact that any time we involved ourselves in conflict, that action did not come from a religious motivation—that what we did to defend our sailors was not a new crusade.

But a nation is more than its laws.  One of my main themes is that we gun owners need to embrace people of all beliefs and backgrounds, so long as they accept the principle that each of us has the right to make choices about our own lives.  This isn’t about empathy or political correctness.  It’s basic marketing and survival.  The more people we have on our side, the more secure our rights will be.  Loesch’s attack on what she calls the “Godless left” only encourages undecided people to believe the stereotype of the white, Christian, male gun owner.

To speak personally for a moment, Loesch would likely call me Godless, at least if she insists on capitalizing the word, since I’m not a member of the majority religion.  I don’t align with either major political party, though I support a number of positions typically labeled as left wing.  But despite what Loesch seems to think, I don’t know of any large disagreement that she and I would have on the question of gun rights.  Polarizing gun owners as she does with her commentary and as the NRA all too often does only subjects the protection of our rights to the vagaries of political fortune.

And it may have the effect of driving some people out of our group.  Imagine someone who is non-religious and generally on the political left, but who also supports gun ownership, while not being a gun owner or while not spending much time exercising gun rights.  I came into the gun-rights position because I realized that protecting rights separately is a sure way to lose them all.  As a writer, I always valued the protections of the First Amendment and realized that if the right to own and carry firearms can be interpreted as collective, so can speech and the press.  Today, I’m an enthusiast with regard to guns.  But not everyone on this side is as active, and if we force identification with the Republican Party or the right wing, we’ll lose people.  More importantly, we won’t gain many who could join us.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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