In Good Faith

Is it possible that we idolize guns in American culture? That is, do Americans trust in guns to keep us safe more than we trust in God? 

Jeff Scholes - Agnostic

Jeffrey Scholes, Ph.D., is an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Historically, since the onset of monotheism, idolatry has been a major issue — the Golden Calf for Moses, the money changers in the Temple for Jesus, the pagan gods of the Arabian peninsula for Muhammad — and all were violently destroyed in some way by these iconoclastic leaders. So, does a gun rise to this level of idol that must be destroyed? My gut says no. However, guns have become this kind of weird security blanket for those who fear the government, BLM protests or one’s neighbor. As a pathetic extension of one’s own impotence, guns only run cover for that impotence while potentially threatening the lives of our fellow citizens. Cradling a gun for security may not equal worship or idolatry, but it comes dangerously close. 

Arnie Bass - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints

Arnie Bass is a bishop at Sunset Mesa Ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Colorado Springs. He has served in positions of both spiritual and administrative responsibility since 1991.

For the criminals it is the “Glock,” not “God.” For the mainstream, I believe many want the means to protect themselves and their families; including locks on doors and windows, video surveillance, weapons and yes, prayer. I can very easily envision many Christians praying to Heavenly Father for daily protection. It would be the exception for many to start their day without having first asked God for both his spiritual and physical protection. Praying for the best, but being prepared for the worst. God does grant unto man agency and permits him to use it for good or for evil. In addition to asking for His help, I believe God expects us to do all that we can to provide for and help ourselves.

David Gardiner - Buddhist

David Gardiner is an associate professor in the Colorado College Religion Department, specializing in Buddhism and religions of China and Japan, and is co-founder and director of BodhiMind Center.

I believe the relationship many Americans have with guns is pathological. Not all gun owners idolize their possession, but those who do suffer from insecurity, paranoia, susceptibility to conspiracy theories, likely racism and other disorders. Similarly, some idolize the power of the military and police to keep our world and communities safe. Missing is a consensus to care for one another just as we care for ourselves. We have a violence fetish in America that profoundly damages our individual and collective well-being. As some bible scholars say, perhaps one source is the image of the angry, retributive God of the Hebrew bible that remains strong in our Christianity, despite Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek, to practice forgiveness. Regardless, we need to grow. 

Ahriana Platten - New Thought- Unity

Dr. Ahriana Platten is founder-executive director of In Good Faith, leads Unity Spiritual Center and speaks around the country on the topics of interfaith and intercultural understanding.

Generally, I don’t believe we idolize guns over God, but we certainly have an interesting relationship with them. I know people who use their guns for hunting, and I know a lot of people who own guns to be able to protect themselves from intruders. I wouldn’t say any of these people worship or hold guns as sacred. Instead, those I know have a healthy respect for guns and their dangers, and are, to the best of my knowledge, sane and rational. We need stronger gun laws to address the problems that occur when people who are insane and irrational purchase and use guns to cause harm, intimidate and wreak havoc in our country.