SUMMARY: As humans, most of the time we want complex issues to be solved easily. For instance, if individuals with guns are targeting churches, then members of churches should carry guns to counteract the threat. While on the surface that may seem like the logical thing to do, and certainly a good portion of Americans would agree, as Christians we must consider what the Bible has to say. In Whom Shall I Fear? author and pastor Rosalind C. Hughes doesn’t say whether a church should hire armed security or not, but invites the reader to take a step back and answer the question, “What is the church and what is its mission,” before deciding how to deal with the violent culture we live in.
“This book is not designed to tell a congregation how to keep their church and community safe from harm, crime, or evil intent,” Hughes writes. “There are plenty of agencies, individuals, and programs expertly designed for that purpose. Rather, this is an opportunity to take a step back from the fear, especially fear.”
While useful to flesh out one’s own thoughts on violence and how a Christian should react, Whom Shall I Fear? was penned to be read and grappled with in community, perhaps one chapter at a time. Each of the nine chapters are short, but meaty with complicated, weighty questions sprinkled throughout. The book would be a perfect starting place for a church board or denominational group to put together a statement on violence.
Hughes does a good job of stripping away the contentious talking points that bog down so many conversations and appeals to the example of our self-sacrificing Savior.
“The overarching question for churches responding to an era of violence in America is how to overwhelm evil with good and resist evil without making peace with its methods or glorifying innocent suffering. How do we repay abuse with a blessing and continue our work that was called into being by the redemption wrought by Christ’s overwhelming, nonviolent, selfless, and life-giving love?”
With that said, Hughes realizes that there is not a one-sized-fits-all solution. Different churches in different contexts require different solutions, but the core motivation of each church should be the same.
“Jesus’ death on the Cross demonstrated something about the nature of God: that God is inclined to self-giving vengeance, mercy over punishment, restraint over rage, and love over all.”
KEY QUOTE: “The overarching question for churches responding to an era of violence in America is how to overwhelm evil with good and resist evil without making peace with its methods or glorifying innocent suffering. How do we repay abuse with a blessing and continue our work that was called into being by the redemption wrought by Christ’s overwhelming, nonviolent, selfless, and life-giving love?”
DID YOU KNOW? Sunday to Saturday has a GoodReads page where we post all of the books we have read – even the ones that didn’t make the cut.
More curated books on guns/gun violence:
Pastor James Atwood, who passed away in 2020, called gun violence the most important theological issue for the American church. He is rooted in the belief that all humans are created in the image of God and from Mark 12:28-34 where Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God and love your neighbor. Atwood says you cannot love God and not love your neighbor, they are fundamentally connected. Collateral Damage is a prophetic call for the church to get involved and not remain silent when 40,000 fellow image bearers are being killed each year while hundreds of thousands more are psychologically and emotionally damaged from the effects of gun violence.
We have read many books on gun violence– one that details a prophetic Christian call towards gun violence (Beating Guns), one that tells a personal shooting survivor’s story (When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough), and one that details the enormous mental, economic, and physical cost of gun violence (Collateral Damage). Children Under Fire carves a different path by telling the heartbreaking, intimate stories of two seven year old children, Ava Olsen and Tyshaun McPhatter, who form a profound friendship after being deeply traumatized by gun violence.
For many Americans, statistics on the number of gun deaths in the country doesn’t phase them. For instance, did you know that every day in the United States, 316 people are shot? Did you know that 106 of the people that are shot die (5 of them being children from 1-17 years old)? Did you know that sixty percent of gun deaths are suicides and another third are homicides? Are we willing to accept these statistics as normal? What will it take for us to unite and pass common sense gun laws?