Few Christian books can integrate and appeal to Scripture without sounding preachy, pretentious, or perfunctory. Even more so when an author takes on a polarizing subject such as guns. And yet this is what Michael W. Austin's God and Guns in America excels at. Biblically rooted as well as logically sound, Austin's approachable writing style is like sitting with a friend telling you how and why they arrived at a conclusion - in this case, his view on guns/gun violence through a Christian lens.
Pastor James Atwood, who passed away in 2020, called gun violence the most important theological issue for the American church. His conviction is rooted in Mark 12:28-34 where Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God and 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.
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.
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?
Some books on gun reform lean heavily on statistics, others choose a personal story, while others blend the two. Common Ground takes a different path. Penned for small group settings, but useful for the individual as well, author Donald Gaffney's focus is teaching people how to talk about guns and gun violence. In the preface, he lays out three rules -- confidentiality, trust, and respectful dialogue -- that all small groups should use to keep the discussion civil and polite. While not everyone will agree with each other, it is essential everyone treats each other with dignity and respect.
Some say it's a gun problem. Some say it's a heart problem. Authors Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin say it's both. Each day in the United States, 105 people die from gun violence. Once every 30 minutes, a person commits suicide with a gun. Eighty percent of all firearm deaths in developed countries occur in the United States, and eighty-seven percent of all child related gun deaths in the world's developed countries occur in the US. Despite the alarming statistics, Beating Guns was not penned to shock or shame. It's a call for Christians to prophetically stand against violence and lead the way toward gun reform.