Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- A billboard in Charlotte, NC demonstrates the intersectionality of attacks on rights in America. The message, posted by the North Carolina Council of Churches, quotes the second item in the most popular list of Ten Commandments, seeking to remind Tar Heels that the worship of idols is forbidden while claiming that guns are treated as objects of religious devotion.
The concept of intersectionality usually shows up in discussions of race, sexual orientation, physical ability, and other characteristics that result in persons being subjected to multiple forms of bigotry. But this kind of thinking can be translated to other topics. One of my objections to demands for universal background checks, for example, is that mandating that in law poses a challenge both to the Second and the Fourth Amendments. This element of the gun control agenda seeks to require a permission slip for exercising gun rights and undermines privacy by allowing the government to collect yet more data about our personal interactions.
What the billboard does is create an intersection of gun rights and the separation of religion and state. Its purpose is to advocate policy on the basis of doctrine.
Now that by itself is not categorically wrong. We all have a variety of motivations, and delving into what drives people is interesting as its own activity, but it’s off-topic if we’re asking whether the action that we wish to perform is good or otherwise.
Which is to say that a person can support gun rights or gun control out of religious conviction or from having eaten a slightly off bit of chicken salad, but whatever is driving the person in question is not an argument. To convince other people, the proposal needs facts and logic.
One reason for this is that in the case of theological claims, any appeal that we make is guaranteed to miss large portions of the audience. Seventy percent of Americas identify as Christian, but two in ten of us are unaffiliated with any religion. And among evangelicals, a group that makes up a quarter of our population, support for the exercise of gun rights—including carrying guns in church—is strong.
Will a billboard that seeks to connect the exercise of gun rights with idol worship work? Unlikely. We’ve been debating the role of religion in this country for longer than we’ve been a country, and the modern involvement of Christian conservatives—modern defined as during my lifetime—has been going on for as long as I’ve been alive. Whether we’re talking about abortion, pornography, poverty, or guns, we’ve achieved a U-shaped curve, a sharply divided and defined polarity, no matter how intellectually defensible our collection of positions proves to be.
And then there’s the question of what could be meant by saying that we who support gun rights and gun ownership are worshipping firearms. If by that word the billboard is referring to the original sense, there may be a point. We certainly find worth in guns—to the detriment of our bank accounts, at times. John Moses Browning deserves to be done up like an icon with a gold halo and Old Church Slavonic text around him. I have from time to time referred to Col. Cooper as Saint Jeff of the Corps.
But that’s all in good fun. A gun is a tool. A well-made tool deserves my respect, as does a tool that is exactly what I need at a particular moment, but it’s not a deity, and it’s not magic. And while some gun enthusiasts gush over the latest piece of Combat Tupperware, the people who ascribe mystical significance to firearms are gun control advocates. Weapons in the real world are not the One Ring, the Spear of Longinus, or the Ark of the Covenant, yet the people who would look upon the North Carolina billboard as making a profound point seem to be confused about this.
It’s up to us to keep such thinking separate from public policy.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.