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December 17, 2012

Here is that temptation again
By Hans Cornelder 

As a kid I was bullied by my two older brothers. All the time. In anger I would hit them, but of course, I always lost. My parents advised me to be "the wiser one" and stay out of their way. I believe now it was bad advice. And it was easier said than done, since we shared a tiny room with the three of us. I clearly remember the evening that they had scared the living daylight out of me, and laughed at me. That evening, I decided to follow my parents' advice not to try and hit back, and thought, "Just wait until I am bigger and stronger! I will pay you back! You will be sorry." From then on, that was what I did, whatever nasty tricks they played on me. Lots of resentment built up in me in the process, however I never used the power that I eventually had to pay back my brothers, thanks be to God!

Born as I was while our country was occupied by Nazi-Germany, I heard war stories all my life. I learned about the appeaser Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of United Kingdom, who didn't condemn Hitler's occupation of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. His great moment was his return from a conference with Hitler in Munich, with an agreement in his hand that assured "peace for our time." But it turned out, Chamberlain's good intentions didn't make him a peacemaker.

Obviously, Chamberlain had made such a lame, powerless impression, that Hitler was encouraged to continue his aggression. And continue he did. I have often wondered what would have happened if Winston Churchill had been prime minister at that time instead of Chamberlain. He might have declared war immediately after Hitler went into Sudetenland, and maybe that would have prevented WWII. Bullies should be stopped, I started to believe. If you don't stop them, you encourage them.

In my teen years I wondered if I could see myself flying to Moscow, throw a nuclear bomb on it, return to Holland, and drive back to Moscow to preach the Gospel of God's love in Christ to the remnants. It seemed entirely impossible.

When I had a family of my own, I had to cope with the question how far I would be willing to go to protect my wife and, some time later, my children. I decided that it was my job to keep them as safe as I could, just as it is the government's job to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic.

In the days of the shooting in Columbine I wondered what I would do if I ever would find myself in such a situation. If I could stop armed bullies from killing innocents, would I do it? Would I be willing to go so far as to kill them if necessary? I felt tempted for the first time in my life to get myself a gun.

Every time there was yet another shooting spree, I was tempted again. In time, I also learned some interesting and surprising statistics. Among them was this one: when states impose stronger gun control messures, gun violence goes... up, and when states lift the ban on carrying concealed weapons, gun crime goes... down. Every time, it seemed. I started to believe that banning people from carrying guns makes the world a lot safer... for criminals, that is, only for people with murderous intent.

I have come to believe that just as there are conditions under which a war should be seen by Christians as "just", under strict rules there is "just violence" – by law enforcement officers, as well as by citizens.

The Newtown massacre has been met with the same old cries for gun control, including from PC(USA) leaders. They seem to be convinced that it is the Christian thing to do. It sounds less and less convincing to me. Based on the facts and stats I have learned, it sounds like they – with the best intentions, no doubt – speak out for measures that inevitably will lead to more crimes with guns.

I am tempted again these days to get a gun permit and a gun. Maybe it is not a bad temptation, but a good and healthy urge? Anyway, if I do, I will train enough to become very proficient, determined to use it if I could save lives only that way, all the while praying and hoping that I never will get in that situation.

In the meanwhile I will continue trying to lead people to Christ, so they will be changed by him in his image, and the fruit of the Spirit will become visible in their lives. Who can tell how many massacres have been prevented by the Church proclaiming the Gospel?

The Rev. Hans Cornelder is the editor of, and pastor of the Presbyterian Churches in Gibson and White Oak, both in Iowa.

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