Health & Spirit

Save A Life, Save The World!

By The Three Wise Guys on

The question continues to be raised regarding the ongoing manufacture and sale to the general public of military-grade assault weapons in the United States. The Three Wise Guys discuss the issue from the perspective of the three Abrahamic faith traditions.

Rev: Let's be clear: There is obviously no reference to military-style assault rifles such as the AR-15 or the AK-47 in any of our scriptures. But there clearly are ways to consider the question in relation to issues of faith as regards society.

Imam: First, these are weapons that have a very clear use. They were developed for and are intended to take human life quickly and in large quantities. They are primarily weapons of war.

Rabbi: From the perspective of all of our faith traditions, the issue really comes down to the sanctity of human life. Life is the highest value within all of our faith traditions. And the saving and preserving of life is paramount from the perspective of faith. In Judaism we say, "If you save a life, you save an entire world."

Imam: We believe exactly the same in Islam. Because every life has an entire world of relationships that are connected to that life.

Rev: However, we must be honest that each of our faith traditions has stories of brutality within them. We do value life, but we all have a few things to answer for in regard to some of the material in our biblical texts.


Rabbi: That's true, Rev. It's one of the reasons we talk a lot about the idea of "progressive revelation." In the rabbinic tradition, we have spent centuries debating and discussing the texts and the meaning of the various ideas found in them. There are entire parts of our tradition that give themselves to the work of helping develop an understanding of texts. These often discuss the problem with some of the ideas in the text and how we have grown in our thinking beyond some of those notions.

Imam: Yes, it's one of the reasons it is so frustrating when I hear that someone has committed some heinous act in the name of Islam. Our scholars have also spent centuries helping people to understand and clarify ideas within our faith. There is absolutely no justification, according to any credible scholar in Islam, for gratuitous violence, ever ... period.

Rev: In Christianity, there are some texts that can be understood as a call to violence. For instance, there is a statement on the lips of Jesus in which he says, "I came not to bring peace but to bring a sword." However, that is properly understood as a metaphor for how radical and life-changing the faith he advocates can be and how it will bring division in families and between people. It is not literally a call to take up arms.

Imam: Also, it really is not useful to use the Second Amendment and its advocacy for the "right to bear arms" as a way to legitimate the ownership of military-style assault weapons. The Second Amendment in no way allows one to have in their possession any kind of "arms" one may desire. You can't own an anti-aircraft gun as a private citizen, nor can you have a nuclear weapon in your possession. These are considered "arms." Private citizens cannot have them.


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