America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé

Article excerpt

America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé by James £ Atwood Cascade Books, Eugene, OR, 2012. 228 pp. $27.00. ISBN 978-1-61097-825-5.

THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH'S "Brief Statement of Faith" declares that "the Spirit gives us courage . . . to unmask idolatries in Church and culture." Courageously taking up the suggestion by former National Rifle Association executive Warren Cassidy that "You would get a far better understanding of the NRA if you were approaching us as one of the great religions of the world," retired Presbyterian minister Jim Atwood, a 30-year veteran of the struggle to enact sensible gun-control laws, explores America's obsession with guns as a form of idolatry. "Gun violence is not so much a political or social problem," he writes, "as it is a spiritual problem, and God's people must be in the lead of the moral and ethical struggle for the soul of America" (p. xvii). Following Walter Wink, he concludes that the real problem in America is that violence is our true god. This devotion, Atwood suggests, is deeply intertwined with our Puritan heritage and peculiarly American notions about manifest destiny, the conviction that we have been uniquely appointed by God as "the trustees of the world's progress." Sadly, he concludes, "using violence when necessary in support of these righteous causes is not only justified, it is a moral obligation" (p. …