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In the last episode, we told stories exploring where the gospel meets gun violence. In today’s episode, Jesse Eubanks and Anna Tran will reflect on all the things they couldn’t say about gun violence, interview author and professor Michael Austin about the relationship between Christians and guns, explore what conservatives and progressives each get right and wrong about gun violence and how the way of Jesus is better, and make a phone call to someone around the world to see what they’re doing right now to make an impact on today’s topic.

Join us on Patreon to hear Michael Austin’s response to our 3 extra questions.



#79.5: Things We Couldn’t Say (About Gun Violence)

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 

AUDIO CLIPS: Love Thy Neighborhood… Discipleship and missions for modern times.

JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks.

ANNA TRAN: And I’m Anna Tran. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This is “Things We Couldn’t Say About Gun Violence.” In each episode, we’ve got four segments. 

ANNA TRAN: First – Things We Couldn’t Say, where we debrief the last episode. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Second – an interview with author and professor Mike Austin about the relationship between Christians and guns in America.

ANNA TRAN: Third, we have a segment Beyond Left or Right, where we explore how conservatives and progressives each get right and wrong and how the way of Jesus is better. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And finally, What Are You Doing, where Anna makes a phone call to someone around the world to see what they are doing right now to make an impact on today’s topic. Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: Hey, this is Things We Couldn’t Say, where we wrestle and process the topic that we explored in story form the last episode. This week – “Things We Couldn’t Say About Gun Violence.” Okay, so in reporting on this story, was there a difference between what you expected to find and what you actually ended up finding?

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I think, um, with a topic like guns and gun violence, I was really expecting to bump into a lot of super extreme views, whether it’s super, um, Second Amendment, like, gun rights folks, or total ban of all guns when it comes to gun control. There are definitely those people out there on the more extreme sides. What I actually found is a lot of people close to center and have like very legitimate concerns about gun violence and then on both sides have positive views about gun rights, have positive views about gun control, um, just both expressed in a lot more nuanced ways.

JESSE EUBANKS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. The gap in the regulation conversation, I don’t know it’s as quite as wide as what I thought it was gonna be. I have wondered if sort of our media portrays that gap as a much bigger, you know, gap than it actually is. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Yeah ’cause something that’s interesting is that on the gun control side it sounds like a lot of times when people talk about it, it’s like, “Where are the laws? What are we doing to make more laws?”

JESSE EUBANKS: Mm-hmm. “Babies have guns these days!” You know, people talk about it like nothing is happening.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, but there currently are laws. It’s just that they’re not being enforced consistently across the board state to state because each state has their own regulations and their own laws that only apply to their state. So, like, someone’s experience of gun laws in Tennessee is way different from, you know, Massachusetts.

JESSE EUBANKS: Mm-hmm. Can I tell you something fascinating that I learned about, uh, the Second Amendment a few years ago?

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, go for it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Because that’s one of the things, too – you know, if we think about things that we didn’t have time to explore, like, we didn’t really even touch on the Second Amendment much. This idea of the right to bear arms – where did that come from? What does it mean? How do we interpret it? How does the law interpret it? I mean, there’s – that’s a whole thing, right? Um, and we decided instead just to focus on –

ANNA TRAN: People’s response. 

JESSE EUBANKS: – what happens downstream, yeah, from that. But let’s, let’s go upstream for a moment.


JESSE EUBANKS: Let’s go all the way back up to Second Amendment. So several years ago, um, I listened to this podcast. It’s called More Perfect. It’s by, uh, Radiolab, so it’s Jad Abumrad, uh, putting that on. And they did this episode called “Welcome to the Gun Show.” And, um, if you think about, like, when our country became really fixated on the Second Amendment or you think about the population that is, like what comes to mind?

ANNA TRAN: You’re talking about demographics and stuff?


ANNA TRAN: I mean, stereotypically, it’s hard for me to not think about white Americans and people from, like, the Midwest and the South. Yeah. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Um, have you, did you think that we have always been pro-Second Amendment enthusiasts as a country since the beginning? 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I mean, I can’t think of a time where I thought it was not part of, like, American culture.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. When I think of it, I think of the NRA. Like the NRA are –

ANNA TRAN: Oh, I see.

JESSE EUBANKS: – they push, they push Second Amendment quite a bit and so that’s what always came to mind for me, so I always figured in the modern era Americans are dialed into the Second Amendment because of the NRA doing lobbying. 

ANNA TRAN: Mm-hmm. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So here’s what I discovered. I did not realize this, but for a very long time – I’m saying like 150, 200 years – Americans didn’t talk much about the Second Amendment. Like, it was not really a topic of public conversation. What I learned in this episode was that if, uh, if you go back to the Civil Rights Movement, that is actually when the Second Amendment really came back on the radar of Americans in a whole new way, and the reason was because of the Black Panther Party. 


JESSE EUBANKS: So the Black Panther Party, uh, that were formed and operated in Oakland – actually in the neighborhood where I used to live – basically they had a philosophy of policing the police. There was so much police brutality against the black community that the Black Panther Party decided, uh, “You know, we’re gonna start to actually watch the police,” and so you would have these black guys roll up with machine guns, you know, with shotguns, with handguns –

ANNA TRAN: Which, you know, they have the right to bear arms.

JESSE EUBANKS: They have the right to bear arms. And suddenly American citizens became really, really scared because here are these guys that are very threatening – I mean, they’re wearing black berets. They’re wearing – you know, it’s –


JESSE EUBANKS: It was intimidating. 

ANNA TRAN: They’re not and they’re not officially the police. 

JESSE EUBANKS: They’re not officially the police. And so guess who the first person was that really pushed back against, uh, that really tried to ratchet down on individual gun ownership – Ronald Reagan, who later on became like a bastion of, you know, NRA support and so forth. So, so, anyway, a really fascinating episode. It’s “Welcome to the Gun Show” by More Perfect, and, uh, hopefully I didn’t let too much out of the mystery box there. You know, there’s a lot in the episode I didn’t, I didn’t even have time to get to.

ANNA TRAN: That’s from Radiolab?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, Radiolab produces that. Yeah. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so it’s fascinating. 

ANNA TRAN: I’ve heard of that episode. You’ve mentioned it a couple times to me. Maybe this will be my chance to actually listen to it. 


ANNA TRAN: That’s good. Okay, so for this topic, what makes you the most angry? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, um, I mean, I’ve got two teenagers, you know. I’ve got two teenagers that go to school and that they have to do these drills, and on three separate occasions my kids have been within hearing distance of a shooting. And it’s horrible, you know, it’s horrible that we live in a world where our children are growing up and seeing this as just normal, it’s just part of the way of the world. And the sad part is that’s true. It is true. And I think the part that makes me angry especially is when some of these acts of violence are being committed with automatic weapons that can do so much damage so fast. I, I don’t understand why we personally need to own things that can do that much destruction.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. I only ever did, that I can consciously remember, a couple lockdown drills in my time in middle school and high school, but it sounds like for middle schoolers and high schoolers these days lockdown drills are like part of the curriculum. Um, yeah, it’s – I just, like, hate hearing that, you know. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Mm-hmm. So what about you? What, what makes you the most angry on this? 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I think – so a lot of times the conversation around gun violence gets boiled down to gun control and gun rights, which very legitimate. Um, for Christians in particular, I think sometimes get caught up in the gun control or gun rights debates with unnecessary intensity when the stuff that actually makes the most difference, in my opinion, is related to very, like, simple, like, community-oriented, like, resourcing. Even if people did have easy access to guns, the things that would push them to using it could be prevented with things like mental health support, money and resources funneled into, like, education that will deter people from needing to commit a crime so that they can get, like, food and money for their families. So, yeah, I think getting unnecessarily caught up in extreme debates is something that makes me a little bit angry about Christians because I think there’s – I think that there are a lot more effective things that Christians can be doing to minimize gun violence and reduce gun violence that’s a little bit more removed from the, uh, legislation, um, area, which I think is important. I’m not saying that’s not important.

JESSE EUBANKS: I mean, because that’s one of the arguments. I mean, one of the ongoing arguments in this whole conversation is “I need to own a gun because the bad guy is gonna have a gun.”


JESSE EUBANKS: And so even if, you know, the laws ratchet up in such a way where suddenly I can’t – you know, this wouldn’t happen, but let’s say I can’t own a gun but the bad guy gets a gun. Now, all of a sudden, I’m in this particular scenario. But what you’re talking about is, “Well, then we need to go to the bad guys. Like, we need to go to these, these folks, you know, and be the church and love people well and look for ways to do all kinds of support – you know, job opportunity, economic opportunity, education opportunity, mental health support.”

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, like if a bad guy has a gun, it’s like, “Okay, like, we don’t want bad guys to have guns,” but it’s like, “What made the bad guy pick up the gun? What moved the bad guy to feel like they needed to pick up a gun and use it at all?”

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. And I think, Anna, like the whole thing in this, right, is, I mean, Jesus told us to love our enemies. Like, so what is it look like to proactively love people that are high risk for committing acts of violence with a gun? Um, and so often the decisions that we tend to make as people are more self-preservation decisions. “Uh, that’s a dangerous neighborhood, so I’m gonna move my family to a safe neighborhood. That person might be a dangerous person. That person kind of intimidates me. That person might associate with people that do dangerous things.” So I’ll stand over here and make judgments about all of those people but not actually engage them, and what ends up happening is that we end up perpetuating scenarios where people become higher risk for, for doing these things. And again, like in this whole conversation, like it’s not as simple as impoverished neighborhoods and not. I mean, there are plenty of people that came from middle class backgrounds committing these mass shootings. And in fact, it’s – most of the time, it’s white guys. Like, um, but to your point, we do, we get preoccupied with a lot of conversations around laws, and you’ve heard – like I just articulated, I have a lot of feelings about that, but I think you are spot on in saying we’ve got to do the work of actually going into the community, seeing what the real needs are, and addressing them before they go septic. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, like both, both/and, right? So let’s say you’re a Christian, you own guns, you’re very much supportive of gun rights. Let’s say you’re a Christian, you aren’t comfortable around guns, you don’t own any. But, like, what are each of those Christians doing to, let’s say, engage the neighbor who could potentially pick up a gun, um, and do, um, terrible things with it. 


ANNA TRAN: How are you addressing, like, the needs of the person, like, as a human and not just about their, um, you know, like, right to hold a gun or not? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. And I think there’s a sense in which, like, we’re talking about individual work or, you know, one to one – “it’s me, and then I’m going to this other person in my life or this person that lives near me or whatever.” But, like, I think of, you know, Sarah – in the episode we talked about, uh, her helping to form Covenant Families for Brighter Tomorrows, and I love their framework. I, I think that their framework is probably, like, that’s the closest that I’ve heard that, that I sign off on. Like, because they had the three steps, right? It’s like, “We wanna do mental health support, mental health services, personal support. We also wanna make sure that schools are safe. Everyone is trained to know what to do in crisis, but then we also wanna have reasonable gun laws and that that requires a degree of reform, that things can’t just stay as they are. They need to change.” And I think that for me, like those are the three things. Like at a organizational level, I, I love those things. I think that they’re killing it. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I mean, I think that kind of brings us to the last question – like, where do you see God working on this topic? Sarah’s a Christian, and, like, that’s one way she’s engaging with, like, the topic of gun violence is, you know, making that framework and helping other people to be able to engage on that level as well. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I mean, totally. I, I look at – I think Sarah’s story is just a, a really beautiful example of somebody who, you know, has suffered so much and has allowed God to work through her and the other parents at Covenant who have also suffered, you know, to do something with that. And it’s not a vindictive posture, it’s not a revenge posture, but it’s, it’s one that really is seeking to, to love people well. I was very, very encouraged by, uh, where they as a community went in the aftermath of such a horrible loss. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s interesting ’cause we did a lot of editing on Michael’s story and I remember when I was talking with him and I’ve heard about it – because, like, I care so much about this preventative stuff, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing.” And that’s what encourages me – his story about how he and Together Chicago goes to at-risk people, people in gangs in Chicago, and helps them get resources and extends kind of like that hand of grace that’s like, “If you don’t have money, we’ll get you money. If transportation to your, to school is what’s keeping you from getting a degree so that you can get a sustainable job, we’ll drive you.” Really simple stuff like that. That’s where I see, you know, God working on this topic. 


ANNA TRAN: Well, those were a lot of thoughts we couldn’t say on this episode. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Stay with us because when we come back we’ll be talking with author and professor Michael Austin. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks.

ANNA TRAN: Anna Tran.

JESSE EUBANKS: So, before the break, Anna and I gave our final thoughts on things we couldn’t say about gun violence, and now joining the conversation is author and professor Michael Austin. Michael Austin is professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University. He’s written for Psychology Today, CBN News, Huffington Post, and Christianity Today. He’s the author of several books, including God and Guns in America. He writes about ethical and religious questions and believes that Christian ethics is relevant to all of life. He lives in Richmond, Kentucky with his family. Mike, welcome to the show. 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Thank you. I’m glad to be here. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, we are, uh, glad to be talking with you. So I think, uh, you know, where we wanna start is that we, we wanna talk a little bit about your book, God and Guns in America. What happened that made you want to write a book about guns in the U.S.? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I’d seen people – you know, social media or kind of online essays and, and maybe even other Christian authors – writing about this. When I started looking around, most Christian ethics books – at least at the time that I wrote – didn’t even address the issue, or if they did it was very limited. Given the things going on in the U.S. and our unique historical, um, issue – you know, like, Second Amendment and sort of our laws about guns, how they’re unique here in many ways – I just thought we needed, like, an in-depth Christian ethic. 

ANNA TRAN: What were some of the initial views that you had before you wrote the book? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I, so I initially thought, “Yeah, there is a right to own a gun. I think you can make a case for that.” But I just thought that Christians were too – American Christians were like emphasizing the Constitution and their rights more than the rights of others and the welfare of others. It just seemed like another case where people thought Christian ethics lined up perfectly with kind of a, a conservative Republican, in this case, view, and I just wasn’t sure that those two lined up so much. 

ANNA TRAN: Mmm. It’s interesting that you’re in eastern Kentucky. We live over here in Louisville, but I think of eastern Kentucky and I think mostly gun rights and a lot of pro-Second Amendment stuff. Are you in an environment where people push back on the stuff that you’ve written about?

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, definitely some, um, mainly among Christians, and then they kind of proof text here and there. And so I try to engage them about that. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, then let’s talk a little bit about that. A lot of times there are two major views, um, that are, you know, common among Christians – not just about guns, but just about violence in general – and, you know, those two views would be pacifism and defense of just violence. Can you describe each of those views for us and then give us some examples of how people demonstrate those beliefs in relation to guns?

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, so, like, justified violence, it comes from, uh, what you might think of more as just war theory. But the idea there is, you know, if certain criteria are met, then use of violence, even lethal violence, is justified. In just war theory – you think, you know, like self-defense, uh, would be one – using violence as a last resort. Nations have a right of self-defense, and that’d be a case when violence is justified. And so you apply that to guns, a lot of people would say, “Well, look, I’m justified in using violence in self-defense or to defend my family or, you know, defend other people if I’m out. You know, if there’s a, somebody’s committing an act of violence against somebody, I should, I can defend them with a firearm better than I could with another weapon or no weapon at all.” Pacifism, kind of at the other end, is – at least in its sort of purest, absolute form – is that violence is never justified. So you can think of, like, the peace churches in Christianity, you know, Mennonites, um, Anabaptist views about violence. The idea is that that’s just the way of Christ, is that it’s the way of the cross, not the way of the sword. And so we lay down our arms as the initial – I mean, the early Christians for sure. The first few centuries, the vast majority, if not all, were pacifists. And so you apply this to guns, the idea is that even in self-defense or defense of others – a bit more extreme form – it’s just not right. We just shouldn’t use violence. That’s not the way of Jesus. It might not seem effective. It might not, you know, in scare quotes “work” in the way that we think of it, but just like Jesus was called to suffer and die and not retaliate, um, we’re called to do the same. “We reject violence as a solution to any conflict or problem” would be the pacifist view.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about your proposal. Your proposal for how Christians should relate to violence and guns is what you call peace-building. Can you walk us through what you mean by peace-building and what that looks like? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, so it’s a, a third way, so to speak, between just war theory and pacifism. And so peace-building essentially says the burden of proof, so to speak, for a Christian is on someone who wants to use violence, right? So I, I want there to be, I want there to be a stronger check on the impulse to violence, whether it’s in war or in, in our streets or in our homes. In theory, just war theory says violence should only be used as a last resort, but it just isn’t taken seriously –

JESSE EUBANKS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL AUSTIN: – both, both in practice, and I would say – like, as someone who’s read a lot of the literature and interacted with, you know, Christian theologians and philosophers who identify as just war theorists – like I remember being at a conference several years ago of Christian theologians and philosophers and one guy talking about, I think it was Afghanistan and Iraq, just turning their desert into glass, like just full-scale, indiscriminate, just bomb them to oblivion. I understand the impulse, but that’s just, that’s not Christian. 


MICHAEL AUSTIN: And so the peace-builder says, “Let’s take that seriously.” Actually it’s in the tradition of, you know, Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I didn’t come across this part of his thought ’til later – he calls it conditional pacifism, which is like, “Pacifism should be the outlook and there will be exceptions, but they’re few and far between.” So that’s kind of the idea. 

ANNA TRAN: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL AUSTIN: And this is something, like, I’ve always identified as until I’ve read this book – or wrote this book – as a just war theorist, but going through both scholars and then reading through the text themselves, especially Jesus and other New Testament authors, and thinking through the example of Jesus himself, it can be, it’s pretty striking that even though the Bible is a violent book in a sense, right – you think of especially the Old Testament and different things that, that happened that Israel does, but even there there’s a lot of sort of negative comments about violence and Proverbs about, you know, David’s not allowed to do things because he’s shed blood as a, as a soldier. So I think as Christians in America, given our history and the prevalence of violence, we, we tend to read, whether read those passages – I mean, we all do this – we sort of gloss over passages that challenge our thinking and we zero in on the ones that help us.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, things that are incongruent to our way of seeing we just sort of dismiss them. 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, and I’ve seen that in myself. It’s kind of, it’s not comfortable, but yeah, when you just look at the example of Jesus, the example of the early church, and, and I think what some people wanna do is say, “Well, Jesus didn’t, didn’t respond violently because he had to die on the cross.” And yeah, that’s true, but he also said, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” and his example is, “When you’re reviled, don’t revile in return.” His kingdom is not one that – I mean, he could have taken over by violence, but that’s not the nature of the kingdom of God. It’s righteousness, justice, and peace. So, peace-building is really an attempt to take those things seriously while recognizing there can be cases where violence is justified. Um, and I’m still working through that. Like, I’ve had people, you know, people that are, that are pacifists, challenge me on that, and it’s, it’s, I still feel that tension of, of allowing for violence. 


ANNA TRAN: Mm-hmm. 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: I think we just tend to think, “Well, that doesn’t work.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: So let me say this back to you, and you tell me if I’m misunderstanding. For you, peace-building is closer to what I think you said, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his posture, which is that our default setting should actually be closer to pacifism and the, the moments in which we may choose to not take a pacifist approach the burden of proof has to be pretty high. There needs to be a very significant and obvious and overt reason for us to, to voluntarily choose violence.

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, that’s, that’s the heart of what the, what I’m trying to argue in that position, and Bonhoeffer’s really good at this. He talks about that it’s just hard to have these blanket statements, right, in a fallen world.

ANNA TRAN: Does Bonhoeffer give any examples about what would push the conditions of pacifism? Like, what are the lines that you’d be butting up against or make you, like, cross the line?

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. ‘Cuz we can talk about this sort of in a philosophical way, but like what, what in the real world are those moments in which somebody goes, “Okay, this is it. I’m, I’m, I’m taking action here”? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah. He can be like provocative and frustrating because he’ll say sometimes we have to do things in the fallen world that maybe are even arguably sin, right. But, I mean, his own example is – I mean, his life is a good one. So someone who is a pacifist, but given what Nazis were doing, what Hitler was, Hitler was doing, you know, he was arguably involved in the, you know, the plot, a plot to assassinate Hitler. And so he, he talks about in this particular situation, it’s not a good option, but it’s better than inaction, um, when, you know, people are being slaughtered and, uh, the church has been co-opted and all those kind of things. So what he would say – and I think this is right – is there’s not a principle necessarily even to govern that. There can be extreme situations like Nazi Germany, um, where, where you just have to make a choice and you think what, what I should do. In this case, Bonhoeffer thought was try to stop this in this way.

ANNA TRAN: Mm-hmm.

MICHAEL AUSTIN: You know, and I think Tolstoy even talks about this. He was a pacifist, and people say, “Well, what if somebody is in your house attacking your wife or your children?” You know, he says, “Well, when does this ever happen?” I mean, it does happen, of course, but I think what he’s right about is we build a whole view on these few cases and then we, we open the door to violence being permissible and then we go way beyond those cases where it’s permissible and apply it to all sorts of things where, where it wouldn’t be. 

JESSE EUBANKS: It’s really fascinating because I can’t help but draw some parallels here between what, how conservatives traditionally talk about guns – why gun usage or even self-defense, like the necessity of it – and the way that progressives talk about abortion. You know, you talked about scenarios where folks that are pro, uh, you know, violence when necessary and they’re gonna point to scenarios of somebody breaking into their home, but it can expand much further than that. And the same thing happens on the abortion conversation when you’ve got – you know, uh, we’re gonna talk about situations of, of rape, situations where the mother’s life is threatened. But, of course, the abortion conversation expands way past that. But it’s interesting just to hear there’s a little bit of the same ethical framework that is happening on both sides of the political parties, you know, on just different topics.

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I think that’s right. The other thing, too, about the “I’m gonna have a gun so that I can protect my family” – Preston Sprinkle talks about this some, and I think he’s right. He’s a pacifist, and someone says, “Well, what if somebody’s in your house, and don’t you want a gun?” Well, I need to know a lot more – like, am I a good shot? Do I have a chance to shoot? I mean, there’s all these other details that we just leave out, and we just oversimplify and just think, “If I have a gun, I can shoot this guy and stop him from hurting me or my family.” And I think the same thing in abortion. It’s like, “We just need to have an absolute right to abortion because these hard cases.” These things, they cry out for more specific and more depth – I hate to say the word – more nuanced, more detailed analysis and reflection. And I just think we need to wrestle with it more as Christians, not just on these issues, but a lot of these things that, that tend to be hot button and polarizing issues.

JESSE EUBANKS: Uh, what makes you the most angry on this issue? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Hmm. Yeah, I think the fact that there’s unnecessary loss of life. That’s probably the right answer and that’s one I feel a lot, but I probably feel angrier just at, at sort of Christians justifying this stuff and, and I guess a seeming callousness to that loss of life, right, where really is my rights are more important than other people’s lives. So that really bothers me. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, stay with us because when we come back we will be talking with Michael Austin on our segment Beyond Left or Right. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse. 


JESSE EUBANKS: And now it’s time for Beyond Left or Right. So in this segment of our show, we ask our guests to put today’s topic through three questions – What is the traditional view on gun violence? What is the progressive view on gun violence? What is the Christian view on gun violence? So here’s how it works. We’re gonna ask you three questions. When you’re summarizing the opposing views, please be charitable. Uh, present both the conservative and liberal view fairly and objectively rather than trying to make it look foolish. Then for the final question, tell us which elements both conservatives and liberals each get right and how the Christian view challenges and surpasses both. So, let’s start. 

ANNA TRAN: First up – what is the traditional view on gun violence?

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I would say in America the traditional view is, you know, that there is a Second Amendment right, there’s a, a human right to own a firearm, to bear arms. And this is something that, that’s been present throughout our nation’s history and in the early 2000’s – or I guess around 2008, 2010 – codified as an individual right. So that traditional view is “I’ve got a right to bear arms, it’s a very strong right, and it’s derived from our right to life.” The right to life extended to the right to bear arms to protect that life. 

JESSE EUBANKS: What is the progressive view on gun violence? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I think you can find there are some, “Let’s just abolish the Second Amendment.” The more plausible progressive view is something like, “There is a right to bear arms, but that’s consistent with a lot more restrictions than we have at present, right, about who can own a gun, what kind of gun they can own, where guns can be carried.” The ones that admit it’s a right and are willing to accept it, they would, they’re just comfortable with a lot more limits and restrictions than maybe the conservative view is.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. So if the traditional view leans towards personal freedom, heavy emphasis on that, and the progressive view leans more on less of that personal freedom, uh, more restrictions, talk to us a little bit about the Christian view on gun violence. 

ANNA TRAN: What do conservatives get right about this? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: I think conservatives are right that you can make a good case for the right to own a gun, the right to bear arms, grounded in the right to life. If I’ve got the right to life, which means people are obligated not to take my life from me, then you can imagine scenarios where in order to exercise my right to life I’ve gotta engage in acts of self-defense against somebody. You know, as I, as we’ve talked about, I’ve moved more towards the pacifist view, but I, but there’s just a part of me that thinks there are situations where violence is incredibly regrettable as a Christian but perhaps justified.

JESSE EUBANKS: What do liberals get right? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I think they get right that we’ve got some obligations to our community, that there are laws that we can enact that, that won’t violate the rights of, of responsible gun owners but will – that might make, yeah, they might have to go through a waiting period or jump through some hoops to get a firearm, but they will keep guns out of the hands of more people who would do themselves or others harm. That obligation of the community – it’s kind of the, it’s another example of sort of that tension between contemporary conservatives that are more individual rights focused and a lot of progressives, at least on some issues, that are more communally focused.

ANNA TRAN: So what is the Christian view?

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, so I believe the Christian view really does split the difference here, that we’ve got strong obligations to our communities. Christians should be willing to forfeit our rights for the good of the community. That could mean, right, that I forfeit my right to bear arms, but the Christian view I think allows for these exceptional cases where violence is justified. Yes, you can own a firearm, but the Christian view says that’s one, that’s a regrettable state of things in a fallen world. And two, there’s a high burden of proof on using a firearm to injure or kill somebody else. For sure, it can’t be defending your property, right – all human beings, the worst criminal to the greatest saint made in God’s image. So if somebody’s gonna steal my car, I’m not gonna pull a gun to not let them do that. It’s like, “Here’s the keys. Take it.” Right? So I think that’s important. And the Christian view is when violence is justified it’s still regrettable and we can be grateful that that coming kingdom of God won’t have violence.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I just wanna call out that regrettable part ’cause I think that’s one thing I feel in some ways, like, angry about is that people can talk so casually about violence and the taking of life. I think calling that out, that violence is regrettable and a terrible consequence of, you know, the world that we live in, that’s something that doesn’t get talked about or emphasized as much. 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, and I’ve seen, you know, a lot of Christian thinkers just – I mean, in contemporary situation with Israel and Gaza and Hamas, Palestinians, all that stuff, there’s just sort of a, “That’s what Israel has to do.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, there, there’s a little too much, uh, cheerleading and a little, too little sorrow.

MICHAEL AUSTIN: And you see it on, on both sides, right? So, this is another case where it’s sort of, “On the right, line up with Israel. On the left, with Palestinians.” And the Christian view is the violence done by both is horrific and regrettable and if we could find a peaceful resolution we should.

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, yeah. How does the Christian view challenge the conservative view?

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I think it challenges the conservative view to say, “You should be willing to forfeit some of your rights in some situations, um, for the kingdom of God and to follow the example of Christ.” Or, to a lesser extent, just be willing to be inconvenienced, um, for the sake, for the good of the community, right? If there really are – which I would argue there are – some laws and restrictions that would reduce gun violence, then you should do that. If that means you can’t sell a bunch of guns on Facebook but it has to go through a registered dealer, then that should be something that, that we should be willing to accept.

ANNA TRAN: So, how does the Christian view challenge the liberal view? 

MICHAEL AUSTIN: Yeah, I probably struggle with this a little bit more as someone who’s moved closer to pacifism, which we tend to sort of associate with the liberal view, but I think it challenges the liberal view to say, “While violence is regrettable, sometimes it can prevent greater acts of violence or greater tragedies.” You know, you can think of, in justified cases where police officers have used violence to prevent greater acts of violence. Um, violence was used to stop Nazi Germany. I mean, I’m, I’m glad that Hitler couldn’t take over the world, and violence was a part of stopping him. So I don’t wanna say violence is redemptive, but I do wanna say that, that the Christian view would challenge sort of the progressive view and say, “Sometimes the use of violence can have good consequences, uh, or prevent worse things from happening.”

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, Mike, thanks so much for joining us today. Uh, do you have 15 minutes to, uh, join us for three more questions?


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, if you want to hear those extra 15 minutes of the interview, we’re going to be posting that over on our Patreon. So to hear that, head over to And now it’s time for What Are You Doing, where Anna makes a phone call to someone around the world to see what they’re doing right now to make an impact on today’s topic.

ROSE SMITH: Hello, is this Anna? 

ANNA TRAN: Hi, yes, it’s Anna. 

ROSE SMITH: This is Rose with the ACE Project, Anna. 

ANNA TRAN: Hey, Miss Rose, good to hear from ya. 

ROSE SMITH: Look, I’ve been trying to return your call for a while now. My phone is like ringing off the hook. 

ANNA TRAN: Hey, no worries. 

ROSE SMITH: But that’s part of my work. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. 

ROSE SMITH: It just don’t stop. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Well, thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to talk with me. Um, why don’t you tell our listeners what your name is and where you’re calling from? 

ROSE SMITH: Uh, my name is Rose Smith, and I’m in Louisville, Kentucky.

ANNA TRAN: All right, so tell us a little bit about who you are and how you started, you know, in this work and you can tell us about the ACE Project as well. 

ROSE SMITH: Well, a little bit about me is I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 24 years. I own and operate an early learning center. I have rental property. So I, I’ve got a lot of entrepreneurship experience. And then my life took a drastic turn when, uh, my son, Cory Ace Crowe – his nickname was Ace – was a victim of gun violence. He was murdered October 25th, 2014. And so I didn’t really know what to do. So one thing I did – I wanted to bring awareness to my son’s death. Uh, he was killed on the corner of 25th and Standard. It was a boarded, banded up building on 25th and Standard. And so the 25th of every month, I stood on the corner where my son was murdered, and I stood on that corner because I wanted to bring awareness that no one has been held accountable for his, uh, his death and to let people know that he was loved and he’s not forgotten. So for the 25th of every month, I stood on that corner for one whole year. Long story short, we’ll fast forward. I purchased the property where my son was murdered and turned it into a community center and a safe place for those impacted by gun violence and trauma. The ACE Project is a mother’s promise and a son’s legacy – my promise to him that he would not be forgotten and he would not be remembered just by the way he was murdered, the tragic way he was murdered, but by his compassion. So I use ACE as an acronym for Acting Compassionately Everyday because it is in the spirit of my son. 


ROSE SMITH: So one way that we fight the violence and how we are the boots on the ground, we try to have programming designed to be a beacon of hope for underserved children and families impacted by the gun violence and trauma.

ANNA TRAN: Mm-hmm. 

ROSE SMITH: So we try to offer compassionate support and resources and a range of diverse and unique opportunities for them, hopefully to empower them to heal, grow, and thrive. 


ROSE SMITH: During the time of COVID, I was thinking, “What can we do for these youth, you know, to keep ’em going even during COVID and to keep them active and, and keep their minds occupied and stuff?” and God gave me the Academy of Child Entrepreneurship. That is one of our programs. So, uh, ACE is really focused on life skills and leadership. We give youth ages 12 to 18 seed money to help them start their own businesses. 

ANNA TRAN: A week for you, probably it’s super busy, but describe to me what a week in your life is like working with the ACE Project.

ROSE SMITH: Okay, it’s a lot (laugh) because I wear quite a few hats, of course. And when I look at ACE, uh, we deal with youth, but also I deal with adults, I deal with families. So right now I’ve been very, very busy because next weekend, October the, uh, 27th, 8th, and 29th, I’m having a healing retreat. This retreat is for women who’ve lost a loved one to violence.

ANNA TRAN: Mm-hmm. 

ROSE SMITH: And then usually on Mondays we have a grief counseling and peer support meetings, so we do counseling and grief for the, for the adults, as well as, you know, working with the youth, and then my job, and I’m in a lot of meetings because it takes money to do what we’re doing, so I’m trying to get funding, you know, for the program.

ANNA TRAN: Right. Right. Well, you’re one busy woman, that’s for sure.

ROSE SMITH: Yes, as well as being very, uh – I’m very, uh, involved in, uh, community outreach and activism. So I do, uh, go talk to legislators. So yeah, I am pretty involved, but, um, it sounds like – for a lot of people, it sounds like it’s a lot and it’s overwhelming, but for me I look at it a little bit different because I believe that it’s my calling and I do say, uh, this is part of my healing and one thing I refuse to do is to let my pain be wasted. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Well, Miss Rose, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with me. Um, yeah, I pray that, you know, God blesses the work, um, of the ACE Project, and I’m so thankful that Louisville has, uh, you and the rest of the people who you work with to, yeah, be the hands and feet to your community.

ROSE SMITH: Thank you so much. I thank God that – I’m blessed and honored that God chose me because I know truly that he brought me here and this is my life’s assignment, so I know this is the work that I’m supposed to be doing. 

ANNA TRAN: Amen. Alright, well, I’ll let you get on with the rest of your day. Thank you so much for, for talking with me today.

ROSE SMITH: Thank you for your time. You enjoy the rest of your day, Anna. Bye bye.

ANNA TRAN: Alright. You too. Bye now.


JESSE EUBANKS: Thanks so much for joining us. Make sure to leave a review for the show wherever you listen to podcasts. Support the show and our ministry by becoming a Patreon supporter. You can get bonus content and workbooks for each topic we cover. To support our show, head over to Again, that’s We’ll be back in two weeks with a new set of stories where we’ll be exploring where the gospel meets teenagers.


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thanks to our guest Michael Austin. Listen, check out Michael’s website by going to, You can learn more about his books, including his brand new one that’s all about how Christians often get wrapped up in conspiracy theories. Also, special thanks to Rose Smith. To support and learn about the ACE Project, go to They are doing wonderful work here in our city. Again, that’s

ANNA TRAN: Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is me, Anna Tran. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Anna Tran is our producer and audio editor. 

ANNA TRAN: Music is from Lee Rosevere, Poddington Bear, Blue Dot Sessions, and Murphy DX.

JESSE EUBANKS: This show is brought to you by Love Thy Neighborhood. If you want a hands-on experience of missions in our modern times, come serve with Love Thy Neighborhood. Love Thy Neighborhood offers summer and year long missions internships for young adults ages 18 to 30. Bring social change with the gospel by working with an innovative nonprofit and serving your urban neighbors.

ANNA TRAN: Experience community like never before as you live and do ministry with other Christian young adults. Grow in your faith by walking in the life and lifestyle of Jesus and being part of a vibrant, healthy church. Apply now at

JESSE EUBANKS: Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, “Go, and do likewise.”


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Michael’s book: God and Guns in America 
Radiolab Presents: More Perfect – The Gun Show
Rose’s organization: The ACE Project
Christians debating gun rights and gun control: Unbelievable Podcast, TGC debate


Special thank you to our interviewees Michael Austin and Rose Smith.
Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. Co-host is Anna Tran.
Anna Tran is our producer and audio editor.
Music for this episode comes from Murphy D.X.