Context Is Everything

As a continuation of yesterday’s blog, http://emuelle1.blogspot.com/2005/07/breaks-over-back-on-your-heads.html, I want to make a few comments about the Bill of Rights. Actually, there is one specific right that I would like to discuss among the original 10.

The Founding Fathers wrote the Contitution of the United States to specify what the federal government could do. Then they wrote the Bill of Rights to specify what it could NOT do. We hear a lot of misconceptions about the rights listed within. The original ten amendments to the Bill of Rights were intended to guarantee individual rights that the federal government could not take away, with the 10th amendment also adding the states.

Before I go any farther, I will say that I consider myself to be somewhat of an amateur Bible scholar. I enjoy studying the Bible, especially in a historical context. It truly comes alive when you study it in light of the history and culture of ancient Israel. In any case, whether you believe the Bible or not, you most likely have seen people take parts of it far out of context. If you think non-believers are bad, I know many brothers and sisters in Christ who are just as bad. If you think the liberal churches take things out of context, I’ve seen the conservative ones do it too. I often hear about the “twenty verse rule”, which says that each verse should be read in the context of the previous twenty verses and the following twenty verses to avoid misapplication of the verse. Some verses operate just fine as stand alone verses, but often can be taken out of context when used alone.

That brings me back to the second amendment to the Bill of Rights, which reads as follows:

Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

We hear quite a bit about how this amendment doesn’t really mean “the people”, but it means that each state has a right to a militia and that since we have the National Guard in each state now there is no need to maintain a militia as the National Guard maintains that role. (If that is the case, why are they in Iraq? As the caption to a cartoon I read says “When I joined the National Guard, I had no idea what nation I would be guarding!”)

When you look at the context of the rest of the original Bill of Rights, however, you see that each right is a personal right. YOU have a right to freedom of speech, YOU have a right to NOT have soldiers quartered in your home (so far, the only amendment not directly attacked by the courts), YOU have a right to be secure in your person, place, effects, papers, etc, and YOU have a right to a speedy trial by jury of your peers, YOU have a right against self-incrimination, etc. If every other right is a guarantee to the individual, then how can they say, in context, the only the second amendment is a collective right, the fulfillment of which is met by a National Guard on assignment in Iraq?

If the second amendment is not a personal guarantee, then what good is it? Now, why would you want to own a gun? Or several guns? Why is the second amendment in there in the first place? The British attempted to disarm the colonists to prevent them from rebelling. A disarmed population cannot stand up to itself. Perhaps you have seen the T-shirt “Mass murderers agree- gun control works!” No tyrant can stand up to an armed population. It is the final check and balance against the government growing too large or too tyrannical. “But it can’t happen here!” you say. Oh, can it? Look at Waco, Ruby Ridge, etc. Our government is perfectly capable of killing all of us to meet it’s own ends.

Let’s look at the Bible for a moment. Don’t worry, skeptics, this is not evangelistic, merely historical. During the time of the judges, the Philistines occupied Israel for forty years. Here is an interesting detail that we are given about how the governed the Israelites:

1Sa 13:19 Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make [them] swords or spears:

There was no metal smith in the land. The Philistines made sure of that. Why? Because they didn’t want the Israelites to arm themselves and rebel. Even after Saul was made king, we are told that only himself and his son had swords. The rest of the army was fighting with farm implements for a while.

What I would like for you, the reader (and I have no idea if anyone reads my blog or not) to take from this are a few things to think about. One is, what is the proper context of our founding documents? Forget the party line mentality that pervades our culture today. Use your own brain to analyze what you see and here. Also, think about who exactly benefits from the general population being disarmed? I mean, besides the criminals. Britain has some of the strictest gun control legislation in the world; so strict even that their Olympic pistol team has to practice in another country. Yet their gun crime is through the roof. The criminals love the fact that nobody can shoot back, and the politicians love that the criminals won’t march on Parliament.

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