Two bloggers I much respect may both be misunderstanding a rabbi's denunciation of gun rights as idolatry. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, the President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations said,

Is the need for sensible gun-control a religious issue? You bet it is.

The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity.

Controlling guns is not only a political matter, it is a solemn religious obligation. Our gun-flooded society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship of idols must be recognized for what it is-blasphemy. And the only appropriate religious response to blasphemy is sustained moral outrage.

Eugene Volokh thinks his point is a metaphor run amok, and Clayton Cramer thinks the rabbi's position springs from a lack of comprehension of the gun culture. Either or both may be right, and as Mr. Volokh says, it's hard to speculate on the motivations of a speaker, but I have a different take.

My first thought when I read the quote was that the rabbi was calling an affinity for guns "idolatry" because the gun owner is depending on the weapon for protection, rather than on God. If Rabbi Yoffie is a pacifist, for example, he may believe that all forms of defensive violence betray an underlying lack of trust in God, and from such a perspective a gun could, in fact, be a literal idol: usurping God's role as our protector.



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