A Review of
Collateral Damage: Changing the Conversation about Firearms and Faith
Reviewed by Scott J. Pearson
Guns are a touchy topic in American Christian circles these days. As James Atwood points out in this new book that fact is kind of strange because guns are not a central part of the Christian tradition or of a Christian nation. With a pastor’s heart, Atwood points out many inconsistencies in the way we approach firearms.
This book spans the distance between a call to social and political action and a call to religious awareness. The research in this book is thorough. Atwood cites important facts about gun control and brings forth good arguments. However, he can’t help but turning to a pastor’s voice. As such, Collateral Damage has two messages: A social and political one and a pastoral and ministerial one. I almost wish he split this book into two, with one focused on each audience.
I find Atwood at his best when he interacts with the arguments that gun advocates bring to the table. He writes one chapter about common myths that the gun lobby use. He also points out that the second amendment provides for a “well-regulated” militia – yes, regulation of guns. These appeals to reason and logic anchor what has become an emotional debate in America. These sections teach us how to interact with the world around us.
If this were all this book contains, that would be enough, but Atwood, a Presbyterian pastor, cannot help but turn his message into sermonizing. These portions of the book seem to be less effective and less moving. I wish he would have let the facts speak for themselves and in a separate address brought out the theological implications.
By co-mingling these styles, he restricts his audience to Christians (and to Christians who are already sympathetic to his position). His logic is reasoned well enough that it could have addressed all Americans with a prophetic voice. Instead, he limits himself to those sympathetic towards his faith. That’s unfortunate because America as a whole needs to hear his facts about how we think about guns and gun control.