Al’s Afternoon Tea: ‘No Second Amendment, No First’

By Al Perrotta Published on May 8, 2024

Today we have a special edition of Al’s Afternoon Tea. Our friend and colleague, The Stream’s own John Zmirak, has just released a crucial and timely new book about the importance of gun rights to religious freedom: No Second Amendment, No First.

 

Al’s Afternoon Tea: What do you mean by the title, No Second Amendment, No First?

John Zmirak: People need to know that while our rights are given to us by God, in a fallen world He expects us to protect them ourselves — just as we must earn our bread by the sweat of our brows. The Incarnation didn’t change that. Jesus didn’t leave behind a world where manna appears on the ground every morning for Christians, nor a world where you can just trust the government and the media, or the smiling man in the pulpit.

We still face the brute fact of sin and its effects — the worst of which is the human impulse to pillage and tyrannize our neighbors. Part of our God-given dignity is found in our right to defend ourselves directly against crime and violence from our neighbors, and against tyranny imposed on us by the government. This book starts by laying out how many churches and believers have lost sight of these fundamental theological and political realities. Instead of the hard-headed, reality-based dogmas that make up actual Christian faith, they preach a sanitized, sentimental gospel of wishful thinking and winsome slogans.

Churches have drifted away from solid doctrine and instead became ministers of the “social gospel,” which gives up on saving souls and instead seeks to become a well-funded department of a therapeutic State, which pretends to build the New Jerusalem here on Earth via earthly means — sidelining the person of Christ and the teachings of the Gospel in favor of prosperity, diversity, tolerance, and affirming everybody’s self-esteem by using his/her/hir preferred pronouns. So we get a church the Apostles wouldn’t recognize, in a country our Founders would have despised.

I examine the biblical and doctrinal roots of the belief that Christians have a right, even a duty, to rebel against tyrannical governments. It took centuries for the Church to process this implication of the Gospel, to accept that a “just war” doctrine also applies to war against one’s own wicked government if it persecutes Christians or otherwise betrays its solemn mission.

Part of our God-given dignity is found in our right to defend ourselves directly against crime and violence from our neighbors, and against tyranny imposed on us by the government.

Then the book shows the direct connections between religious and civic liberty, and citizens’ ability to push back, even openly resist, wicked governments. That story ranges from the mutual persecutions during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the English Civil War, and the American Revolution to the crafting of our Second Amendment. For instance, did you know that text comes almost straight from the English Bill of Rights (1690), which ties gun rights directly to freedom for long-persecuted Protestant churches?

The book moves forward to show how totalitarian governments disarmed their citizens before subjecting them to genocide. Between 1914 and 1990, more than 170 million civilians were murdered by their own governments, all across the world. The only common factor uniting them? They’d all been disarmed by those governments first in the name of public safety. The book even looks at the contrasting fates of two groups of Christians in the Middle East — Iraqis who obeyed gun-control laws and were slaughtered, and Syrians who armed themselves and defeated ISIS.

An Armed Populace: The Enforcement Mechanism of Freedom

AAT: So to put it in simple terms, if we don’t have the 2nd Amendment, we can forget about all the God-given rights laid out in the First Amendment, including freedom of religion.

JZ: That’s right. The Soviet constitution, for instance, guaranteed free expression and religious liberty, but not the right to bear arms. That constitution was in place all through the Ukrainian famine and the purge trials and the gulags. So it was a joke in very poor taste, because it had no enforcement mechanism. An armed populace is the only reliable enforcement mechanism for freedom in history. If we throw that away, we are fools who deserve to be ruled by tyrants. And we’ll get what we deserve, or our children will.

 

AAT: Why write the book now?

JZ: As Raymond Ibrahim often chronicles here at The Stream, Christians are being slaughtered across the world, from Armenia to Nigeria, by jihadists obeying the tenets of their religion. Our government and media drill into our heads that it’s nevertheless a “religion of peace.” Meanwhile, the Biden regime is trying to import thousands of Hamas-supporting Gazans into America, and using every unconstitutional loophole it can find to strip us of our means of defending ourselves.

We’re being warned that the worldview of the Founding Fathers, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan is dangerous “Christian Nationalism.” Americans who defend themselves against violence, like Kyle Rittenhouse, get prosecuted for first-degree murder — the same charge Lee Harvey Oswald would have faced — while violent felon illegal aliens are set loose on the streets without bail. I’d say it’s exactly the right time for a book about the real Christian teachings on self-defense, violence, and the government.

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The COVID Panic Was a Test Run for Totalitarianism

AAT: Fair enough, but what triggered you to write the book? (See what I did there?) Given your wide variety of interests, you could have chosen to write anything.

JZ: I’d been working on this book for a while because I found the connections between Christian anthropology and political liberty fascinating. But I realized that this book was urgent after experiencing the COVID panic — which locked us in our homes, closed our churches, censored our media, and forced an untested experimental vaccine developed from aborted babies’ harvested organs onto more than a billion people. And after the fake George Floyd riots — a political terror tactic that deployed mobs in our cities to stoke fear and division — and the theft of the 2020 election, Fox News’ betrayal of its viewers, Mike Pence’s betrayal of the duties of his office, and the vicious persecution of peaceful January 6 demonstrators.

All that told me that the hour is indeed late.

“Turn the Other Cheek, Except Maybe Against the Nazis”

AAT: A fascinating element of your book is tying gun rights to biblical principles. The 2nd Amendment doesn’t just protect religious rights, but was born out of the Old and New Testaments.

JZ: That’s right. Too many Christians aren’t taught about the heritage of theological reflection on the morality of violence and self-defense, from the Covenant of Noah up through the debates over the Crusades, or about resisting persecuting rulers during the Reformation. Instead, they absorb some fuzzy version of “turn the other cheek,” maybe modify that with “except maybe against the Nazis,” and move along with muddled heads. I hope to unmuddle such heads, and show people that the same Gospel which demands we forgive people who insult us also demands that we fight against tyrants who want to enslave our neighbors. And to do that, we need to hold on to our guns.

Fallen Man Is a Killer

AAT: You also talk about connections between the secularization of culture, the loss of gun rights, and contemporary contempt for human life.

JZ: All across the West, countries that ban guns and eschew capital punishment allow abortion and euthanasia. That’s not an accident; it’s a logical consequence. Those things walk in lockstep together. Fallen man is a killer. If he won’t kill the guilty, he will kill the innocent instead.

In Belgium, jihadi terrorist murderers can’t be executed, but the government will offer assisted suicide to their traumatized victims. That sounds simply crazy on the face of it, but in fact that’s the bottom of the Gadarene cliff called secular humanism, which doesn’t see human life as sacred or morality as absolute. Instead, we’re all just featherless bipeds, and the job of the omnipotent State is to minimize suffering — as if we were not God’s image bearers but hapless rescue pets at an overcrowded “kill” shelter.

The same Gospel which demands we forgive people who insult us also demands that we fight against tyrants who want to enslave our neighbors.

No Second Amendment? No Homeschooling, No Pro-Life Movement Either

AAT: Recently speaking with Eric Metaxas you mentioned that Founding Father James Madison said if all the mechanisms in the Constitution he’d crafted to frustrate tyranny failed, an armed citizenry would be the last backstop preventing a dictatorship. What words did he use?

JZ: In Federalist 46, Madison wrote that the Second Amendment made possible

a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered ….

There’s a reason homeschooling is illegal in countries like Germany, that the Australian government could talk about sending the unvaccinated to camps, that pastors in Canada face prison time for teaching biblical morality … and none of that has yet happened here. Those countries disarmed their citizens, who are now as helpless as veal calves at a meat processing plant. In America, the State is still afraid of the people. We need to keep things that way.

AAT: Except veal calves probably have a hundred laws protecting them to ensure they are killed and treated humanely. But I digress.

JZ: I’m not being sarcastic when I say I support state laws defining unborn babies as puppies, so at least they’d have some legal protection from being killed in the cruelest ways. Pro-life groups ought to draft such laws and lobby for them, if only to shame people.

F-15s Didn’t Conquer the Afghans

AAT: Joe Biden mocks gun-rights advocates, saying, “What good are citizens’ guns going to against F-15s?” How do you respond to that?

JZ: I’d tell him to explain that to the Afghans, who defeated everything the U.S. military could throw at them. His new transsexual army couldn’t hold down Staten Island, much less 25 red states, including Texas, that are full of people who believe in the afterlife.

 

AAT: During the eighteenth, nineteenth, and even most of the twentieth century, guns could help you protect your private property. A well-regulated militia could ward off a malevolent government intrusion. But now, the government can — and does — violate your rights with a click of a mouse. “You and your redneck buddies can sit on your porches with your AR-15s all you want, but we just froze your accounts, knocked you off all social media, and debanked you. For all practical purposes, you no longer exist.” What good is the Second Amendment there?

JZ: Obviously we need to fight on many fronts. That’s why a large portion of the book is devoted to those who resisted the COVID panic, the 2020 election fraud, and the persecution of January 6 defendants. But all of those efforts flow from the same conviction: that human life is sacred, our rights come from God, and we will fight by any means necessary — using the proper tools at the proper time.

Leaderless Resistance

AAT: Do we need to come up with “well-regulated militias” of cyberwarriors?

JZ: Absolutely. The Stream is part of that, along with Revolver News, Steve Bannon’s War Room, Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA, Eric Metaxas’s books and broadcasts, Julie Kelly’s Substack, and other publications such as Chronicles, Human Events, and the newly liberated Twitter (X). (Though they still won’t restore my account, permanently suspended for defending the great Sidney Powell.)

 

AAT: I get you, but I was talking about teams of civilian hackers or other techies who would be the militias of cyber self-defense against tyranny. They may not muster on the village green, but in a basement.

JZ: Whatever people do, it must be decentralized and fed-proof. Leaderless resistance is the watchword.

 

AAT: Where can Streamers get your book?

JZ: In bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, via Amazon, and pretty much everywhere. They haven’t banned it yet. But you get the best deal ordering it straight from the publisher, the fearless little conservative press Calamo.

 

AAT: One last question: Is it true you never even touched a gun until you moved to Texas?

JZ: That’s right. I used to joke that everyone in America should be allowed to have a gun — except for us hothead Zmiraks. But then I watched the George Floyd riots, the arrests after January 6, and decided it really wasn’t responsible not to own one.

But I still won’t drive a car. I’m a native New Yorker for life.

 

Al Perrotta is The Stream’s Washington bureau chief, coauthor with John Zmirak of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration, and coauthor of the counterterrorism memoir Hostile Intent: Protecting Yourself Against Terrorism.

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