No, Christian, Jesus Didn’t Say You Can Have Your Guns

In the wake of the shameful growing legacy of mass shootings in America, one of the saddest realizations, is that the loudest, most vehement voices championing the cause of weapons of brutality—have come from professed Evangelical Christians.

The cognitive dissonance of supposed followers of Jesus choosing the side of violence and opposing the movement of mercy is staggering, exceeded only by the contention that Jesus says they can pack heat.

It’s nonsense and heresy and it’s a full bastardization of his life and ministry.

There simply aren’t any theological gymnastics wild enough to make it work.

Not with the Jesus who preached that those following in his footsteps would turn the other cheek to violence.

Not with the Jesus who spoke of the blessed nature of the peacemakers.

Not with the Jesus whose benevolence and lack of force were ever-present.

Gun-loving Jesus followers love to point to a passage in the Gospel biography written by Luke, where Jesus speaks about his impending unlawful arrest by Roman soldiers and instructs them to “bring a sword.”

This, they claim is their God-given gun license.

The problem is, they stop reading at this point, close the book—and run to their gun shows and NRA rallies.

They fail to stick with the same story for a couple of paragraphs; when the Romans arrive, and one of Jesus’ students named Peter, takes out one of said swords, and cuts off a soldier’s ear. Jesus verbally tears into Peter, heals the solider’s ear, and tells those with him that this will not be their way.

He then allows himself to be taken into custody, beaten, and ultimately murdered by his captors.

This is the full story, and it is bad news for those wanting to be cowboys.

This narrative isn’t helpful for the gun-toting followers of Jesus.
This narrative doesn’t give them a God who consents to their weapon-lust.
This narrative doesn’t let them have Jesus and NRA membership at the same time.
This narrative actually tells them to drop their weapons and to beat them into plowshares, and to be those who live differently than the fear-bringers.

Christians straining to hold on to their guns, talk about the story of Jesus fashioning a whip to drive money lenders out of the temple, as some half-baked gun blessing—which again is such a perversion of the story that it would be laughable if it weren’t resulting in so many dead school students two thousand years later.

Jesus chases the corrupt people out of the temple because they are profiting from the manipulation of religion. Jesus is driving out the modern-day NRA lobbyists, corrupt politicians, and religious hypocrites. He is running the vipers off and they are the vipers. (And by the way, he doesn’t kill or strike any of them in the process.)

This is why people outside Christianity think that followers of Jesus picking up the cause of tools of mass murder is a blasphemous disconnect—because it is.
They’re seeing it all perfectly clearly.
They can see people trying desperately to make God in their own fearful, insecure, bullying image, and they reject it all.
They know enough about Jesus to know that his finger would never be on a trigger—and there’s simply no way to get around that.

In a last-gasp attempt to hold Jesus at gunpoint, these folks love to quote him talking in Matthew’s Gospel about his mission, “not to bring peace, but a sword.”

Again, they desperately want those words, but not their context or their intention. Jesus is speaking about the way his teachings will cause turbulence between people; the way interpersonal conflict will arrive when they endeavor to do his work of love, compassion, and justice: that it will drive a wedge, it will cause a rift—it will bring a sword. He isn’t saying he wants us to lay waste to our family members. He isn’t saying he came to bring people to hand-to-hand combat. (Yes, gun advocate Christians actually try to go here, to this ridiculous place.)

Those professing to take such words literally, may also be prepared to gouge their eyes out for looking at a woman lustfully—though I imagine this would leave a vast army of blind faithful folks in churches this coming Sunday.

No Christian, Jesus wants no part of your gun lust. He wants nothing to do with your seething nationalism and your 2nd Amendment shield and your tough guy bravado behind a trigger.

He told you to love your enemies.
He told you to turn your cheek.
He told you not to resist an evil person.
He told you to be foot washers and wound binders and compassion givers.
He told you to care for the least and to feed the poor and to welcome the refugee.
That is what he said clearly.

You can love your guns.
You can open carry in department stores.

You can champion the cause of assault weapons.
You can cover your bumper in tough guy propaganda.
You can oppose any sensible gun regulations.

You can glory in your amassed arsenal.
You can do nothing while thousands of people die every year in America.

Just don’t try and pretend Jesus is okay with it.

He isn’t.

He weeps at it all.

And so do those of us who realize it.

Gun-Defending Adults, Listen to Our Children

RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)

A little child will lead them all.

For the past few days I’ve been seeing superheroes.

Superheroes like Emma Gonzalez, a teenager standing in the middle of unthinkable grief, speaking the boldest, most courageous truth to a country starved for it and to leaders willfully resistant to own it.

In days that should be filled with college preparations, prom planning, and the glorious wide openness of her senior year, she has become the prophetic voice of shared outrage at our national failure. 

She shouldn’t have to be this at her young age.
She shouldn’t need to be the one rousing us from our collective sleep and asking us to be decent.
She shouldn’t have to be defending herself from the callous Tweets of a soulless President and from the very lawmakers charged with protecting her.
She shouldn’t need to be teaching adults how to be human.

But thank God she is.

And Emma is in good company. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and those standing in solidarity with them, have been catalyzed into action by nightmares no young person or anyone outside of a war zone for that matter, should understand.

They are leading us in these days; demanding that we see them, insisting that we look in the mirror, imploring us not to devalue the lives of their fallen friends by doing nothing—again.

And what is simply beyond comprehension, is that there are people arguing with and attacking these young people.

There are supposed adults, telling Emma and those standing with her, that their anger is misplaced, that their cause is the wrong one, that they don’t understand the complexities of the issues.
There are politicians figuratively patting them on the head and continuing to rake in the blood money they’ve made such peace with.
And our children aren’t having it.

Teenagers have a really low tolerance for bullshit, which is why they are speaking with such clarity and conviction right now.
It’s why they mince no words and reject every bit of verbal gymnastics about the 2nd Amendment, and about liberty, and about guns not killing people.
It’s why they unapologetically raise a strident middle finger to the sinful sham of “thoughts and prayers,” because they know that the friends and teachers they lost deserve a heck of a lot more than that.

Gun-Loving Adults, these young people know what they’re talking about. They shouldn’t, but they do.
They’ve seen horrors that you and I have never seen; the kind we pray every day our children never see.
They’ve been put through hell, and you don’t get to tell them why they’re wrong.
This isn’t the time to tell us why you love your guns, or to share anecdotal stories about people stopping crimes with AR-15s, or to offer condescension to these teenagers, as if you understand something they don’t.
This is the time to shut your mouth and yield the floor to them.
This is the time to have some reverence, because you are the in presence of heroic young people.

High School students who’ve lost their friends are telling you this country is upside down.
They’re telling you we have a gun problem.
They’re telling you that these politicians and the NRA are responsible for that problem.

They’re telling you that they are fighting for their lives and that you’re fighting on the wrong side.

Listen to them.

Why I Won’t Wait Until “the Bodies are in the Ground” to Talk About Guns

How dare you politicize a tragedy like this! This is not the time! You can’t even wait until the bodies are in the ground!

I heard that again today.

I knew I would.

And honestly, that would be nice.

I’d really like to have that option.

I wish I could give every single one of the those beautiful children the personal attention they deserve.

I’d like to spend time telling each of their stories in the greatest of detail; to find out what they loved to do, their favorite restaurants, the movies they liked, the people they dreamed of being when they grew up.

I’d like to see the pictures they had on their bedroom walls, to learn the names of their dogs and secret crushes, to hear about the specific idiosyncrasies that only those who know them well understand.

I wish I could talk to their parents and their best friends and their favorite uncles, so that I could paint a fitting portrait of every one of their vibrant, beautiful lives enough to eulogize them properly.

I’d like to to pause and try to let us all catch our breath from something so terribly breathtaking.

But that’s the problem: There simply isn’t time.

There isn’t time to “wait until the bodies are in the ground,” because by the time that happens there will be more shootings.

This is the stunning regularity of death here now. 

By the time we mourn them, there will be more scores of high school students—or church members or moviegoers or music fans or tourists to grieve over.

There will be more hallways riddled with bullets, more terrifying phone video taken by young people whose classrooms became war zones, more Breaking News of an active shooter, more frantic texts from parents to their sons and daughters that will not be returned.

And by the time we’ve had a chance to grieve and bury the children killed today—there will be more dead children.

And on that terrible day, just like today, you will tell me this isn’t the time.
You’ll again chastise me for being insensitive.
You’ll again feign offense and accuse me of politicizing a tragedy.
You’ll pretend that you actually give a damn about the memories of these children or the pain of their families, or the fact that 14-year old kids are once again huddled in cafeterias and gymnasiums and homerooms while you tell me it’s too soon to talk about how wrong this all is.

And in this time you’ve scolded me to wait silently through, millions of dollars will flow directly from the NRA to the very politicians charged with protecting these children who will die.
In that time of silent waiting, gun advocates will generate every false narrative to blame the carnage on Muslims or immigrants or Liberals; to place culpability somewhere else, anywhere else but where it belongs.
In that time you’re telling me to be silent, people will be easily buying assault weapons and planning the next atrocity, while the people who love and sell and profit from guns try and wash the blood from their hands.

And in the time it takes to properly grieve and mourn these children killed today—you will have forgotten about them.
You will have moved on.
They will be yesterday’s news.
The nightmares of this day will have been replaced by another round of terrified teachers, of distraught parents speeding toward schools, of hollow thoughts and prayers from politicians tone policing my outrage and doing nothing else.

By the time we bury these sons and daughters, there will be another set of bodies awaiting the ground.
And you’ll be there again to tell me this isn’t the time.
To hell with that.
This is the time.

This is the time because this isn’t normal.
This is the time because kids aren’t supposed to die in school.
This is the time because we have a gun problem.
This is the time because this Administration is in bed with the gunrunners.

So yes, we agree.

These children deserve to be properly eulogized.

They deserve to be rightly remembered.

These also deserved to live.

And the children who will die tomorrow deserve to live too.

I care about them enough not to wait.

I will not wait until they are no longer radiant young lives—but bodies awaiting the ground.

For them—now is the damn time.

 

Here are some organizations who are helping make this country safer:

Moms Demand Action
Everytown for Gun Safety
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Violence Policy Center
Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions

The Brady Campaign

Christian Nationalism and Other Heresies

God doesn’t bless America.

That’s not how this works.

I’m sorry to break it to you, Bible Belt Christians—but that’s just how it is.

I know this kinda wrecks the convenient narrative you’ve been working for the past 60 or so years (and hitting especially hard the past eighteen months), but honestly that nasty bit of heresy has done enough damage already and it needs to go. It’s straight-up of the devil.

I’m not sure where you’re getting your taglines and hat slogans from, but I know it isn’t from the Bible. I know it isn’t from your coveted and regularly trotted out John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God loved the world.
God is in the world-loving business—not the America-blessing business.

You remember the world, don’t you; that massive, spinning sphere of 7.6 billion disparate human beings: brown people, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, Atheists, shithole countries—and lots and lots of non-English speaking, non-Americans?

Check out the Old and New Testaments again.
Read through the Gospels a few times.
Use any translation you’d like:
No America First.
No Making America Great Again (or at all.)
No flags or national anthems to pledge allegiance to.

A few other bits of news from the Scriptures:
Jesus was born in the Middle East.
He didn’t speak English.
He wasn’t white.
He wasn’t Southern Baptist.

He wasn’t a Republican.
Heck, he wasn’t even Christian.

Jesus was a Rabbi who spent his days as an itinerant street preacher, living off the generosity of strangers and speaking in parables about a new “Kingdom of God:'” a radical way of living where the poor were cared for, the oppressed freed, and the outcasts welcomed in. 

Jesus came to usher in a countercultural kind of interdependent community, in direct opposition to the power-wielding Roman Empire he stepped into. It was a diverse, barrier-breaking, border-transcending, nation-defying movement of generosity and mutual affection. It had nothing to do with blessing a Government or building an army—or creating a gated community of white folks in North America two thousand years in the future.

To claim that America was at all the point of the Gospels is flat-out heresy.
To assume any God-ordained supremacy based on religion, nation of origin, pigmentation, orientation, or native tongue—is a perversion of the work of Jesus and idolatry of the worst kind. 

I’m sorry to break all this bad news to you. I understand the actual words of the Gospel are problematic, given the story you’re selling to those whose fear you’re leveraging in America right now.

It’s almost impossible to claim devotion to the Jesus of the Scriptures, while refusing refugees, expelling immigrants, vilifying brown people, worshiping political power, guarding borders, and neglecting the poor—which is exactly the point.

As long as you continue to conflate God and America, you’re going to be whitewashing the Good News, shrinking God into your own image, and bastardizing the message of Jesus in ways that can only be described as fully and violently heretical.

If your God is America—you need a bigger God.