OK. I am in favor of
U.S. citizens having the right to
carry firearms and not just where the government says they can. It is something
that is enshrined in the Constitution and from a secular, pragmatic standpoint
makes sense. I don't expect the unbelieving populace, which makes up an overwhelming percentage of Americans, to follow the teaching of Jesus. I agree
with Preston Sprinkle that non-resistance apart from the enemy loving Christian
faith makes little sense. On the other hand there are just some things that
might make sense for unbelievers but run counter to Christianity even when they
are put forth by presumed Christians. Case in point: Jerry Falwell Jr.: If more good people had concealed guns, ‘we could end those Muslims’. As one would
expect from the Washington Post, the title is not terribly accurate but Junior
does say something very similar to that.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”
Turns out that Jerry was packing a pistol in his back pocket and
offers a free concealed carry course. How very American of them and him. He
later clarified that he didn't mean "gun down Muslims before they can
enter a crowded building" which is kind of what his statement sounded
like. "End those Muslims before they walked in" is not terribly
nuanced. Rather he meant Islamic terrorists specifically. Good to know. I am not a fan of using a misstep in a speech as a "gotcha" but this isn't exactly an off the cuff remark. Convocation at Liberty
is a planned event and one would think the President of the world's largest
Christian university would have taken a few minutes to make sure his statement
to a student body he was urging to arm themselves didn't sound like a blank
check to "end" Muslims. In speaking of the concealed carry permit
Falwell went on to say: “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.” Them
presumably being Islamic terrorists. I would hope that if a group of hell bound
unbelievers showed up at a Christian university that the lesson they would receive
is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not a hail of bullets.
When Christians get so concerned about defending themselves from would-be attackers, the Gospel takes a back seat. It would seem to me that someone who believes in Christ would have no fear of death, since that is precisely what Jesus and Paul taught. There should be no greater opportunity than the chance to share the Gospel with someone who is lost. Historically that happened a lot in circumstances other than having tea in your living room with your neighbor. The apostle Paul spoke of what his life was like as a minister of the Gospel:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Cor 11:24-27)
Sorta sounds to me like being willing to share the Gospel means willing to put your life on the line to do it. I wish that willingness to share the Gospel with Islamic terrorists and others who seek to harm you was what President Falwell had focused on rather than arming Christians to kill unbelievers. I am secure in my faith in Christ Jesus. Should I die today at the hands of a terrorist or a carjacker or anyone else my eternity with Christ is already assured. What do I fear from death? In many, many ways I would welcome death in the service of Christ, putting off this slowly dying body of flesh and being united with my Lord and His Bride.
It would be bad enough if the article ended there. It did not. Falwell got roped into a broader discussion about violence and non-resistance and made an utter mess of it.
Some theologians believe that Jesus would call on Christians to put down their weapons in the face of violence. In response, Falwell referenced the story from the gospels of Jesus chasing money changers out of the temple with a whip.
“Jesus said ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,’ and part of that was to go to war, protecting whatever nation was under control of the king,” Falwell said. “I wouldn’t agree with any interpretation of Scripture that was used to say that a man or a woman shouldn’t protect their families.”
Agh! The horrible exegesis, it burns us!
First, Jesus cleansing the temple had major prophetic implications. Jerry and his students aren't Jesus and trying to create some sort of linkage between the King chasing from His House those who profited from the temple business (good capitalists perhaps?) and 19 year old students carrying guns and preparing to pop a cap in the people were are being sent to minister to. Making an argument based on "Jesus did this so I can too" is ridiculous.
Second, Jerry says that "render unto Caesar" means we go to war to protect the kingdom of whomever happens to be king. So if the king says go to war, Christians should heed the call. I suppose that would apply to going to war if the king was Adolf Hitler? Or Joseph Stalin? Or Benito Mussolini? Or does it only apply if the king is a "good king"? Who decides what makes a "good king"? What happens when Christians heed the call of Caesar on opposite sides of a war? Would a German soldier who professed to be a Christian be properly "rendering unto Caesar" in World War I if he gunned down another professing believer from
England because his king said so?
Third, while it may be a reasonable response to use violence to protect your family, there is no mention of that being an exception to what Jesus and Paul taught. In America we all too often confuse American values with Biblical command and precedent and it always makes a mess when we do.
One of the great weaknesses of Americans in 2015 is the utter inability to think more than one step through a question. We are conditioned to respond in a tweet sized response to any issue, no matter how complex and this means that generally our response to an issue is juvenile and easily debunked. This is especially pronounced in the church where it seems that a lot of "Christians" have barely cracked open the preserved written revelation of Jesus Christ. Jerry Falwell Jr. has a wide platform and in front of thousands of students he had the chance to talk about sharing the Gospel, loving your enemy and being willing to lay down your life for the sake of the Kingdom, all very clear Biblical teachings. Instead he went for the cheap applause lines and sends out thousands of young Christians with the call to arm themselves and the willingness to "end Muslims". One can hardly think of a more counter-Christian teaching.
The 1.6 billion Muslims in this world are our mission field, not people we are ready and willing to end at a moments notice.