As I am sure we all know, there was a tragic shooting in an elementary school up in Connecticut. This is not the first shooting in this country either — not at all. It seems like every week or so that there is a major shooting in the United States. Not all of them make national news, but they always make it to the local news. I have heard many different reactions to these tragedies, but I feel that I must address the typical reaction that I see from Christians, especially conservative ones.
I know this particular approach well because it is the view of my father. He feels that all of life’s evils can be solved by violence. He says we should bomb the Middle East, bomb China, reinforce Israel, and increase private ownership of guns. To put some icing on the cake, he also works for the Department of Homeland Security/Transportation Security Administration.
In addition to my father, a classmate of mine, who sits behind me in English, often talks about guns with another classmate of mine. He feels that all of these massacres could just be stopped if people carried guns. His logic is that if someone starts shooting, everyone else can just fire back and kill him. I am sure that we can all agree how flawed this logic is, but it nevertheless makes sense to him.
My father and classmate have a very little in common except for one thing — they both see themselves as Christians. Their logic, however, seems to directly contradict that of Jesus, yet they see themselves as Christians. I find this very problematic, yet it is a very common sentiment. Very many people in this country own guns, join the military, vote for war, and support groups like the National Rifle Association while still seeing themselves as Christian. There was even a church in Texas that was giving shooting lessons to “defend” against Mexican immigrants!
Can an authentic Christian believe in such things? Can an authentic Christian desire for more guns, warfare, and violence? I very strongly say, no; I very strongly feel that such people are not really following Christ. Jesus said and did many things in the three years he preached, and nonviolence was a big part of it:
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matt. 5:7)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt. 5:9)
You have head that is was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (Matt. 5:38-39)
Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matt. 26:52)
This is only from one gospel and a few select passages at that, but I think it is enough to get the point across.
We are Christians, which means that we follow Christ. We do not follow Augustine who made up the “Just War” Theory; we do not follow the Old Testament kings and their genocidal campaigns; and we do not follow modern day politicians or theologians. As Christians, and as Anabaptists, our foundation is the Gospel. Sure, the other parts of Scripture and history are great and helpful, but they do not overrule our faith in Christ.
If we are going to follow Jesus, we must ask: did he mean it? Did he mean it when he said to love our enemies? Did he mean it when he said to lay down our swords? Did he mean it when he said that only the sinless can cast stones? Did Jesus mean it?