Jesus and the Gun
I began this essay as a response to a "progressive" with whom I exchanged tweets, who throught that Holly Fisher's posing with a Bible in one hand and an AR15 in the other was hypocritical of her. More about Ms. Fisher at the end of this essay, but you can see a little bit of her story HERE.
I am frequently confronted by "progressives" (meaning "people who want to take my stuff and boss me around") who state that I should be experiencing cognitive dissonance as a Christian who owns a gun. These people, mostly atheists (or at least, not Christians), who always claim to know more about Christianity than most Christians do. In particular, they claim that, since the Jesus they don't believe existed was supposed to be a man of peace, a Jesus follower who owns "an evil weapon designed only for taking life" is either a hypocrite, or doesn't really believe in Jesus.
Just. Wow. Really? First, let's dispense with non-Christians setting themselves up as experts on Christianity. 99% of the times that I have asked, it turns out that the atheist actually have never read the Bible cover-to-cover—so they actually don't know what it says. They have never spent any time inside a contemporary church—so they don't really understand how churches operate and govern themselves. They don't associate with Christians, so they don't have any Christian friends, or really have any clue of how Christians individually see or experience the world in which they live. In fact, the only Christians they ever speak to are online, where the atheist feels safe in his/her anonymity to behave like a complete tool, knowing that the Christian can't reach through the Internet and slap some politeness into them. Let's be clear. I do not hate them; but I am human, and I don't like being abused by someone who lacks the intellectual horsepower to back up their positions. (There is a corollary to this, and that is Constitutional ignorance. Most the progressives I've asked have never bothered to read the Constitution. They claim to know what's in it, but they've never actually read it for themselves. It's only a few pages long, but they rely on what they've heard about it in the progressive echo chamber rather than going to actually read the document. This is how we get the kind of ignoramuses who believe that the words "separation of church and state" are lifted directly from the Constitution. When you encounter such ignoramuses, feel free to have gentle fun at their expense. They deserve it. Then hand them a copy of the Constitution and suggest that by actually reading it, they might be surprised to come away believing differently about things.)
Here's what really happens: these poor benighted souls listen to the progressive atheist echo chamber, and they repeat everything they hear which is convenient to their most cherished shibboleths, and they discard without addressing it anything that is inconvenient to those notions. They cherrypick verses out of context. They assign translations to verses that no true Christian or Jewish biblical scholar agrees with. They attempt to append false gospels to the biblical content which were originally discarded from the Bible exactly because they do not jibe with the teachings of Jesus. And then, claiming to understand Christianity, its precepts, its holy scriptures, and its history, they then make statements trying to define real Christians. It's like a blind man who has never ridden in a car or studied automotive engineering, claiming to be an expert on driving cars. He's heard them before. He's run his hands over a few fenders. He can smell the exhaust.....but that's all he knows. He is not knowledgeable about cars, he is a liar if he makes the claim that he is an expert on the subject matter. (This is another cherished progressive shibboleth - the idea that "brain trusts", groups of [mostely self-appointed] people who are allegedly "experts" on a given subject matter, should be directing life for the rest of us. In other words, the progressive brain trust becomes God. It's corrollary is the self-congratulatory belief that one must necessarily be a progressive to be have an expert understanding of a subject, and that any other viewpoint necessarily excludes expertise. If that sounds just a little bit arrogant [ok... a LOT arrogant], that's because it is.)
I am actually grateful (though saddened) to speak with an atheist who actually has read all of the scriptures, knows well people who are believers, and has had some actual spiritual training..... and still rejects faith. Those people tend to be respectful of my faith even though they don't share it, and they are able to carry on a civil conversation about our differences because they don't demonize me for being Christian. These ones are easy to love in return, because they aren't doing their level best to get their entertainment by trying to "bait the Christian". And, it is important for the Christian believer to understand that atheism is not the sole province of progressivism, anymore than Christianity is the sole province of conservatism or libertarianism. I know many people who are atheists, whom I trust more with the protection of MY religious liberties because they understand—and practice—classical liberalism, which I define as "liberative conservatarianism" than I would entrust some Christians with protecting those same liberties.
But the other 99%, the progressive atheists, are just plain ignorant. They truly don't know what they are talking about. Let us educate them; and let us start by talking about the difference between the "progressive" and "liberative conservatarian" position regarding rights. I will start with actual examples from late-historical legislation which starkly illustrates the difference between the "progressive" position, and those who love liberty.
In 1981, the town of Morton Grove, Illinois passed a city ordinance outlawing the possession of handguns inside the city limits...... not the carrying of handguns, but the actual possession of them..... including in the home. (Both the Federal district and Appellate courts for the region ruled the ordinance constitutional, but the city eventually voted down that ordinance 27 years later in the wake of the landmark 2008 gun rights SCOTUS decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.)
In response, the town of Kinnesaw, Georgia passed a local ordinance in 1982 mandating the following:
(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.
Note the difference. Progressives banned the object, making no allowances for conscience, no allowances for the realities of protecting a home, no allowances for tradition, no allowances for the words of the Constitution.....and in the process, turning every handgun owning citizen of Morton Grove into an instant felon. That is the progressive way: by an act of political will, convert all citizens exercising a god-given right into instant felons, then give them a way out of that felony by either divesting themselves of legally acquired property, or by accepting that rather than having rights, they have permissions.
The way of Liberative Conservatarianism is what Kinnesaw did. They mandated a general responsibility of all heads of households to keep a firearm and ammunition for it, and then they exempted anybody from that requirement for whom this would be a problem. Those exempted are:
Any conscientious objector to gun ownership for whatever reason
The poor who cannot afford a gun
The mentally handicapped who are not competent to own/use a gun
The physically handicapped who are physically unable to use a gun
In other words, nobody is forcing you to own a gun in Kinnesaw, Georgia; but if you want to own one, the law encourages it. In contrast, progressive Morton, Illinois, instead of encouraging the exercise of a Constitutionally enumerated right, just flat out banned something related to that right. There is a legal principle here which is often overlooked, especially by progressives: THE LAW NEVER LEGALIZES ANYTHING, IT ONLY ILLEGALIZES A THING. In other words, all things are legal by default, unless man makes a law which makes a thing illegal. That's easy to understand. Man came before The Law. Thus, nothing was illegal until made so by man. There would be no logical reason to legalize something first, if it is already not illegal, just so that you could then make it illegal. But the progressive position defies this logic. It assumes is that you cannot enjoy a right, unless government gives you permission to do so first.....which really means that you don't actually have rights; you just have a list of things which are permitted to you. In other words, the progressive position is that all things are illegal, unless a law makes it legal. Since reality, dictated by the fact that Man predates The Law, is exactly the opposite of the progresssive position, then the only rational position is the one that is not progressive.
But, you might ask, where does Jesus fit into all of this?
Luke 22:35-38 (ESV) says:
Scripture Must Be Fulfilled in Jesus
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors. ’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough."
In ancient Jewish culture, a man's cloak was one of his most valued possessions, for it did far more than just act as an outer garment. It was a blanket, a cushion to sit on, a sleeping pad, protection from the cold, an indicator of his station in life. He might not own more than one or two during the entire course of his life. And here is Jesus, telling his disciples that, if any one of them doesn't own a sword, he should sell his most prized possession in order to buy one.
Why would Jesus do that? He was instructing them to go out on their second missionary journey. He pointed out that, the first time they went out, they lacked for nothing. But Jesus knew something that they did not know—that this time, he would not be accompanying them in the flesh... ....because the rugged cross lay across his path. See, Jesus knew that he was about to be crucified. He also knew that, upon his crucifixion, the world was about to get a whole lot more hostile toward his disciples..... and history bears witness that it actually did do exactly that. The deaths that the disciples faced over the next few decades would indeed bear witness to the fact that what these men had seen with their own eyes had to be true—else why would they not just deny Jesus to escape their fates?
So Jesus knew that he was preparing his disciples to go forth into a world that was going to be suddenly more dangerous to them, and that they should be prepared to defend themselves if necessary. He was giving them all authority to do incredible things in his name, but there was going to be a time in which they did not yet know for sure, or necessarily believe, that they actually had that authority. When he was with them in the flesh, JESUS protected them. Pharisees, scribes, sadducees, even centurions understood HIS authority, even if they did not like it and conspired against it. With Jesus there, in the flesh, alongside the disciples, they had no need for a sword.....even though Peter carried one.
That's right..... Peter carried a sword when he was with Jesus (John 18:10-11, ESV):
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Possibly Peter simply carried a sword by personal habit, the same way many carry a pistol today, or possibly because he was carrying one of the two swords mentioned in Luke 22:38. Otherwise, why did he have it with him in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus was arrested? He did not know that an arrest was about to take place! He had no foreknowleadge of an impending need to defend anyone. Jesus and the disciples had gone there, ostensibly to enjoy the garden at night after a moving Passover dinner, and then a little later, to pray separately from the others with Peter, James, and John (the sons of Zebedee). When the chief priests and the crowd showed up to arrest Jesus, Peter sprang forth to defend Jesus (using deadly force to defend another) and cut off the priest's servant's ear.
What is Jesus's reaction? Does he rebuke Peter for defending him? No. Does he rebuke Peter for having a sword with him? No. After all, earlier in the evening he had strongly recommended that his disciples acquire swords. What he does do is to tell Peter and the others that what the priests have come here for MUST go forward so that the prophesies and the Kingdom of Heaven can be fulfilled. He doesn't tell Peter to get rid of the sword. He doesn't shame Peter for having it with him. He simply says, "put it away, so that I can do what has to be done". [See Addendum Here]
Jesus would have understood the gun the same way he understood the sword. The gun is the modern day sword. He might not have concerned himself with them most of the time, but he would have understood possessing them, carrying them, and using them in self-defense or the defense of others, or for dispatching an animal for food......for he understood a God-given right (with which we are endowed by our Creator)—which he, being fully God (which unlike Obama et al, he did not regard as something to be grasped after [Philippians 2:6]) had previously imparted to his creation—the human right to defense of self and others, even with use of deadly force if necessary, and by whatever means necessary. When he told his disciples to sell their cloaks if necessary to buy swords, he was not telling them to go forth and kill. No. He was telling them to go forth and spread the gospel, but to be prepared to defend themselves if necessary. He wants us to live in peace, in so far as we are able to, but he does not require us not to protect ourselves from robbers, thieves, and murderers. Nowhere in Scripture does he tell us not to do that.
Those swords in scripture were not intended to be offensive weapons, they were defensive weapons. Just as today, my handgun is not an offensive weapon, it is a defensive weapon. In fact, the swords of the day in question were not the long Broadsword we think of from various mythologies, but rather they were the short Roman sword - more like a long Bowie-knife - called a Pugio. They were used for other things than fighting, such as slicing meat and cutting bread, but they were weapons. And make no mistake that, even though the intent was defensive, a sword is definitely a deadly weapon. Swords have been used to kill people in mass quantities over the milleniae. So progressive attempts to demonize the gun's intended use are without legitimacy. Similarly, the 2nd Amendment does not protect only flint-lock muzzle loading rifles. IF it were so, the 1st Amendment would not protect free speech on the Internet, radio, or television. In fact, we recognize that as technologies progress, Constitutional rights expand to include them. We recognize that, under the 4th Amendment, police may not use infrared or sound technology to penetrate your home, or obtain a wiretap, or place a camera inside your home, etc., etc., without a court ordered warrant. In other words, our Constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures has been extended to protection from technological intrusions that the Founding Fathers hadn't even dreamed of. In fact, the engineering leap from the primitive multi-shot pistols of the Founders' day (pepper-box pistols), to revolvers and semiautomatics today, is a much smaller technological leap than the leap from Ben Franklin's single sheet printing press to Google's data servers. So, just as progressive claims that the pistol was invented only to kill (just like the sword) is invalid, so is the progressive claim that 2nd Amendment protections do not extend to modern weapons, because they are more complex than cap and ball muzzle loaders.
It is NOT the tool which is at issue today, it is the condition of the human heart which wields the tool. The heart stands at the interface between our inner and outer worlds. When our heart is sick and we are convicted by what we see inside of ourselves, we project that loathing onto other people so that we don’t have to deal with the sickness of our hearts. We convert that loathing of others into pride of self. We don’t trust others with the means to defend themselves, because we do not trust OURSELVES with that means…..because we loath what we see inside of ourselves. Instead of dealing with what is inside of us, we escape it by blaming all ills on the world outside ourselves. Anything bad in our lives is ALWAYS the fault of someone else. We are ENTITLED to feel good about ourselves……even if the price for that is demonizing everyone else......or trampling on the other person's rights. The prideful heart seeks to question the other person’s rights, and to control the fulfillment of the other person’s needs.
The healthy heart understands that the inner world is not perfect, and it endeavors to work on that while understanding that this process—which we Christians call “sanctification”—is a lifelong thing…..and that we will still be sinners right up to the moment of our deaths. SAVED sinners, but still sinners. To see ones self as sinful and imperfect—and to be OK with that—requires humility. The humble heart does not question the other person’s rights or needs (not to be confused with “wants”). The humble heart seeks to protect the other person’s rights, and to fulfill the other person’s needs.
THIS is what is behind the demonization of a young intelligent mother from West Virginia by the name of Holly Fisher, who leans on God, loves the life he has given her, and leans on him daily to sustain her through the tragedy of her son’s illness. When she gives expression to her God-given rights, when she criticizes a broken and constipated healthcare system for putting her son’s life at risk, when she supports her dear husband who has volunteered his life on behalf of an ungrateful nation, EVERYTHING about her threatens the prideful heart. For to give in and show her compassion, the prideful heart must examine the internal world……a terrifying place if one is not prepared with a good dose of humility.
THAT is why she gets the criticism she does; NOT because she chooses to live her life fully and unapologetically, leaning into Jesus, and claiming the liberty HE has endowed her with..... including the right to possess and bear the means of protecting herself, her children, and others—with the "modern sword", a gun.