Est. May 2008

26 January, 2013

Christians, Guns, And Nonviolence

Lisa Miller over at WaPo is startled over some PRRI poll numbers:
According to the startling results of a survey released last week by the Public Religion Research Institute, 57 percent of white evangelicals live in homes where someone owns a gun (compared, for example, with 31 percent of Catholics.) And more startling, even after 20 first-graders were slaughtered in Connecticut at the hands of a madman with an assault rifle, 59 percent of white evangelicals continue to oppose tighter restrictions on gun laws.
So startled, in fact, that she asks, ‘How do such Christians reconcile their stalwart commitment to the Second Amendment with their belief in a gospel that preaches nonviolence?’ And then she lays out her reasoning:
The Christian Lord allowed himself to be crucified rather than fight the injustice of the death sentence imposed on him. “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” he says, in the Gospel of Matthew. The Bible is mute on the matter of guns, of course, but it is impossible to imagine that Jesus would find anything good to say about them.
Sadly, she makes the same mistakes as others in using those specific Scriptures to bolster her claims.

Take her first claim: ‘The Christian Lord allowed himself to be crucified rather than fight the injustice of the death sentence imposed on him.’ At first glance, it’s a powerful affirmation of nonviolence.

But (you knew there’d be one) there’s a reason why Jesus didn’t fight back, one which Ms Miller and many others who use this passage tend to leave out.

Jesus came to earth to die on the cross for our sins – that was God’s plan, as Jesus repeatedly explained to His disciples. He turned down angelic defense, He turned down Peter’s defense in the Garden, He even called Peter Satan when the disciple tried rebuking Him for talking about dying at the hands of the Gentiles. Had Jesus fought against the false accusations and fought against being sent to the cross, He would not have been doing His Father’s will.

Second Scripture: ‘“If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” he says, in the Gospel of Matthew.’ Here’s another one which Ms Miller is in good company when she misuses it – many, many people believe this verse means that Christians aren’t supposed to fight back.

Ever.

Well, as I’ve pointed out previously (and as others who are better Bible scholars than I am have as well), what Jesus is talking about here is an assault on pride, something Jesus did say was a bad thing to have (pride, that is). Think about it: if you’re right-handed, and you strike someone on their right cheek, how do you do it? It’s going to be a back-hand, right (I mean, that’s the most comfortable, least contortionist way of doing it). It’s the kind of slap parents (used to) give their kids when they back-talked (as a prelude to the soap), and it’s traditionally the way to publicly humiliate someone. Jesus was saying, if someone humiliates you with a slap on the face, don’t retaliate – it’s not worth it. But that passage says absolutely nothing about if someone tries to take off your face with a sword.

This is why depending on a single Bible verse to bolster any claims is usually not the best idea in the world.

(hat tip Sister Toldjah’s Facebook)

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