Of course, this sort of thing has been going on ever since. Today, somewhere in the world, Christians are still in danger of being arrested, beaten, tortured or killed for their faith.
In America, what many deem to be a “Christian Nation”, there is a curious twist to this narrative. Here, where our faith is largely celebrated and openly accepted, Christians are still in danger of being shot and killed while sitting in the worship service. But the differences are that here, unlike in those other nations, the Christians being killed in the pews are subject to being shot, in part, because of their devotion to the State, not because they oppose it.
That’s what’s so strange, really.
Christians a few thousand years ago were killed for defying the Empire. Today, Christians are convinced that God loves their Empire more than all the others. They also believe that God has given them the right to kill others – even to violently rebel against their own “Christian Nation” if necessary.
Those early Christians were unanimous in their insistence that Jesus demanded non-violent love in response to violence. They loved their neighbors in spite of the threats. They showed their love for their Nation by refusing to retaliate when provoked.
Today’s American Christians show their love for their Nation by refusing to challenge the notion that everyone deserves the right to stockpile weapons.
Early Christians willingly sold their possessions to share with those in poverty around them. Today’s Christians will kill anyone who dares to come after their possessions.
Early Christians, for the first 300 years at least, refused to own weapons and no historic accounts exist of any of them using violence to resist their persecutors or prevent other Christians from being arrested or killed.
Today’s American Christians refuse to allow anyone to take away their weapons. Even if it means this may keep them in danger of being brutally killed while they worship on a Sunday morning.
Why would they do this? Is there something in the teachings of Christ that drives them to inaction in the face of continuous gun violence?
Sadly, not. In fact, many of these same Christians reject the idea that Jesus taught non-violence or enemy love. They tend to believe that every American citizen has the right to own as many semi-automatic machine guns as they want. In fact, they will consistently defend that right at the drop of a hat and become extremely emotional if you try to suggest that this ideology is exactly the reason why so many people – including Christians – get gunned down by people with semi-automatic machine guns.
Be Careful What You Love
So, essentially, American Christians have a deep and abiding love for the Second Amendment. That love is deeper and more abiding than their love for the commands of Jesus not to harm anyone, even enemies, for any reason. The idea of turning the other cheek and overcoming evil with good not only seems foolish to them, it seems impossible.
It’s hard to blame them, really. Their pastors and teacher never really teach them anything about how devoted those earliest Christians were to those same love commands that Jesus gave to us. They usually only hear sermons that fit into the American Nationalist narrative.
Their Jesus looks more like a free-market capitalist Abraham Lincoln than the suffering servant who said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
So, many American Christians are especially immune to the Sermon on the Mount. They know more about the Constitution than the teachings of Christ.
This is why they are more likely arm their people so they can shoot the killer before he can shoot them on a Sunday morning. They just don’t have any better ideas than what their Founding Fathers gave to them a few hundred years ago.
When Jesus tells them that their Heavenly Father is kind to the sinner and the righteous alike, and that to be like God is to show love to everyone – even those who hate you – they assume it must be some sort of complicated parable or a riddle that is meant to lead them to throw up their hands in defeat so that they can bask in His infinite Grace. Or something.
Essentially, the Founding Fathers supersede the Heavenly Father and the Second Amendment overrides the Eight Beatitudes.
Believe it or not, for all of my dripping cynicism, I really do have a hope that one day these Christians might abandon their faith in American politics and develop a very real hunger and thirst for the wisdom of the Nazarene.
There is so much life in His teaching. There is so much hope. Without it, I don’t think I could make it another day.
Who knows? Maybe if a few of us wake up to embrace the words of Jesus spoken so long ago, we might just discover that God has an answer to our violence, and our pain, and our selfishness.
Maybe, one day, American Christians will have the courage to repeal their Second Amendment ideology and fully embrace those Eight Beatitudes of Christ.
Until then, I guess we’re stuck with the status quo.
Here’s to progress.
Keith Giles is the Author of “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” and the co-host of “The Heretic Happy Hour Podcast”.