The Chosen People and Guns: Our History of Supremacy, Violence, and Genocide

The Chosen People and Guns: Our History of Supremacy, Violence, and Genocide July 12, 2022

White Americans love guns because they think of themselves as the Chosen People. Don’t believe me? Look at history.

Image by Ibro Palic from Pixabay

Whenever folks think of themselves as the Chosen People, genocide and violence follow. History shows many examples, but today I want to focus on three: Israel, Christendom, and White America.

 

Israel as the Chosen People

The Bible tells the story of the Hebrew people who were enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years. Having learned the brutality of their Egyptian oppressors, they then turned that same cruelty on to the indigenous people of Canaan. They called it “The Promised Land,” because their theology claimed that God had given it directly to them, and told them to wipe out every native man, woman, and child. The descendants of Jacob were the Chosen People, heirs by divine right. This gave them the license to commit genocide.

In their theology, God was using them to bring judgment on the “sinful” nations that previously occupied Canaan. When Israel sinned, God used other nations to punish them. But somehow, even when defeated and scattered, they maintained the right to be called the Chosen People. So much that in 1948 they claimed the land again. Today, the modern nation of Israel continues the genocide they started thousands of years ago, killing and confining Palestinians who are not, in their minds, the Chosen People.

Of course, I am referring to the political nation of Israel—then and now. I am not condoning antisemitism or blaming the Jewish people as a whole for these actions. This is the result of their leaders concocting a doctrine of divine right and convincing their followers that the Chosen People have a responsibility to commit atrocities in God’s name. Christians are just as guilty, if not more so.

 

Christendom and the Doctrine of Discovery

Beginning with many of the early church fathers such as Justin Martyr and Augustine of Hippo, the church adopted the doctrine of Supercessionism. Also called Replacement Theology, this dogma teaches that the Church is the new Israel. As such, Christians become the new Chosen People, with the same commission to go forth and conquer for God.

 In 1095, Pope Urban II issued Terra Nullius, a papal bull that gave Christian nations the right to conquer “empty lands.” This gave Europeans the right to carry out the murder of “heathens,” a word that means “people of the heath, or people of the empty lands.” At first, these pagans were simply country-dwellers who had not adopted Christianity. These Pagans who still followed the pre-Christian ways were branded as witches and slaughtered until they were nearly wiped out and Europe was Christianized.

After the pagans of Europe were put to death or assimilated, the White Church turned its eyes on Jews and Muslims. The tortures and systemic murders of the Inquisition were simply the Church’s carrying out its divine right. In the Crusades, European rulers claimed the Holy Land for themselves, calling Muḥammad’s followers “infidels.”

 

The Chosen People in America

When Europeans discovered the Americas, they continued to follow Terra Nullius. Considering themselves the Chosen People, they brought their guns with them, to wipe out the “savages.” According to Alyin Woodward,

 Following Christopher Columbus’ arrival in North America in 1492, violence and disease killed 90% of the indigenous population — nearly 55 million people — according to a study published this year.

Because so many Native Americans died, and because they were so resistant to being conquered, White Americans turned their racist gaze to Africa. According to Louis Gates, Jr.,

Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.

 

From Sea to Shining Sea

Believing the United States to be the new Israel, White American leadership who felt oppressed by England shook off their shackles only to place them on the wrists and ankles of minorities. As the new Canaan, America had to be tamed and the “Canaanites” driven out. Doctrines of white superiority and Manifest Destiny drove White Americans to believe they owned the whole continent, from sea to shining sea.

 

Justification of Violence

Being chosen justifies your use of violence. If God chooses you, you can justify just about anything you want to do. You can convince people that you are on the side of law and order, all the while perpetrating violence against your neighbors who you define as “heathen,” “pagan,” “uncivilized,” or “barbaric” because of their skin color, language, or religion. If you are the Chosen People, you can justify becoming a bully, because God has made you dominant. White supremacy is baked into the DNA of the United States.

Hence, America’s fascination with guns. White Americans have a heritage and a culture of self-sufficiency and hunting. But they also have a tradition that says it is their right to pillage. When you make an enemy out of everyone around you, you’d better be well-armed. When you own other people, you’ve got to have guns so you can keep them enslaved. When those people gain their freedom, you’ve got to get more guns to keep them in line. America’s fascination with guns is fueled by racism. And so, the cycle continues.

When a White person says they need to buy a gun because the neighborhood has gone downhill, what they really mean is that minorities have moved in. Property values have gone down because racists don’t like it when minorities “take over.” When property values go down, racists move out, taking their wealth with them. When wealth moves out of a community, of course, poverty follows. Then, poverty breeds substance abuse as a coping mechanism, as well as crime to pay for the substance abuse. With crime comes the need for increased guns. People buy more guns because they are afraid of criminals. Then criminals upgrade to bigger and better guns in order to outmatch their intended victims and the police. And the police need more guns to outpace the criminals. So, the cycle continues.

Of course, in the good old USA, every adult has the right to keep and bear arms, ostensibly to maintain a “well-regulated militia.” But the problem comes when you identify as the Chosen People, and you see that the Wrong Type of People also get to keep and bear arms. So, what do you do about that? You criminalize things that are associated with minorities. Then you over-police minority neighborhoods so you can catch them doing those things that you’ve criminalized. The result is more incarcerated BIPOC people. You feel safer with more of them behind bars. Then you take away the gun rights of felons once they get out of prison. White Supremacist Americans have always tried to be the ones with the most guns—and they will do so by any means necessary.

 

Cycle of Abuse

 Why do we perpetuate this kind of violence? In my work in social services, I see the cycle of abuse that runs through families. A parent abuses a child. That child grows up to become an abuser. What is true in families is also true in nations and empires. Egypt enslaved the Israelites, so when they grew up, Israel learned to enslave other nations. The Greeks conquered Israel, as well as the Italian peninsula. When the Italians grew up, they became the Romans. The “Holy Romans” abused the small kingdoms of Western Europe. When Rome fell, the European nations abused most of the world. They imported this abuse to the Americas. Now grown up, the US continues this cycle of racism and abuse.

We think we are in the business of Empire building for ourselves, but we are simply perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Instead of building our own empire, we are actually building the empire of whatever bully will come after us, that we have created by our own abuse.

 

A Different Kind of Nation

This is why Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world (John 18.36 NIV).” He also said that all those who take up the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26.52). He knew that all those who draw the sword inevitably force others to do the same. We need a way to break the cycle.

Turning the other cheek might seem like weakness, but it is the greatest strength imaginable. It is the strength to change the world by ending the arms race. What does this look like for Americans? It might mean giving up your AR-15, voluntarily. Or it could mean contacting your elected officials and encouraging them to vote for legislation that bans the sale of high-capacity magazines. It could mean lobbying for red-flag laws and minimum age requirements for the purchase of assault-style weapons. Maybe you decide to let your handgun-carrying permit expire because you don’t want to be the kind of person who straps it on every day, with violence in your mind.

Being part of the Kingdom of God means giving up the idea that White people, or Christians, or Americans are the Chosen People. Yeah, I know that 1 Peter 2.9 NIV says that “…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,” But you do realize that other people in the world read this verse, too, don’t you? The ever-expanding Realm of Heaven encompasses all of humanity—every single person created in the image of God. Until we recognize the presence of God in the Other, we will continue to feel the need to arm ourselves against a perceived threat. But when we receive the Other as we received Christ, we do so with open arms instead of the right to bear arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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