“If she comes after the guns, it’s going to be a rough, bumpy road,” Mr. Swick said. “I hope to God I never have to fire a round, but I won’t hesitate to. As a Christian, I want reformation. But sometimes reformation comes through bloodshed.”
Paul Swick, 42 years old
Small business owner, Trump supporter
and owner of 30+ guns
My daughter looked over my shoulder at the headline of this post and said, “That looks like a headline from The Onion. Sadly, it is the reality of the world that we live in.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are many good and faithful Christians who support Trump. People like Vicki Sanger of Grand Junction, CO who, while she fears Hillary Clinton would be impeached before the end of her first term, still vowed to accept her as President if she is elected. Furthermore, her plan is to pray for the next president, “whoever it is.”
This is what Christians do. We participate in the democratic process. We vote our values. We pray for our leaders.
While I may disagree with Vicki Sanger about which Presidential candidate is best poised to address the public policy issues that drive Christian moral concerns, I support her right (and the right of others) to make political choices and decisions with which I disagree. Heck, Vicki and I probably disagree about what the dominant “Christian moral concerns” are in the country today. But what we need is more dialogue about these differences.
Not the circling of wagons.
Not the denunciation of our foes.
Not conspiracy theories.
And certainly not the threat of armed rebellion if we don’t get our way.
The narcissism of Donald Trump has moved beyond entertainment. He is now actively fomenting violent rebellion, armed resistance, and public danger in our cities. His cries of a rigged election and his public refusal to pledge to accept the results of the election if he does not win are no longer acts of desperation and attempts to garner attention. To the extent that his actions are attempts to interfere with and disrupt the democratic processes of our country – they are acts of treason.
This is particularly evident in his not-so-veiled messages to his gun-owning followers that should Hillary win the election they can “do” something about it.
While some have dismissed or downplayed the significance of Trump’s rhetoric as simply a reflection of his need for attention and his penchant for hyperbole; his words and his messages are functioning to whip up a maelstrom of violent discontent across the country.
On the front page of today’s New York Times is a disturbing article about the Trumped up followers of the most egomaniacal Presidential candidate of my lifetime. Including the quote at the start of this post. While Paul Swick, a small-business owner who went to a Trump rally in Green Bay last week describes himself as a “Bible Christian,” he was also quick to threaten violent retribution directed straight at Clinton if “she comes after the guns.”
In a disturbing, violent, and malevolent tone, Swick justified his threat of violence with an appeal to his Christian faith. “As a Christian, I want reformation. But sometimes reformation comes through bloodshed.” The implication is clear. For men like Swick, Christianity sanctions violence – his violence anyway – in the name of “reformation.”
Anytime religious believers marshal their religion to justify violence, we are entering dangerous territory.
As a religion scholar, it is important to note that there are radical extremists within Christianity. People who will claim that their faith calls them to engage in violence. As a scholar, it is not my place to draw the circle of Christianity is such a way that such people are excluded from the fold. Recognizing the ways in which people of faith use their faith to justify their violence and to draw others to their mission is an important aspect of understanding the logic and danger of these actors.
As an ordained Christian minister, it is also my place to say unequivocally that any interpretation that argues that Christianity supports and advocates the kind of violent rebellion that Swick suggests is just plain wrong. Progressive Christians are often loath to tell other people that their interpretations of scripture or of faith are wrong. However, this is one case where it is crystal clear.
Just as faithful, peaceful Muslims across the world continue to reject the distortion of their faith by violent extremists who seek to justify their genocide and violence by calling on their faith; faithful, peaceful Christians must reject Christians who claim that their faith, in any way, justifies their violent inclinations.
This may become increasingly important in the days and weeks ahead as we face an increasingly irrational and unhinged Presidential candidate who appears to be unable to cope with the reality of his impending defeat.
Since the last debate, Hillary Clinton has increasingly spoken about her desire to be the President for all the people. Whether she wants to or not, that’s how our democracy works. We only have one President and that person will be elected on Nov. 8.
Regardless of who you decide to support in this election, sanity, reason, and safety demand we all support the candidate who wins the election. This is how democracy works. Trump increasingly speaks like a dictator (threatening to jail his political opponents) and his actions and words seek to incite discontent and violence in his followers. The threat to our democracy that Trump poses goes far beyond this election and the world is watching.
Given the profound misogyny, racism and xenophobia that Trump has so proudly represented in this election, my hope is that a crushing and utter defeat of his candidacy might serve as an important civic and cultural message to the world about who we are as a nation.
Hopefully, it will also help to check the potential of violent rebellion from Trump supporters who refuse to accept the results.