Powers and Principalities: The Gun as Idol

Powers and Principalities: The Gun as Idol December 15, 2012

I am increasingly convinced that idolatry is a category that Christianity needs to recover.  As long as it remains ignored, a central tenet of Christianity, that an essential aspect of Jesus’s work was to unmask the powers and principalities that order the logic of this world, remains opaque to us.  And as long as this remains opaque, we will continue to worship those powers and principalities.  The suggestion that this is hyperbole and mythology has no purchase with me.  The blood these tyrants drink is real.

The logic of sacrifice that is shattered by the Cross is precisely the logic at work here.  As the letter to the Hebrews rightly notes, this logic is one of ever-increasing offerings.  The only answer when they don’t work is to sacrifice more.  Christ’s once and for all sacrifice is the wrench in this demonic machine.  Its ritual re-presentation, a community meal, quite the antithesis of his bloody death even while it captures the heart of its meaning, stands in stark contrast to the repeated blood offerings demanded by the gods of this world.

Last month, we looked at sacrifices to Mammon.  But Jesus says “Blessed are the poor.”

Today, Gary Wills contemplates the altar of Moloch:

[The gun’s] power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

Adoration of Moloch permeates the country, imposing a hushed silence as he works his will. One cannot question his rites, even as the blood is gushing through the idol’s teeth. The White House spokesman invokes the silence of traditional in religious ceremony. “It is not the time” to question Moloch. No time is the right for showing disrespect for Moloch.

But Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Was Jesus being hyperbolic when he told us not to worry about tomorrow?  Or was he warning us how our perceived needs for material goods and personal security can become so pathological that, in the end, our shopping will make us all bankrupt and our self-defense will get us all killed?

Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto and Hanrahan Scholar-in-Residence at St. Mark’s College in Vancouver. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one.

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