He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
(Isaiah 2:4 ESV)
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
(Matthew 26:52 ESV)
He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.
(Luke 22:36 ESV)
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12 ESV)
I don’t think people should have guns. But they do.
The truth is, if the Galileans and Judeans had had guns, and the Romans only swords, history would not have recorded Jesus. Unless he used his guns to defend the poor, the weak, and the marginalized.
I must say, I like the non-violent Jesus, but I’m not sure that’s one we find in Scripture. You see, non-violent resistance was really made famous by Ghandi and MLK. They were awesome. But they also had mass media. The English Newspaper’s for Ghandi, and the TV for MLK. For a non-violence movement, you need a good portion of the masses on your side and participating in marches and discussions. The Jesus movement was small. He warned against a futile effort of resisting imperial rule with violence, not unlike Isaiah who warned against futile alliances with Egypt. That’s the most we can say in terms of Jesus and weapons.
But at the same time, I’m proud of humanity when they stand up to tyrants. Perhaps it’s because I was a student of Elie Wiesel. Perhaps it’s because I recognize the seeming absence of the divine in Auschwitz or in the plundering women and cities by empires or name your tragedy. Our canon recognizes this absence too, no?
So, please, stand up against gun violence in America. Make the restrictions stronger or take guns away. But making Jesus say things about guns that he did not is supporting the narrative and ideology that Americans are under the danger of imperial rule. Gun violence in America has little to do with the context of the Bible. Jesus was under imperial rule, Americans are victims of their “freedoms.” And it’s not much better out there in the rest of the world, either.