Show Notes - Episode 58
“If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” - Jesus, Lk 22:36(b)
“Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” - Jesus, Mt 26:52
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” - Jesus, Mt. 10:34
“Conservative culture often conflates Christianity and nationalism, placing, the American flag above the cross.”
In 2018, The executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre, said that the Second Amendment was not a right “bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”
“In 2017, after a shooting at a Southern Baptist church near San Antonio, Texas, left twenty-six people dead and twenty injured, some Christian leaders called for members of their church to arm themselves; Robertson Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, said, on “Fox and Friends,” that he felt more secure knowing that his congregants were carrying weapons.”
And this is yet another example of how evangelicals are turning the tables on themselves. It's also an example of how they never learn from their own rhetoric and mistakes. What pastor wants to turn his church into a theater of warfare? Answer: an angry one who just watched 26 people gunned down and 20 more injured by a maniacal, hopelessly racist DOMESTIC TERRORIST with a gun. Let's not cushion the descriptors here just because the gunman was white and a U.S. citizen.
For those who don't remember, it went down like this:
“On November 5, 2017, Devin Patrick Kelley of New Braunfels, Texas, fatally shot 26 people and wounded 20 others during a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in Texas and the fifth-deadliest mass shooting in the United States. It was the deadliest shooting in an American place of worship in modern history, surpassing the Charleston church shooting of 2015 and the Waddell Buddhist temple shooting of 1991.
Kelley was prohibited by law from purchasing or possessing firearms and ammunition due to a domestic violence conviction in a court-martial while in the United States Air Force. The Air Force failed to record the conviction in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Crime Information Center database, which is used by the National Instant Check System to flag prohibited purchases.”
One government organization dropped the ball and nearly 50 people suffered for it.
After the shooting in San Bernardino, California, in 2015, Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of Liberty University, urged his students to procure gun permits. “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he told students. (The New Yorker, ibid)
“You can’t have a beer at Liberty, but you can have a gun... the same people who worship the Prince of Peace are packing heat.” - Shane Claiborne
Liberty University is also home to a SPRAWLING firing range. You know, so you can keep your skills sharp if you encounter any of “those Muslims.”
Luke 22:36b “If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
Now, the article in the New Yorker that I've been referencing is actually about an EVANGELICAL (Shane Claiborne) who has started a grassroots movement that promotes gun control. And while I do think this is very admirable, I also think that the evangelical in him still isn't seeing the big picture.
Like many left-leaning Evangelicals (and, yes, they're out there), Claiborne's platform is predicated on a version of Jesus that admonishes against violence, but as the verses above (and some of our earlier content) shows, violence and violent messaging are prevalent in the words of Jesus and the doctrines and interpretations of those doctrines held by conservative evangelicals.
Evangelicals and Gun Ownership
Men are more likely to own guns than are women 39 percent vs. 22 respectively
People who live in rural areas own guns in higher numbers than residents in urban areas, 46 vs. 19% respectively.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more than twice as likely to own guns, 44 and 20 percent respectively
36 % of white people own guns
24% of black people and Latinas come in at 15%.
Nearly two-thirds of gun owners report owning more than one gun. 29% boast owning five or more.
White evangelical Protestants own guns at a higher rate than any other people group (44%). When compared to the the overall population of the United States, only 30% own them.
Only 32% of white evangelical Protestants call for stricter gun control measures versus the majority (52%) of U.S. voters.
It's not at all surprising why white evangelicals, republicans, and right-wing extremist thinkers lead in support of access to guns. Here are just a few of the reasons:
The increase in Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, and even atheist and other non-religious-identifying people being elected to public office at federal and state levels
Women and people of color are gaining more social and economic power
White people are losing their majority status and have been for years
So to recap, they support guns largely because they're racists, misogynists, and cowards. And I'll say it again: I've found myself in the middle of some very tenuous interpersonal encounters with people and, yet, in almost 50 years on this planet I have yet to find myself in a situation where I wished I'd had a gun to “protect” myself.
This isn't about self-protection. It's about power. They want to lord power over people they dislike or whom they consider to be a threat. And what greater power is there in the mind of someone who thinks this way than knowing that they can take the life of someone with whom they fail to identify if circumstance allows it?
I love these quotes from the same article:
“If you need to feel the pulsating heat of a throbbing weapon of war in your hands, join the military and serve your country. Or go to a firing range where you can overcompensate for your penile insecurities.”
“Our country has no higher rates of mental illness than our peer nations, but no other comparable country suffers the casualties to guns as the United States. We must remember first and foremost that hate is not a mental illness.”
“Additionally, it is shameful that our young people must undergo “active shooter” drills and carry bullet proof backpacks to school.” I'll add to that having to pass through metal detectors every morning and being held to dress codes that aim to curtail carrying in weapons.
“As a misbehaving and obstinate child who places themselves in harm’s way by stepping too close to the edge of a high cliff, we as a society must place restrictions for the physical and emotional safety of our society.” Translation: if they're going to act like toddlers, police them like they're toddlers.
Not only do many evangelicals own guns, they preach a loud gospel of resistance and self-defense, even to the point of giving (above and beyond their tithes, of course) to people and initiatives that further their own opinions and agendas.
They support the NRA in numbers larger than any other people group.
They gave more than $2 Million to Kyle Rittenhouse via Christian fundraising platform GiveSendGo to cover legal expenses and show overwhelming support to the wannabe suburban commando who killed two people during the Kenosha Unrest last August.
The motivations to both bear arms and support those who do and rally to their side when they kill are all the product of the same thing that evangelicals love to perpetuate: fear. Tell people that there are looming threats all around them. Teach them to fear people who don't look like them. Teach them that the world is polarized into two categories: us and them and that “them” is a group that poses a constant threat. When you can get people thinking like this, you can get them to pack heat AND you can siphon more money off of them to keep perpetuating the notion that this world is evil and that we need to defend ourselves from it at all costs.
“Conservative evangelicals believe that the world can be an evil place, and sometimes violence is necessary to achieve order,” - Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
The idea is certainly popular among fans of John Correia, the founder of Active Self Protection, a self-defense training program advertised as a way to help “people in all walks of life to develop the attitude, skills, and plan to defend themselves and their families from harm.” Correia also runs a YouTube channel where he comments on footage of violent incidents and attempts to show how “good guys” might have mitigated the situations.
He also... surprise! “a passionate supporter of Jesus,” a former pastor of West Greenway Bible Church, and an adjunct Biblical studies professor at Arizona Christian University, he also hosted a conference called “Bullets and Bibles” that included a worship service and sermon along with a ton of deceptive and subversive information designed to further the notion that carrying weapons and being prepared to use them is somehow righteous.
“We make no bones about the fact that we try to make it centered on Jesus and that he’s glorified in our time,” Correia said of the conference in an interview with RNS.
Great. So killing people (or being instant in season when the opportunity arises) is now a way to glorify Jesus. Got it.
“Correia often invokes Scripture to argue that in the event of an attack, a Christian has a right to self-defense. He pointed to the book of Nehemiah, contending that the biblical figure encouraged private citizens to arm themselves in self-defense while rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.”
What I want to know is... what constitutes an attack? Also, is there or is there not a qualitative difference between a group of people without an organized military or police force protecting themselves from real, probable threats and an industrialized, modern society that has those things built into the structure of the society?
“I have the right to set my boundaries, and no one has the right to harm me physically or to threaten my life,” he said. “I have the right to defend the boundary that says, ‘I will not be forced and I will not be murdered.’”
Mr. Correia, I have but one thing to say to that:
Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation. (Ps. 91:11-15)
Mr. Correia, is your god able to protect you without any help or isn't he? If he is, why do you need a gun, really? What's the real motivation? What sort of threat or attack would cause you to unholster your weapon? And, what sort of person would make you draw it the fastest?
Now, my original intent with this episode was to examine the motivations of mass shooters, but like with a lot of these topics, it's difficult, without an insane amount of digging, to find anything about the perpetrators that delves into their personal lives or beliefs. There are a number of parallels, though, that I think have to come from the kind of thought processes that are rooted in evangelical ideology. I don't think many of the people who donated to Kyle Rittenhouse were even worried about his religious affiliation. All that mattered to them was that he set out to “deliver Kenosha from evil.”
Again, isn't God supposed to be the actual deliverer or am I missing something here? “Well, God told him to do it.” Really? In the OT God seemed to have a lot to say. He took out a lot of contracts on a lot of people, usually leaving it to people to carry out his dirty work, but in those instances, the voice of God was, apparently, clearly heard. Audibly. He hasn't had anything to say recently so... how does one make that determination? Well, just like Susan B. Anthony once told us, God's opinion on anything seems to be uniformly congruous with that of the person he “speaks” to. How convenient.
I do want to talk about two shootings in particular, but first, let's take a look at the common profile of a mass shooter and you can tell me where much of their motivation comes from.
“A new Department of Justice-funded study of all mass shootings — killings of four or more people in a public place — since 1966 found that the shooters typically have an experience with childhood trauma, a personal crisis or specific grievance, and a “script” or examples that validate their feelings or provide a roadmap. And then there’s the fourth thing: access to a firearm.”
Childhood trauma – incidences of child abuse are high in evangelical homes and that abuse takes on every imaginable form from early indoctrination to corporal punishment to a multitude of mental and emotional abuses that erode the self-image of the individual.
A personal crisis or specific grievance – many of which are “moral” issues and those morals have some very familiar points of rhetoric
A script of examples – The Bible, anyone? They also use things like racial stereotypes and a hate for various people groups along racial, gender, and alternative lifestyles
Access to guns – and the first three SCREAM compelling reasons why there needs to be less
Let's look at two examples of mass shootings and the evangelical ties that exist to them.
First, the shooting at Pulse in Orlando in 2016.
On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old local man, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, United States. Orlando Police officers shot and killed him after a three-hour standoff.
In this instance, the perpetrator was, in fact a Muslim extremist who had made two pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia prior to the shooting. So what's the evangelical tie-in here? I think it's in the response of some Christian leaders and organizations. Not only were their canned, politically correct responses absolutely overflowing with indifference, there were those who had the audacity to pepper their attempts to distance themselves from the actions of the shooter while at the same time drawing attention to their own skewed beliefs about homosexuality.
Matthew Vines, author of “God and the Gay Christian,” noted in an op-ed for TIME Magazine that nearly 50 percent of LGBT Americans are Christians, like himself. For them, Sunday mornings are a reminder that they are not accepted in many pews – that many traditional churches view homosexuality as incompatible with Christian beliefs.
“The core problem is that so many Christians still talk about the LGBT community like they’re not a part of the church and like they’re not part of the same family. That’s the core problem: They use ‘othering’ language that presupposes that Christians and LGBT people are separate, mutually exclusive groups,” Vines told RNS.
For instance, he said, many of the statements made by prominent Christians didn’t name LGBT people as the targets of Sunday’s massacre.
One of them was the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
“Today’s deplorable act of terrorism goes against everything we stand for as Americans and as Christians,” he said in a statement Sunday. “We call upon all Americans to come together for the purpose of building a firewall of love, grace, truth and respect against intolerance, hatred, bigotry and violence.”
Some Christian leaders also suggested in their statements that they did not agree with homosexuality. In a tweet shared 2 million times, Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.”
Link to Time Magazine article: http://time.com/4366465/christians-after-orlando/
The subtle ways they advocate these things is at the same time alarming and infuriating. Anyone can make public statements that they think make them look good, but when you offer “thoughts and prayers” in one breath and vilify the victims in the next, your true colors show whether you want them to or not. I truly do not think they even realize this. In their minds, they are showing support. What they're really doing is reinforcing in people's minds the idea that homosexuality is wrong and THAT is why this happened. It sucks that people died, but this is what happens when you live outside God's plan.
Now let's look at how all this evangelical support panned out just two months later.
“As evangelical leaders gathered here for the American Renewal Project conference — a gathering of religious conservatives that features Donald Trump and Marco Rubio as headliners — pro-LGBT protesters lined the streets waving rainbow flags and pictures of people killed at the Pulse nightclub two months ago. For those close to the mass shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history, the conference is a distasteful act dismissive of the lost lives. Those attending the American Renewal Project event defended themselves by saying the controversial confab was only a gathering of faith leaders seeking political empowerment.
[Oh yeah... nothing harmful or subversive about that...]
“The concern is that, just two short months after the massacre of 49 individuals belonging to the Latino and LGBTQ community, two individuals as prominent as Marco Rubio and Donald Trump choose to address a conference of people who would demean us and demonize us and further hate culture toward the LGBTQ community,” said Lexi Wright, president of Space Coast Pride.
The event, which was chiefly marketed to pastors, attracted many self-identified conservative voters, and a message from American Renewal Project founder David Lane printed on event schedules encouraged religious leaders to “return to your church and mobilize your people in the pews to register, to vote and to take their Christian convictions with them to the voting booth.” The pamphlet directly appeals to pastors' belief in “religious liberty” and says the next election swings on the votes of Christian citizens. “Remember, what we do here is spiritual; only the by-product is political,” it says. “Without God’s mercy, there is no hope. Pray for the next great Spiritual Awakening.”
Other speakers at the event include David Barton, an evangelical leader who has advocated regulating gay sex like alcohol and cigarettes, and Ken Graves, who the Human Rights Campaign called out for creating ads denouncing same-sex couples raising children.”
Out with the heartfelt thoughts and prayers tweets and in with the hate machine. Two months later. Jesus Christ, at least move the fucking venue...
Now for a much more direct example...
This is what happens when a religion that advocates for guns also addles people's thinking about their own natural, normal, and in no way, shape, or form “sinful” carnal urges. Mix access to guns with advocacy for gun possession with what Noah Lugeons on The Scathing Atheist describes as “a man who's afraid of his own dick” and you get this:
Racial tensions toward Asian Americans is nothing new in this country, just ask any Japanese American who was interred during WWII. Then watch movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's, Sixteen Candles, a host of Disney movies from the 60s and 70s or shows like All in the Family, and marvel at how racist depictions of and commentary about people of Asian descent were once standard in American media content. But in the wake of COVID, a new surge of hate toward Asian Americans has risen in society. One of the effects of that surge was witnessed in Atlanta on March 16 of this year, and it was part of a deadly cocktail of racism, misogyny, and evangelical purity culture.
“On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings occurred at three spas or massage parlors in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women, and one other person was wounded. A suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was taken into custody later that day.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2021_Atlanta_spa_shootings
Let's look at the stats on Robert Aaron Long:
He was an evangelical (Conservative Southern Baptist)
He had extensive exposure to purity culture
He had spent time in HopeQuest: an evangelical treatment facility for “sex addiction”
The treatment facility was within walking distance of one of the targeted businesses
Long was a regular customer at two of the targeted spas
Long viewed the spas he allegedly targeted as “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate”
“The evangelical facility, HopeQuest in Acworth, Ga., sits in a secluded forest at the end of a residential street about 30 miles outside Atlanta and down the road from Young’s Asian Massage. Police say that after killing four people and wounding a fifth there, Long drove 27 miles to two more spas in Atlanta where he fatally shot four more people.”
HopeQuest advertises its services for treating “sex addiction” and “pornography addiction,” alongside several descriptions for what it believes these addictions could include. Bayless said Long blamed his descent into addiction on pornography and used a flip phone instead of a smartphone to avoid temptation online.
In addition to its work with patients on “sex addiction,” HopeQuest was once a hot spot for what some call “conversion therapy” and “ex-gay” rehabilitation. The founder and creator of HopeQuest, Roy Blankenship, was once considered one of the nation’s foremost conversion therapists.
Let's not forget that sex and pornography addiction was Ted Bundy's dying excuse for his actions and that James Dobson made sure that Bundy's statements about that were made very public.
I still want to look at Purity Culture as its own topic, so I won't go off on a tangent about it here. But you can rest assured that this incident will come up in conversation again on this show.
From the standpoint of gun advocacy, the events in Atlanta make one important point clear: when your religion is rooted and built up on hate, advocacy of violence is just par for the course. And while it might not be directly endorsed, that endorsement is very obviously inferred. It starts with fueling hate and fear over nebulous groups of “bad people” and the need for “self defense.” It culminates in actions like what we saw in Atlanta just a couple weeks ago. Those women were a threat to a man whose mind had become so addled with Evangelical thought, he saw them as the enemy and “defended himself” against his own urges. After all, it's better to lose an eye than for your entire body to be cast into Hell (Mt. 5:29).
Call it whatever you want, but evangelical thinking flat out sanctioned the murders of those women as it has numerous acts of gun violence from both within and outside its ranks. And it's just one more example of how they use fear to drive individual thoughts and actions. For every heartfelt tweet decrying the Pulse massacre, multitudes of evangelicals sat in front of their TVs cheering for the judgment that befell the “fags” that went there and for every comment from evangelical leaders decrying the actions of Robert Aaron Long, I assure you that there were, and are, scores of evangelicals who think “those whores got what they deserved.” Those sentiments both rose from the cesspools of social media when these things happened, along with an insane number of memes aimed at making light of what happened. But sometimes social media does get it right, as it did with one meme I saw just a couple days ago: “No one who thinks God talks to them should be allowed to carry a gun.” Because that one delusion is the one from which the rest spring.
So, to end things off, here are a few ways we can make our voices heard and bring a voice of reason into the question of gun control.
First, vote. Vote for candidates that advocate for gun control. I'm not suggesting that if you live in a high crime area or have other circumstances that necessitate your ability to defend yourself you shouldn't be allowed. I am saying that there are other ways. I'm all for keeping a firearm for home protection where it's warranted, but I will never advocate for a person's right to pack heat over nebulous, baseless fears instilled in them by spiritual leaders.
Next, let local governmental and TRUSTWORTHY law enforcement authorities decide where and when carrying a firearm by private citizens is needed and warranted. Demand full background checks and psychiatric evaluations for ANYONE who wants to carry a gun and make education about responsible possession and use of a firearm a mandatory and ongoing process.
Or better yet, take a few of those cops out of the safety of their cruisers and put them in those high crime areas to protect citizens. You know, as opposed to using them for revenue generation purposes like minor speeding offenses. It amazes me how often I see cruisers on empty highways waiting to nab speeders and how seldom I see them patrolling neighborhoods for actual, immediate threats to public safety. Protecting your community is their job, not yours. Make those sentiments known to your local public officials and hold cops accountable to their oaths to serve and protect. That's the answer. Taking up arms yourself is not.
Also, when you see social media posts that make light of or advocate acts of gun violence, report them. Let people call you a snowflake or a Karen. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you. Perpetuating pro-gun rhetoric hurts everyone. See something, say something. Hold platforms like Facebook to their own “community standards” and shut down users who use those platforms to perpetuate fear and civil unrest.
Lastly, continue shining a light on the harm that all manner of evangelical thought and behavior cultivates in society. Keep chipping away at the power they have and do what you can to make the voice of reason louder than the din of their rhetoric. Gun violence will only get worse if extreme right-wing conservatism maintains its voice. As of right now, every American voice still matters. Use yours to counter the rhetoric, arm yourself with information, not bullets, to counter their arguments about their perceived “right” to bear arms, and steer public thought in the direction of real solutions to this problem. Do that and you will be doing your part to help individuals, and, in time, society in general stop listening to their gospel of hate and start getting unbound.