So the President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., patting the gun in his back pocket, has called on the 14,500 students of Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian University, to carry concealed guns, and “end those Muslims,” thereby (somewhat belatedly!) “teaching them a lesson.”
Everything about that statement is so alien to the values of Jesus—the fear, the aggression, the binary thinking of “good people,” and “those Muslims,” the inciting of 14,500 impressionable students to teach one’s enemies a lesson by killing them!
And Jesus’ teaching on gentleness and non-violence in the Sermon on the Mount? Does that still work? Jesus was the most brilliant person who ever lived, and pretty much every teaching of his which I have experimented with worked. I believe this will too. We are protected more than we realise; there are more for us than against us, and the hills are truly ringed with angels in chariots of fire.
The meek inherit the earth. Both Jesus and David, the Psalmist, were sure of it. Jesus’ words still change lives, and slowly and steadily change the world, while all those who took the sword against him are long forgotten. An eye for an eye. How tedious. Is this the Gospel? Is this what Jesus came for?
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Perhaps Falwell sees the students of Liberty University, the largest Christian University in the world, as a likely target for “those Muslims.”
Though, in fact, ISIS sees all of America, and Europe as Christian, as “Crusaders,” in the way the West sees all of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan as Muslim (though many must be only nominally so). As such terrorists are far more likely to attack symbols of American hegemony (the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, the White House) or perceived Western decadence (a concert, a football game, a restaurant) than a Christian University. Christian religious sites and institutions in the West, have, interestingly, not yet been the target of Jihadists, perhaps because of a reluctant respect for their fellow monotheists, fellow “children of Abraham,” who knows?
Is arming a University of 14500 18-22 year olds the best solution for a feared attack? Is learning to operate firearms the best way to spend precious time at University, the time for reading and dreaming, and learning the best that has been said and thought? Won’t it foster fear, paranoia, and the post-traumatic stress syndrome that according to Brené Brown has afflicted America since 9/11/2011? Given the epidemic of campus shootings in America, both of students and faculty, a campus in which everyone feels under siege and carries a concealed weapon will be less safe, not more safe. Arguments about grades, or a girl, or a parking spot, or a leer after a few beers could too easily be taken outside, and guns whipped out.
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“Do not be afraid,” is one of the first words spoken by angels when they encounter mortals. Fear is expensive. When it outstrips the bounds of prudence, it leads to unnecessary purchases of guns, and alarms and CCTV and insurance, to overwork and over-saving. How much simpler to just trust God. To choose the way of love.
Will the students of Liberty then be sitting ducks for “those Muslims” to come in and slaughter? Well, there are simple things one can do to make campuses safe, other than arming every student. (I am not familiar with Liberty University, but I happen to know Virginia college campuses intimately, since my husband Roy was a Professor of Mathematics at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg Virginia for the first 14 years of our marriage.)
If Falwell thinks it’s likely that his students might be the targets of a terrorist attack, he could put metal detectors in every building. Metal detectors before one leaves college parking lots to enter the campus. That would probably be cheaper than offering free pistol shooting courses at a University, for heaven’s sake.
There are so many common sense non-violent wise solutions which the Spirit, whom Jesus released by his death, can offer us.
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Be wise as a serpent, and gentle as a dove is one of my favourite teachings of Jesus. We can be the meek who inherit the earth, the gentle who pray for their enemies, the kind who have good will towards others, and yet can be safe enough by the exercise of wisdom and common sense which the Spirit will give us. And through God’s protection.
Christ’s last commission was to preach the Gospel to all nations. Reaching “those Muslims” with the Gospel, not with guns, may well be our greatest contribution to world peace.
May Christ show us the way.