Friday, January 18, 2013

Take Up Your AK47 and Follow Me: Jesus Versus the Politics of Violence

Earlier this evening I posted on Facebook an article about a stupid politician who argued that owning a gun was essential to his Christian life. Aside from the fact that he seems to have confused the second amendment with the second commandment he has in fact broken the second commandment against idolatry by elevating the second amendment to the place of scripture and even to be worshiped as a god.

But what does scripture say about weapons? Obviously in the ancient near east the weaponry at hand was rudimentary at best compared to what we have nowadays. Bows and arrows, spears, swords, stones, and at the most advanced level horses and chariots. Now, of course, we have weaponry that was completely unimaginable to the ancients; guns, tanks, bombs, missiles, energy weapons, and more even exotic to us moderns and post-moderns.

But aside from these technological differences which seem so wide, so incredibly divorced from each other, there is a deeper similarity of purpose, a similarity of intent. And the many writers of scripture seem to have gotten that point. Whether we're witnessing the primordial murder of brother against brother at the earliest stages of human history in the bronze age or the massed troops of a Pharoah's army or the besieging troops of Babylon descending upon Jerusalem, we see God commanding his people not to rely upon the arms of men. In fact we're constantly reminded of how fruitless it is to rely on the "arm" or "horn" (symbols of military might) of any people in contrast to relying upon God as their strength in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.

And finally we see the epitome of this in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, the itinerant preaching rabbi from the outskirts of a vast empire built on weaponry and violence which brought about the so-called Pax Romana. But Jesus spoke of a peace which was not built from any physical sword, but a sword which cut much deeper than any flesh and bone. He certainly spoke of violence, but it was a violence of the spirit, a violence which would divide family member from family member. It was the violence of a tongue which spoke truth into lies, cutting asunder flesh and spirit so that the deepest parts of a person would be exposed to the light of day.