Knowing that the good folks of SBC Voices tend to sometimes skip the main course (the article) and go right to dessert (the comment section), let me make some clarifications at the start of this post, which hopefully will be read by all!
1. I love Liberty University. My second son attended there, and I tried to get his younger brother and sister to follow in his footsteps. His little brother got involved in a band and didn’t want to leave town. His little sister rebelled against her father’s wishes and last May graduated with honors from that bastion of liberalism, Cedarville University. But my #2 son walked on campus for a visit over 10 years ago and fell in love immediately – he was home. That school helped to shape him into the man he is today. He found a wife there and gave me the two finest grandsons any man could ever have (any attempts to debate that will met with the harshest moderation). I will forever be grateful to Liberty University for the impact it had on my son’s life.
On the other hand, I’ve been disturbed at times since young Jerry took over. On June 25, 2010, he told Mormon Glenn Beck,
“I mean, that’s what my father believed when he formed Moral Majority, was an organization of Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, people of no faith. And there are bigger issues now, we can argue about theology later after we save the country.”
If Beck were Presbyterian or Assembly or such, I would give a hearty amen to that, but to say that “saving the country” supersedes fundamental, gospel doctrine? That is disturbing. We must never make the gospel secondary to political gain. I wonder if the son has the same moorings as the father.
On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the policy he has continued from his dad of inviting people from the other side of the aisle to speak at convocation at LU. Remember when old Jerry invited Teddy Kennedy to speak? What a scandal. Recently, Bernie Sanders spoke and was received cordially at Liberty. That is healthy engagement.
All of that is to say that these words do not come from one who disdains Liberty. They take a lot of ridicule, some of it ignorant, based on misunderstanding and misrepresentation. That is not this!
2. I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, theoretically. My dad never owned guns and I’ve never owned a gun. I have never spent the night in “my” home with a loaded (or unloaded) gun, unless you count a bb gun. But I believe that the constitution gives us the right to own guns and I believe that right should not be abrogated. I am not viscerally opposed to things like background checks or some limits (keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, criminals, etc), but in general, I’m a supporter of Second Amendment rights.
3. I have never gone hunting. I watch those shows sometimes on ESPN where a guy sits in his perch in a tree and watches a deer wander by, shoots him and then acts like he just won World War II. I’ve never done it. I’ve competed in just about ever form of sport. I’ve run marathons. Maybe if I hunted I’d get it. Bow hunting? Now that seems like a real challenge! All of that is to say that I am anything but a gun enthusiast. I don’t own them. I don’t shoot them. I don’t carry them. I hear some folks talking about their guns with the kind of passion I reserve for my grandkids. It baffles me. Seems a little odd. But people probably think my passion for the Yankees is a little odd, right?
What Jerry, Jr Said
At last Friday’s convocation, Jerry Falwell, Jr, the president of Liberty University made some shockingly strong statements about guns and violence. Here is the clip of what was said. It comes from CNN (you may have to watch an ad). He proudly claims to have a gun in his back pocket and encourages all students to get their gun permits for concealed carry.
Here is the money quote.
“If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.”
That is certainly not a politically correct statement. There is a core of truth there; much that I agree with. This Thursday night we are have a local police officer come to our church to give us “active shooter” training – what we should do if someone shows up at our little fellowship. We have people in our church who have concealed carry permits and if someone ever were to walk into our building as a terrorist or in some other way to create havoc, it is comforting to me that we are not helpless.
What I Agree With
1. Disarming America is NOT the answer
It is true that most of these acts take place in states with the strictest gun control laws and in places that are designated as gun-free zones. The knee-jerk reaction in liberal circles is “let’s get rid of guns.” But France has some restrictive gun laws – it didn’t stop terrorism there. Connecticut has gun laws and so does California. Schools are gun-free zones. This cartoon has been making the rounds and I think it makes a pretty good point.
Declaring places “gun-free” is about as useless and stupid as you get. Really? I’m sure that ISIS is going to see that and have a change of heart. We are rightly concerned that the movement to take away guns is a movement toward greater authoritarianism and even totalitarianism. Every despot wants to have his side armed and the other side not. The founders of our nation had been on the wrong side of that and wanted the people to have the right to keep and bear arms.
But there are a lot of guns in America and removing them from law-abiding citizens is a prescription for failure. I’ve visited Israel twice and it is quite jarring. You walk the streets knowing that threats are everywhere, and yet it is generally safe, as long as you stay away from certain areas – probably safer than most big cities in America. And it is not unusual to see young men and women walking around with semi-automatic weapons draped over their shoulders. Military service (and some of the best training in the world) is mandatory. There is a widely circulated picture of a teacher on a playground with her small children, carrying a rifle over her shoulder.
If there had been one person with a concealed weapon in the theater in Colorado, James Holmes might be dead, but 12 people might not be (as 70 people might not have been injured). What if the professor or one of those 8 students at Umpqua Community College had been able to shoot back? Maybe the death toll would have been much different.
I do not believe that the liberal knee-jerk solution “take the guns” is the answer – either practically or biblically.
2. Ignoring Radical Islam is not the answer.
I do not understand the president’s attitude on this. He seems more intent on defending Muslims than on defending America from Islamic terrorism. Marco Rubio did a masterful job in an interview responding to Obama’s speech concerning the California terrorist attack. ISIS is a form of Islam with an apocalyptic doctrine. They believe they are hastening a form of Armageddon that will usher in a worldwide Caliphate. You cannot say that “ISIS is not Islamic.” It is a form of Islam. Extreme? Yes. Does it represent all of Islam? No! A majority? I don’t know. Statistics vary. But ISIS is very much an Islamic “denomination” with a vision of worldwide domination by Islam. to pretend that anything else is true is simple ignorance – likely willful.
3. Preparing ourselves is wise.
Of course it is. We are under threat. When there is a threat, you prepare. If Obama really believes that disarming is the key to safety, then he should demonstrate that by disarming the Secret Service detail that protects him. We know he won’t (and shouldn’t) do that. But isn’t it hypocritical for him to want himself and his children to be made safe by people with guns, but demand that same protection be removed from the rest of us? I want a few people with concealed weapons in my congregation on Sunday morning.
If Liberty is not prepared for a terrorist attack, they are negligent beyond defense.
4. The untold story.
If you watch the whole video, the part that isn’t told is that just before the gun part, he offers scholarships to the children of the victims of the California tragedy.
Where Dr. Falwell’s Statement Erred
1. Our goal is to reach Muslims, not to kill them.
On top of Falwell’s previous statement to Glenn Beck, I am troubled by the tone of this statement. I would guess that if you pinned him down, Falwell would agree that our ultimate goal is to reach Muslims, but he seems, at times, to prioritize political over gospel action. This is symptomatic of American Christianity today. We tend to lump all Muslims together as the enemy. There’s a sense of glee that comes through at the thought of killing Muslims that ought to trouble us. Is ISIS an enemy of Christianity? Of course. No doubt about it. They kill Christians and are determined to destroy us. They may hate us as badly as many Muslims have hated the Jews through the years. But just because they are our enemies does not mean that we as Christians can regard them as enemies. Yes, our government should engage them militarily and we should take reasonable steps to protect our schools, churches, and homes, but we cannot see Muslims as enemies to kill, but as people to win to Christ.
I have been told by more than one person that there is a harvest happening among Muslims right now – many are beginning to come to faith in Christ. I cannot verify that, but I have been told this by people who work with Muslims. That is our primary concern.
Yes, we want to KILL Muslims – in the same way each of us should die. “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.” “Buried with Christ by baptism into death and raised to walk a new life…” We don’t just want these adherents of a false faith to die, we want them to die to self and rise with Christ. This has to be our heart, our priority. We must make this our goal, our prayer, our focus in all that we do.
2. Our rhetoric matters.
“But he meant terrorists…”
Some have pointed out that Dr. Falwell did not mean to lump all Muslims into one group and condemn them all. He probably didn’t. When he said, “those Muslims” he simply meant terrorists who carry out attacks. I will concede that point. But he didn’t say that. He was speaking in convo at Liberty. These were prepared remarks. Even if he was speaking extemporaneously, a man like Falwell who knows that the press reports every word he says should be careful, but this was a public forum. He intended for these remarks to be heard publicly. If he wanted to say, “Islamic jihadists” then he should have said that.
We can argue about what percentage of Islam is radicalized or sympathetic to the radicals. But as Christians, we must be careful, every time we speak on the topic, to distinguish Islam and Islamic terror, radical Islam, or Islamic jihadists (choose your term). I’m traveling to a nation in a month that is Islamic, and is probably much safer than the USA. It is filled with moderate Islam. I’m not saying that Islam is a “religion of peace” because it’s sacred writings most definitely open the door for radical teachings. But we need to be careful when we speak.
What harm does it do to be respectful? How does it hurt us to distinguish the radicals from the moderates? How are we hurt by indicating our willingness to live in peace with those who are willing to live in peace? Every time we speak we need to make this clear.
Intemperate rhetoric like Dr. Falwell’s hurts our gospel cause.
3. Our tone matters.
Tone matters as well. It really does. There was a note of glee in his voice as he talked about killing Muslims. That sends the wrong note in every way. Are we justified in defending ourselves against criminals or terrorists who try to kill our people? Absolutely. Should we be happy about it? Should we rejoice because someone has been sent to hell? We should not.
Reading a tone of voice is dangerous, of course – it is an assignation of motive, deciding what is in someone else’s heart. But when there is even a hint of joy or enthusiasm for the death of sinners we do not have the heart of Christ.
The issues here are not as simple as they are presented by many. Some have leaped to condemnation of Dr. Falwell and others have defended him completely. As usual, the truth is nuanced. He is right about the need to defend ourselves and to defend our young people. The liberal solution is so empty of merit as to lead to the suspicion of other motives. But Christians ought to remember our higher calling, our gospel purpose. We are not here to kill Muslims but to bring people to Christ. Our rhetoric and our tone must be guarded when we address issues such as this.
Christians, we are citizens of the kingdom first and must never forget that.