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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Christians, Pacifism, and The Jesus Number

This was originally the Main Topic of episode 146 of the GunBlog VarietyCast. It has been transcribed and updated for your convenience. 

I am a Christian. I also carry a firearm for self-defense. Others might consider this contradictory, but I do not.

I am thoroughly sick of the notion that in order to be a good Christian, one has to be such a pacifist that "Turn the other cheek" has become "Go limp and allow yourself to be victimized." That's a misinterpretation of Jesus' commands, and I'm going to prove it.

Let's start with the Old Testament. I know that everyone thinks that the Sixth Commandment says "Thou Shalt Not Kill", but the proper Hebrew translation for it is Thou Shalt Not Murder. This is an incredibly important distinction, because while the Bible contains many prohibitions against unlawful killing there are just as many rules for lawful killing when it comes to capital punishment, warfare, and yes, self-defense, and some of these are direct Commandments from God Himself.

Second, the statement by Jesus to turn the other cheek is a prohibition against carrying grudges and seeking revenge and a commandment that we strive to forgive those who wrong us; it is not a commandment to allow people to victimize us without resistance. I say this based upon three events from the Gospels:

1) Jesus intervened to prevent an adulterous woman from being stoned to death. He didn't turn the other cheek; He saw the inherent value of her life in the face of a crowd who wanted her dead. 

2) Jesus made a whip and went into the temple where the money changers and livestock sellers were defiling His Father's house and he knocked over tables and drove the cattle out. It's unclear if the whip was used on the people, or if it was just to drive away the sheep and cattle; either way cracking the whip and knocking over tables is pretty darn intimidating. He didn't turn the other cheek; He acted to prevent what He saw a desecration. 

3) In Luke 22:36, Jesus Himself told His disciples that if any of them did not have a sword, they should sell their cloaks -- a very important article of clothing -- and buy swords. Now it's worth pointing out the sword is unlike a knife or a club:
  • Knives are tools that are used to cut things; you can use them for eating, or making things, or repairing things, or carving items out of wood. 
  • A club can be a hammer to make or repair things; it can be used for hunting to gather food, and it can be used to separate grain from husks while farming. 
  • A sword however has one purpose: to kill human beings. It is specifically designed and optimized for that, and Jesus told His disciples to purchase and carry one if they didn't have one because He would no longer be present to protect them.
  • What's more, the original Greek word translated into English as "sword" is machaira. It is a short, single-edged weapon; basically a large knife or a dagger, possibly as long as a short sword. In other words, it was too large to be a practical tool but too small to be a weapon of war; it was specifically a weapon of self-defense. In other words, it was the concealed pistol of its time. 
This brings us to something that I have started calling The Jesus Number. When Jesus told His disciples to buy swords, they responded with " 'Lord, behold: here are two swords' and He said unto them, 'It is enough.'" Two swords out of 12 disciples were considered sufficient; that's one in six or roughly 17 percent of the Disciples. And yes, I'm counting Judas in this; Jesus' command to buy a sword (Luke 22:36) came before Judas's betrayal (Luke 22:47).

So how many armed Americans does it take to fulfill the Jesus Number? Let's run some numbers.
  • As of August 2018, there are 17.25 million concealed carry permits in the United States
  • The adult population of the USA, also as of August 2018, is 252,063,800 people.
  • According to Jesus, 17% of that adult population -- 42,850,846 people -- should be carrying a weapon for self-defense. 
  • However, 17.25 million of 252 million means that only 6.845% of the total adult population of the country has a license to carry a concealed weapon (up from 6.0% in 2017). 
(Disclaimer: These are rough numbers that don't account for various factors such as individuals having non-resident carry permits in addition to a resident permit; people in states where permits aren't needed because constitutional carry is the law of the land; or for states which require an adult to be older than 18 to have a concealed carry license.)
Given these numbers, we can see that the United States needs two and a half times the number of armed individuals that Jesus considered sufficient for self-defense. Almost seven percent of the population has a concealed carry permit, and yet according to the Prince of Peace that number is insufficient.

I expect some of you are wondering how I can reconcile speaking of guns and peace in the same sentence. As explanation, I will close with an excellent bit of philosophy that was told to me by Gwen Patton, First Speaker Emeritus for the Pink Pistols:
When used properly, within the law and prevailing custom, guns do not create violence; they negate it. They are 180 degrees out of phase with violence and thus neutralize it. The true core of violence is that it violates law and custom. Violence is force, but not all force is violence. Some forms of force neutralize violence and create peace.
When one engages in self-defense, one applies force in the exact measure necessary to stop a violent attack; no more and no less. One stays within the law and within local custom, and one respects that, even though they perpetrated violence, the violator still has rights and while their violence deserves no respect, their humanity does. Those who engage in violence, by definition, do not respect the humanity of their targets.
Correctly performed self-defense is the act of bringing peace into existence. Peace is not avoiding violence. Peace is an action, not the absence of action. Peace is the negation of violence.
To me, this quote illustrates the difference between pacifism and non-violence. I like to think of pacifism as "Don't start none, won't be none" whereas nonviolence is "Even if you start something, there won't be anything; I'll just roll over and take it." Such extremes of philosophy might be a perfectly valid choice for you, but it is a core of my beliefs that no one has the right to make that choice for anyone else.

There are people who love me and who depend on me, and nobody has the  right to take me away from them.

That's why this Christian carries a gun.

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