Of Guns and Bibles

I am sick of the gods of war.

We can’t explain our gun culture by scapegoating the NRA, or Hollywood, or a few mentally ill people. We have to look deeper, into our disturbingly violent religious heritage.

Our "holy" books call us to battle. The military propaganda of ancient scribes we consider "scripture" (see Deuteronomy 20). The story of Joshua's genocide against the native tribes of Palestine gave religious justification for the treatment of Native Americans by white colonists, calling themselves “the new Israel.” Biblical notions about “the chosen people" conquering a “promised land” inspired “American Exceptionalism," with our imperial invasions of the Philippines, Central America, Vietnam, Iraq, and now Obama's drone war against Third World villagers.

Americans glory in war. We don’t just idolize hunting or sports guns, but military assault weapons. For many citizens, arming ourselves for a coming apocalyptic battle against dark foreign powers is not just a right-wing political conspiracy, but a religious duty.

Yet such violent fantasies are far from the true spirit of Jesus, who said, "Love your enemy… Put away your weapon." (Mat 5:44, 26:52)

Let us abandon the old gods of tribal warfare and honor the living God of compassion. Sacred history is not the past: it is what we do now for justice. The "promised land" is not a country conquered with guns, but a society that cares for its poor, its elderly, its sick and homeless.

The chosen people are the people who choose peace.

Illustration by Gustave Dore: Joshua and the Hebrew army sparing one inhabitant of the city, Rahab, because she betrayed her own people.

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