Friday, September 28, 2007

Gun Totin' Jesus (or, a Bumper Sticker Watch turns into a Reader Contest)

It's been a long time since we've had a Bumper Sticker Watch or a Reader Contest around here. So long, in fact, that I don't care to do any research at all to find out when the last time we did either of those was in order to link to them to let any (please let there be some) new readers know what either of those distinctly Sandalstraps' Sanctuary phenomena are. What I saw on the way to Target (I know, I boycott Wal Mart but shop at Target... Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, meet Pot. I'm sure you'll be great friends, since you have so much in common...) made me decide to revive them both at the same time. So, today we're having a Bumper Sticker Watch and a Reader Contest in the same post. Enjoy:

Driving to Target to buy some Kashi cereal (don't dwell on it... I've had as hard a time reconciling those two as I have had reconciling myself to that fact that I spent all week driving to school in a minivan while listening to Nirvana - Tom says there's an existential crisis in there somewhere) I saw a roughly 2004 Ford Crown Victoria with two pieces of automotive propaganda - one on each side of the license plate. To the left, a medallion declaring the owner/operator of this automobile as a Lifetime Member of the National Rifle Association. To the right, a metallic fish with the word "Jesus" in the middle, declaring the owner/operator of this car to be, presumably, a disciple of that peace-loving rabble-rouser, Jesus of Nazareth.

I live in the South, a life-long resident of the uncommon Commonwealth of Kentucky. I understand the social phenomenon of "Guns and God." I'm used to Christians strappin'. It happens all the time around here. But something about the name "Jesus" situated next to an NRA badge struck me. I don't mean to say that Christians can't love guns - I know many (including at least one semi-regular reader of this blog) who do. But there seems something contradictory claiming allegiance to someone who argued passionately against any right to violence in the name of self-defense while also being a proud member of an organization whose main purpose is to propagate for the right of individuals to personally use even lethal force to defend themselves against perceived threats.

So, here's the Reader Contest:

Using the text of the canonical Gospels (no fair using the "Infancy Gospel of Thomas," in which Jesus kills a man on the street for bumping into him, and a succession of teachers for having the audacity to question him) and anything you happen to know about the NRA, find any point of commonality between the message and mission of Jesus of Nazareth and the political agenda of the National Rifle Association.

For gun totin' Christians, you may take this as a serious theological challenge. For my pacifist friends, perhaps this is an opportunity for satire. For those of us in the middle, make of this what you will. But, whatever your slant, try your best to reconcile Jesus and the NRA - without resorting to the cultural phenomenon of "Guns and God" in the American South.


Heather said...

I once saw a car with two bumper stickers.

On the left side, it said: [Pro-Life.]

On the right side, it said: "Proud Member of [a major state hunting group]."

And this was at a red light, so I got to appreciate it in all its glory.

Sandalstraps said...


I hear you!

Members of the anti-abortion movement (perhaps as problematic a term as the one I tried to avoid, "pro-life," because it implies that those of us who think that abortions under certain circumstances should remain legal are somehow in favor of women aborting their pregnancies willy-nilly) often make subtle (or sometimes less than subtle) arguments implying (or overtly stating) that we "pro-choicers" have a far too narrow definition of what constitutes "life" (by which I suppose we mean something like forms of life that merit moral concern). We are thus barbaric in our steadfast refusal to include at least some forms of unborn human life in our sphere of moral concern (or, at least, in our refusal to say that such forms of unborn human life can make the same sorts of claims to legally recognized rights that, say, a pregnant woman can claim).

But those same people make many considerably more problematic decisions concerning what forms of life merit moral concern. Thus an unborn human child in its earliest stages of development - when no trace of consciousness, sentience, or identity can be found - has a higher claim to moral standing than any kind of non-human animal, and even than many fully grown, full-fledged human beings.

Thus, pre-emptive, pre-meditated, unlimited war may be permitted; state sanctioned killings of persons (in the form of the death penalty) held in captivity, whose potential harm to other persons have already been neutralized, is permitted; the slow execution of mass starvation of marginalized persons in the two-thirds world (and even in our own communities) is ignored; the death dealing politics of political and economic imperialism are justified by narrow appeals to national self-interest are justified; but we're the one's who oppose life!

Of course this doesn't accurately depict most faithful persons I know who oppose the legality of most if not all forms of abortion. Abortion is at best a morally complex and problematic issue, and many persons of outstanding character are rightly troubled by it. Many of those persons have a very broad understanding of what it means to be pro-life (opposing most if not all wars, and seeing the inherant moral problems of state-sponsered execution - especially in light of the racial and socio-economic factors that go into who gets charged with a capital crime).

But I have little respect for anyone whose idea of "pro-life" forgets that human life may or may not be rightly said to begin at conception, but it sure as hell doesn't end at birth.

So, that's my morning rant. Thanks for letting me get that out, Heather. Now I'm afraid that I've derailed the Reader Contest with my long digression.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

The only thing that comes to mind is that both Jesus and the NRA refuse to place their complete trust in central governments for protection. Jesus and his followers trust in God for protection and are willing to die rather than kill. The NRA trusts in greater firepower. But neither trusts their protection to the god of the State.

Gandhi used to say that violent people could be taught nonviolent direct action sooner than cowards. Some of Jesus' followers were former revolutionaries. Maybe NRA members fall into such a category???

Amy said...

Now, when you open up your NIV to Matthew 21:18-20, you'll read

"Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered."

However, we learned in my Greek class last year that that text has been emended. Alternative texts (based on a Syriac manuscript found when clearing out the rubble of a Palestinian village) read...

"Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!", (and then he pulled out shiny metal exploding slingshot, and aimed it at the tree's roots. There was a loud noise and lots of smelly smoke.) Immediately (thereafter) the tree withered."
Ah, but see! They were describing Jesus' gun! Since Jesus had access to all of God's knowledge, he was able to make a gun for himself centuries before they made it into common possession, and when the fig tree withered, it's because he shot at it out of frustration. He was just like my Uncle and that old dead oak in the backyard! Those damn pacifists who ran the early church just changed the story so they wouldn't have to deal with the problem of Jesus packing heat. Non-violent revolutionary, my foot!

Sandalstraps said...


You win!

(unless Chappy swoops in and steals your victory from you...)


That is quite possibly the most charitable thing anyone in your position could say about the NRA, and I salute you for that.

(the other) Heather said...

Just wanted to comment on something slightly off-topic: Don't be ashamed to shop at Target. They have one of the best corporate philanthropy programs in the nation, and they do pro bono work for the police in their company-run forensics labs.