Last Friday night, Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, addressed the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino. He said: “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them. . . . I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
As a Christian pastor, I feel it necessary to denounce Falwell’s words. I always wondered why the church didn’t stand up to Nazism as Hitler was rising to power, but now I see how rhetoric creeps along, rising in temperature, until people fall sway to words that are so obviously corrupt. Perhaps we need to remember the lessons of history and not hesitate to stand up and say: These words were spoken by a supposedly Christian leader, but these words do not honor Jesus. These words do not speak for me.
First — Falwell’s words are not wise. Calling for students to carry guns on a college campus is foolish at best. The overwhelming majority of colleges prohibit concealed-carry for reasons that hardly need to be listed (unless you have forgotten what it’s like to be in your early twenties). What’s more, thinking that persons carrying guns could “end those Muslims” shows a profound lack of understanding about how these situations of carnage transpire and what it takes to end them. Remember the conversations about arming school secretaries after Sandy Hook/Newtown and why those eventually stopped?
Second — Falwell’s words are not appropriate for our day. Calling for Christians to feel fine about killing Muslims (in exactly those generic, applause-generating words) sets the globe back approximately 1,000 years. Let’s remember that the crusades turned out to be a bad idea. Revving up thousands of college students with the supposedly noble enterprise of killing Muslims? Those words are worse than unwise; they are evil.
Third — Falwell’s words, and the cavalier tone in which they were spoken, dishonor Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace. If you’ve met Jesus in the gospels, you’ll know that Jesus refused to use violence, or to let violence be used in his name. If you haven’t met Jesus, please don’t think that Falwell is his mouthpiece. Falwell has an agenda that has little to do with following Jesus.
The church is in the time of Advent — of preparation for the celebration of God’s coming into the world. God didn’t make that journey in order to stir up hatred and anger and talk of killing. God made that journey to give the world a glimpse of what love looks like.