There is this old phrase in Christian tradition that describes taking our swords and beating them into plowshares. If you’re like me, a city dweller, you’re probably not familiar with what a plowshare is. A plowshare is a tool used by farmers to cut into the ground in order to soften it and cultivate it for crops. It would be carried behind an animal and dragged through the dirt. Plowshares are metal blades used for non-violent purposes to help provide for the needs of the community.
The Biblical phrase comes out of Micah 4:3 and Isaiah 2:4 where the prophetic literature paints a picture of God’s purposes and hopes for our world. Essentially, God’s desire is for his children to have peace, that our swords (whatever they may be) would be transformed into devices that serve the common good.
For Christians, the individual at the center of our reality not only agrees with the notion of beating our swords into plowshares, but personifies it. Christ’s power was known in sacrifice and surrender and he responded to violence with forgiveness and grace. When Peter pulled out a sword to defend Jesus, he was corrected by the words “all who live by the sword, die by the sword.”
The portrait of God in the scriptures and in God’s incarnation is one where our tools of violence are exchanged for the warfare of love.
Fast forward a few thousand years to this week. Another mass shooting. This time it wasn’t a deranged white dude, it was a Muslim couple. One of the victims was someone my sister had worked with personally. There are no words to describe the tragedy and horror.
In response the president of Liberty University, the largest “evangelical” Christian college in the nation says openly that students should acquire guns and form groups to learn how to use them so that we can “end those muslims”.
Across the nation gun sales rocket as conservative and often Christian voices encourage the proliferation of killing devices, or as we like to describe them, self defense tools.
And last night a pastor I used to work with posted on Facebook that after hearing Obama’s speech to the nation, he’s getting a gun. As I read the comments below there were dozens of people telling the pastor that they were in agreement. As of last count 3 “amens” and 87 likes.
Does something here seem incongruent to anyone else?
It feels like these faith leaders haven’t even read the text that they claim has divine inspiration and authority. As one author says, Jesus carried a cross, not a gun.
I understand the fear of extremists and active shooters – I really do. But most of the folks who are propagating these ideas are so far removed from any immediate danger. It seems so obvious that we’re being driven by fear.
Here is the my observation, one that I’ve thought through a lot over the last few weeks. In the words of Dr. King, “Violence always begets more violence”. That is our history. After every war that will “end all wars”, there always comes another one.
Did you know that the United States has been at war at least 222 out of 239 years of our existence? That means if you pick any year of our history, there is a 93% chance we will have been engaged in some violent conflict. And every time we go down the path of violence, our leaders promise us it will bring peace in the end.
The more we flood our nation with guns, the more likely we are to see them used for evil. It’s that simple. Violence always begets more violence. If we sow a culture of killing, death, and an incredibly profitable gun industry, make no mistake- we will reap what we sow.
The most confusing part of all this to me is how Christians can be so in support of this all. How can you possibly reconcile the teachings and example of Christ with a culture that celebrates and encourages more of us to exchange our plowshares for guns, saturating our society with more killing devices all for the profit of corporations? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?