How many AR-15s do you think Jesus would have had?
It’s a question so ludicrous that it seems like a parody, but it’s not.
In different times, I might have thought that the question was so preposterous on its face that the average Jesus follower would dismiss it as a statement meant to provoke a response. But that’s exactly the sort of question that far-right politicians have been stewing on for more than a year.
I have seen an increasing number of bumper stickers, T-shirts and signs that say something along the lines of “guns, God and freedom.” And politicians have been blending the idea of god and guns awhile, hoodwinking citizens into believing that the Constitution was divinely given and as such, firearm freedom is a holy mandate.
For example, last year Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, suggested that what Jesus needed was more AR-15s. At a Christian conference, she joked, “Well, he didn’t have enough to keep his government from killing him.”
For so many reasons, historical and theological, this statement is unmoored from any reality, seeing as how the Roman government didn’t really have any guns, nor did Jesus’ followers. Asking such a question is about as meaningful as asking what car would Jesus drive?
The danger, though, is that such a blending of politics and Christianity has warped both. And, supporters of Boebert and her brand of politics cotton to the idea that guns are right up there with the Bible and Jesus.
Yet, it cannot be said any more clearly: Jesus’ entire life, mission and message was a profound statement against guns. To believe Jesus would have been sitting on a cache of weapons is a misreading and manipulation of the highest order.
Leaders espousing such views become complicit in encouraging this fascination with weapons of war rather than fighting like hell for peace and life. We often think of the separation of church and state as a safeguard against the entry of religious beliefs into law, but it serves as an equally powerful principle to keep politicians from subverting religion into a justification for violence and death.
Even among Jesus’ rag-tag bunch of disciples, had he been preparing for a political or military victory, he would have been more interested in amassing a storehouse of swords, soldiers and other primitive weapons. Instead, he commanded his disciples to sell everything, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick.
Jesus said famously that his purpose was to have life abundantly. Guns stop life instantly.
And in the garden, as Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Peter, the same disciple whom Jesus predicted the Christendom would be founded upon, was rebuked for taking up a sword – the AR-15 of its time – to stop the arrest. If Boebert would simply read the passage, she could have answered her own question: Jesus would have had zero guns.
“Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels,” Jesus said in the book of Matthew (Chapter 26, verse 53)
If you want to let the Boeberts of the world continue their corrosive attack on government, or spew disinformation on the political process, I suppose that’s the ultimate test of the First Amendment. As awful as some of their remarks have been, they’re what passes for political discourse these days.
However, it seems like something different to coopt the New Testament in order to justify a death cult that is obsessed with guns, rather than following the example of the person they call “savior.” Quite frankly, guns are incompatible with life, and you’d think a group that continuously talks about the sanctity of life would know that.
I cannot tell what’s in Boebert’s – or any politician’s heart. The danger isn’t just that she suffers from a misreading of the text, it’s that she gives Christians license to believe that same message.
The point of the gospel – the only reason to believe in an obscure Judean carpenter – is that he had the power of armies and instead sacrificed military power for the redemptive power of love. The point is that he had guns and didn’t use them to set an example – one that I’d argue Boebert and many others missed.
If we’re really as pro-life as politicians would have us believe, then we must start loving life more than we love our possessions, the guns.
This commentary was originally published by the Daily Montanan, a States Newsroom affiliate.