Friday, December 14, 2007

Cal Thomas Puts Guns Before God

One of the remarkable features of the doctrine of Jesus is the extent to which he demands that his followers put their selves last. Jesus not only rejects the way the Pharisees puff themselves up with righteousness, he rejects revenge, personal self-defense, wealth, labor, and anything else that would attach a person to themselves or to the things of this world. What Jesus blesses or sanctifies are those things which convey the emptiness or bereftness of self (Blessed are the "poor in spirit," "those who grieve," "those who hunger and thirst," etc.).

Needless to say, these doctrines of Jesus have nothing to do with the practice of Christianity and probably haven't since the earliest Christian communities.

The intense alienation of Christianity from Jesus was manifested yet again by a column by Cal Thomas today.

Commenting on the church shootings in Colorado last weekend, Thomas argues that
Killers — ones with mental disorders, or terrorists — look for places with large gatherings to amplify their acts. That’s why in recent years they have selected targets ranging from the World Trade Center, to Columbine High School, to shopping malls and now a megachurch. On the rare occasions when an armed person has been on the scene before police arrive, such acts have been stopped before further damage could be done. When no armed person has been present, by the time the police show up the killing is usually over and the gunman has shot himself.
If Thomas had been a follower of Jesus, he would have had enormous sympathy with the mental disorders of the Colorado shooter Matthew Murray. Jesus certainly did. He begins the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3--"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Likewise, Jesus cured many insane people himself by "casting out devils." Even if Matthew Murray had been simply an evil-doer, Jesus would have mandated that people refuse to resist, attack, or seek revenge against him. "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5: 39,44).

Much of Jesus' reasoning here is that God somehow blesses the evil-doers as well. "For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good." Moreover, loving and helping evil-doers is much more of a test of one's love than loving one's friends. But the weight of Jesus' message is that people should NOT rely on themselves and what they themselves can do in situations where they are being beaten, oppressed, or persecuted. Rather, the suffering of people should be seen as an opportunity to emphasize their dependence on God and deepen their general sense of love.

Contrary to Jesus, Cal Thomas wants people to rely on their guns rather than their God to deal with conflicts. How un-Jesuslike can one get? Even the guard who shot Matthew Murray, Jeanne Assam, had more of a feel for the Jesus spirit than Cal Thomas.
“I was just asking God, bottom line, this is all you,” she said. “It was so loud. … It was scary. But God was with me. I asked him to be with me. And he never left my side.”
For Assam, the spirit of God protected her and the other people in the church from the mass murder planned by Murray. For Cal Thomas, the only real protection is firepower to match that of the killer and the will to use it. Believing primarily in the spirit of the gun, Thomas brings a godlessness to his politics that is remarkable even for a right-wing Christian.


CBL said...

Cal Thomas is one of my favorite conservative commentators; I can always count on him to be consistently hateful and narrow-minded.

A subtext of the current conservative discourse is to confuse the term Christian with ideas that are essentially part of American history. Protestantism has almost always morphed itself into whatever national context it came to exist, and this is particularly true of the various branches of American protestantism; thus, we get a Christianity that is promotes American exceptionalism, individualism, capitalism, and a rights-based discourse.

As you imply on your post, little if any of this has anything to do with the historical Jesus's message. Without Jesus around to keep them straight, his followers-in-name play fast and loose with his words.

Even since the Virginia Tech shooting, the pro-gun crowd has felt extremely vindicated - "see, we told you so, if more people had guns, somebody would have offed the kid and nobody else would have been killed that day." Maybe because GW has been in office for so long, we all want to be faux-cowboys now?

Anonymous said...

Your basic premise is false...

Jesus specifically advised that his disciples go armed with swords so that they could defend themselves against those who would do them harm and specifically advised homeowners to arm themselves fully so as to keep themselves and their goods safe. Jesus does not reject personal self defense.

Jesus rejects revenge but does not reject justice, wealth honestly gained, or labor. I think your problems stem from a basic failing in understanding of Christianity - one that is fairly common in those who read Jack Chick tracts and think them to be actually representative.

Ric Caric said...

This sounds an awful lot like a rejection of self-defense to me:

"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39 in the King James Version)

But perhaps you have decisive quotes of your own in mind. Care to share them. And where did he advise homeowners to be armed? I think I missed that passage.