What Would Jesus Shoot?

This story
has been getting a lot of attention today: 

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

Oh boy. One sentence in, and already several questions are raised. Where to begin?

First, the religious angle: What implications are there for Christians in putting biblical quotations on firearms? Had the company chosen some vengeful, fire-and-brimstone passages from the Bible, concerns about attempts to baptize or glorify violence would be well-founded. But the referenced passages are much gentler:

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as “the light of the world.” John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

No doubt this is still a glaring juxtaposition for some — referencing “the light of the world” on a machine meant to bring death — but at the same time, the Church recognizes the validity of a just war properly pursued. Is this much different than a soldier praying or blessing himself before going into battle? If so, how?

Second, the constitutional angle. The article mentions that: 

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious “Crusade” in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents. 

Some disagreement hinges on that word “proselytizing”: Is a biblical reference, printed so as to be almost unrecognizable (except by other believers), on a third-party firearm “proselytizing”? The “separation of church and state” is being thrown around a lot here; does this pass that bar? 

Third, the prudential angle:

“It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they’re being shot by Jesus rifles,” [Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation] said.

Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer, said many members of his group who currently serve in the military have complained about the markings on the sights. He also claims they’ve told him that commanders have referred to weapons with the sights as “spiritually transformed firearm[s] of Jesus Christ.”

He said coded biblical inscriptions play into the hands of “those who are calling this a Crusade.”

That may be the strongest objection of all — that, no matter what the intention of the manufacturer, and regardless of whether this would clear the constitutional smell test, the perception could be easily manipulated and backfire on both the manufacturer (“using the Bible to justify killing!”) and the armed forces (“Christianity at the point of a gun!”). Is it worth that risk?

It’s a loaded issue (er, no pun intended), and worth teasing out the conflicting arguments. What do readers think?

(Image via ABC)

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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