Discussing
A college parent (and Liberty alum) responds to Jerry Falwell Jr.’s comments on Muslims and guns

Tamara Hill Murphy

Tamara Hill Murphy
December 7, 2015

Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr., who is in a position to catechize young men and women, instead adopted a posture best described as juvenile.

Not Important
December 7, 2015

Although I'd agree the comment was made in very poor taste, wrong choice of words, or whatever, I can't agree with your connection to gun toting and training champions for Christ. Jesus commanded his disciples to sell/trade what they had and buy a sword knowing there could be trouble surrounding their cause that they may need to defend themselves. Although in the garden he made his disciples stand down and healed the solider, it seems they were given a chance to carry a sword even if it was to only to intimidate people away from trying anything. I also can't remember a time when God told King David to stand down and just let His world go to waste and Jesus was birthed from the lineage. On a number of occasions, we see God's wrath pouring out on judged people, yet we also see His grace poured out as well. This does not mean we should "pour out our wrath under the name of God on evil doers around us," but God has blessed and condemned both ends of the spectrum in New and Old Testament. I think there is love Christians must poor out on the world, but to say Jerry is completely wrong for defending guns is a relative truth and solely an opinion to choose not to agree, not absolute truth.

Sean Kevin Jarvis
December 7, 2015

Thank you for saying this, I couldn't have said it better myself. I received my MDiv there last year and I often criticized this administration for its obvious synchronization of scripture with the GOP platform. The professors there engaged me with academic professionalism and never demonstrated a likeness to Falwell. Perhaps, he just needs to resign before he ends what could have been a serious Christian academic institution.

Thanks again, please never fail in saying what you feel about what we see being done in Christ's name.

JCarpenter
December 7, 2015

Jesus _commanded them to buy swords? or was his statement one of hyperbolic mystery, like they found many of his statements and parables to be? One verse, increasingly used to defend gun-ownership by Christians, is what we are to hang our faith and actions and world view on, over the whole arc and tenor of the gospels? "But I say love your enemies, do good to those that would hurt you . . ." is a major theme of his teachings, not just one verse, turned into a relative truth.

DW
December 7, 2015

In Reply to Not important (comment #27654)
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"Jesus commanded his disciples to sell/trade what they had and buy a sword knowing there could be trouble surrounding their cause that they may need to defend themselves."

What? Where did you find this in the Bible?

Paul Cummings
December 7, 2015

I think what's missing in this amazing story is, as trained champions for Christ, he failed to mention the Great Commission and the responsibility of Christians to bring all our brothers and sisters, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. etc. into a relationship with Christ. A gun isn't the way for that to happen. Conversation and prayer is the only way to fulfil the Great Commission.

Linda
December 7, 2015

In Reply to Paul Cummings (comment #27658) Don't forget about the Holy Spirit.
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Brad P
December 7, 2015

DW - Luke 22:36

Not Important
December 7, 2015

Reply to DW and JCarpenter - As per my comment on Luke 22, I think it translates both ways and many commentaries feel the same. Hard times were ahead of the disciples and they needed to be prepared for persecution and defend the gospel via "the sword," the Word; however, I think it can also be said that it stands for the right to defend ones self and prepare yourself for survival (food, hunting, self-defense) if you have the means. Not to be an aggressor and create trouble or war or look for a fight, but to lawfully defend yourself against those who come at you with a sword. Jesus did not condone them to commit violence, only to prepare themselves for a time where people no longer came at them with words as they had done before in many meetings and raised no hand against Him, but with weapons. I believe when we live in a day and age where discussion around a table of religion is no longer possible without offense and those that intend to harm come at you with sword and not words, we live in the days Jesus calls us to be prepared for. And although we must love first and foremost, we are also afforded the right to defend ourselves against those who intend to annihilate us.

Bonnie Nicholas
December 7, 2015

I once saw a bumper sticker that said the following: When Jesus said, "love your enemies", I'm pretty sure he didn't mean, "kill them".

If I ever find that bumper sticker I will buy it.

JKana
December 7, 2015

For those wondering and searching their concordances, the passage in reference to the swords is in Luke 22. The context is the last supper, when Jesus is about to be arrested, and by my reading all indications seem to point to a hyperbolic intention behind Jesus' statement to sell your cloak and buy a sword. This seems to best reconcile the way the disciples demonstrate that they're "already packing heat" by showing two swords to him, and he responds, "That's enough!" (which other translations will sometimes render less enigmatically as "Enough of that!" to make it clear that Jesus most likely wasn't saying literally that two swords is sufficient for the purpose for which he was advocating their use...but rather that they had missed his point and taken him too literally to begin with). And then it's only a few verses later that we see Jesus chastising Peter for using the sword in an attempt to defend him.

It's a tricky passage, and commentators don't agree on interpretive challenges, but I think the apparent tension is there on purpose, if only to prevent us from making easy interpretations of the arms question as though Jesus were either a Anabaptist pacifist or a wild west cowboy. There's probably a time for both, and Christian discipleship involves discerning which is which.

I dare not rule on that personally in a final manner. I'm still wrestling with the question myself, but I do find it intriguing that in the Matt 26 parallel passage, Jesus' rebuke to Peter seems to object to the way he would use arms to prevent the fulfillment of Jesus' mission ("How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?). His follow-up statement that "All who live by the sword shall die by the sword" sounds like a rebuke not of the sword itself, nor the decision to carry it, but of the willful decision to use violence as a means of first recourse for dealing with opposition. Peter wasn't defending himself from a thug in a dark alleyway; he was trying to violently resist a legitimate judicial proceeding (a corrupt one, to be sure, but legitimate nevertheless).

If I'm correct and the statement to buy a sword was hyperbolic, the content of what Jesus might have been telling his disciples could be paraphrased something like this:

"In the past, while I was with you, I told you not to provide for yourselves on your mission, because all was taken care of and it would enhance your testimony among the peoples to whom you were being sent. Now I'm about to be taken away, as the Scriptures say I must be, and things will be different. Until I return for you, you'll have to provide for your own needs, and be prepared to defend yourself as you go about my work."

What's open to question, I think, is whether Jesus was explicitly condoning armed self-defense, when necessary, or merely using the sword symbolically to indicate that armed opposition would definitely befall the disciples and they shouldn't be surprised when it did. I leave that to the Bible scholars to judge. What seems abundantly clear to me, however, is that this passage can't be used carte blanche as a clear support for a Christian militia. At best, it could support the idea of a concealed carry for the purpose of personal self-defense from a genuine, immediate threat (but not for taking the law into one's own hands, as it were).

So for now at least, I'm personally inclined to side with those who support concealed carry laws for armed self-defense of private individuals. Where I get uncomfortable is when the rhetoric passes from the realm of personal preparedness and into the realm of armed counter-insurgency. I'm sympathetic with my father's decision to obtain a CHL to protect his family. I'm not sympathetic with those--especially Christians--who feel compelled to arm up in a noisy way as though preparing for a crusade of intimidation.

My two cents. Not that anyone asked for them...

Tamara Hill Murphy
December 7, 2015

In Reply to Sean Kevin Jarvis (comment #27655)
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Congratulations on your MDiv, and thank you for your encouraging words!

If I'd had more space I would have mentioned the professors at LU. I had excellent professors 25 years ago (under Jerry Falwell, Sr, the original model of the "synchronization of scripture with the GOP platform"). I'm aware of some excellent professors at the school now, as well. I suspect that anyone taking a job at LU would know what they were getting into and might not be surprised by much. Still, I wonder if there aren't a few discouraged faculty and staff members there this week.

Tamara Hill Murphy
December 7, 2015

In Reply to JKana (comment #27664)
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Thank you for the time you took to share this. I'll be re-reading your thoughts and references several times and appreciate your insights.

Tamara Hill Murphy
December 7, 2015

In Reply to Not important (comment #27654)
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Hi, thanks so much for your response. It's been interesting to me to see the back and forth on the reference you mention from Luke 22.

The only thing I'd want to correct from your comment is that my intended emphasis in this post was more on how Jerry Falwell, Jr. acted in his position of leadership over young Christians. I purposefully chose not to say my opinion of carrying or not carrying guns, only on the way in which Mr. Falwell addressed his students, and maybe, more importantly what he didn't say. (as in the list of questions I offer toward the end of the article).

I also would disagree with your characterization of Mr. Falwell as "defending" guns. This speech was not a defense but a call for action ("Let's teach them a lesson") aimed against a specific people group ("Muslims").

Hope that helps clarify anyplace I wasn't clear. Thanks again for weighing in!

Teresa Mack
December 7, 2015

I read the scripture where Jesus tells the disciples to bring a sword, but it seems pretty clear that he did so only to teach them not to use it. Jesus is about peace, simple as that. Prince of peace. Simple but not easy.

TimF
December 7, 2015

The convocation language does more to express hatred for Muslims than the ministry of reconciliation Jesus brought in his incarnation and bought with his death on the cross. Mr. Falwell's responsibility as the university's president is to invite students to grow in a relationship with God, not invite them to a class on how to use deadly force.

He's entitled to his personal convictions, but not everyone who belongs to Jesus will share them: Why I Do Not Carry A Concealed Weapon (http://wp.me/p2EmLc-360).

Ally Perez
December 7, 2015

This is spot on. The contrast of both college presidents is very interesting, and sad. I agree with you that the issue with Falwell's speech is not necessarily about guns, but rather his choice of words, his approach and what Liberty's real mission actually is. I wrote a blog post on how different it would be had he talked about Christ's love instead. www.mytwopenniesworth.org

Doug Vande Griend
December 8, 2015

I think the younger Falwell could use a lecture on sphere sovereignty. Whatever the merits on the gun or sword or Muslim or other political arguments, it is foolish to use the university to score political points he happens to favor.

Falwell Jr seems a bit Trumpish to me, but at least Trump spouts political positions while running for a political position. Not sure what Falwell is thinking, or that he is so much.

Rich Woody
December 9, 2015

As a parent of 3 Kids who are all graduates of Liberty University in 2002, 2005 (MDiv 2010)and 2013 I would encourage you to make a trip to Lynchburg and see what is happening at Liberty. Don't let your decisions be made from this video clip and what the media has to say about it. I commonly tell people that Liberty enhanced the spiritual lives and walk with the Lord for my three. Take a look at all the ministry they are doing, the people they are loving, the needs they are meeting. I was just in Lynchburg over Thanksgiving as one daughter received her MDiv and is currently working in the pastoral care ministry at Liberty. It's definitely not what the media and even liberal ministries try to paint it as. If it were, my LU daughter would be one of the first to resign and leave Lynchburg.
My wife and I highly recommend our friends here in the Houston area to check into Liberty as a place where they can send their kids, knowing they are in very good place practically and spiritually.

Doug Vande Griend
December 9, 2015

I really haven't had any bad reports about Liberty University, Rich, and and no people who have gone there themselves and have had kids.

Fallwell's comments don't really bother me so much, but I do think it was foolish to use the school for a bit of a political podium.

I would agree with you though that folks do well not to judge the school by these comments, including the author if this post.

Nelson Keener
December 12, 2015

“Training Champions for Christ,” is Liberty University’s motto, prominently displayed throughout the campus. There’s nothing wrong with it. But did Jesus ask us to “champion” his cause? Jesus seldom used such language. His teachings and temperament did not indicate that political power was something he sought. He didn’t speak about winning. He did speak about losing.

Jesus not only eschewed earthly power, he rejected it. Is it not the call of the gospel to work for God’s Kingdom now; not our kingdom? Isn’t it in doing God’s work that His Kingdom will come?
When hundreds of Liberty students are deployed each summer maybe their motto could be “Champions of the disenfranchised” That would be Kingdom work.”

Excerpted from “When Kingdoms Collide” http://bit.ly/1On9f3m by Nelson Keener; Patheos March 29, 2015

Doug Vande Griend
December 12, 2015

Jesus didn't reject earthly power at all, I don't think. Indeed he acknowledged that Caesar should be "given his," and we (Christians of many stripes) acknowledge that governments are "ordained" and granted power by God. God himself instituted monarchy for the OT nation of Israel and often played a very direct role in bringing kings to power and dethroninhg them.

David was a champion of the Israelites, even before becoming king. Daniel was a champion of his people, as were Moses, Esther, Samson. Even Jesus was regarded, I think it is fair to say, a champion of the poor, the oppressed, the outsider, but at times also the insider.

A university can do a lot worse than train "champions for Christ," one permutation of which can be "champions for the disenfranchised," but there are other permutations as well. A good friend of mine works for the Department of Justice. I'm quite sure she intends and acts as a champion for Christ there, despite the fact that she works for an "earthly kingdom" of sorts. I'm too Kuyperian to separate society's institutional spheres between those that are inside God's Kingdom and those not. All are called to be part of God's Kingdom and respond in their own way in reflecting that.

Governmental power is not something to be rejected or eschewed but to be exercised well. I would say, "keep on training those Champions Liberty," whatever the way your graduates decide to exercise that training.

Pastor Paul Wallace
August 25, 2016

The Bible states as Christians we are not to live in fear that we are not to be anxious about anything fear is a sin. I think carrying a gun is showing fear. I don't know if President Franklin Roosvelt was a Christian or not but he made a great statement when he said we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Reading the majority of the comments here brings joy to this old Christans heart.

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