It doesn't take a special occasion or a holiday on the Christian calendar for Washington Post's On Faith feature to pound the pulpit for liberal political positions, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Take for instance how regular On Faith contributor and liberal theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite used her April 1 blog post as the occasion to insist this Holy Week that Christians everywhere should put away their guns.
Brooks Thistlethwaite is no stranger to using holy writ to preach liberal political views --as our archive on her writings illustrates -- and she returned to the well once again to twist Scripture to service her political agenda:
When Jesus is about to be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his followers pulls out a sword and tries to defend Jesus with the weapon. “Put away your sword,” Jesus commands, “for those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
Today, more Americans need to be confronted with the faith message that ‘a society that lives by the gun, dies by the gun.’ This needs to be our Holy Week message.
Recently, some religious leaders are spoke out about the danger of the rash of new laws called “Stand Your Ground,” versions of which have passed in 23 states. These religious leaders demonstrated at the offices of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a “secretive group of right-wing lobbyists” that pushes the so-called “Stand Your Ground” gun laws, along with the National Rifle Association. These laws are being held up to much greater scrutiny because of the apparent role of such a law in Florida in Trayvon Martin’s shooting death at the hand of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch “volunteer” who was carrying a legal concealed weapon.
Jesus’ refusal to let a follower use a weapon to defend him from threatened violence needs to be the message for Christians today. It is an immediate and concrete teaching:
Put away your guns.
Oddly enough, Brooks Thistlethwaite doesn't bring up, let alone attempt to reconcile another account of something Jesus said earlier on the night in which he was betrayed, wherein he permitted his disciples to own and buy swords:
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38 ESV)
Indeed, Jesus said this before the walk from the upper room out to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Peter struck a servant of the high priest when the temple authorities came to arrest Jesus.
If Jesus wanted his disciples to walk about unarmed, why didn't he tell them as much, and forbid the carrying of deadly weapons?
In Brooks Thistlethwaite's attempt to distort Scripture in service of a political argument, she ignores the actual context. In the passage from Matthew, she cut off Jesus mid-argument. Here's what Jesus said immediately after saying that those who live by the sword would die by the sword (emphasis mine):
Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
(Matthew 26:53-54 ESV)
Earlier in the Gospel of Matthew, the writer recounted how Jesus rebuked Peter for rebuking Jesus when he first foretold his death, this was immediately after Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ (emphasis mine):
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
(Matthew 16:21-23 ESV)
In his account of the incident, the Apostle John wrote:
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
(John 18:10-11 ESV)
Scripture repeatedly shows that Jesus was determined to fulfill his divine rescue mission of dying for the sins of the world upon a Roman cross. It's a mission his closest disciples, particularly Peter, failed persistently to understand prior to Jesus's death and resurrection. It's in that context that Jesus rebuked his disciples for drawing the sword that dark night in Gethsemane.
Jesus was opposed to His church spreading by the sword, but to use these texts to suggest that Jesus opposed in every and all circumstance the use of self-defense against aggression is to rip Jesus's teachings out of context.