Fear can take a prominent place in our religious life. During the hot and cold wars against communism in the 1950’s a slogan by religious people was, “Kill a commie for Christ.” Violence against the enemy was accepted as an alternative to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44)
Fear that we might lose our freedoms or have our beliefs usurped causes many to take up arms to maintain their rights. This is customarily done by nations for security purposes. It is also done by well meaning religious people in domestic life who fail to put their faith in non-violence in order to secure harmony. Violence to promote love is contradictory. Yet, we hear advocates of gun rights, including the right to carry handguns into public parks and churches, claim to be devout Christians. Such a non sequitur makes one wonder if Jesus forgot to tell his disciples to carry one thing when he sent the seventy ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.” (Luke 10:4) Should he have suggested carrying a sword?
Kabir, the mystic poet and saint of India, puts this contradiction into perspective in a poem where he questions what sort of a God the seeming pious are talking about.
“I don’t know what sort of a God we have been talking about. The caller calls in a loud voice to the Holy One at dusk. Why? Surely the Holy One is not deaf. He hears the delicate anklets that ring on the feet of an insect as it walks.
Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on your forehead, wear your hair matted, long, and ostentatious, but when deep inside you there is a loaded gun, how can you have God?”
The question he asks is a good one. How can we carry a violent or fearful heart inside or a loaded gun as a mark of our faith in God? Isn’t the cross of Good Friday the symbol of victory over sin and death? Love loses with a loaded gun either inside or out.